Oct 13 2012

Chiang Mai immigration

Published by at 9:13 am under Practicalities


No-one enjoys visiting Chiang Mai immigration office but for all expats and many tourists in Thailand’s northern capital an occasional visit is unavoidable, so here are a few tips on how to make your trip as painless as possible.

We will warn you Chiang Mai immigration office is not very photogenic - we tried our best!

Chiang Mai immigration office is not very photogenic.

Chiang Mai immigration office is one of the most pleasant (or least unpleasant?) immigration offices or consulates around. There’s a good, very welcome and cheap coffee shop and sitting area with free WiFi, English-language newspapers and even cable TV. (And if you stand in the car park you even have a nice view over Doi Suthep.) Having visited numerous embassy visa sections and immigration departments (including a recent nightmare trip to Phnom Penh’s Thai embassy), we can also testify that Chiang Mai staff are the most helpful and efficient we have ever come across.

Coffee and pastries - good idea!

Coffee and pastries — good idea!

Behind the main visitors’ office is a small cafe serving a few basic Thai dishes such as fried rice, pat krapao and so on, so if you’re stuck there over the lunch break don’t fear. The cafe also has a photocopier and they can even print passport photos for you.

Cafe and photocopiers

Cafe and photocopiers.

When visiting the immigration office we would recommend following the following basic guidelines — most naturally go for any Thai visa or immigration department and many are pretty obvious, though still frequently ignored, which is why we’re mentioning them again.

Our do’s are:
* Have a shave if you’re a man and dress up as smartly as you can no matter what your sex. Thai officialdom is concerned by appearances and you will get a better reception.
* Keep smiling and stay as polite and friendly as possible no matter how much of a nightmare you’re having.
* Take a book, crossword, Sudoku or laptop because you’ll need to be prepared to be there a while.
* Check the Thai immigration website to make sure you have all necessary documents with you for whatever service you require.
* If you know long enough in advance when you’re going, apply for an online queue number but bear in mind this is often full weeks in advance.
* Download and print out any documents you need to complete from the website since it will save time once you’re there.
* Try and pick a mid-week day to visit as it’s usually quieter.

Please take a number and sit down and wait your turn

Please take a number and sit down and wait your turn.

And our don’ts… Don’t:

* Turn up in a ripped Chang beer T-shirt and grubby shorts since rightly or wrongly staff will look down their noses at you.
* Lose your patience however difficult or unhelpful staff appear to be. It will only make matters worse.
* Forget that these staff are overworked — we’ve seen many working right through their lunch breaks — and spend all day dealing with often irate customers. They are only human and sometimes get ratty.
* Take it out on local staff — they don’t make up the rules, however idiotic they may seem.
* Panic if you find some documents missing — as mentioned there’s a photo booth and photocopier available on site.
* Turn up on a Monday morning or Friday afternoon, which are the busiest times of the week.
* Make an appointment for an hour after you plan to go to immigration.

Naughty naughty!

Naughty naughty!

You can find the immigration office’s contact details here — it’s located between Airport Plaza and the airport itself and tuk tuks will charge 100 baht or so to take you out there. Note there aren’t many tuk tuks in the area, so either ask your driver to wait, make an arrangement to come back or walk down to Airport Plaza where you’ll find taxis and tuk tuks. Opening hours are 08:30-16:30 and they close for lunch from 12:00-13:00.

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4 Responses to “Chiang Mai immigration” ...

  1. […] back in Mae Sai and can remain in Thailand for another two months (three, if we extend our visa at Chiang Mai Immigration). Visa free entry will give an extra 14 […]

  2. Leaon 11 Mar 2014 at 6:05 am

    I went to the Chiang Mai Immigration office today (11 March 2014) and I took some notes to complete/update this great post that is from 2012.

    Location

    The office is very easy to find, just go towards the airport (it is indicated by road signs) and you will see it to your left. The main office is on your right as your arrive.

    Staff

    People were nice and helpful, and it is very well organised – well done Chiang Mai!

    Timing

    I got there at 7h30/7h40 on a tuesday and it was already pretty full. The main office was already open and distributing tickets, but no one was working yet. The person who gives out the queue tickets is at the counter in the main office in the middle. I got a queue ticket at 7h50 and was already number 58 (the person who gives out the tickets checks out the form and documents so I don’t think it is possible to go get a ticket, then fill out the form).

    The official start is 8h30 (Note that at 8h, there is what I think is the national anthem or an hymn to the queen & king, so if you see everyone standing up, stand up too).

    I was called at 11h20, so, it took 3h20 for 57 people to pass – or an average of 17 person/hour (which is quite fast actually!)

    Note that there is only one guichet which deals with visa extensions, tourist visas, ect…

    The processing took a few minutes, I gave the paperwork and paid, and then waited until my name was called to get back my passport. Between the time of my turn and the time I got my passport back with my visa extension, it was only 15 min. One of the staff has a mic and calls your name and country, so that is easy to follow.

    Facilities

    I did not have any form prepared so I took the form I needed (you have the most commonly used form both outside the main office and inside), filled it in. There is a great little shop just behind the main office where you can do copies, prints and even photo. 4 color photos was 100 bahts, and 1 copy, 2 bahts. The people there are super nice and helpful and they checked with me to see whether I needed any other document (turned out I needed a copy of my passport ID page as well as of my visa page & departure card, each copy needing to be signed by me).

    There is also free wifi, a little café and a fruit vendor, which is great!!!

    NOTE: it was unclear from an internet search whether or not it was possible to extent a visa obtained on arrival – IT IS but only for an additional 7 days. You have to use the form TM7, pay 1900 Bahts, have a photo to stick on the form, as well as a copy of your passport ID page, of your thai visa and of your departure card.

    So my advice:

    - if you can, make an appointment online (not easy since you need to do it a very long time in advance)

    - if not, arrive at 7h. You can leave and come back (there is a shopping mall not too far away, the central airport plaza), or otherwise just make sure to bring a book or something to do.

    - Try to get the form beforehand, and prepare all the stuff so that you can get a queue number right away

    - Make sure you have your departure card with you

    - Make sure you have cash to pay the fees

    - Make sure you have your local address with you as you need it for the form TM7

    - Be patient :) and nice to the staff – they are working very hard and the Chiang Mai office is much more efficient that any other immigration office I have been to, even in France!

  3. Moutyon 14 Mar 2014 at 9:50 am

    Thank you Mark for this useful article, and thank you Lea!! for the great add on.

  4. robertoon 05 May 2014 at 3:21 pm

    it will be useful to include the address of the immigration office in this article, as the link give requires logging in the site in order to access it

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