No one gets excited about a trip to Phuket immigration. It’s almost always crowded, everyone wants to get out of there as soon as possible, and many leave frustrated, unable to get what they came for due to some missing or incorrect piece of seemingly insignificant documentation. While the rules change often, and may not even be consistent amongst immigration officials, a bit of due diligence and planning can help your experience go a little smoother.
Immigration Phuket | Cr: Perro Mochilero
The first rule is to always check that the office is going to be open. Thailand has so many holidays it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them all. Not to mention it is all too common that the government will extend holidays sometimes for any number of reasons with little notice. Don’t rely on Google, pick up the phone and call them – the number for the Phuket Town location is 076 221 905.
Appropriate dress | Cr: Arthur 13
The next rule is to dress appropriately. This means a collared shirt for men and modest clothing for women; shoulders covered, not low cut, and no short skirts. Basically, dress like you’re going to your in-laws for dinner. Thai culture requires a higher level of respect for officials than many western countries and this respect must be shown in several forms, one of which is dressing smart. Those wearing a singlet or a crop top will barely make it past the front door and you will be denied service, no exceptions.
Be as prepared as possible. Do your best to know what paperwork is needed before you make the trip to immigration. You can find plenty of resources online like the Thailand immigration website, forums on local media websites and thaivisa/aseannow, as well as Facebook groups where you can pose or find answers to numerous questions. Bring a pen with blue ink, at least two copies of everything, and mentally prepare for something to go wrong. Fortunately, passport photos are available on site at a fair price as well as copies should you need them.
Immigration services | Cr: Facebook ASEAN NOW THAILAND
You must explain your immigration needs and show all paperwork to volunteers at the front desk who will issue you a queue number if everything is in order. If they send you away because you have missing or incorrect documentation, do not argue with them. And do not argue or try to plead with immigration officials as you have zero chance of winning. If there is some slight discrepancy and the Thai immigration official denies you, it is sometimes possible to get in the queue again and try with another official. Certain decisions are based on the officials’ discretion and you might get someone more lenient (or less observant) on the next go round.
Don’t be late. This can mean a couple different things. Firstly, don’t show up to the office late in the day or near noon (they close the offices from noon-1 for lunch). If you arrive at 11 you may wait an hour, then have to wait at least another hour until after the lunch break. If you wander in at 4pm it’s likely you did so for nothing. The volunteers leave at 3pm so it’s recommended you arrive well before that and usually the best option is first thing in the morning. And don’t come late for a visa extension after it’s expired. Not only will you be charged per day for overstaying your visa, but this information is recorded and can prove detrimental to you in the future when dealing with immigration.