or The Nightmare before Christmas…
Today was my third attempt this week to go to Immigration to do my 90 day check in. My friend and I met there at 7.30 and wrote down our names on the list. But later we found out that Immigration is no longer using the list.
Remember Rule Number One: Things at Immigration are always changing.
Now that I am at home, I noticed that on Chiang Mai Immigration’s website, they actually explained that the hand written list system has changed. This is BIG for Chiang Mai Imm, for them to use their website and something called the Internet. (By the way, I’ve never used their online cue system. Has anyone?)
Even though my friend and I have lived here for a while, we should have double checked the website because things always change. But once we expats do something, we become “experts”. Expats are notorious for giving you advice on when to go, for example: Go early. Go late. Go during the middle of the week, on Wednesday. Don’t go at the beginning of the month. Etc. Etc.
I can’t tell you when to go because of Rule Number Neung. I feel like different people are going to get different treatments depending on the mood of the Immigration Officer and the way the planets are aligned based on your astrological sign. A friend of mine slipped in without a number and was out of there in 5 minutes. Good for him, but I can’t expect or rely upon that happening to me. Worth a try though. Next time, next time. Grumble, grumble.
The reason why this was my third attempt this week is because: Monday was a holiday, the day after a holiday is a bad day to go. Wednesday I went in, saw massive amounts of people, motorbikes and cars, the cue machine completely out of tickets and left. I should have gone to the counter to ask if I could come back in the afternoon or get a number anyway. Next time, next time. Grumble, grumble.
But I had time, so here my Rule Number Two: Give yourself plenty of time.
The reason why December is utter madness is because this is Thailand’s high tourist season. So now you have tourists, tourists who want to stay longer, expats who want to go back to their passport country for holiday, and the business as usual on top of all that. Chiang Mai is also becoming increasingly popular. The Chinese have discovered it, and CM is making US lists of top places to retire. Booooooooo.
Save time by having copies of your passport pages ready and the proper form filled out. If you need cash, there is no ATM around so have that ready too, along with passport pictures in case you need them.
I don’t envy you my friend. It’s up to you how much you want to prepare, but here are some sites: http://www.thaivisa.com/ you have to sift through the complaining though, or you could go to Chiang Mai Immigration’s website: http://chiangmaiimm.com/index.php/en.html but trying to find information was mission impossible, so I went to Bangkok’s immigration URL instead: http://bangkok.immigration.go.th/intro1.html – it appeared more accessible and useful.
Which brings me to Rule Number Three: Be prepared. Here’s a quick list:
- Ladies, toilets don’t have toilet paper. Or soap. Per typical.
- There is not seating for everyone and there are a lot of old people at Immigration so you might end up standing during the wait.
- Some people smell bad, really ripe in fact. Do everyone a favor since we are packed like a can of poompui, shower, dress appropriately, and don’t put your hiking boots on the Immigration counter. (Yes, I saw that.)
- About 5 minutes (?) till 8am the doors opened and we collectively squeezed through the door to grab a number. Then! You wait until the Thai anthem and announcements are made. Then you cue up for the official tickets/numbers.
- If you have questions, the Immigration officer will help you at this time. While I appreciate the human element, they only have ONE immigration officer to handle this number before the real number system. Be patient and try to stand close to him so you can hear your number being called.
- Overflow parking seems to be street parking. As I was leaving I saw the police with the infamous “boot” giving tickets to illegally parked cars. Someone’s day just got longer.
- Avoid going in December if possible.
- Be prepared to be turned away. As I was standing by the officer distributing numbers, I listened in to every person’s reason/situation. And at 8.50am all the tickets for Spouse visas, Counter number 4 were gone. So if you are applying for something new like Spousal, Volunteer work, go early. It’s obvious they only handle a certain amount.
- My friends at Got Passport wrote about extending a Tourist Visa here: http://www.gotpassport.org/2010/10/22/easy-as-pie-extending-a-tourist-visa-at-chiang-mai-immigration-office/.
- See below under Related Posts, as I have written about Immigration and Visa runs before.
And remember don’t be an asshole. (Reminder for myself, really.) We’re all in this Immigration mess together. I’ll leave you with Brian Regan, one of my favorite comedians. This bit is about air travel but it reminds me of Immigration too. Good luck!