Now if that's not the greatest headline in the world, I don't know what is. Oh, and hello, much neglected blog! I know I've been spending all my time with publishing on third party sites. But they pay me, so you'll have to suck it up.
Some short backgrounding for those who may not know: I'm an American citizen living full-time in Bangkok, Thailand. My lovely wife, also an American citizen, has acquired gainful and legal employment in The Kingdom. Now that she has her work permit, I can get a "rider" visa. It's not hard to get. It's just a process. And a poorly documented one at that. So... let's fix that, shall we?
"Why not just keep staying as a tourist, Evo?"
That's a fair question. As an American citizen, I'm allowed to stay in The Kingdom (of Thailand) for 30 days at a time. No visa needed. No visa-on-arrival needed. It's an agreement between our two countries that makes it easy for US citizens like me to visit Thailand for a limited period of time.
But note the word limited in the preceding paragraph. On or before 30 days from when I stamped into The Kingdom, I have to stamp out. That means a border crossing, usually done by an inexpensive flight to any number of neighboring countries. Or worse, a six-hour bus ride to Cambodia. Only if it were that easy.
Border-hopping is still legal, but it's coming under scrutiny. Many long-time hoppers are starting to get questioned by the immigration agent when he/she sees multiple entry stamps or a stamp out 24 hours prior. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to see how easily you could game the system, honoring the letter of the law but breaking the spirit. Yankee go home. Eventually. Or at least have a good (and likely made up) excuse as to why you're coming back. Again.
But I don't have to roll those dice any more. As long as I'm willing to go through some different hoops. Speaking of that...
Hoop-jumping, not border-hopping
What follows here is the actual process I went through in my particular situation. I'll detail everything, but if you aren't in the exact same boat, I can't promise this will work for you. Capisce?
Step 1: I started the process with a real Tourist visa
Not just the "hey, welcome to Thailand, and don't forget to leave in 30 days" stamp any American can get when they arrive. Weeks ago, we went to the Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and applied for (and received) 60-day, honest-to-goodness Tourist visas.
Step 2: I had more than 16 days remaining on my Tourist visa
I don't know why this was important, or if it was important, but I was told to make sure. So I did. That required me to make a trip to Thai immigration last week to extend my 60-day visa by another 30 days. Which I did, a process that went rather smoothly. Though it cost me 1900 baht. :(
Step 3: I had our original marriage license in-hand
(Thanks, kiddo, for finding that and bringing it when you visited earlier this month.) This wasn't a copy; It was the original. Oddly enough, I think a copy would have been fine. And I wonder if I really needed it at all, as you'll soon discover. But in the interest of full disclosure, I had it. If you can get yours, I suggest it.
Step 4: Get the marriage licensed notarized by the US Embassy
Sort of. This is where things got weird. Even though I had the original marriage license, with the actual ink used by the county clerk who filed it, the big, gold embossed seal of Texas stamped upon, and covered with fancy filigree'd writing... I was told to take the document to get it blessed by the US Embassy first.
Only... they wouldn't do it. Instead, they had me fill out mostly blank piece of paper that let me 1) swear that I am me, 2) gave my address, 3) write out the purpose of this mostly blank piece of paper, and finally 4) that The US Embassy couldn't guarantee what I said was true. That piece of paper -- ludicrous as it sounds -- is what the Embassy would happily notarize and stamp with the official government seal.
I kid you not. I filled out a form that said "I'm Evo, and I live here. I'm telling you, for reals, that I have another piece of paper that says I married Sheila almost 30 years ago in America, and you should really, really believe me. Pinky swear!" (It's not that snarky, but you get the picture.)
$50 USD (1850 Thai baht) and some attitude from a consular associate later, and I had my stamp. The frosty attitude came after the notary asked if I understood the purpose of the document -- the mostly blank piece of paper I HAD JUST FILLED OUT ON MY OWN -- and I replied with "I believe so." "You believe so, Sir? Or do you know so." I got a whole bag right here for you, power tripper... (Of course I didn't say that.)
Step 5: Get the notarized form from the US Embassy verified as "genuine" by the Thai Consulate
An hour later, I was in BF North Bangkok at the Thai Consulate. On the 2nd floor a nice lady looked at my marriage license and my notarized US Embassy document and directed me to the 3rd floor. There a nice man had me fill out a "request for legalization" (which sadly has nothing to do with weed) and take a number. Within minutes I was handing the notarized document from the US Embassy and 400 Thai baht ($12?) to a different nice lady who said I should come back about 2.5 hours later.
There is almost literally nothing to do at the Thai Consulate in BF North Bangkok. Especially when you've already killed your phone from Periscoping and Snapchatting your adventures. So... take a book. Or at least a battery charger, moron.
During those two hours, the document was translated. No, not my marriage certificate. The hand-written, mostly blank document I filled out and the US Embassy notarized. Yes, some poor Thai woman had to decipher my chicken-scratch handwriting and convert it to Thai. Sorry, Nipa!
Three hours later, my name was called. And I am now in possession of a piece of paper with a stamp from the US Embassy on one side and a stamp from the Thai Consulate on the other side that says the signature from the US Embassy on the front is a certified, genuine signature of the person from the US Embassy who signed it, and that they (the Thai Consulate) assumes no responsibility for the contents of the document.
Let me repeat that: I have a piece of paper that I filled out. On one side, the Americans have notarized it, saying "yes, he filled out this paper, but could have written a recipe for Sex In A Pan on it for all we care". The Thais then said "yes, this paper was signed by someone named Cathy."
Again, neither of the official notarizers/stampers ever looked at my marriage license. Not once. A few lower-level functionaries did, but not with more than a quick glance to know that it was not the document they were looking for.
Amazing. But, in theory, I have what I need. Next week, I'm going with Sheila and her employer's "visa runner" (yes, that's a full-time position and no, that's probably not the official title) to take all the documentation to Thai Immigration, where we each should be awarded our visas. We think?
Confused? Yeah... me too. I'll keep you posted.