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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thai O-A Visa Renewal

This will hopefully be of benefit to people who decide after they have been here a year, to go for the second year of being here on an O-A (Long Stay or Retirement Visa). I learned that terminology can be confusing. This experience is for the Phuket office, and may be different depending on the office and the officer. I must admit that the Immigration Police Volunteers, dressed in white shirts and all foreigners, are incredibly helpful. They also have a counter set up that has all the blank forms on it, as well as the blue pens and sample forms for you to follow.

So I took a shower, put on deodorant, brushed my teeth, found my lone pair of long pants and a nice shirt and headed off. Not before I got questioned by Clive about why I was doing this dressing up routine. I explained that OI thought it proper when I went to a government office that I should be presentable. As I waited for the office to open; it closes for lunch from 1200-1300, I watched the collection of people assembling waiting for the office opening. I was particularly riveted to a group of men, all in a pair of flip flops and beach shorts, with 9 empty beer cans in front of them, as they all cracked open more, whiling their time to go into the office. I thought, maybe I am overdressed. But I am also seeing many instances of people who go out in the daytime for business dealings, still smelling like the booze they downed the night before, probably not having a shower, and in obvious cases, not being in possession of deodorant, and in their best beach attire.  I am also one who researched my documents, checks all the boxes in the right place, and rewrites a form if I made a mistake on it. I would attribute any time delays today to the people who do not research and hand in 1/2 done forms, thus holding many people back. They also seem oblivious to that impact. But then again they may be drunk and not notice anyway.

I received my initial Visa, good for one year while I was in Canada. The initial O-A visa has be be obtained in your home country. When that first year was coming to an end, I went back to "renew" the Visa for another year. This is referred to as "Application For Re-Entry Permit Into The Kingdom" and you apply on a form with that name and designated as a TM-8 form, or application. In the first year we travelled quite a bit, so prior to the end of the original visa, I completed this form and got in essence about 2 years on the one year visa. It is NOT a visa extension or renewal, simply a multiple entry permit on the same visa. This was confusing, as when I filled out my landing card, you get when you fly into Thailand, I put my original Visa number on the card and was told that this was wrong, and I should have put the number associated to the multiple entry permit. So I was not required to get my new Visa. If you allow the original foreign issued visa to expire or you do not have a multiple entry visa, you need to leave Thailand and reapply from the start. And so armed with the required material I headed to the second row of immigration officers desks. These officers do the visa's

  • Completed TM-8 in blue ink;
  • A photocopy of your passport photo page; your departure card; any visa pages and your multiple entry stamp page(s);
  • A letter from my embassy declaring that I am in receipt of a pension that meets the Thai government requirements for income, which I had from the embassy in Bangkok. Apparently if you choose to opt for the money on deposit in Thailand (800,000 Bah required- 90 days prior to application), you will also need a letter from your Thai bank and your bank passbook showing that the funds are there
  • One passport photo
  • A photocopy of your bank ATM card (front only)
  • Your original passport
  • 1,900 Baht cash

I had a rather officious man serve me, and while the process was relatively painless, the time spent looking through the passport, staring at me, thumbing the documents, staring at me and back to the passport seemed like an eternity. He then took out a pile of rubber stamps and began to stamp all the paperwork and my passport. I am sure he had 7 different stamps he utilized. He then announced "you pay 1,900 Baht!". I gave him the money and he passed my paperwork and passport to another staff member and told me "you go now. sit there!". About 10 minutes later I saw another officer pick up my paperwork and go through all the forms, stamps and passport and then write out a receipt and sign and stamp my paperwork again. I was called forward and handed my passport back, with a visa good for one more year.

Getting the visa is only one part of the process and must be done before you can move to the next stage. If you wish to leave the kingdom and come back during that one year, and do not wish to have to go back to square 1 on reapplying for the visa outside of Thailand, you need to get a multiple entry stamp, or in Thai government language "Application for Extension of Temporary Stay In Thailand". This is done on a form named the same way and designated as a TM-7 application. In addition to the form, you will need:

  • Completed TM-7 in blue ink;
  • A photocopy of your passport photo page; your departure card; and your new visa. I had spares of my material (except for the new visa page of course) already, so I included that and they were taken of my previous visa pages and my multiple entry stamp page;
  • One passport photo
  • Your original passport 
  • 3,800 baht cash

With my paperwork completed, I headed to the front row of immigration officers, who do the 90 notification of your stay and the extension of temporary stays. Again a flurry of stamping, a more relaxed officer and crew, who smiled and laughed and were very helpful. Off  I went to sit while my passport and paperwork were again scrutinized by a second person, my cash checked, a receipt issued and stamping and signing all completed. And away I left with my new visa with permission to come and go for the next year.

There is a requirement to notify the Immigration people of your presence and location every 90 days. I tried to do this on the "Form for Alien To Notify of Staying Longer Than 90 Days" form (TM.47), but was told the 90 days counts from the last time I entered Thailand and not upon issuing the new visa. So I will go back in march for that process to happen.

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