There’s much confusion about what’s going on at Thai immigration offices. Just recently, Chiang Mai Immigration has moved (back) from Promenada Mall to the old location near the CNX airport, with a new queuing system.
As I haven’t found any recent information on the web myself, I’m going to tell you my story today (this was actually today, Monday, November 19th of 2018 at the “new” immigration office).
Show up early
Be aware that extending a Non-Immigrant / long stay visa is different from extending a tourist visa (e.g. SETV or visa exemption). You will get a different queue and you will need to provide more documentation.
Rumor has it that people start queuing at 5 o’clock.
I showed up about 7:45, walked up to the information counter right inside the main entrance and handed my stack of documents to the guy in the brown uniform. He did a quick check, stapled the documents together, and handed them back to me, along with queue number E34.
Anyway, I got number E34 and my number was called at about 11:30 – almost four hours later. I was able to run some errands in the meantime, so no biggie.
There is a QR-code printed on the queue ticket which purportedly lets you check the queue status online – however it didn’t work when I tried it (I got some error message on the website).
Have all your documents ready
The following documentation is needed to extend a Non-Immigrant ED visa at Chiang Mai Immigration:
TM.7 Application Form (download), filled in and with
A photo of you, 4x6cm
Copies of all relevant pages of your passport, namely
Documentation from your school (this is usually prepared by your school)
A letter requesting to extend your visa
Some form of proof that you are attending, for instance an assessment form signed and stamped by the university
Some form of proof confirming your identity – (CMU had a letter with my passport photo and signature on it, stamped and signed by the University)
Two forms with declarations about the reason for extending and confirmation that overstay and working is illegal, etc.
Sign all copies. Also, you will have to pay 1900 Baht so have them ready.
*Note that they will ask for a current TM.30 receipt. Your landlord needs to register you at immigration within 48 hours of you entering Thailand – every time you leave the country and come back you have to renew this, which I didn’t know at first.
You don’t need the TM.30 receipt for extending a tourist visa (at least I didn’t need one back at Promenada Mall), but for the ED visa it appears to be mandatory – there even are signs posted outside the immigration office, stating that you absolutely need a TM.30.
So at 11:30 I was called to the counter and handed in my documents, which were complete and sufficient. I guess when you wait four hours and don’t have sufficient documentation, you’re out of luck. The guy who gave me the queue number didn’t spend much time checking them.
Now the guy at counter 7 did a thorough check of my documents and passport, and hammered an estimated 15 to 30 stamps onto them. Then asked me to take a picture at the next counter.
After my picture was taken, I was asked to sit down and wait. After another 45 minutes of waiting, my name was called via the intercom and I got my passport with the extended visa.
Well, I didn’t add any posts for a couple months. That was because I didn’t feel right and had to change something. So, I quit my job and moved to Thailand. Sounds easy, right? Well, I put together what I did – and I will update this as I go.
Find out where you want to go
First you need to know where you want to go. Thailand has many different places. Meaning different in style and culture. I recommend you travel to Thailand a couple times and actually go beyond the “touristy” places before you make a move. You need to know that Thailand is not all beaches, hookers and Indian guys selling suits. It is a proud country with rich culture looking back at thousand years of history. For me, the decision was easy, because I have friends in Chiang Mai. And everything is easier with friends.
You absolutely should learn at least some basic Thai language. As a tourist, you will get by with English – but be aware that most people who have no higher education and are not involved with tourism usually do not speak English at any useful level. I use thaipod101.com, also there are many YouTube videos with basic language training. I learned many words but I’m still far from actually speaking Thai. However, it helps to understand the concept of the language and to know most of the basic words when you’re communicating with people who do not speak English well.
Get rid of all your shit
Because come on, you know that you don’t need it. I wanted to start with a clean slate. I sold, gave away or trashed almost everything I owned. This is a straight forward process. For every item you own, you decide: keep – sell – give away or trash. I ended up with two suitcases which I took to Thailand, and a couple things which I stored at or lend to family members. When I left, all I owned fit into two suitcases… one check-in and one cabin luggage.
There are many approaches to staying in Thailand long term. I will go with Single Entry visas for now. These are valid for 60 days and can be extended once by 30 days at the immigration office (I will write an update when I do this for the first time). After that time, you have to leave the country and get a new visa, which I will do. You need to apply for a visa at your local Thai consulate or embassy. Acceptance criteria vary by country, but generally you will need to prove that you have some (relatively small) amount of money and that you have a job. I will not go into more detail here as the details apparently change a lot and depend on your country of residence or the local consulate. Most important is that you definitely do not want to overstay as you might be restricted from entering the country again. Also be aware that you are not allowed to work in Thailand on a tourist visa.
Renting a house or apartment
If you google for rental apartments or houses in Thailand, you will mostly find offers targeted at wealthy foreigners, and end up paying two times as much as a Thai would. You’re better off if you know Thai people who can help you find something. Fortunately my friends in Chiang Mai had me covered and found a really nice little house for me. I signed a standard lease agreement at the terrific price of 10’000 THB per month.
Residence Certificate and TM30 Form
If you want to open a bank account or register a vehicle to your name, you will need proof of residence in Thailand. For this purpose there is the so-called residence certificate, which can be applied for at the office of the immigration police (this may vary depending on you location).
But first you will need a TM30 form – this is proof that your landlord (or your hotel?) registered you at the immigration office. Your landlord (or hotel) is responsible to register your stay within 24 hours at the office of the immigration police, and they will get this form in return. I got a copy of my TM30 form from my landlord.
Now you can apply for the residence certificate with the following documents:
Photocopy of your lease agreement
Photocopy of the TM30 form signed by your landlord
Photocopies of the following passport pages, all pages signed:
TM6 (Departure card)
Two passport photos (I’ve seen claims it must be with blue background, but they accepted my white background ones)
Your original passport
At the immigration office, they will let you fill in the registration form. Along with your personal data, you will need to know your address and phone number. Be aware that most immigration offices have different counters for different purposes – when I went to the immigration office in Chiang Mai, there was a huge waiting area with queue numbers for the TM30 form counter (which I got from my landlord) and, besides others, a specific counter for the residence certificate which had no queue at all, I was served immediately.
In Chiang Mai, you can apply for the residence certificate at Promenada Mall, at the office of the immigration police on the second floor of building A, every day between 9am and 11am. Be aware that the mall only opens at 11am so you will find closed main doors – however there is a small door at ground level between the two buildings. Immediately behind the door is the ground level immigration office which is not what you are looking for (this one is for visa-related stuff), you go up the escalators to the top floor and then to the right.
After I handed in all my documents, I got a small piece of paper with my pickup date – which was three weeks later. The office is open for certificate pickup only in the afternoon, from 2pm. I walked in 1:50 and I was second in queue. They handed me my certificate.
Buying and registering a vehicle
I bought a pre-owned motorbike, a Suzuki V-Strom 650cc. The previous owner of the bike had paid taxes and insurance for the bike until May (two months from now), so I didn’t have to care about that for now. Also, the number plate was already on the bike and as it was registered in Chiang Mai, I won’t need to get a new one. With the bike I received a green booklet where the official owners of the bike are noted, also an insurance form (proof of insurance) and an empty form for change of ownership. With these documents, a copy of my Passport (including all visa pages), and my residence certificate, I went to the Chiang Mai Provincial Land Transportation Office. After a short inspection of my motorcycle, I was sent back to the counter, where I had to pay about 1350 Baht – this is calculated based on the buying price of the bike – and got a piece of paper with a number and was asked to come back Monday next week to pick up my booklet.
Of course I want a proper broadband connection in my house. My house apparently had existing cable TV lines and a phone line which I don’t use, but I wanted fiber. So I went to a mall and checked out some of the ISP stores there. I found that 3bb offers 100/30 Mbps fiber connections for 749 Baht per month (that’s the lowest speed available at this time). Unfortunately, I absolutely had to buy their combined Wifi router and modem for another 2000 Baht (I’d prefer a simple media converter providing me with an Ethernet port). Also they made a copy of my passport, and I had to pay six months in advance, because as a foreigner I might otherwise flee the country and never pay, I guess. They asked me to pick a Wifi SSID and password which they would preconfigure on the router, and agreed to run a fiber to my house in less than a week.
And, lo and behold, one week later they called me in the afternoon to announce that a technician would show up in thirty minutes. And they did. I showed them where I’d want the router to be installed, they agreed and got to work – by pulling a cable from the next crossroads up to my house. They came with a pickup and bamboo ladders. Starting from the next crossroads, they climbed up every utility pole and fixed the fiber there, until they reached my house after about 20 minutes.
Once there, they climbed under my roof to get from the cable entry point to my office (which is on the other side of the house) and drilled a hole through the ceiling; then they installed the router on the wall. All this work of five people was included in the router price and monthly rate. When done, they asked me to check the Wifi and promised that internet access would work within 30 minutes. Actually it already worked when I checked, and a speed test showed that it was 100/30 as advertised.
Opening a bank account
Right after I got my residence certificate at the immigration office at Promenada mall, I went straight to the Bangkok Bank office across the floor and asked to open a bank account. They asked me for my passport, the residence certificate, and had me fill in a couple forms where I had to put my foreign residence address and some information like source of funds, net worth, monthly income etc.
They took a copy of my passport, and initially, they wanted to keep the original residence certificate – however I’ll need that to register my motorcycle. After I asked, they agreed to keep just a signed copy of the certificate. I received a small savings booklet and a debit card right on the spot, so now I had a Thai bank account.
I hope this was helpful and I wish you a great time. If you have any suggestions or corrections please tell me!