03 September, 2007

Thailand Immigration has DOUBLED Retirement Visa requirements for married couples: Racist, Sexist betrayal.

This stack of bricks at a building site not for from our Chiangmai condo is the perfect metaphor for Thailand’s government's mindset: disorganized, unstable and at risk of collapsing.
I’m not a happy puppy. Effective immediately, Thailand has made it twice as expensive for a foreign couple like us to get 12-month Retirement Visas. Previously they required 800,000 baht (about AU$28,500) per couple, but now suddenly it’s 800,000 EACH Well OK, it’s their country so they call the tune, but there’s been no warning, no gradual introduction or concessional period (which would have been minimally courteous, to allow time to organize the extra funds). We feel as if they regard us only as life support systems for wallets, and that leaves a sour taste.

Check the pages of dismayed responses from local expats on the Thaivisa forum.

Our own visas are due for their normal renewal in 3 weeks’ time, but the regulations state that the required bank deposits – which must have originated from overseas – should have been here for three months prior to the visa being issued. It’s a bizarre Kafka-esque impossible situation. I'll spare you the grisly details.

It’s a typical dumb Thai-style knee-jerk decision which has either not been thought through, or is deliberately spiteful, callous, racist, sexist and unfair. It's both. It certainly hasn’t been thought through, because the staff at the chaotic Immigration office here in Chiangmai don’t yet know the new rules themselves - so can’t advise. Grrr.

Here’s a comparison to demonstrate the bias. A foreign man married to a Thai woman (the most frequent type of couple) only has to be able to provide 400,000 baht or an income of 40,000 baht (about AU$1425) per month, and that is deemed adequate for BOTH to live and provide for children. So in effect, this government is saying to us that it wants 1,600,000 baht ie, FOUR times ass much from us - for the same privileges offered to its own citizens. If we foreigners could eventually earn some parallel privileges, it might be less unfair. But a foreigner can never become a citizen under any circumstances – even if they marry a Thai and have children. A foreigner can’t get full permanent residency status – even if they purchase the million baht “Elite Card”. You cannot fully own land or a business in your own name… only 49%.

The government would argue that these measures are necessary to prevent Thailand – a middle-rung economy – from being overrun by wealthier westerners and “bought out”. There’s a degree of wisdom in that, harking back to Thailand’s history
of near-colonization. But to effectively exclude people like us, who are better for the local economy than some of the ratbag Foreigner-Thai cheapskate couples, completely smacks of fearful isolationism a la North Korea or Burma. They cut off their noses to spite their faeces.

Thailand Central Bank’s recent blunder in requiring 30% of foreign investments to be held by the government alerted the financial world to the simplistic and erratic
Thai mindset. This latest Visa blunder is encouraging thousands of foreign couples like us to pull up roots and forfeit our apartment rental contracts, to the understandable annoyance of Thai landlords. We tell them to blame the Immigration Office. We, like thousands of others, are considering heading for other countries in the region where the mindset is more logical and ordered, where the education system encourages analytical and critical thinking skills, and the ability to question rather than learn by rote and passively accept authority.

We’re off for a week to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Penang to check out some apartments and lifestyle options. Stay tooned…


  1. It's just one thing after another. I can even go as far as to say immigration policies have got a lot worse since Thaksin has been ousted.

    Problem is Thailand is so nice it would be difficult to make me want to leave.

  2. Where do you get your information? As I understand it, there has been no change in the requirements for a dependant spouse visa.

  3. These were the proposed changes made back at that time. I suspect that there was such a negative reaction that the measures were dropped. Hopefully this blog contributed to the noise :-) but it served to remind me that visa conditions can change at a moment's notice - especially in politically turbulent times, and that it makes sense not to invest more than you could safely walk away from without fatal financial damage.