I had an interesting message today from a reader of this blog that I’ll try to use as a springboard for my effort today to personally, without legal help, apply for a new one-year non-immigrant (retirement) visa. The message was from someone nearing retirement who has followed this blog with interest and wondered if I was still traveling.
I told him that a job in Indonesia stopped my traveling (except for brief tourist trips) for four years, and that now I was living in Thailand, at least for another year. Here are some of his kind words:
“Look forward to hearing of your continuing adventures. I wish I have enough courage to do something along similar lines as yourself when I retire next year. Always inspired and impressed by your writing and your adventures. Thank you so much for sharing.”
Don’t know about the inspiration part but I sure could have used some knowledge this morning when I made the trip to immigration to renew my one-year visa. The Thai Embassy in Bangkok had the necessary forms online but when I tried to print them, the Thai words jumbled the whole page, making a printout useless.
No problem. They have the forms at the front of the immigration office. I did know that I would need three copies of the application, three copies of passport pages, three copies of my income statement from the US embassy in Bangkok (previous post) and three copies of the “house book” for my rental. And three head shots on white background, 4cmx6cm.
I was not looking forward to today, expecting I would totally screw up and have to start from scratch with a 30-day tourist visa. The anxiety woke me early, which was a good thing. A cup of coffee in a plastic Coke bottle for the road, a short walk to Petchkasem Road to grab a motorcycle taxi, and 10 minutes on the road fearing for my life and I was at the soon-to-be-replaced immigration office. Taxi fare: 200 baht round-trip.
Finding the correct application form, I filled it out and then had three copies of my papers made. The woman there was very helpful in arranging the papers correctly, but, unfortunately, I didn’t know I needed another form for a re-entry visa that allows me one out-of-country trip during the year. Otherwise, if I left Thailand, my one-year visa would be no good when I returned.
I would find out about this form as I was meeting with the Thai immigration official. The office was not busy, as much of its work has moved to the new Bluport mall office, and the officer waited while I went back outside to find the form, fill it out and have copies made.
The process seemed far less cumbersome than it was last year when I had consulting help doing the application. The Thai officer was very patient in arranging my papers properly, stamping them with a seemingly endless selection of rubber/ink stamps. Last year, I must have signed my name a dozen times; this time, I signed the original documents and that was all.
Last year, also, I paid 1,900 baht for the re-entry visa. This year, the charge was only 1,000 baht. The renewal application is 1,900 baht. That’s a little less than $100 total.
As comparison, in Indonesia I had to take a ferry from Batam to Singapore every month to renew my 30-day visa. While the visa is free for Americans (and most other nationalities, as well), the ferry trip was $44 each month. And an Indonesian one-year retirement visa costs somewhere more than $1,000 a year.
Of course, I did have to travel to Bangkok for an overnight stay to go the the US Embassy, which hiked my costs some, but even breaking the bank for a very nice hotel and dinner cruise, it comes out to less than Indonesia, and I don’t have to waste a day doing a ferry round-trip every month.
While my visit to immigration took longer than it should have (if I had known what I was doing), I was done in little over an hour. The service was polite and useful. My taxi driver was waiting outside patiently.
Now, all I have to worry about is the 90-day reporting, which I hope to do online next time.
And if I can circle back to the reader’s comments above, As I told him, my journey is perhaps the best decision I’ve ever made, both challenging and stressful, and full of these relatively huge tasks you need to perform along the way, such as acquiring a long-term visa. Always interesting. Despite the many difficulties I’ve encountered over the past seven years, including the debacle in St. Kitts & Nevis, the past seven years have been a life-changing experience.