Permanent residence

Very few people are granted residency or full Thai citizenship if they are not born to Thai parents. Each year a limited number of permanent residence permits (quotas per country, usually 100) are also issued, and applying for such is only realistic if you have been living here some years (and have extended an O visa for at least five consecutive years) and can supply various documents to prove you are an upstanding citizen. A Thai language proficiency test is also given. In addition to the non-refundable application fee of 5,000 baht, a cost of 97,500 baht must be paid (195,000 if unmarried), and the process has been known to take several years to complete and be signed off.

Overstays and extensions in Chiang Mai
All visas can be extended at a local immigration department, of which there is one in each regional centre (including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui and Pattaya). If you are in the process of applying to legitimately extend you non-imm visa, the officer will usually grant you an additional 30 days while they process the paperwork or send you off for additional documents. Tourists wishing to stay a little longer can get a further 10 days added to their visa period, only once, costing 1,900 baht. Those who have overstayed their visa will be fined 500 baht per day up to a total of 20,000 baht. In 2010 they began randomly detaining people who had overstayed their visa by more than 40 days.

Immigration Department blues
The Tor Mor, as it is known in Thai, is a department of the Royal Thai Police and deals with some 200,000 visa applications a year in the best tradition of government bureaucrats. Few expats can speak positively of their annual visa run-around, which usually involves multiple visits, long queues and blunt staff. Although the department has tried in recent years to streamline and improve their services, a great deal of patience is required when dealing with them.

You can expect some rather petty ‘barriers’, which might be smoothed out if you left it all to a visa specialist. The Chiang Mai Immigration Dept, however, has really improved its service over the last few years, with an air-conditioned waiting room, WiFi, and onsite coffee shop. This particular office has become overworked due to increasing numbers of retirees and hordes of Burmese immigrants. You are advised to arrive by 7:30am, avoid Mondays and Fridays, plan several days before expiry of your visa and bring a good book and plenty of 'mai pen rai'. Some people find that arriving later in the day reduces waiting time, though you run the risk that your number won't be processed by 4pm. Parking is a problem too.

Source: Chiang Mai Immigration Department

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