My biggest concern, prior to arriving in Thailand, had nothing to do with the physical challenges, prospect of meeting new people or potential language barriers, that lay ahead. 30 into 39 was the mathematical problem etched across my brain and rather than digging into my cerebral archives for long-forgotten division skills, solving this problem required two bête noires – paperwork and queuing.
Since my stay in Thailand was for 39 days, but the UK tourist visa exemption was only for 30, I knew that I’d need to obtain an extended visa prior to arrival, apply for a visa extension whilst in the country, or complete a ‘visa run’ to a neighbouring nation. Living in Singapore for the last 3 years, I’d heard that Thailand had recently changed it’s immigration rules in mid-2014, and this included a serious crackdown on the visa runs that had been so popular with travellers and long-staying foreigners, alike. Almost all the information I found around visa rules, was somewhat dated and a little anecdotal (you know, the sort you find on blogs…..) so in the best course of action seemed to be procuring a extended visa for my stay.
I have to put my hands up and admit my languorous approach to arranging this left me in the undesirable situation of attempting to obtain an extended visa whilst in Kuala Lumpur, five days before I flew to Bangkok. Whilst it would be easy to throw out hyperbolic phrases like ‘nightmare’ and ‘soul-destroying’, I’ll opt for the diplomatic route and say that this was not a method I’d endorse and if you can apply for the visa in your home country, that’s the best course of action. In the end the solution was quite straightforward so I’ve composed the following as an easy guide to getting those extra 30 days in Thailand, once you’re in the country.
Before you go
If you prepare all of the below before getting down to immigration, you can maximise the speed of your application and minimise time spent waiting around. Don’t have access to a photocopier and/or possess a passport-sized photo? No worries, most of these can be obtained once you are at the immigration centre.
- Your passport (with at least 6 months before expiry)
- Your departure card (you can still have your request processed if you do not have this)
- A copy of your passport photo page (this can be made at the immigration office for 2 baht per page)
- A copy of the page where your entry into Thailand was stamped by immigration (this can be made at the immigration office for 2 baht per page)
- A copy of your visa (if applicable, this can be made at immigration office for 2 baht per page)
- One passport-sized photo (can be taken at immigration office – 100 baht for four pictures)
- 1,900 baht processing fee.
- One completed visa extension form (copies available at the immigration office)
N.B. Costs are correct at time of writing and non-refundable if your application is denied. There are many ATMs in the vicinity and you have to pay by cash.
If you’re heading from Sitsongpeenong camp, then you can either take a taxi directly (cost is approximately 500 baht if you include expressway tolls) or the BTS from Udom Suk to Mo Chit, on the Sukhumvit Line. The one-way cost of the fare is 52 baht and you will need to take a taxi/Moto taxi from the camp to Udom Suk BTS (60-80 baht), as well as taxi from Mo Chit to the immigration office (approximately 100 baht). If you are travelling from another part of the city and close to the MRT then it is best you take the blue line to Chatuchak Park and grab a taxi, as the cost will also be around 100 baht. Travelling alone, the cheaper option is to take the train (total cost each way approx. 250 baht max) but if you number two or more, it makes more sense to share a taxi there and back. Since this journey involves a taxi at some point, you’ll need the address written down, preferably both in English and Thai. I’ve opted to give the English version below and will leave the resourceful/adventurous part of obtaining a Thai version, to you.
Immigration Division 1 Office, Chalermprakiat Government Complex, Chaengwattana Rd (soi 7), Laksi, Bangkok.
The building with the immigration office is rather picturesque and surrounded by a moat-like body of water (picture on the main website here http://bangkok.immigration.go.th/intro1.html). If you find yourself dropped outside a building that doesn’t have a drop of water in sight then you’re most likely on the main road at the government consular building and a 2km walk from immigration. You can ask anyone for directions and they will point you the right way whilst reiterating the distance and looking in awe/disbelief if you say you’re going to walk it. Since it’s most likely to be a scorching hot day, I would recommend grabbing one of the many Moto taxis around for a 20 baht ride to immigration.
Applying for the visa
Once you’re in the building, follow the signs to the immigration bureau and complete the 30-day extension form, if you do not have a completed version already. The office has some very helpful and friendly staff, who can answer any questions you have about the form and direct you to the separate room downstairs where page copies and photos can be obtained. When you have all your documents, proceed to the application section where your papers are checked and you will be provided with a ticket number. Head to your section and wait to be called, handing all your docs to a member of staff along with 1,900 baht payment and then return to the waiting area, until you are called again. If there are not any problems you will receive your newly stamped passport and a receipt for the processing.
Important to note
- This is the process for a 30-day visa extension and as a UK passport holder it was not necessary for me to obtain a visa prior to arriving in Thailand (30 day exemption). If you had to obtain a visa prior to arrival it’s best to double-check there aren’t any extra requirements for passport holders from your country.
- DO NOT leave this until the final day of your visa/exemption period. It is my understanding that you need to complete this form prior to the last day, to avoid being fined and there is always the possibility that something could go wrong on the day, preventing you from completing the process.
- I recommend completing this at least 5 days before your stay in Thailand expires. I know some people are happy to pay the fine for overstaying but rules and punishments can change very quickly and this could impact future re-entry into Thailand.
- The office is open from 0830 -1630, Monday to Friday, with a break for lunch 1200-1300. If you arrive early you can be out before 1030 so unless you enjoy hanging around government offices, arrive early.
Now you’re set. Another 30 days in Thailand and plenty of training to get through, enjoy!