My annual visa renewal time brings me plenty of stress, and this year even more so, as I decided to try a new way to guarantee my income. It didn’t go well.
Previously, I had gone to Bangkok, booked a hotel for a night, and visited the U.S. Embassy for a monthly income statement (Social Security payments). This involves bus trips both ways, the hotel room cost, and meals. Depending on how frugal I am, the cost can be anywhere from $200-400.
The first year, I took a minivan and booked a backpack hotel for $20 – went the low-cost route. Last year, I decided a nice hotel was a better idea, as was a nice dinner and boat cruise, so my costs were higher.
This year, I decided to go the alternate route of having enough money deposited in my Thai bank account (800,000 baht/32 baht=$1) at least 3 months prior to renewing my visa. This would save me the time and expense of the Bangkok trip.
As anticipated, however, it didn’t go smoothly.
I went to the bank yesterday and had no trouble getting what I thought was the necessary certificate showing the money in the account (100 baht fee). Early this morning, I assembled all the forms, already completed except for a re-entry visa for my July Laos trip (1,000 baht). I did that on arrival at the immigration office.
They still use the old immigration office for annual renewals, but many of the other functions have been moved to the Bluport office. The result was a nearly empty immigration office.
However – when I had my passport copied, the woman said I needed my bank book. Nowhere have I seen anything referring to a bank book, only a certificate from my bank. Inside, the immigration officer told me the same.
So back on the back of the motorcycle and returned home for the bank book. After a switch of drivers, I was back at immigration and seemingly on my way. Except for one thing.
I had transferred the 800,000 baht too late (by 8 days) to meet the 3 month window required. The officer was very nice about it and showed me what my fees would be – when I came back – including 500 baht a day for overstaying my visa. Turns out there no longer is a 7-day grace period to renew your visa.
I had read that you could do this 2 weeks prior to due date or up to 7 days after. My renewal date is June 25. I was told the bank record would need to be updated on June 28, after which I can return to pay the fees, including the overstay fee.
Interestingly, the officer did offer me an “alternative.” For 8,000 baht, he would approve my renewal right then, and no return to the bank or to him would be necessary. That’s basically a $250 bribe. I said I would return June 28.
So now the plan is to go to the bank the morning of the 28th, get my bank book updated, and then go directly to immigration. And hope I get it right this time.
(Note: Even with all this difficulty, I will spend far less on my visa renewal this year than the previous 2 years.)