My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.



Now that I've figured out (and put on the calendar) all the deadlines I have to meet on my double-entry tourist visa (i.e., apply for first 30-day extension shortly before the 60-day point, physically leave the country and return near the 90-day point to activate the second entry, etc.), I'm looking ahead to the time that visa expires (which will either be at the beginning of August, September or October depending on whether or not I get one or both of the extensions).

I've determined that you cannot change a tourist visa to a Non-Immigrant visa from within Thailand.  (Apparently, that used to be allowed but now the only visa you can change to inside the Kingdom is the so-called "investment" visa for which you deposit some ungodly amount of baht in a non-interest account with the Thai government; that gives you one year after which you renew by depositing more money.)  Very few of the consulates and embassies in neighboring countries will issue a multiple-entry Non-Imm visa, but Penang and Kuala Lumpur are two major exceptions.  I could obtain the visas there which would be much less expensive than flying all the way back to the States in order to apply.

I would probably have to initially go for the Non-Immigrant "B" visa under which you can obtain a work permit.  You cannot obtain a work permit on a tourist visa and even if you perform unpaid volunteer work you need a work permit in Thailand.  (However, I'm pretty sure they didn't require this of all the aid workers in their country following the tsunami...)  There's a mountain of paperwork involved just in getting the work permit, not to mention the visa.  The company that wishes to hire you must provide detailed financial records of their own business including corporate organizational charts, bank and tax statements, proof of 2 million baht profits annually, etc.  There's a lot of leg-work involved and there are numerous companies in Thailand that specialize in obtaining the needed documents for the different kinds of visas.  I've found one law firm that offers to "sponsor" aliens who are interested in working in Thailand, obtaining a work permit for them on the basis of consultancy or research.  If I don't line up something solid beforehand (not every firm who wishes to hire foreigners can meet the government requirements), this may be the route I take (provided the lawyer fees aren't too high).

The second type of Non-Immigrant visa is the "O" category and seems a much easier one to obtain.  This is a visa designed for a foreigner married to a Thai national so he can stay in the country to take care of his family.  All you need for this visa is a copy of your marriage certificate, your passport and her Thai ID card, plus financial evidence that you can support your wife (a bank statement will do).

Both of these visas are good for 90 days after which you need to apply for an extension (sometimes a full year extension is given but usually it's just another 90 days).

But getting either of these Non-Immigrant visas seems a walk in the park compared to the hoops I'll have to jump through in order to bring Tim to America even for a short visit — married or not, it makes no difference.  Basically, the U.S. government wants to make sure she's not a terrorist or a threat to our national security (they've made it increasingly difficult for tourists and immigrants since 9/11) and the Thai government wants to make sure she's going to come back after her holiday (apparently, a lot of Thai women "jump ship" once abroad).  There are long lists of the required documents on the Thai Immigration sites and then even longer lists on the various expat forums (ThaiVisa being the best).  Even then, a lot of it is up to the various officials you'll be interviewing with at every step of the way.  It's a very long process, and most people with experience recommend starting at least six months in advance of the time you want the visa for.  As Americans, I think we've been spoilt by the 30-day visa-on-arrival that virtually every country grants us and can't understand why other countries can make it so difficult for their citizens to leave even for a trip to a neighboring country.

Anyway, the requirement I found most interesting is "proof of relationship."  This means that you need to assemble a file containing months of photographs of the two of you together, phone bill records (I've got a doozy to show them) and copies of e-mails or letters proving you keep in contact when you are apart, and also copies of lease agreements and photos of your home (you must live together, either married or unmarried), among other supporting documents (but NOT a joint banking account).  The only way a single Thai woman is allowed to visit another country otherwise is if they are going to work as a maid and their employer "sponsors" them with a hefty "investment" with the Thai government.  Even if she is married, it's the same difficult process with Thai Immigration.

And that's just the beginning.  Once the Thai national is granted permission to go abroad, that's when they need to apply for a visa with the destination country's embassy.  In the case of the United States, Tim will have to be approved by the Department of Homeland Security (who will refer her file to the FBI and CIA for scrutiny as well) and the Department of State.  They are especially hard on visitors from Southeast Asia because of the history of the opium trade in that region (more so in Laos than in Thailand but the stigma is still there — I think this was a big reason why I was hassled in Vancouver this past January).  I also have a sneaking suspicion that the U.S. government is still biased towards that region because of our past failures in Vietnam and Cambodia but that's just a guess.

I've been reading horror stories from other expats trying to bring their Thai girlfriends back to meet their families and being turned down at some point in the long process.  I've heard of couples who had been married for 10 years or more being denied to visit the alien's country of origin.  It's all a bit discouraging but we're going to give it our best shot.

What is out of the question is bringing her to America on the so-called Fiance Visa to be married in America.  I haven't read up on those requirements but I wouldn't want to do that to her.  Although she is interested in coming to the States for a visit, she would never want to be married or live here.  Nor would I.  The Thai culture is such that they need to live close to their families and Tim would be miserable staying so far away.  And I would definitely want a traditional Thai wedding at any rate.  Much of this topic is moot right now, however, as I haven't formally asked her to marry me (yet).  We've hinted at it very strongly and I have no doubt in my mind that she'll say "yes" (or, actually, "khap") when I do ask (notice I wrote "when").  She's asked me in so many words if I wanted to during several of our phone calls but I just say that we need to talk of such things only when we're together rather than on the telephone.

I didn't initially know it would be so difficult to wade through all these laws to find out what I need to do in order to stay in Thailand past my tourist visa or to bring Tim over here to see my country.  It's especially confusing since I'm doing the research on these laws at the same time as I'm trying to wrap up business here and pack.

Not only that, but we really wanted to go to Holland together next February for the 2007 Marillion Weekend.  Mike and I have had our four-person cottage reserved for some time and I really had high hopes that Tim would be going with me.  I've told Steve Rothery (guitars) and Steve Hogarth (lead vocals) about Tim and they are very anxious to meet her, as are some of the other friends I've made in the Marillion community.  But if the Thai immigration laws were difficult enough with the U.S. being right up there as well, it seems that Holland will be darn near impossible.  One reason is that a number of the European countries are now linked together and you have to apply for what is called a Schengen visa (kind of the immigration version of the Euro currency).  I was further discouraged by this answer I received when I posed the question on the ThaiVisa forums:

To apply individually (for her) is an almost impossible job (in your case, being American). The Visa-rules for Holland are one of the toughest in Europe and the Dutch Embassy in BKK is quite 'harsh' on giving out visa; most of the time, in case of doubts (guarantee of the girl returning to Thailand) they will ask advise from the so called IND* in Holland, the Immigration Department. And THEY are really sh_t to deal with...believe me, I know.
It is, by far, the most complained-about Government Institution in The Netherlands.

Also, it might take up to 3 months (in many cases much longer) before you get an answer; positive or genative...
I'm still going to try as Tim and I really want to go to this event in Holland (she keeps telling me "Marillion best music American I ever hear", despite my constant corrections that they are from England).  I was even given the name of the First Secretary in charge of Immigration at the Royal Dutch Embassy in Bangkok to address my queries to.  I think we might stop by when we're in the city to apply for Tim's passport so I can at least ask how long a process it might be and about our likelihood for success.  We do have until early November before I need to pay the balance of the booking (three days accommodation in a nice cottage with full facilities, admission to three nights of concerts with multiple opening acts, plus various daytime activities, and transportation to and from the airport in Amsterdam — for a grand total of $320 per person; Marillion really treat their fans right while keeping the costs down).

Maybe I can get a job in a Thai law firm after doing all of this research...