marcel barang

Driving me barmy – 1

In English on 25/05/2012 at 5:26 pm

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On May 12, I clocked 34 years of presence as a ‘non-immigrant’ in Thailand.

Next month I’ll be 67.

Five days from now I may yet be expelled.

Those who read this blog know how at the end of March I had to leave to Laos in a hurry to return with a three-month business visa because a couple of essential documents over Fiscal Year 2010 could not be produced on time by the company that employs me for me to be granted the usual one-year visa/work permit extension. Those who read this blog also know that those documents are still not ready.

But the situation has become more complex.

Thanks to kindly persons appalled that this well-known translator of Thai literature (I mean me) was compelled in old age to three-month visa runs, one section of the Ministry of Culture offered to sponsor my visa. A letter of support as an English language adviser was issued in mid-month. After much soul-searching and consultations with relevant persons, including a friend’s immigration lawyer (his answer: ‘Go to Laos again’) and finally with my employer, it was decided that: 1) I would use the ministry’s letter of support to obtain renewal of the visa; 2) I would resign from the company (to no longer be at the mercy of missing documents); and 3) I would be rehired as an outside adviser in one or other company of the group.

So far so good … in cuckoo land.

Last Monday, I went to the ministry to take the original letter of support. Fortunately the ministry is a short taxi ride away from my place, if on the wrong side of the road.

The fun starts on Tuesday morning when I present it at Immigration (at the Government Complex, some 25 km away from here): 1) the letter isn’t pro forma; 2) bring back the correct letter of support and bring along your work permit. You have one, don’t you? Yes, at the company, I answer mystified. I go back to the ministry; the pro forma letter of support will be ready the next morning.

Wednesday morning: I pick up the precious document, stop by the office to pick up the work permit, go to Immigration. Different officers, same snafu: this is your company’s work permit – where is the ministry’s work permit? What! A work permit for a position as an adviser? Yes, all foreigners must have a work permit attached to their employer. But this isn’t a real employment, the work is piecemeal, the income too. I point out that when, fourteen years ago, in dire straits then, visa short and out of work, I received a one-year extension of the visa on the strength of a single letter of support from an office of the Prime Minister’s Office as their linguistic adviser (paid 200 or 300 baht per monthly meeting) there was no question of a work permit attached to it. Well, now there is. The thing to do is to get the ministry to write a letter of support to Immigration, which will issue you with the relevant work permit, then you come back to us and we’ll issue you with the visa for sure. Don’t worry, you still have time.

This conversation has mobilised the head of the section, who helpfully tries to think of alternative solutions. There are two, both unworkable: 1) as an old man, I can be given a retirement visa. Do you have 800 000 baht in a bank account? I do, but, according to your regulations, khrap, that money has to come from abroad. What I have are savings from working in a Thai company; 2) as the father of a daughter, you can be sponsored by her. There are two requirements, khrap: she must have been employed for two years – she has – and she must earn at least 30 000 baht a month – she doesn’t yet. So back to the ministry solution.

And for me back to the ministry. Then to the office, where the head of Personnel finds out that, in such a configuration, another set of documents is required by the Labour Department on top of the letter of support of the ministry. She manages to gather them for me in no time! I go back home, the ministry calls: the letter of support to the Labour Department is ready. It’s 4:15pm. Can I come and collect it now? Yes, if you can make it before 5pm. I’ll leave it at the desk downstairs. Taxi to the ministry. It’s drizzling and the traffic is intense. Instead of the usual safe detour through the suspended bridge to cross the avenue and the three-hundred-yard walk to the ministry, I have the taxi stop in front of the ministry and cross the avenue on foot – a rather thrilling exercise I survive. It 4:50pm. I get the document and go back home.

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