****28th July 2015 – For UPDATE on the new immigration office in Chiang Mai – See HERE****
One of the very few downsides of living in Thailand is having to worry about visas. But given the amount of upsides to living here, knowing and abiding by Thailand visa requirements is something that we can deal with.
Don’t get me wrong, having to know about single-entry and double-entry Thailand visas and having to worry about visa extensions and go on visa runs can be a major pain in the neck.
For our 6-month stint in Thailand, we opted to go for a double-entry visa. For this, we sent our passports, the forms and the 70 Euro fee away to the Thai Consulate in Dublin before we left home. This whole process can take up to 3 weeks, but we were lucky and had ours back within a matter of a few days.
This whole process can take up to 3 weeks, but we were lucky and had ours back within a matter of a few days.
Having been here for almost 2 months already, last week we had to visit the Chiang Mai Immigration centre to get our visa extended for another 30 days. A quick search on Google told me that the office was massively understaffed and hugely chaotic – oh and the waiting times are ridiculously long (like up to 5/6 hours long).
A quick search on Google told me that the office was massively understaffed and hugely chaotic – oh and the waiting times are ridiculously long (like up to 5/6 hours long).
I can usually just go with the flow and disorganisation doesn’t really phase me but on the other end of the scale, there’s Carlo! A true lover of order and systems, he doesn’t cope well unless there’s an obvious systematic approach to reaching an end goal, which in this case, was getting our visa extension in Chiang Mai.
A true lover of order and systems, he doesn’t cope well unless there’s an obvious systematic approach to reaching an end goal, which in this case, was getting our visa extension in Chiang Mai.
For this reason, I knew it was going to be a challenging morning and potential afternoon.
Well, having gone through the process on one of the busiest days in the immigration office (as it was the day before a 3-day holiday), I can say that it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, once you know what you’ve to do, it’s actually a breeze.
Below, I’m going to talk you through how to go about getting your own visa extension in Chiang Mai and I’ll share some useful info that I think will make the process less stressful for you. I’m sure there are other stipulations for other kinds of visas, but I can only give my take on the tourist visa as that’s what we’ve got.
I’m sure there are other stipulations for other kinds of visas, but I can only give my take on the tourist visa as that’s what we’ve got.
How to get a visa extension Chiang Mai?
First off, you need to be prepared as rolling up at the office with no clue as to what to do will inevitably end in a frustrating and horrible experience.
To adequately prepare, you’ll need to:
Be 100% sure of your current situation.
Which type of visa are you looking to get/extend? Have you done your research as to what type of visa will suit your circumstances best? If you’ve got a double or triple entry tourist visa, do the dates tell you that it’s time to get an extension?
Have you done your research as to what type of visa will suit your circumstances best? If you’ve got a double or triple entry tourist visa, do the dates tell you that it’s time to get an extension?
If you’ve got a double or triple entry tourist visa, do the dates tell you that it’s time to get an extension?
Clear your morning of any appointments.
We met a girl that strolled into the office at 10:00 am and wanted to be out by 12:00 as she had a course to go to. Her constant badgering of the office officials annoyed me as had she done some research, she’d have known that her “Well, I need to be gone out of here in like one hour” would not shorten her waiting time by any means.
Her constant badgering of the office officials annoyed me as had she done some research, she’d have known that her “Well, I need to be gone out of here in like one hour” would not shorten her waiting time by any means.
Know the opening times.
Important: They close for lunch from 12:00 until 1 pm so please keep this in mind when planning what time you’re going to go at.
Prepare your documents.
Again, this might vary depending on the type of visa that you’re applying for/extending. In our case of getting a tourist visa extension, we needed:
- Passport (including arrival/departure card)
- Thai visa extension form (you can download the visa forms from here or get them at the office when you arrive)
- Appropriate fee of 1900 baht
- One passport sized picture
- Full details of your address in Thailand
- Photocopies of your passport (more info on this below in notes)
Don’t have a means of photocopying your passport at short notice? Need to get some passport pics done? Don’t stress as you can get both of these done at the office itself – jump to more info.
When is the best time to go to the immigration office in Chiang Mai?
Having read a few reports online, we figured that we’d take the advice of others and arrive early. We got to the office at 7:15 am and thought we would be one of the very first to be seen to.
After parking the bike in the yard next door to the immigration office, we entered the grounds itself and the office was already buzzing with some people fumbling with forms and others getting their early morning coffee fix at the adjoining café.
To give you a rough idea of numbers, there were easily 40 people there when we arrived at 7:15 am. Some had already got tickets at that time – we did arrive on a Thursday that was to be followed by 3 days of public holidays so I’m not too sure if they usually hand ticket numbers out this early or was this an exception because they were expecting a large volume of people that day.
Some had already got tickets at that time – we did arrive on a Thursday that was to be followed by 3 days of public holidays so I’m not too sure if they usually hand ticket numbers out this early or was this an exception because they were expecting a large volume of people that day.
My advice: Do get there early – earlier than 7:15 am – to be in with the best chance of getting seen to quickly and out by midday.
How to get to the Chiang Mai Immigration office?
The office is really easy to get it as it’s located bang in the centre of the Airport Plaza Shopping Mall and the airport. We live in the Nimman area and it took us about 20 minutes to get there with light traffic. If you don’t have your own mode of transport you can get a song tao or tuk-tuk, with the former option being the most cost effective of the two.
If you don’t have your own mode of transport you can get a song tao or tuk-tuk, with the former option being the most cost effective of the two.
For the exact location of the office, see the map below.
The ins and outs of the process…
On entering the office, presuming that you have all of the necessary documents, get yourself over to the middle counter straight away. Here, show the official your passport and briefly explain to him what you’re there for and he’ll give you a ticket number that corresponds to the service that you require.
Here, show the official your passport and briefly explain to him what you’re there for and he’ll give you a ticket number that corresponds to the service that you require.
As mentioned, we were there to get our double-entry tourist visa extended, and we were given the number 011 which corresponded to counter no. 1.
Once you’ve got your ticket, it’s time to find a place on one of the (very) squeaky chairs and wait…and wait some more.
If you need to fill out your forms, get your passport pic taken or get your photocopying done, you can use this time to do that (you can read more info on prices etc. below). Alternatively, you can grab a coffee or something small to eat at the café that’s right next to the office. There are also toilet facilities on site.
Alternatively, you can grab a coffee or something small to eat at the café that’s right next to the office. There are also toilet facilities on site.
The office has air-con and fans so it’s not that bad of a wait if you’ve got something like a book or game to keep you entertained while waiting.
Once your number is called, make your way to the counter with the necessities. Given that you’ve got everything filled out properly and you have your documents in order, the official will take them from you and smile as he doesn’t have to spend his precious time explaining what you’ve done wrong.
Given that you’ve got everything filled out properly and you have your documents in order, the official will take them from you and smile as he doesn’t have to spend his precious time explaining what you’ve done wrong.
At this point, the ticket number becomes irrelevant and you can take that behind of yours back to that squeaky chair and wait some more – that’s presuming your seat hasn’t been taken of course!
Now, you need to pay attention as the lady that sits at the desk behind the official will call your name a few moments later and you’ll have to present yourself to the counter once more where you must stand and look into her camera for a quick snap.
And then…return to the (you guessed it) squeaky chair and wait some more.
Presuming that there are zero issues with your application, the last and final step is to listen out for your name to be called once more, upon which you should return to the counter to collect your newly stamped passport and receipt of payment.
Timeline of our Experience
7:15 am – arrived at the office
7:45 am – got ticket
8:45 am – the counters opened and officials started calling numbers
9:30 am – our number was called and we went to counter no. 1
10:00 am – called to get our photos taken
10:05 am – got passport back
So the whole process took just under 3 hours and it really wasn’t confusing nor did we experience the dreaded chaos that we had anticipated.
- There are facilities at the office to get passport pictures taken and passports photocopied. As we already had passport photos ourselves, I cannot say how much it costs to get pics taken there. Regarding the photocopying, you’ll need the visa page and the photo page of your passport done, both of which should cost 4 baht collectively.
- To save on time and prevent unnecessary delays, make sure that your forms are fully completed in clear and legible writing. The visa extension forms ask for full details of your current address in Thailand (including tambon, amphoe or district, province and postal code etc.) so make sure you have the correct details and spelling. You should also ensure that you have either your phone number or email address on there too.
- The official will ask you to sign both of the photocopied pages of your passport so doing this while waiting to be called is advised.
- When the counters open, each one deals with specific visas and requirements so make sure that you’re clear about what you’re there for when getting your ticket from the middle counter when you arrive. The tourist visa extensions numbers usually begin with a 0.
- I have heard of others experiencing a two-ticket system whereby people are given a blue ticket upon entering which serves as a queue number. Once this queue number is called, one must make their way to that middle counter to explain the purpose of their visit to get the real ticket number. We didn’t have to do this and evaded the whole double ticket fiasco – perhaps we were lucky, I don’t know!
- If you don’t have the correct change for the visa fee, don’t worry as they’ll give you change.
- Even though we highly recommend going to the office early, others have said that they went in the afternoon and were in and out in an hour. Wait times will totally depend on the time of year and proximity to holidays among other factors.
- A number of people that have arrived in late afternoon or on an exceptionally busy day have reported that they had to return on the following day to collect their documents so keep this in mind if your renewal is urgent.
- I’m told that appointments can be made in advance but I’m not too sure how to go about this.
- For a visa extension, you can get it extended on the actual day your visa expires with no problems.
- It is an immigration office that you’re going to so dress respectively and act appropriately during your visit.
- Be patient! Based on my observations, the officials that work in the office are extremely hard working and are really polite and helpful so appreciate that they have a lot to deal with and you being organised will be of great benefit to them (and you).
Our experience is based on getting a tourist visa extended, but even if your requirements are different, the premise of the above process will still be the same.
Need more info on the different types of visas? Want to download the form for a visa extension? Click here.
Now that we’ve been stamped again and our visas are good for another 30 days, the next feat in our ‘visa escapades’ will be our visa run from Chiang Mai to…well, we don’t know where yet, but I’m sure we’ll have a story for you from that too!
***28th July 2015: UPDATE on the new immigration office in Chiang Mai***
Chiang Mai has finally got a brand new immigration office, and as we just love hanging about immigration offices (can you hear my sarcasm!?), we just spent most of our day there. When I say it’s brand new, I’m not kidding. Having just opened its doors last Monday July 20th, we didn’t know what to expect from the new setup as its old counterpart had many flaws.
When I say it’s brand new, I’m not kidding. Having just opened its doors last Monday July 20th, we didn’t know what to expect from the new setup as its old counterpart had many flaws.
Again, our reason for visiting was to extend our tourist visa, and as all of the info above regarding required documents etc. still applies, I’m just going to run through some need-to-know info regarding the new office.
Where is the new immigration office in Chiang Mai?
The new immigration office is located in the Promenada Resort Mall. It’s around the back of the shopping centre and is on the ground floor so you’ll have no need to actually enter the shopping centre itself. Ample parking and seating areas are provided.
Promenada Resort Mall Chiang Mai
192-193 Moo 2, Tumbon Tasala, Amphur Muang Chiang Mai, 50000
Location on Google Maps:
How to get to the new immigration office in Chiang Mai?
To get to the new office, you have a few options:
- You can avail of the free shuttle bus that Promenada offers. It runs every day and leaves from a number of different points in the city. See here for more info on times and routes.
- For the next few weeks, there will be a special (and free) shuttle bus service between the old office and the new one. See pic below for times and pick-up/drop-off points.
- You can also avail of the usual songthaews, tuk-tuks and taxis. As we went there on scooter, I have no idea of prices.
Facilities at the New Office:
Is there a photocopying service nearby?
Yes, it’s literally next door and pages are priced the same as they were at the old office (2 Baht per page).
What about passport pics?
Yep – you can get your pics taken in the same office as the photocopying. Note that it costs 200 Baht for 6 passport photos. We actually brought our normal-sized passport pics (2 x 2 inches) to the office as that’s what we used to get our last visa extension in the old office (see above).
But, after handing these to the officer, he told me that we now required pics that measured 6 x 4 cms so we had to pay the 200 Baht at the office for new pics.
Learn from our mistake and get your photos done in town before going to the office.
Toilets and drinks/food?
There are toilet facilities within the shopping centre and they’re easily accessible from the office. For food and drink, there’s an onsite coffee stand that sells hot and cold drinks.
There’s also a Tom n Toms Coffee shop just above the office if you want to grab something from there instead.
What are the opening hours of the new Chiang Mai immigration office?
Open Mon-Fri, 8:30am-4:30pm (Closed for lunch between 12 & 1pm)
Closed Sat, Sun and Public Holidays
What visa services are offered?
I’m not too sure on this one as we were just looking to get a regular tourist visa extension, for more info on what visa services are offered, this thread might be useful.
Other Points to Note:
- Based on our experience, the new office seems to be more in tune with their organisation. Things ran smoothly for us once we figured out where to get queue ticket numbers etc.
- When you arrive at the office, be sure to go to the girls at the table (just outside the office) and they’ll give you a ticket number based on what service you require.
- On getting your ticket, wait outside until the number is called over the intercom. NOTE: You need to wait outside and you’ll be kindly told to “get outside” if you’re found inside the office before your number is called.
- Once your ticket number is announced, get inside to the relevant counter (it will be marked clearly) and hand your documents over to the officer. Once he/she has accepted your application, he/she will tell you to “get outside and wait for your name to be called.”
- Listen up for your name and once it is said over the intercom, get inside and collect your passport and receipt at the same counter that you dropped them at.
- After receiving them, you’ll be required to nip over to the counter that’s situated in the top right-hand corner of the office. Here, you must hand your docs to the lady behind the counter and she’ll take your picture.
- Once that is done, you’ll be free to leave Promenada and enjoy your permittance to stay in Thailand for another while.
- The wait time you’ll experience will all depend on how busy the office is. We arrived just after lunch time and the entire process took just under 3 and a half hours.