Truth be told, I had no clue what I was doing this morning, but I had to do it on my own. It was time to go to immigration to apply for a 30-day extension of my tourist visa. Yes, I have been in Thailand for almost a month.
Why the extension? Because I need to go to Bangkok to visit the American Embassy and receive some sort of certified letter about my income and bank account. Then I bring that back to Hua Hin and go back to immigration to apply for a 90-day extension and non-immigrant retirement status. After 90 days, the government reviews my bank account and determines whether I qualify for a one-year visa. After one year, I start the process over again.
I wasn’t totally clueless this morning; I did know that the extension would cost 1,900 baht ($60) and that I would need my picture taken. I was advised not to do this on a Monday, and Wednesday worked out better anyway due to the later date. (I lost whatever days I have left on my current visa when I get the extension.) I also knew where immigration was located, after making the long walk days earlier.
I decided to get there as close to the 8:30 opening time as possible, walked the 4 blocks to the highway to find a motorcycle taxi, and rode to the office (50 baht). The place was packed, with about 30 people sitting in the A/C inside and another 20 or so outside.
They place the different forms you need on a table outside, written in Thai and English. I grabbed the one I needed (application for 30-day extension), grabbed a number inside and went back outside to fill out the form, which was pretty straightforward. There are tables and seating outside and there’s even a little ice cream cafe at the end of the building.
Inside, there is a bank of immigration officers processing the applications. A machine spews out your number and digital signs call out the next number and which desk to go to. Given how many people were there, I expected a long wait.
But I found something constructive to do. On one of the tables were copies of a slick, 4-color monthly magazine called “Approach,” in English. Lots of advertising and lots of email addresses. I need as many Hua Hin email addresses as possible for when I launch HuaHinExpatNews.com and this was a gold mine. So, I started writing down the addresses.
It didn’t take long for my number to come up, however, and by the time I re-entered the room, my number had been passed by; but the attendant said no problem and ushered me to the next available clerk. She, of course, promptly sent me back outside to get copies of my passport and the mug shot. She indicated I should just come back to her when I was finished.
Down by the cafe, they also have a copying and photo operation set up. There was a line but it did not take long to get to the front, where a very busy woman was multitasking. The passport copies (first page and tourist visa page) and the mug shot cost 125 baht ($4). For a mug shot, it wasn’t bad.
I then returned inside and the attendant said I didn’t need another number and he would seat me with the same clerk as soon as she was available, which was 2 minutes. The clerk did a cursory look at the information, stamped a lot of stuff, wrote some stuff down, and then asked for the money. She then asked me to sit in the waiting area. Within 2 minutes, another lady called out my name and handed me back my updated passport, with a receipt for payment.
I was on my way, which meant walking about a mile to the highway and catching a song taew back to my street.
I have to say that I thought the process was pretty efficient. Immigration was processing expats as fast as possible. I was in and out in about an hour. When I arrived, I was sure I would be there for several hours.
This experience leaves me feeling I can handle the 90-day extension process by myself, but I still feel the $100 expense of having an expert along with me on that visit to immigration is still a good idea.
Next step: I will be researching Bangkok hotels located near the Victory Monument, which is where the minivan taxi drops you off, and near the American Embassy. Proximity to both would be good because taxis will be necessary and I want to keep my expenses down. I will ride up one day, go to my hotel, and then go to the embassy the next morning. That should allow me to get back to the Victory Monument to catch a minivan back to Hua Hin that day. Maybe splurge on a good dinner while I’m in Bangkok. Maybe contact my friend there.
(FYI. These are not my photos.)