Thursday, 30 July 2009

Stitched up like a good'un

I'm a right old moaner, at least that's how I appear to anyone brave enough to read this blog over the last month or so.

The problem with being busy is that, with limited time, I only write about things that have really stirred me. Inevitably this has lead to negative posts over positive posts so, before I start the next one (yup, you'd better believe there’s another), I'd like to just reassure myself, if no-one else, that I do enjoy living in Thailand, I'm not ready to go back to blighty yet and that brighter tales and stories are on their way very soon - just one more rant.

Ok, then.

Picture the scene, it’s Friday afternoon, another hard week is finished and I'm whizzing about the internet at work, well going as fast as I can at least, in the knowledge that I'll be off home for the weekend in just half an hour.

My thoughts are broken when two of the Thai staff come over to speak to me.

"So, your work permit," they say, straightening me to attention with their words, "we have a problem."

Ok, I think, its ok, my visa still has some time on it so everything is ok.

"You failed to inform the authorities at the employment office when you left your last job so you owe them a fine. "

“Come again,” I say “are you sure of this?”

"Absolutely, it's 500 baht for every day you've been working, so we're looking at 30,000 baht"

Good bye happy Friday.

I won't continue with the dialogue, it's getting a little tedious now, but, in a nutshell, they applied the final fastenings to a stitch-up.

How so?

All non-Thai nationals must be in possession of a valid visa to remain in the kingdom of Thailand.

For me, a working non-Thai living here, that is a working visa which requires a valid work-permit as accompaniment. As I left my previous job in March, I was required to inform the employment office which issued my work-permit of this fact, following which I would then have 7 days to complete the paperwork for a new job or leave the country until the paperwork was ready.

At the interview for my current job, and at regular intervals since, I reminded them that I had yet to inform the authorities of my job change, yet I’ve been assured everything is fine, on track and that there is plenty of time and I really shouldn’t worry – until Friday, that is.

So when, on Friday, they told me that they had advised me to visit the employment office on more than once occasion, it simply wasn’t true. It was incredibly unfair to blame me for not telling the authorities as they had continually advised me that this was not necessary.

Although I understand this is not England, in my country the situation would be handled far differently, in a much more professional manner. The conversation might have take place in a separate room where I’d be told that there was an issue with my visa, but it is being working on and they made a mistake but will back me up. Instead I had to endure blatant lies to my face and am left to sort things out myself.

As it happens, I’m fortune to be blessed with a partner who is incredibly bright and quick, not to mention a Thai national fluent in English. After speaking with the Missus we headed back where she devised a solution to the issue – if she can sort it out in less than an hour, I’m amazed that none of the staff – who deal with foreign work permits year on year – can.

Seasoned and bitter expats will tell you never to trust a Thai. I never go along with such comments but this situation gives the cynical view some foundation as they took the easy solution and blamed the problem on me, rather than taking a degree of the responsibility themselves.

So now I’m going through a painfully inconvenient work permit process, which includes leaving my nine month old son for half a week while I leave/re-enter the country, precisely the situation I've been looking to avoid since the off.

I think you’ll agree I have a fair point for a rant this time.


Greg said...

That sucks man, but glad to hear it worked out, it could have been worse. I had some visa problems years ago which I only found out about at my embassy as I tried to renew my passport, which required the cancellation of my visa and a very expensive trip home to get a new one.
About not trusting Thai people – it’s easy to say that (especially in a ranting mode, of which I have many), but I think it’s better to say ‘never trust the Thai system’. I guess it’s a case of “hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” The trick is being savvy enough to knowing HOW to prepare for the worst.
Glad you have someone who can bring western sensibilities to Thai negotiations. Having someone like that here who’s on your side can literally save your life.

Anonymous said...

why you come our country say many bad things about Thailand?

you not like it go home farang dog!

thai people hate farang like you.

why not you just give thai people money and go home like good farang?

proteusguy said...

Things have definitely gotten worse over the last 3 years I've lived here. Even if you follow the exact instructions of Immigration - they change the rules so often that you can still be subject to fine and have to "restart the clock" for getting eligibility for permanent residence. This just happened to me a few weeks ago.

Ultimately, you have to decide if it's worth beating your head against the wall if the policies, politicians, and bureaucrats so clearly make it known that you really aren't welcome to stay.

Definitely not the conclusion I wanted to arrive at but there it is...

@EmVicW said...

Grrr visas are the bane of my life right now so you have my sincere sympathies.

I like the new blog design BTW.

MartinP said...

This is standard here, you really have to look after yourself on these matters and make sure they're being done right, at the end of the day it's your responsibility as it's your visa and work permit not the companies.

If you have a 1-year extension of stay granted based on working in Thailand and you finish the job it is based on you have to leave the country that day. However you can go to the Immigration office who will be able to grant you a 7-day extension for 1,900 Baht to give you time to get yourself out of the country or find another job and have the paperwork moved over to that.

If you have either a missus, i.e. married to a Thai or are unmarried but have a Thai son then your better option would be to get a non-immigrant O visa and/or an extension of stay based on that rather than employment, then your stay in Thailand is secure if you stop working or are in-between jobs as this won't get revoked when you finish jobs.

Mike said...

Jon you have my sympathy. One of the things I have done since coming to Thailand is get totally up to speed on Thai Visa regs. OK I don't work so it is easier of course.

I DO NOT believe anyone else expat or Thai if they try to convince me it will be OK to leave something to them to sort out because often as in your case it isn't OK and they do not sort it.

Some Thais in my experience do have an annoying habit of following the line of least resistance. The staff are out of order. As is the company/school, since they have been breaking the law too by employing you.

Like you I am not into Thai knocking per-say but when it comes to some officialdom I make an exception. Especially when "fines" go into the tea money.

I would be interested to know if you have to pay overstay fees or did your wife sort that?

Good luck and I hope you are not using Penang as I have read some varying reports on the embassy there!

sydthekyd said...

Hi mate, Sydthekyd here. I trust foreigners here less than most of the Thais I know, but being distrusting in general is a good idea when you are an expat. I feel your pain in feeling like you are getting stitched up, but at least you have a smart Thai you can trust. Keep us posted on how it goes.

Catherine said...

This is one well deserved rant! I'd be fuming too.

But it doesn't matter which country I'm in, having to fight through any version of red tape is total cacca.

And incompetence is everywhere. It it is not limited to any one nationality, race or creed.

But I do feel some are more blessed than others...


Martyn said...

Jon I think the words bite the bullet come to mind. At least in the future you will be a far wiser man.

Jon said...

Thanks everyone for the comments, sorry my response is so delayed.

Greg, you put it perfectly when you say 'never trust the Thai system'.

Anon, I think you should reread my post. If you want to comment again, at least use a name, particularly if you want to debate issues with me.

Proteusguy, I'm a little more optimistic now. Am thinking of plans beyond this contract which might, perhaps, involve going back home - we'll see.

Em, yup, visas are the bane of my existence here.

Hi Martin, yes, i think this might well be my last employment visa. This time it was too late, but we're certainly giving the alternatives serious consideration as they simplify things greatly.

Hi Mike, all sorted now. No overstay payment but a colleague who came along paid for a one day overstay - 500 THB. I've also got to add that the Thai embassy in Vientienne was pretty well organised and efficient too.

Syd, all sorted now mate. Absolutely agree re trusting other foreigners, best practice to assume nothing and trust noone.

Catherine, yeah I was fuming - made all the worse that the decision from one person (at local employment) could have prevented my trip and a lot of worry.

Martyn, spot on, I am the wiseman now - wait, maybe I'm the walrus instead?