Monday, my consultant/lawyer who is helping with my visa journey met me to pick up my passport to bring to immigration for my 90-day visa. I thought this had already been awarded when I went to immigration earlier, but apparently not. Yesterday, he delivered my passport, complete with the approved 90-day extension that I needed in order to apply for a one-year retirement visa.
I should remind that I have already gone through my original 30-day tourist visa I received when entering the country, a 30-day extension, and a new tourist 30-day visa when I made an unscheduled visa run to Laos last month.
My 90-day visa is good through June 25, but a week before I will apply for the one-year visa. First, I have to go to my bank, deposit about $30, and get a letter from the bank certifying my account. I also may need more passport photos, but I can get them at immigration. Then I will go to immigration with my lawyer’s rep, pay 1,900 baht (about $60) and file for the one-year visa. This should be a formality.
Interestingly, however, I can’t leave the country during that year – unless I first get permission. So, if I want to take a trip outside Thailand, I will need to go to immigration, fill out a form or two and pay 1,000 baht for the privilege. Or I can buy a multiple exit visa for 3,900 baht, allowing me to leave any time and as often as I want. However, if I make a trip outside of Thailand without making the exit visa purchase, when I return I would have to reapply for the one-year visa, meaning i start over from scratch with a 30-day visa, then a 90-day visa and then the one-year.
Also, during the one-year visa period, I have to report to immigration every 90 days. More paperwork and some waiting around, but no fees. I’m told this is mainly to verify my address. If I should miss the 90-day deadline, I will be assessed a fine of 2,000 baht when I do show up again at immigration; this can be reduced to 1,000 baht if you choose the “no receipt” option, meaning the clerk pockets the money.
Ah, the life of an immigrant.
About that banking problem
I think I first opened my Bangkok Bank account on Jan. 19, shortly after arriving in Hua Hin. I had to go to three banks before one would accept my money. I then had my daughter transfer the required amount (quite a lot) for guaranteeing my application for a retirement visa (see above).
A week after applying for the account, I received my user ID by email and was supposed to receive my password/PIN in the regular mail. It never came. I waited and waited before finally returning to the bank, where I was told to check with the post office.
I’ve already written about that experience, and it was not fun. I went back to the bank again and refiled for the PIN, which was to be mailed to the bank teller, who was supposed to call me when it arrived. She never did. So, yesterday, after getting my passport back, which I needed for the bank account query, I walked in the hot noonday sun to the bank.
Guess what! Holidays are different here than in the U.S., and yesterday was a national holiday. The bank was closed.
In my habit of trying to combine multiple tasks because of the distance I live from everything, I had brought along my backpack for a trip to the grocery at the upscale mall. I was able to get a songtoew taxi (30 baht) to the mall. It was lunchtime (breakfast for me), so I made my way down to the basement floor, where there is a varied and hyperactive food court. You have to first buy a card for whatever amount you think you will spend, which you hand to the vendors instead of money. You then redeem whatever is left on the card when you leave. I had an OK crispy pork and rice dish, with a Singha beer.
Once done with my shopping, I headed out front, as usual, to catch the cheap taxi – and waited and waited as other taxis not going my way drove by. Finally, I jumped on board one I thought was correct but realized it wasn’t and got off not far from where I got on, deciding to continue to wait for the correct taxi. After over an hour of waiting (they are supposed to come by 3 times every hour), I tried to catch a taxi where I was but only motorcycles were available. I had too much stuff to get on the back of a motorbike.
I decided to walk, in the heat, with a lot of weight on my back, with my bad knee, in flip-flops. I kept looking for the correct taxi but only the green ones, which would drop me off 3/4 of a mile from home, kept coming by, full to the gills. Finally, I decided to take the next green taxi, which turned out to not be as full. Then it was the long, hot walk home.
Today, I took a walk to the bank again, which was open. The lady that helped me before invited me to her desk and, after showing her my passport, pulled out a mailer with my PIN. She even helped me activate my account on her notepad. Now, I can access my account on the Internet; however, I have to maintain a certain amount in the account until my one-year visa is approved, as mentioned in the visa rant above.
The account will stay dormant until July, at which point I plan to use it for my ongoing expenses, with my retirement funds continuing to be deposited in my U.S. bank account. This will save me a ton in bank fees. There are no fees for withdrawing money from Thai bank accounts (even from a competing bank’s ATM), while every time I withdraw from my U.S. bank I’m charged $6.50 by the Thai bank and $5 by Wells Fargo. Since I have to make at least three withdrawals each month, that’s a potential savings of $35 each month.
Of course, this will deplete my Thai back account so that it can not be used as an income guarantee if I choose to extend my stay after the first year is completed. But since I know how easy it is to have the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok provide me with a certificate of income that meets immigration requirements, I won’t need the bank account verification. I will just need to spend a night in Bangkok for a visit to the embassy sometime in July 2017 (if I stay).
So, I’m making progress. And BTW, this process is probably no different from what it’s like in other countries, including the U.S., for people wanting to live as immigrants in another country. In fact, for some countries, such as Indonesia, just getting a tourist visa to the U.S. requires jumping through similar hoops, with similar expenses and fees.
Finally, on my way back from the bank, I stopped at a small open-air restaurant on Soi 51 to try the mama san’s chicken noodle soup, with a Chang beer to cool off. They don’t sell beer but it did magically appear, nice and cold, in front of me. The large bowl of delicious soup sold for about $1.20, the beer for $1.50.