My last two months spent in Asheville have been a time for recuperating, re-energizing, restocking, planning, organizing, scheduling and other assorted tasks related to a move to a new country – this time Thailand.
Next Wednesday, Jan. 6, I’m on a plane from Charlotte headed to JFK in New York and then for Dubai and finally Bangkok. My itinerary from there seems to be coming together, as well, after some stress previously.
A friend asked why I was headed east instead of west, as I have done in the past. A few reasons: 1. The flight is actually a little cheaper; 2. the total trip time in shorter; and 3. I will be flying Emirates Airways, rather than American or United. Why is the latter a good idea? Free drinks for the trip on all flights vs. $7 per drink; better food; no baggage fees, even for a second checked bag; treated in economy with welcoming towels, overnight toiletry kits, free headphones. It’s just a much better experience.
Originally, the material I reviewed said I could enter Thailand on my U.S. passport and remain for 90 days. The plan was to make visa runs every 90 days to renew my tourist visa. That information, however, either was dated or misinterpreted.
U.S. citizens and those from 33 other countries are allowed 30 days in-country on a tourist visa, not 90 days. In addition, the military junta that took over the country in 2014 has lately been clamping down on expats making 30-day visa runs. The problem there is that if you do leave the country on such a run, you might not be allowed back in. Not a good option.
So I went Plan B, which is to apply for a non-immigration long-stay or retirement visa. There are two main requirements for this visa: 1. must be at least 50 years old; and 2. must have either US$2,000 ($1,800 by another report) in guaranteed monthly income (e.g., Social Security payment) or must deposit 800,000 baht, or about US$22,000 in a Thai bank account.
My monthly Social Security is less than $2,000, so I have to meet the second criteria. Trouble is, you have to be in Thailand to open a bank account, while, at the same time, you have to be in the U.S. to transfer the money to the new account. You can’t just waltz into Thailand, or most any country, for that matter, with that amount of cash, even if it’s a cashier’s check.
So, this morning my daughter and I took care of a piece of unfinished business – giving her power of attorney over my U.S. bank account.
First, I had to find out what this actually is and what the process is. Turns out that you can download POA documents from the Internet with the particulars, such as names, already included – for free. You then fill in any blanks, get the pages notified and register the POA with the local government, which in Asheville happens to be the county Register of Deeds.
We went to the Register of Deeds on the Wednesday before Christmas, which fell on a Friday. They were already closed for the holiday, so we waited until today. I still was not sure I had everything I needed but off we went, finding the office with employees and open at 8:30 am, but no customers besides us. So the service was great.
First, we had the document notorized, and then it was registered by a second person. We asked for a copy, so the filing and copying fee came to $28.50. We were in and out in less than 30 minutes.
Then we went to a Wells Fargo branch near my daughter’s home, where we met with an employee who set up all three of my accounts so that Kim had access to them. A few electronic signatures later and we were done in about 15 minutes. No charge.
Now, I can be in Thailand to open a bank account, while my daughter will be in the U.S. to make the transfer once the new account is opened. Problem solved. And Kim is much happier because she can now help me when I have the inability overseas to access my money.
From here, the sailing looks clear, but challenges will still occur.
I have decided to keep to my Thailand schedule, which has me taking a shuttle taxi from Bangkok to Hua Hin Sunday afternoon, Jan. 10. In Hua Hin, I have reserved a cheap room for 3 nights, which should give me enough time to find an apartment. I’ve already got several lined up.
Once I have a place to live, I also have a local address, which is needed in order to open a bank account. I might need to hire someone locally to go to the bank with me, and I also may need someone to help me with translation and phone calls during my apartment search. Finding that person will be a priority on my arrival in Hua Hin.
Once I have a Thai bank account, my daughter can transfer the funds. Then I can plan a return to Bangkok to go through the visa process.
In Bangkok, I plan to use a company to guide me through this process. I found several who perform this service, ranging in price from $845 to $380. The company I chose is G.A.M. Legal Alliance (http://gam-legalalliance.com/).
The important part of their help will be to change my tourist visa for Non Immigrant O Visa (90 days) at the Thai Immigration Office in Bangkok; and to provide assistance with the one-year extension of the Non O to Non O-A Visa (Retirement Visa) at the Immigration Office in Bangkok. For this service, I will be charged about 13,000 baht, or $360.
I will also have to pay: Change Visa fees (90 days) (2,000 baht) Visa fees (1 year-1,900 baht) Re-Entry Permit fees (Single: 1,000 baht/Multiple: 3,800 baht). All three come to about $213. I will then be legal in Thailand for a year, and can renew the visa at that time.
At the end of the first 90 days , I must report to the immigration officer in Hua Hin and report again every 90 days during my stay.
As a way of comparison on costs, the roughly $600, plus expenses, for the visa is cheaper than if I have to make a visa run to Myanmar every month. Visa runs cost about $60 to get to and from the border, plus immigration fees on both sides of the border, and, if you want to stay in Myanmar for the experience, figure in your hotel, food and entertainment expenses. The trip also takes a minimum of one day to complete.
So the hassle and the expense on the front end are worthwhile.