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Foreign Frustration with Thai Immigration "Rules of the Day"

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing frustrations by Foreign Nationals with certain Thai Immigration processing procedures and protocols.

Occasionally I like to do videos that are of an op-ed nature and this one is actually inspired from a recent letter in the Postbag to the Bangkok Post and this is from the Bangkok Post print edition. It is in the Postbag and it is dated December 19th, 2020 and it goes under the title: Immigration Games, and it is by Farangs Anonymous. Quoting directly: "I, like nearly 90% of all foreigners living here in Thailand, am getting tired of going to Immigration for a yearly visa renewal only to find out that we did not follow the "rules of the day". We want Immigration to state a clear policy of what is or is not required to renew our visas. To that end we ask, why are we required to fill out additional paperwork at Immigration when all of the requirements found on the internet have been met, all written in Thai of course and not understandable to foreigners".

A couple of things on this. Just my personal response and I am not defending anyone or noting anything. This is more for informational purposes. The first thing to take note of is any foreign national in Thailand should be aware of one major adage that any Immigration lawyer will tell you which is "People that are nationals of the country they are from have no clue how their Immigration system works". So for example, if you are an American living in the United States, you never have to deal with USCIS, Department of Homeland Security, National Visa Center or Embassies abroad or any of the apparatus in the United States. You just never deal with it. You are an American. You may have to deal with Department of State when getting a passport. Here in Thailand, Thai Nationals have no idea most of them, how their Immigration system works. I can tell you from personal experience having been through pretty much all aspects of it having become a naturalized Thai citizen, that it is a cumbersome Byzantine process but so is the American system and that is the reason I bring this up. I wanted to provide some context on this because I don't think a lot of foreigners understand, or the ones living here in Thailand understand that their home country probably has Immigration protocols that in many ways are as onerous or cumbersome as can be found here in Thailand. 

Now getting to the thrust of this sort of "rules of the day" issue and that is to me more pertinent and more useful for folks who are watching this video. Yeah it does seem like that. Different offices and we have gone into this, we made videos specifically talking about different offices of Thai Immigration, and how different Officers and different offices have different protocols for how they process cases. What may work for example at the Immigration Office in Pattaya, specifically Chonburi Immigration office down at Jomtien beach, may work differently than the way that things will work up here at Chaeng Wattana for Bangkok. That may work slightly differently down in Hua Him, it may work a little bit differently in Phuket. When Phuket is under normal conditions where you have a normal number of foreigners down there, we often see a lot of variance with respect to administrative matters in the context of Immigration. It is just par for the course. Different offices do things differently. 

The other thing too bear in mind is Immigration Officers are accorded a great deal of discretion with respect to fact finding and they may just simply feel, a given officer may feel that a certain piece of documentation is compelling and they have the discretion under the statutes and under the regulations, to request that documentation from a foreign national who is seeking an extension of status in the country. Now is it always a reasonable request? I would say I have definitely seen situations where it seems pretty over the top but long story short, yes that discretion exists. I doubt it is going to go away. Could it be streamlined a little bit better?  Yes, Immigration does have protocols in place to try and do that but each case is unique and each case is different and Immigration Officers have to deal with that uniqueness in such a way that complies with the law and sometimes that means they ask for documentation that might not be explicitly stated in either the statutes or online. 

The other thing to bear in mind, I often find this rather interesting, people will say "well it is on the website". Well the website is not the exhaustive end all be all. It is not the dispositive "written in stone" law and the law itself is actually fairly simple. The Immigration Act is pretty straightforward but the regulatory structure that sort of undergirds that law it is pretty complex. Often times I will find especially with some of these information requests, this is often coming down to that line officer from higher up above them; from policymakers who just dictated or decided that "look we want to see this document now for this purpose" or whatever the policy is. It is often times coming from above that person and there isn't really much they can do about exercising their discretion to ignore that policy directive. 

Again, it is going to be fact dependent but you know this is easier said than done. It is tough to do this but try not to get bitter. It is easy to get frustrated I understand that, but try not to get bitter about dealing with Thai Immigration.