Sunday, April 29, 2012

Long Walk Off a Short Pier

My visa ran out last week.  Thailand's rules are at best convoluted, and at worst, arbitrary.  Reading how to extend my visa is like trying to keep up with the latest version of Windows.  Several sources are out there starting with Thai immigration, moving to such websites as Thai Visa,, and several blogs in numerous languages.  Being the auditor that I am, I tried following what I needed to do and found that each source contradicts the other.  My visa was good for 90 days with the hope that I would be able to walk into a teaching job and get it extended to one year.
"Roy, you are taking this TEFL course at the best of all times," I was told enthusiastically by the school owner.  School would be out for summer vacation starting in March and get back after Songkran on April 13.   That is almost true just as it is true that Christmas is after April 13, sooner or later.  The whole story is that school goes back to session May 15 and no one even wanted to talk to me until the end of April, that is, right about now.  Unfortunately, my visa ran out and I needed to fix it or leave.

There are several options available, each with its convoluted requirements, starting with the first and simplest, the tourist visa.  Anyone coming to Thailand from the US is automatically granted a 30 day visa.  Most other countries give us 90 days or more, but Thailand seems to have a steady flow of income from idiots like myself who find themselves at the end of their time too soon.  My visa is a non-immigrant visa, of which there are two types.  The first is a single entry 90 day visa which is what I had.  The second is a multiple entry that allows me a year without renewal.  Such a visa has to come from either a job or my own business.  Oh, but that business must be owned by 51% Thais with two Thai owners, blah blah blah.
Then again I could get a marriage visa.  For that I need to show that I have had an income of 40,000 baht each month which could amount to putting 40k in my wife's bank account and transferring it back to mine, then the next month sending it back to her's and then back to mine.  Are you keeping track of all this?  I didn't know these rules and didn't care at the time I got here since I was convinced I would be working.
To renew my visa I have to leave the country, get my passport stamped going out and coming back in, and then begging Thai immigration to give me at least 30 days.  The closest place to go is Myanmar to the north, a five hour bus ride.  We wanted to keep Nee employed, so we flew a friend up from Bangkok who would accompany me to the Thai border and see if she could talk some sense into the guard.  We were headed to Mae Sai in Thailand to the Myanmar border.

The ride was dull with only the excitement of the occasional roadside rest and the 3 baht pee.  Again, these were the filthiest toilets I had seen making me wonder where the 3 baht was spent.
A rest stop on the road to Mae Sai
Once there, I had to cross the border.

The Gate to Myanmar
The above picture is the clean side, Thailand.  Crossing over, my friend was forced to stand outside behind a dirty red curtain, while the border guards took my passport.  In his official and intimidating voice, he pointed back and said, "Back there Thailand.  Over here, Myanmar.  You can leave now, stay a few minutes or stay 90 days.  Up to you."  He took 500 baht and kept my passport. 

I figured I may never come back this way, so I asked my friend to join me as I walked into the market, perhaps to find some food.  As we stepped down the steps, we were greeted by two guys wearing boxes slung in front of them filled with cigarettes, knives and Viagra. 
"You want to buy?" they asked me several times, eyeing my backpack which had my laptop and a few more thousand baht, in case I need to encourage a border guard or two.  The two hustlers followed us for several feet until I finally decided that Friendly Myanmar should become a thing of the past.  Typical of border towns, this was another avoidable spot on the earth.

We retrieved my passport and then headed back to Thailand.  The best they would give me was a 15 day tourist visa, barely enough to keep me here with instructions on how to get a marriage visa.  Perhaps I need to take their advice.

Fortunately, just as I was about to give up hope, a chance for a job came up.  I may find myself employed quite soon and they are even going to help me with my visa, so long as my references approve.  Otherwise, I may have to take advantage of another 90 day pass to Myanmar.....or maybe Malaysia. 

No comments:

Post a Comment