Need Thailand’s Immigration be such an ordeal?


While I generally agree with the comments of improved service levels at the Immigration Bureau, the same cannot be said about Thai immigration bureaucratic procedures. I know this is a topic raised on a regular basis. However, I would like to relate a recent experience, which I am sure many readers are familiar with.

A week or so ago I made the trek out to the immigration office in the “splendid” government complex at Chaeng Wattana to obtain my seventh retirement visa and get a new re-entry permit. The renewal of my retirement visa went reasonably smoothly except that the letter from my bank and my passbook were both two days “out of date”! The immigration officer suggested that I go downstairs, deposit Bt100 into my account, update my passbook, and photocopy and sign the updated page. I complied, passed over Bt1,900 and the new visa was issued. At this stage it was 11:20am.

I drew a queue ticket for a re-entry permit. Three hours – including one-hour lunch break – and Bt3,800 later I received my re-entry permit. On my way out I asked an immigration officer when my next 90-day report date was. Despite having spent some 5 1/2 hours at the immigration office and having signed five documents certifying my bone fides and good intentions while in Thailand, the officer advised me that it was 90 days from my last report/re-entry. In other words, in my case I was to report again in 70 days’ time! Okay, experience over for another year.

Now it’s time for some of the same timeworn and new questions to be asked. Why can’t the retirement visa and re-entry permit be combined? Why not operate on a restricted basis over the “lunch period” as was the case at the Suan Plu office? In Bangkok and reporting in person, why do you have to go to Chaeng Wattana when there is a “one stop shop” immigration office in the Chamchuri Square building outside the Sam Yan MRT station, Rama IV, or even go to the old and now under-utilised immigration office in Soi Suan Plu? Why not report to your local police station – after all it’s only a computer entry! Why not report to a 7-Eleven or other convenience shop or for that matter, why is there a need to report at all?

By contrast to my ramblings above, a few years ago a friend relocated to Malaysia after 12 years of living in Thailand. He obtained the Malaysian version of a retirement visa for the equivalent of less than Bt10,000! The qualifying conditions were, and still are, similar to that of Thailand although, given the higher cost of living, financial requirements are a little higher.

So what you may say! Well, for less than Bt10,000 his visa is valid for 10 years, he is free to leave and enter Malaysia without restrictions and he is issued with an ID card that allows him to use Malaysian citizen immigration lines. He may purchase up to two homes with freehold title and to buy his home/s he can apply for a local loan of up to 60 per cent of the property value. He is also able to purchase a Malaysian-made/assembled car free of excise duty and sales tax and under certain circumstances he can undertake limited employment. For the doubters, checkout

Now, I am not recommending a mass exodus of expat retirees in Thailand to Malaysia. Personally I am more than happy to see out my remaining years here. However, it would be nice if someone in authority at the Immigration Bureau or government – hopefully readers of The Nation – were to recommend or undertake a review and overhaul of existing regulations with the aim of streamlining current procedures and making them more user-friendly and competitive with Thailand’s neighbours.

Oh! And by the way, perhaps someone could update the Immigration Bureau website. For some 18 months now, the website “contact us” location map still shows the Suan Plu office and not the Chaeng Wattana complex!

WM Lawrence



Leave a Reply