Any male foreigner who wants to stay in Thailand on a non-resident (non-immigrant) one-year visa in order to work and take care of his Thai wife, has to face quite an ordeal.

 

Before he is granted the visa, he and his wife have to undergo detailed questioning at the Immigration Bureau as well as provide a number of documents to the responsible immigration officer.

 

The ordeal does not end there, either, as it is not a one-time-only procedure. Each subsequent year that a foreigner wants to renew such a visa means repeating the ordeal, regardless of how many years he has been going the same old procedure together with the same wife.

 

Whenever a non-resident visa extension application is involved, a married couple has to undergo this procedure. Eventually, some Thai wives become embarrassed and fed up with the repetitive questioning. There may also come a time when the wife is busy looking after a baby or has to attend to some other urgent business. As a result, her husband will turn up for the annual inquisition on his own. It is understandable that such couples should assume that, after repeating the same exercise annually for several years, it is obvious the husband wants to stay in Thailand to look after his Thai family.

 

Also, because the husband must show proof of holding a permanent job with a reasonable income, as required by immigration regulations, turning up alone for the interview should not present any problems. Unfortunately, that assumption is wrong. Why? To the amazement of all who hear of such incidents, the interviewing immigration officer will demand to see the divorce documents of the foreigner, as the wife is not present. The Immigration Bureau apparently believes that if a married foreigner arrives for the interview unaccompanied by his wife, it means that he wants to change his reason for staying in Thailand to the category of business. So, they want proof of divorce. When describing such incidents to people, the first reaction is “it must be a joke!”

 

It is hard enough to apply for a non-resident visa (even when an applicant has all the required documents and other evidence), but this delving into a private matter is a bit too much. If a foreigner has a certificate proving he has been married for a number of years, that should be a good enough reason to automatically extend his visa without imposing the same troublesome interview each year. In any case, if a foreigner wants to change his reason for staying in Thailand to the business category, why should he need to show that he is divorced? If he can prove that his business is genuine, that should be sufficient evidence.

 

It is difficult to confirm such stories because there is no hard evidence that divorce documents have been demanded before a visa application is accepted for processing. The persons involved in such incidents dare not to mention the name of the officer who handled their case. We cannot confirm or deny such stories, yet from time to time we still receive complaints from those who say they have experienced the problem. Therefore, we believe the Immigration Bureau should provide an explanation to the public. A clear statement is needed on whether or not proof of divorce in such cases is officially required and, if required, why? Such a statement would not only enlighten the public, but would also serve as a guideline to those immigration officers who have to handle such cases. It would also speed up the processing of such applications.

 

Incidentally, it is possible to avoid the above annual ordeal. Any foreigner who has legally been living in Thailand for a total of at least three years is potentially eligible for a residence permit. If you would like expert advice/assistance in applying for a residence permit, or if you have any other queries about immigration or other legal matters in Thailand, contact us. The initial consultation is free.

 

 

Source: Skonchai & Oliver Law Consultancy Co., Ltd. For more details, visit www.visathailand.com or email Supat Skonchai at supat@visathailand.com