Some years ago I was delighted, when I
changed my visa, as I would no longer have to exit the country every 90
days: I would simply report to the Immigration Office at the airport.
At that time 90 day
reporting was made at the small office, separate from the main visa office
and took just a few minutes. Just before Christmas I had to make my 90-day
report and I arrived at 6:55 a.m. and wrote my name on a piece of paper
which indicated that I was number 30.
If you are familiar
with this quarterly activity you will realise that this piece of paper
simply indicates the position in the queue, at 8:15 a.m, to claim your
counter ticket that specifies the order in which you will be served at 8:30
I finally emerged
from the immigration office at 9:30 a.m. and the whole operation, including
travelling time, used up three and a half hours of my life. This means I
could be spending a whole day every year queueing up simply to report that
there have been no changes in my address.
Of course, those in
the know who have to do this on a regular basis are aware that there are
some periods when one can simply walk into the immigration office and be
served very quickly. Not so long ago I walked into the office at around
lunchtime and walked out again about seven minutes later. On other
occasions, whilst attempting to repeat this luck, I have discovered that I
have had to re-appear on the following day.
resident who has to report every 90 days finds this a very irksome, boring
and potentially pointless exercise. Sometimes the pent-up frustration almost
colours the air blue. Something should be done!
As with many such
activities in Thailand there is no point in trying to change the law. Let's
face it the government has enough on its hands at the moment without
worrying about legislation to make life easier for foreign immigrants. But
we should remember that the frustration and difficulties are not just on our
side of the counter.
Regular customers of
the Immigration Department will be aware that considerable effort has been
made recently to smarten the office up and to make it more user-friendly.
The problem is that there is not the budget to employ more people and even
if there were, there is nowhere to put them. Car parking is obviously
inadequate, seating often impossible to find and there is nothing to take
the mind off the long, tedious wait.
The problem is the
facilities are simply inadequate to cope with the current procedure. It is
obvious that complicated visa applications must be undertaken face to face
with officers of the Immigration Department. 90 day reporting on the other
hand could surely be handled in a simpler and more efficient manner.
As mentioned earlier
the frustration is on both sides of the counter and the Immigration
Department is not only conscious of the problem they are actively striving
to do something positive about it. For a little while now the Chiang Mai
Friends organisation has been piloting a programme for 90 day reporting.
Members of this organisation may simply drop their 90 day paperwork and
passport with the organiser who will then arrange with Immigration for the
appropriate paperwork to be processed, after which the newly validated
passport can be picked up a few days later. This scheme is gradually being
extended to other organisations and outlets.
Department is also considering the use of the Internet as a means of
registering the 90 day reports. Indeed they seem to be quite imaginative in
the way they are tackling this difficult problem.
Whilst they cannot
increase the amount of floor space they have increased the number of chairs
available for visitors. They also have an informal agreement with the
offices next door so overflow parking is often available.
My impression is
that the Immigration Department is aware of the problems and is doing what
it can to solve them. The provision of other means of making a 90 day report
is likely to make everyone's life far easier and it looks as though 2012
will be the year of the breakthrough. I wish them luck and appreciate their
efforts which will hopefully make life better for all of us.
In the meantime I
will continue to turn up early and take a good book.