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Immigration Issues from the Other Side of the Fence

While the heated standoff regarding immigration and “The Wall” continues in the United States, I find myself on the other side of the world, and on the other side of the conflict, with immigration problems of my own!

I’ve lived in Thailand for nearly three years now, and extending my one-year visa has been no problem. One aspect of getting the visa is to show proof of income, and in the past, it didn’t matter where that income was located. Now, the powers that be have decided the income (about $2,000 per month) must be shown coming into a Thai bank, and if you have been here more than one year, it needs to have been coming in for at least 12 months. This is the problem. I have the income, I can provide evidence of the income, but I never opened a Thai bank account. What this amounts to, is that as of April 2019, I will no longer be welcome in the Land of Smiles … at least not until I’ve secured a new visa.

I’m a “roll with the flow” kinda guy (for the most part), so my plan is to hop on a plane, fly back to the land of the free and the home of the brave, and apply for a brand new visa. I can’t say I’m thrilled about having to make an unplanned trip, but it’ll be great to see my dad, have a good steak, and pick up some clothes. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do much visiting because I have to gather the documents, then head to Thai Consulate in Los Angeles to apply for the visa.

This new immigration law is a pain in the butt for me personally, and there are many foreigners living in Thailand now, who will be forced to leave permanently because they don’t have the necessary income. In the past, they’ve only had to swear in front of a U.S. Consulate agent that they have the income, without showing any proof. Then they received a notarized “income affidavit” to take to immigration. Now, they actually have to prove they have the income.

This crackdown has been coming for a while, because in Thailand, they don’t want people coming in to live, who can’t afford it. There are many illegal immigrants in Thailand, many from Myanmar, who come into the country to find work (sound familiar). The government constantly does sweeps of businesses and areas where illegals are known to live, and if they find someone without the proper credentials, they are promptly deported. People who overstay on their visas are fined 500 baht ($16) per day, and after a certain amount of time, they are banned from returning to Thailand. As a foreigner living in Thailand, even though my visa is valid for one year at a time, I have to report to immigration every 90 days, so they know where I’m living. Any time I move into a new place, my land lord also has to report my existence or face big fines.

I actually respect these immigration laws, and I don’t mind doing my part to comply with the legal process for living in a foreign country. Thailand doesn’t have welfare, and it doesn’t have social security. However, you rarely see homeless people. Occasionally, you’ll see someone begging for money, but more often, you’ll see people finding some way to make money on their own, even if it’s as simple as selling fruit or fried insects on a street corner. If you see a foreigner begging for money, it actually makes the news! I’ve seen a few news stories since I’ve been here about backpackers coming into Thailand and asking people for money for food and transportation. Thai people are disgusted by this, and these folks are sent merrily on their way to their next destination.

This is just a perspective on immigration from someone living in another country. I understand what it feels like to be living in a foreign country, and not be a citizen. I do feel there’s a reason countries have immigration laws, and they should be followed. There may be room for changes in the way we deal with foreign immigrants in the U.S., but until those changes are made, people should be required to follow the laws currently in place. That’s just an opinion … and I can see on Facebook, everyone’s got one and nobody’s ever willing to change their own. It’ll be interesting to see how this all turns out! Feel free to comment!