Grapevine - March 20 - April 2, 2020
in Thailand can I get my UK marriage certificate stamped as genuine?
You can’t any more. Most embassies,
including the British, now refuse to confirm official documents issued
outside the home country. The sole exceptions to this rule are your
passport and your driving licence. This is because those particular
documents are on a UK data base available to the embassy. So if you want
your UK marriage certificate or your educational qualifications verified
you have to send them to a special office in Milton Keynes. The complex
details and payment instructions are on the embassy website in the
section dealing with what the embassy cannot do.
What happens when I die in Thailand?
Not sure about your personal
destination but the disposal rules are fairly clear. Most people here
die at home or in hospital or in road accidents. The first hurdle is the
local police who have the discretion whether or not to require an
autopsy, usually carried out at the police autopsy unit in Bangkok. The
general rule is that you will be taken for autopsy unless you die in
hospital with documents showing a recent illness and treatment
undergone. The next of kin or the executor will require a letter from
the appropriate embassy giving permission for him/her to move the body
for cremation or overseas transportation. Most embassies keep a list of
recommended morticians who can assist with the detail.
What is the easiest way to obtain
a retirement visa?
Technically, you mean a one year
extension (not a visa) on a non-immigrant visa you obtained at an
overseas Thai embassy or, in some circumstances, at a Thai immigration
office. The easiest way is to keep at least 800,000 baht in a Thai bank
account for five months of the year (starting two months before you
apply) and at least 400,000 baht for the remaining seven months. You
also need to show evidence of your address in Thailand. Another way is
to show at least 65,000 baht a month coming into your Thai account from
abroad for a whole year or even a combo method with a mixture of cash in
the bank plus monthly transfers. But all alternatives are more complex
than the 800,000 way and subject to differing regulations at local
What is the longest visa you can obtain?
The Elite visa is promised for
between five and 20 years according to how much you pay (500,000 baht up
to 2 million baht) but each chunk of time is just three months. After
that you have to visit an immigration office or leave the country to
obtain your next slice of time. There is also a non-immigrant “XO” visa
for 10 years and obtainable at some Thai embassies abroad – but be
warned the paperwork is substantial and you need approved medical
insurance for this one. Both the Elite and the “XO” can include family
members but the price structure varies according to your specific needs.
Neither of these visas allow you to work in Thailand.
What is a smart visa then?
This was created a few years ago in
close consultation with the Board of Investment. It is quite unlike
other visas as it allows for built-in work authorization dependent on
what exactly you will be doing. Whilst there are many perks associated
with this visa, it is certainly the most scrutinized category owing to
the oversight of the various ministries responsible for authorizing an
operation which might be eligible. Basically this unique visa is for
foreigners who are investing large sums in a high-tech business venture
here or will work for a high-tech company on a salary way above the
average. The voluminous detail is on the BOI website.
Why do some Schengen
or UK visa applications fail?
When Thais are disappointed that
their European visa applications fail, it is usually a problem of lack
of documentation. If visiting a friend, for example, it is not enough to
show evidence of a relationship and rely on the sponsor to provide
details of accommodation and income. The Thai applicant, unless of
substantial independent means, will be required to explain (and back up
with documents) why he/she will return to Thailand after the vacation.
In practice, this means providing detailed evidence of an occupation in
Thailand or proof of ownership of significant assets of land or
property. A common myth is to assume that a letter from the employer is
proof of a job. Many embassies also require evidence of weekly or
monthly payments backed up by bank statements.
Is it worthwhile obtaining the “yellow book”?
This is the house registration book
and accompanying pink ID card which show the name of the resident
farang(s) as opposed to Thais living there. The rules for obtaining
these vary in each local authority or city hall and may include
verification of personal documents from the applicant’s home country
rather than from his/her embassy in Bangkok. The yellow book and pink
card can certainly be used for some purposes in Thailand, but not for
all. For example, most land transportation offices still need a separate
letter from the immigration police when you apply for, or renew, your
driving licence. Views differ on whether the effort is worth the prize.
Grapevine - March 6 - March 19, 2020
Only some oldies
Not every expat now obtaining a one
year retirement extension at local immigration is being told to return
after three months to check whether or not the 800,000 baht is still
shown in your bank book. Apparently, the requirement is being used
mainly to check up on new retirees or those without much cash surplus at
the application stage. Probably not you.
A farang tourist found lazing
semi-naked on a Jomtien beach in the midday blazing sun was asked why he
was being so foolish. He replied that he had read on Facebook that very
strong heat killed off the dreaded flu virus which everyone is talking
about. He is now recovering slowly in hospital suffering from serious
sunburn and dehydration. His insurance refused to cover the treatment
bill as he was not suffering from a “holiday illness”.
Driving licence keys
If you decide to try and obtain a
first driving licence directly at the Banglamung Land Transportation
Centre, don’t forget you’ll need a letter from a doctor and proof of
address from the immigration bureau amongst the required documentation.
Remember too that the Banglamung office will not accept your
home-country driving licence unless it is officially endorsed by the
Not sure if Brexit is to blame, but
the UK embassy is regularly updating the requirements for its usual
services. A Brit swearing the oath before marrying a Thai now needs to
provide the names and address of two witnesses living in UK – not
anywhere else. Separately, a UK national in Thailand wanting a new or
replacement passport must now produce proof of his/her Thai address
signed or stamped in the last 12 months. So don’t rely on your house
registration book. A letter from immigration is OK.
Taking your leave
Overheard in a pub. A man was
searching the social science shelves in a local library and seemed to be
getting nowhere. The friendly assistant asked him if she could help.
“Well, I’m looking for a book on suicide but you don’t seem to have
any,” he explained. “Yes I know,” she answered, “we used to have many
but the so-and-soes never bring them back.”
Buying and selling
Just a reminder: foreigners wanting
to purchase or get rid of a vehicle in their name must obtain a
confirmation of address letter from the immigration bureau which will
also need to see the registration document. But the letter does not have
a permanent validity and must be presented to the vehicle license
authority within 30 days.
Bridge club news
No more arrests sorry! Jomtien
Bridge Club – the one which used to meet in the large house more or less
opposite Mr Mac’s Apartments on Thappraya Road – has moved. It now meets
at Friends, a Norwegian-run bar and restaurant located very close to
Jomtien Beach Road. Walking towards the beach, it’s the last soi on your
right after passing Hemingways. Mon, Wed, Fri, starts 1 pm, but be there
Elite time scale
A common question about the elite
visa is how long it takes to process. The answer is it depends on your
nationality, so any time from two weeks to two months. We leave you to
work out which passports take longer than others to complete those
detailed immigration checks. There are several forms of the elite visa,
but the most popular one is the one-off 500,000 baht payment for a five
year visa in chunks of three months at a time. Yes you have to do the 90
days check-in or leave the country to get another chunk.
A British tourist says he has found
on his recent visit to Walking Street that there are far fewer
transvestites trying to chat him up or to feel for his wallet whilst
professing undying love. “Two years ago,” he confides, “I was accosted
in the darker areas about ten times in a two hours stretch, but this
year it was no more than five”. Not sure if the guy is relieved or
expects an apology.
What was the last thing seen by the
brown dog wearing sunglasses on a dark night? The answer is the car
which knocked it down. Of course! Not to worry if you got this one
wrong. The questions in the Pattaya pub quiz league tend to be easier.
Or that’s what we hear these days.
| Grapevine - February 21 - March 5, 2020
Here are some categories of Pattaya
farang you want to avoid.
Here’s a tedious guy who is usually at
his anonymous keyboard criticizing the powers-that-be for the lunacy of the
TM30 bureaucracy or the ridiculous cash sums needed in the bank if you want
a retirement extension. But he is also lurking in bars waiting to enlighten
unwary people who are arguing whether you need one photo or two or three
with your visa paperwork. He also knows exactly how immigration rules will
change several months before the Bangkok bosses have even thought them up.
Here is the guy, usually in his
70s, who has lived here for ages and has likely given up horizontal
leisure pursuits owing to significant arthritis and a weak bladder. But
he can remember the good old days when a fulfilling night out in the
bars cost you peanuts and you could enjoy watching young ladies
cavorting with live goldfish and ping pong balls in raunchy scenes of
yesteryear. He is also likely to tell you in confidence that he has
never paid for sex, a situation which he explains by reason of his
excellent Thai phrase book and his deep knowledge of Thai culture.
The digital nomad
These are members of a talkative
and wandering tribe who use their computers to make a profit with online
customers outside of the kingdom. However, they spend most of their time
quaking in their shoes because they can’t find out if they need a legal
work permit or not. Some of them have spent a fortune on Thai lawyers in
the forlorn and never-ending search for an answer. But none of them has
ever asked an immigration officer the same question for fear that their
ambiguity will be cleared up harshly in five seconds flat, followed by a
Unlucky for some
You can’t help feeling sorry for
this farang who has bought a piggery near the Cambodian border for his
wife only to discover that half the porkies have sadly died in an
unexpected epidemic: his half to be precise. He may have added to his
cash-flow problems by buying a new car for the wife’s
chronically-handicapped younger brother, only to find out that the same
relative has won the local marathon three years in succession. On
meeting such a farang, you are strongly advised not to give him your
phone number, email contact or address details to avoid the
embarrassment of his asking you to provide venture capital for a unique
prawn farm which could earn you a fortune in no time whatsoever.
He is the guy who has personally
experienced the worst of all police misfortunes in Pattaya. Thus he was
the only farang arrested when the police raided a sex show last year
even though he was not a customer and was simply and innocently using
the outside loo at the wrong moment. He was also arrested with 32
elderly bridge players in 2016 and spent the night in the police cells.
He said this was ridiculous as he had never played cards in his life and
was simply standing outside smoking a cigarette. This kind of expat is
likely to claim that democracy is absolutely on the wane in Thailand and
that another military coup in the near future is inevitable. He has
offered several times to be a guest lecturer at the expat clubs, but
without success thus far. Apparently, they are not as desperate for
outside speakers as sometimes assumed.
These are the foreigners who love
to tell you how they have managed to avoid paying the huge bills arising
from expensive hospital treatment in the resort. Typical is the UK expat
who owed over four million baht to the bursar but managed to leave the
hospital by the front door without paying a cent after he stole a white
coat and borrowed a stethoscope. Another tale teller will inform you
that he personally knows somebody who received a cash fortune in
compensation after surgeons cut off the wrong leg in a tragic mistake
over x-rays. These lucky farang are not worried by the prospect of
compulsory medical insurance for all as they can see many ways to avoid
paying the premium.
Aliens can’t practice law in Thailand
but that doesn’t prevent some from becoming barrack room experts. This type
of expat claims that he earned the gratitude of sixteen go-go dancers after
he advised them to plead not guilty in court to appearing in the nude on the
stage. He told them to point out to the judge that none of them was actually
naked as half were sporting a top hat and the others were wearing a hairnet.
In return for this tremendous advice which resulted in an instant acquittal,
the farang was offered free drinks for life at the club which, most sadly,
did not reopen.
| Grapevine - February 7 - February 20, 2020
The area’s Sak Nak Hong and
Mabprachan reservoirs are at their lowest levels for about 12 years. But
the annual Songkran water throwing jamboree is to be held as usual. City
authorities are gambling the rains will be early this year. Let’s hope
they are right.
Bags versus trolleys
Desperate customers, denied
one-time-use plastic bags at supermarket checkouts, are apparently not
returning all those wire baskets and trolleys as they struggle home with
armloads of foodstuffs and other goods. Surely, the idea of banning plastic
bags was to save the environment rather than to create chaos.
Four Russians caused a violent stir in
a South Pattaya club when they asked the bartender for glasses to drink
their bottled beers. Only problem was that they had bought their booze in
the local 7/11 and had decided to enjoy them in air-conditioned comfort
nearby. The inevitable fight ensued. Buy one and get one free?
Rare mail ordering
Lazada, the closest thing Thailand has
to Amazon, is proving immensely popular here. We hear that some really
obscure items can be ordered online, especially from China. These include
artificial dog whistles for those who can’t summon their pets and bald wigs
for men who are ashamed of their curly locks. Now we know why Kerry’s
same-day transport fleet is so busy.
Carry on digging
It’s no surprise that parts of the
city are once again being dug up. For the past 20 years, there has never
been a public reprieve longer than six months. Amongst the many reasons
for traffic chaos given over the decades have been road improvements,
underground cables, drainage systems, electricity issues and delivering
Everyone knows about the strength
of the baht and the weakness of foreign currencies, especially the UK
pound and the Aussie dollar. But we hear that some clearing banks are
taking an extra cut on international money transfers. One resident told
us that the street exchange booths are lately giving a better rate for
cash than the clearing banks receiving transfers from abroad.
Looking before shaking
It may have caught your eye that
many Pattaya restaurants provide table salt in a small pot with several
holes whilst pepper is found in the one with a single puncture. The
public concern is that it’s the other way round in Europe. Keyboard
warriors on the internet are worried the situation is leading to
excessively spiced food in eateries and a potential shortage of the
stuff in the shops. This is Thailand (TIT).
A reader asks if the death penalty has
been abolished in Thailand. No, but it has been used only in seven cases
since lethal injection replaced machine-gunning as the execution mode in
2003. However, there are over 500 people on death row in Bangkok. The rumour
is that most legislators are abolitionists, but the majority of the general
public is not.
Paying for rubbish
Over a year ago, thousands of
Pattaya homes received a circular from City Hall asking that payment for
black bag removal be made in future by banker’s order or by a personal
visit. Apparently, the former system of sending people round to your
home with a receipt book and a collecting tin has been abandoned. But
nobody we know has been asked yet to contribute cash for this service in
2020. Odd indeed.
On the subject of refuse collection,
most residents would agree that the present company Eastern Green has done a
much better job than its predecessor in keeping the streets somewhat cleaner
than they used to be. A new competitive tendering contract, worth nearly one
billion baht, is set for April this year. Eastern Green with its new
vehicles and smart uniforms for personnel has set a good standard. Let’s
hope it wins the race..