Always Check Immigration Stamps in your Passport

Suvarnabhumi Airport, outside of Bangkok, has received a lot of criticism over the years. Of late, the complaint has been about the long queues at Immigration. Most of the complaints have been from outbound passengers, but inbound have also complained about grumpy and slow staff. They say that immigration officials seem to take forever. Although that may be true, you need to see it from their point of view. They are often understaffed and working long hours. They are sometimes faced with people trying to trick them with forged visas or just lazy people who haven’t filled out their arrival card.

Whenever something goes wrong, it is the officials that get blamed. But, that is not always fair. This morning, one of the teachers from my school had to go to the immigration office in Samut Prakan to have his annual visa renewed. His visa was due to expire on 31 May. Imagine his shock when immigration informed him that his visa had already expired on 28 April! Apparently there had been a mistake at the airport immigration. He had flown out of the country in March for a short trip abroad. He had paid for the re-entry visa in advance so everything was in order. But, the immigration official at the airport, on his return, didn’t notice this and just presumed that he was just another tourist arriving without a visa. So, he was given a 30 day stamp for visiting the country.

You would think that this would be a minor problem. After all, his passport had the proper re-entry visa that clearly says that he is allowed to stay in Thailand until 31 May. But, Samut Prakan Immigration said that they weren’t allowed to change the visa and that it must be done at the airport. I guess he should be lucky that they just didn’t arrest him for “overstaying” his visa. Anyway, this morning I took him to Immigration at Suvarnabhumhi (luckily we are only 35 minutes away) where they were more than happy to alter the visa with a Biro pen! No other record was made. We could have done ourselves that but then of course you can end up in prison for a minimum of six months for altering your visa stamps.

As far as queues go these days, it all seems to be a lot better. During my last five visits to the airport I have never seen long queues like they have had in the past. This is the picture that I took at the airport this morning. Anyway, the morale of this story is that you should always check your passport when they give it back to you. Don’t just presume that the officials have done what you expected. It is not unheard of for immigration officials to stamp the wrong date, even the wrong year at times. It is true that it would have been better if he had passed his passport to the immigration official open at the page of his re-entry permit. However, the official should have gone through his passport carefully checking for any irregularities.

What about you, have you had any good or bad experiences at airport immigration lately?

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