Daily Phuket #42: 19 April 2021 – Reporting to Immigration

Probably the least popular aspect of living in Thailand is the requirement to report to the nearest office of the Royal Thai Immigration Department every 90 days. The process is not a lengthy one but you are never quite certain if the official handling your case will be in a good or bad mood and decide to create some additional hoop for you to jump through. Personally, I have never had a terrible experience at the Phuket Immigration Office and take great pride in never having to provide a 1000-baht “donation to the tea fund” slipped inside of my passport to help smooth things along.

Other than having to submit the paperwork for my annual extension of stay last November, I had not made a 90-day report in person in more than a year, enjoying the convenience of doing the entire filing online. Unfortunately, the portion of the Immigration website that made this possible has been “Closed for Maintenance” since late January. I was required to present myself no later than 20 April so I decided to just get it over with today, Monday.

Mondays and Fridays are never good days to visit this office as the crowds can be overwhelming but I figured there would not be a problem if I arrived before the doors opened at 8:30. I woke early this morning to a heavy thunderstorm. The sky was completely covered with grey clouds and my weather app did not indicate a single break in the storm all week. I sat around until about 10 minutes after eight and decided to “go for it”, dressed in a bright orange rain poncho with my passport and wallet protected in the poncho’s carrier bag. Luckily, I found one of my usual motorbike taxi drivers who drove me down to the Saphin Hin portion of Phuket Town.

Once we entered the compound, I was shocked to see a line of cars already stretching out into the street and massive amounts of people trying to dart out of the rain. It wasn’t yet 8:30 and I made my way to the other side of the main building to join the proper queue. Once the doors opened, an officer directed people inside completely socially-distanced both in the line and in the waiting room chairs. He began yelling at a large group of Chinese as they didn’t listen to his directions; he barked, “Why can’t you speak English. In my country, we speak English!” I wish I could get this Thai man to yell the same at my students!

During several years of previous trips for my 90-day check-ins, Phuket Immigration hadn’t required any additional paperwork. You just needed to show up with your passport and they would do the rest. When I reached the sorting window, the officer told me that I needed to fill out a form (which he gave me) and then get photocopies of the photo page of my passport, the page containing my most recent visa, and the arrival card stapled into my passport. I had to borrow a pen to fill out the form and then headed back into the rain to get my photocopies. The last time I was there, the photocopy room was at the front of the main building so I circled around only to find…nothing. I went around the entire building again dodging people, cars, and motorbikes going in all different directions and finally noticed a sign — Photocopy — and an arrow. I followed a few more of these signs, one of which led to the wrong building, until I found the proper place way in the back of the compound. Well, now I know.

At last able to return to the original sorting window inside the main building with my somewhat damp documents, I was given a queue number of C6 and went to sit in another part of the waiting room. It was perhaps another ten minutes before my number was called and it took the officer I was directed to just under two minutes to scan the code from the previous 90-day form in my passport and to print a new one after which he stapled that into my passport and sent me on my way with a curt “Sawasdee Krap”. Just as I exited the compound, the rain stopped and I walked towards the bus stop near the Bang Neaw School. The bus was there soon afterwards and I got home just past 9:30.

I’m glad I didn’t put it off because of the rain and I am happy that I don’t have to do that again until 17 July. Perhaps by then, they will have the online reporting working once again.

That was really the only significant thing I did all day. I worked a bit on my stamp collection — mounting stamps from Guadeloupe and Newfoundland amongst others — and I watched some YouTube (still working through Kara & Nates four years or more of travel vlogs and I recently discovered Pawn Stars). I still have not read anything today so I need to get offline and read a few chapters of Eat the Buddah (I should be able to finish it in the next day or two).

One more thing before I go to read: I edited together a video preview of the trip I am planning for 2023. This may be my most adventurous trip ever and I wanted to give my family some idea of what I have in mind and the significance of it all. In the near future, I will put a blog together to outline the trip for my faithful readers. As the journey doesn’t commence until 25 months from now (hopefully, travel will be close to normal by then), I want to use the interim to hone some of the skills I will need to properly document it. At the very least, I will need to put together some new gear (the phone on my camera will not do my intended destinations any justice at all). Any suggestions on things I should buy (that are easily portable and not TOO expensive) to blog/vlog my trip would be most appreciated.

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