marcel barang

Posts Tagged ‘visa extension’

Driving me barmy – 2

In English, Reading matters on 25/05/2012 at 5:28 pm


On Thursday morning, armed with a double batch of documents – the ministry-related ones and the company-related ones, which I must present ahead of time even though the batch is not complete – I go to Immigration the Labour Department, 9 km away. A short queue and one of the officers examines the ministry-related documents. Where is the such-and-such form to be filled by the ministry? Drat! That isn’t in the batch prepared by Personnel, perhaps not even in her list. So I go back to the ministry.

The document is completed over lunch, as it were. Then I go back to the Labour Department. A long queue this time (thirty-one persons ahead of me, a full hour’s wait). By 3 o’clock, it’s my turn, and soon two officers are involved and the section head as well. This more than middle-aged woman is more than understanding and helpful: she calls the head of Personnel, the conversation lasts and lasts, and if I try to sort out the various developments, it goes something like this:

– there is no new work permit book for my new position: it will be mentioned on my current nine-year-old book as ‘adviser to the Ministry of Culture’;

– come back next Tuesday for it; this mention should be enough for Immigration to issue you a one-year visa;

– since you will have two ‘employers’ you must pay twice the fee (so, twice 3 000 baht or 75 euros for one year; Immigration is less greedy: 2 000 baht or 50 euros, and 1 000 baht or 25 euros for one re-entry permit, if I happen to need to leave the country during the year);

– per regulation, you cannot resign from the company currently employing you for another thirty days;

– regarding the company’s documents, you must absolutely bring next Tuesday three missing documents, this, this and that, otherwise…

Otherwise is still unclear in my mind. When, back home as late as 5:30pm, I talk over the phone with the head of Personnel, she tells me that she’s been told by the section head at Labour that, if the documents required are not presented on time, the work permit cannot be extended beyond May 30! She further informs me that the audited financial statement of the company for FY2010 will be signed Friday (today) but further steps are required (such as payment of back taxes and acknowledgment thereof) which might or might not be completed by Tuesday.

All parties at Immigration, Labour, the ministry and my company have shown great willingness to help but Immigration and Labour regulations limit manoeuvrability. Yet, it’s clear something’s got to give. At this point, I can only hope for either some further goodwill on the part of Labour to extend my work permit on the strength of sponsoring by the Ministry of Culture or some further goodwill on the part of Immigration for the same reason (even if this happens on the last day of current visa cum work permit).

Or else?

A wonderful long weekend ahead, thank you.

The silver lining is that, during the multiple waiting sessions at Immigration, Labour and the ministry, I’ve finished reading two more stories by Win Lyovarin from his latest collection, Sen Sommut (Imaginary lines), and that, to calm my nerves in the evening I’ve given another reading and fine-brushing to that buffalo novel that kept me busy for some two hundred hours during the past month: I’m merely waiting for the author’s clarification of three minor points to send the final text back.


Driving me barmy – 1

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


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.

Credit where credit is due

In English on 01/03/2011 at 6:40 pm


I can’t quite believe it: this morning, Immigration was a model of efficiency and speed.
The inch-thick pile of documents compiled over the past two months by Personnel was approved and a one-month provisional extension of my yearly visa duly signed, all within one hour, waiting time included! Was that, I wondered, because the phoo kong (department head, a woman) had seen me on television last month? I think not. At least, it made for civil conversation while she glanced at the documents once again.
I even had time to barge into the cubicle of my processing officer of the past three years (Khun Art) to wish him a happy new year. This time, it was a woman who did the processing.
Police-wise, there has been an embellishment over the previous year: my mug shot was taken (never mind the photo already in the file) as well as my right and then my left index finger prints – the computer age is dawning there too. Next year the toes?
I left feeling mighty relieved and impressed – as well as mighty sleepy as it had been yet another night of sleeplessness, the fourth in one month. Call it nerves if you will.
The question of ‘notification of residence’ every three months wasn’t raised. Maybe it will be when, four weeks from now, I go there again to fang phon (literally ‘listen to the result’, meaning being granted the extension for the rest of the year) and apply for a new re-entry visa.
There is no end to angst. Most of it self-made?
I bought cookies to the three ladies of Personnel thanks to whom the event went without a hitch and treated myself to a coffee and an ‘upside down’ (a slice of pineapple cake) – an annual sin, dating back to the times when I worked for FAO, at the turn of the century.

Meanwhile, Air France has taken no account of the double booking of flights for my daughter. I have a new password to my credit cards (no, I didn’t destroy them after all, as they are still useful anyway anywhere else than on the net) but won’t chance it again … and go to Air France and pay cash.
The latest trap I found on the Kasikornbank website when applying for a new password is worth explaining to farang readers: the relevant page has three items, in small-type Thai and bold English. The first one asks you to enter your passport or ID number; the second asks in English for Expiry Date: if you type your passport expiry date, like I did, you are done for – it is your card expiry date they want, as the Thai line specifies! I’ve suggested to them to change the English line to Card Expiry Date to remove any risk of confusion, but will they listen?

A matter of context

In English on 08/08/2010 at 6:53 pm


Innumerable times I’ve been asked ‘Yoo thee nai’. Literally, this means ‘Where are you?’ Sometimes, when I feel like joking, I pretend that it does, and answer with aplomb, ‘Yoo prathet thai si’ (I live in Thailand, of course) which is always worth a guffaw – of amusement or embarrassment depending on who asks.
In fact, the expression means ‘What’s your nationality?’
The answer is, ‘Keut farangseit khrap’ (I’m French, sir/madam).

This reminds me of a particular instance in the late nineties, a dreadful period when I had the dubious honour of being promoted ‘linguistic adviser’ in one Government House department for the sake of the renewal of the yearly visa. (That was the one and only time I went to Immigration with one single A4 letter in hand and came out less than one hour later with a full-year extension! When redshirts decry double standards, they don’t know the half of it.)

As part of the arduous task of helping supervise over a full year the creation of a prestigious publication of mostly blank pages, one day three of us had to visit another department. That meant a different Government House gate from the one we used. When we arrived in early morning, one of the guards asked, ‘Ma jark naikan’ (Where do you come from?). I answered loud and clear, ‘Jark barn khrap’ (From home, sir). Everybody laughed. That’s when I learned the expression rather meant, ‘Which department do you come from?’

During the monthly meetings of that august taskforce, I was asked at one point whether I had photocopied some documents (thai eikasarn). I answered that I had, that very morning (thai muea chao nee eng khrap), triggering a round of promptly suppressed smiles. Thai, pronounced with a long low tone and a hard T, is a dangerous word: used on its own, in common language it means ‘to relieve oneself’. Suffice it to say that I knew that.