My continuing sojourn in this fine country requires that I extend my visa on a yearly basis. It is true that those who don’t know me would, upon seeing my photo, place my age in the “recently left school” category; but surprisingly I am eligible for an extension based on retirement.
The requirements for this are quite simple: fill in a form, provide a photo (highlighting your apparent youth), provide copies of everything you can lay your hands on, and prove that you are capable of supporting yourself financially.The latter can be met with either proof of income or cash in the bank. The proof of income option used to require an expensive letter from the British Consul in Pattaya; but as the UK government no longer supports such a position (cost cutting, need more money for MP’s portraits), it would mean a tedious trip to the embassy in Bangkok to obtain a standard letter which confirms what I already have confirmed on a piece of paper from my former employer, but which immigration will not accept. As Gandhi said “fuck that for a game of soldiers”.
So instead I went for the cash in the bank option and presented Bangkok Bank with a million baht some four years ago. In return they give a modicum of interest, a credit card with a credit limit of 500k and an annual letter confirming the balance on the account which I present to immigration with a smile and a request for another stamp in my passport.
This week I made my usual pilgrimage to Bangkok Bank and requested the letter. Twenty minutes later and 100 baht lighter, I was leaving the bank with the letter in my hand. Two minutes later I was back in the bank, waving the letter with some indignation because it showed a balance of only half a million baht.
“It’s a new rule” said the gloating clerk. That’s your available funds, the other half million are securing the credit card. Look, it’s noted on the bottom of the letter”.
And on close inspection, indeed it was, in size 6 script using a font called “faded ignominy”.
“For the last three years you have shown the full balance” I protested.
“I don’t think immigration will accept this. I need at least 800,000 baht in the account”.
“New rule. Another customer had no problem” said in a voice that suggested I just take my letter and leave.
So I did, and I went to immigration and presented the letter along with my other papers. Sure enough, they would not accept it. Problem.
Luckily, Spike’s investments, while mainly tied up in camera gear, also includes 500k in a TMB deposit account. So I needed a letter for that. She who must be obeyed rang the branch nearest to immigration (about a kilometre away) and confirmed they could provide said letter; and after a hurried lunch I made my way there. Parked as close as I could and then scurried to the branch where eventually I obtained the necessary bit of paper (two hundred baht). Giving up on the car, I walked all the way down to the immigration office and arrived at 15:20 hoping they were still accepting new applications…
It was then that I noticed that the TMB passbook had not been updated to the latest date, the last entry being in March 2016; this is spite of the fact that I had heard the manager telling the bank clerk to update the book. Problem. Giving up on any chance of submitting my forms on that day, I trudged back up to the bank and showed the clerk the passbook.
“It has not been updated, immigration will not accept it”.
“They should, this is an account that only get updated once a year”
“Can you update it to show today’s balance?”
“Can I put 1,000 baht in the account so it shows today’s balance?”
“Cannot. Minimum deposit is 10,000 baht. Tell you what, I will re-write the letter and put in specific text to tell immigration that this is how the passbook works.”
So she did, and she copied the last page and stamped it and dated it. So well done TMB, really trying to help.
It was almost 1600 and I was sure I was too later, but I huffed and sweated my way back down to immigration where I found an almost empty office and someone to accept my papers.
I submitted my Bangkok Bank and TMB letters and….
… well, it would be a better story if they again rejected them, but this time my submission was accepted and now I have my passport stamped for another year.
Now I am off to Bangkok Bank to take half a million out of the account (still leaving enough for a reasonable credit card splurge), and I will give the money to TMB as a thank you for making an effort. Also, a shout out to Pattaya Immigration for being efficient and friendly, in spite of the tide of unwashed and improperly dressed rabble that descend on them each day (not me, obviously, I wear national dress and smell of cloves).