Sunday, January 18, 2009

Visa News

This close to the holiday season seems an appropriate time to be "making a list and checking it twice." However, it's not Santa who's perusing this list, but yours truly, as part of my newly established immigration ritual to prepare for my visa renewal. Nothing "naughty or nice," just prolific.

Mostly it's just a checklist for a gazillion copies of relevant passport pages (I'm at five currently) plus bankbook copies and an official letter from my bank dated within the current week. This last item is of particular interest as they are keen to see that you have money in a Thai bank--it's that transparent. You make a money commitment and the reward is that you get to stay. Since this is my third year now, I know the drill.

After collecting this pile of documents, the final touch is the one known locally as "Riap Roy." This officially translates from Thai as "presentable." Things like, are you dressed respectfully and in my case is your long hair pinned up.

Last year I had a friend query me on this issue. My Thai is not good still, but last year it was really bad and I thought he said "Rob Roy." "Did I go in looking "Rob Roy?" Now the only "Rob Roy" I know is a cocktail made with bourbon and since I don't like bourbon, I think they are nasty, but I jumped to the conclusion that he was asking if I went in drunk. What a strange question!

There was an added component to the "Riap Roy" issue last year, as the sister of the King died and my immigration appearance was during the official mourning period. I needed to wear somber and sedate black to show proper respect, so I had to go out and buy a long black skirt. It has now become my dress of choice for visa application visits. Intensely "Riap Roy."

So bright and early Wednesday morning I presented my "Riap Roy" self to the Chiang Mai Immigration office out near the airport. The Songthaew driver motioned for me to sit in front so he could put to the test my meager Thai. I have a time window of a few days leading up to my current visa expiration, so I picked Wednesday hoping the crowd would be thinner mid-week. My theory proved wrong and I compounded things by signing in the wrong extension book when I arrived. Who would suspect there could be so many categories of extensions.

Arriving early before any windows were open meant I was #2 signing in. Summoned to window #4 soon after they opened I got the bad news that I had to sign the other book at window #2. Now it seems I am #7, which means a longer wait time. So, even with all my documents in order I didn't get through as quickly as in the past. But the approval went without a hitch. I'm legal and in good standing for another year.

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