Thu 30, 2pm. The ministry’s certificate, which has reinstated mention of a fiscal year (the next one, ending September 2014) and, except for that mention, is identical to the one provided last year that earned me the extension of both visa and labour permit, still doesn’t satisfy the current team of officials: yes, it does state I am employed by the ministry but it does not specifically ask Immigration to extend my visa by one year! The head of section (Khun N, a charming young woman with a sense of humour but tough as nails) calls up the OCAC office, and I’m told to go back to the ministry to pick up a newly worded certificate and bring it back to them today. They must be joking! ‘What time do you close here?’ ‘Four thirty.’ ‘No can do.’ Even she must face that fact. In despair, I offer to be given the ‘seven-day ultimatum’ to give time to the ministry to correct and sign the document. This means risking expulsion if … New chat on the phone. On an A4 page, Khun N writes down the changes she wants made to the certificate (why wasn’t this done two days ago? Short answer: different head of section). ‘Take this and fax it to your office. Wait for the fax of the corrected certificate and bring it back to me before four thirty. And bring me back the original first thing tomorrow or else…’
So I go down one floor, fax the corrections and wait. Thirty minutes later, the burr of the fax machine is heard again. I can’t believe my eyes: here is copy of the final certificate and it is duly signed! I must have impressed the director general for him to condescend to do in less than half an hour what it took him two days to do previously. Khun N has me pay the 1900 baht fee so that there is no hiatus in the visa extension process on file, though my passport will only be stamped tomorrow when I hand over the precious certificate.
But what about the labour permit, then, which also ends today? Well, too bad, the Labour Ministry is almost an hour away and will be closed to new business by the time I get there. So I go back home.
Fri 31: yet another early rise. By a quarter to 8am, I’m back in the same armchair in the inner corridor – I even scare the old housecleaning lady. I don’t have to wait long: contacted by phone, the young woman who talked to the N1 section chief and arranged for the certificate to be signed says she has left the documents in an envelope on her desk for me to pick up and run away with. So it is another trip to Immigration. As soon as she sees me, Khun N motions me to come in and my passport is duly processed in a trice. We exchange pleasantries and next, I’m queuing anew for a re-entry visa (just in case I need to leave this country in a hurry).
The traffic is fluid and I’m at the Labour Ministry by 11:30am. I pick up ticket number 188. As tickets in the 140s are being processed, I know it’ll be another two hours before my turn comes. I go out and have a Thai coffee and later lunch. When my number is called and I sit down in front of a familiar face, I apologise right away for being one day late and blame it on being detained by Immigration. As I launch into an explanation of what has happened, she tells me to save my breath and talk to her boss instead, as there are two things, she claims, that need clearance: she has noticed that my address has changed (I tell her it’s the same house, the Bangkok administration guys have changed the address three times in the past ten years or so – well then, next year bring a certificate of change of address from your local BMA office – yes, ma’am) and my employer hasn’t filled in and signed the Form of Employment. What now?
Her boss certainly remembers me. I do not know her name, but she is by far the most understanding of them all and has been consistently so with me for years now. She listens briefly to what I have to say, me apologetic for knowing I should have come earlier but simply couldn’t, caught as I was in the nets of the pernickety immigration police. She asks me whether being a consultant to the ministry is my only job and I’ve really resigned from Thai Day Dot Com, with a sigh says ‘You seem to be in trouble often’ and with a blue pen clears my problematic file of black spots and sends me forking out the 3 100 baht annual fees.
On the way back home, totally knackered, I decide to go and check my blood pressure at Siriraj. It’s an alarming 181/82 on arrival and 161/74 forty minutes later. The doctor tells me to take double the usual dose of medicine. Yes, I know, in two weeks’ time I’ll be sixty-eight…