Some new Experiences at Immigration at Chaeng Wattana
See Video of Immigration Office in Bangkok at bottom of this page.
In Januari 2011 we again visited Immigration at Chaeng Wattana to renew our 1-year visa. From long experience, we know to well prepare ourselves. However, whatever efforts one makes, if the immigration offices has the inclination, she/he can always find something missing in between the many copies and documents you bring with you. Let's look at it positively, it probably is a way of showing that they do a thorough job.
Our last visit was educational and we want to indicate another possible obstacle to negotiate when trying to get a visa renewal.
Government Center Building B, at Chaeng Wattana Road Soi 7
To get our visa, we need to demonstrate that sufficients funds are available in a bank account with a Thai bank, and that the money has been in the account for the last three months. So far, so good. We had all the relevant copies of our 'bank booklet' and a letter from our bank, stating the amount in our account, BUT dd. the day before we went to immigration. Well, that was not good enough. Even though our bank booklet showed that we had an account with the bank for more than 10 years, with sufficient funds for the last 5 years at least, it was apparently conceivable that I got the statement from the bank, and then decided to withdraw the money just before I visited immigration.
The immigration officer was quite helpful and told me there was a branch of the bank downstairs in the building, and that I could go there and update my bank account for today. I went downstairs only to find that the bank had (just) closed. Since the employees were still counting money behind the counter, I made my presence in front of the glass door noticeable, and eventually a guard let me in. However, I could not withdraw or deposit money in my account (and get a new statement), because activity has ended for the day. However, one of the girls had a brilliant (and simple) idea and asked me for 1000 baht. She then went to an ATM and deposited the same amount into my account, from her own account or not, I do not know. After this procedure, my bank booklet could be updated, and immigration was quite happy with this result (after another copy of the document was made).
Anyway (although I personally do not have an ATM card for the bank in question), it is good to remember that using an ATM is an easy way to update your account.
New 'Safety' Measures
When visiting with the immigration officer, some new procedures have been established. Yet another photo is taken with a Canon camera on a tripod, and connected to a computer. Not only that, to get your visa, you have to provide your fingerprints. I was asked to put my index fingers on an electronic device, and my fingerprints became visible on the computer screen instantly. I hardly realized what I was doing. To be honest, I do not remember ever providing my fingerprints anywhere, but no need to worry about this anymore, they are registered now in Thailand, and likely will be transferred to databases around the world. To be on the safe side, I likely will need to abstain from committing crimes in the future, not that I had planned anything along those lines.
On a related topic, we had to wait quite a while, and got the opportunity to observe the going-ons at immigration. We noticed this before when immigration was located at Suan Phlu : there are some Indian wanderers about (broadly speaking, persons from the Indian subcontinent and/or the Middle East). They walk around outside the cubicles where the immigration officers are working, invariably poorly dressed, and presenting themselves as owning the place. They very regularly just walk inside the cubicles, and we actually saw one person walk to a desk where visa appliers were being assessed by immigration officers, just pick up a stapler and then stapling the documents in his hands, as if this was the most normal activity in the world. We assume that these 'wanderers' act as intermediaries for their countrymen and over time have developed a very familiar relationship with the immigration officers.
However, it does not seem quite right, and should not happen within the boundaries of Thai official government premises. Actually, it may be a security hazard.
Totally unrelated : at the southern entrance to Building B, some buses (number 166) going downtown pick up passengers. There are buses at 3:40 P.M., 4:40 P.M., 5:40 PM and one also at 8 P.M. There are also buses arriving there in the morning, but not during the daytime. Their purpose obviously is to serve employees coming to work, and going home. They go via the expressway towards Victory Monument. It may be convenient, but we advise only to use the buses when you can find an empty seat, otherwise you may stand for an hour or so before reaching Victory Monument (traffic is heavy in the late afternoon), as we did.