Mar 01 2013
A few years ago the Bangkok immigration office moved to a gargantuan modern building off Chaeng Watthana Road, not far from Don Muang airport in the city’s northern reaches. Although the old office off Sathorn Road was far more convenient, the new one gets points for modern facilities and spaciousness. Here’s a wrap on what can be done up at Chaeng Watthana and your options for getting there.
Virtually all immigration services for foreigners in Thailand are now handled at the new office in Building B at the end of Chaeng Watthana Soi 7 (see map). The old office on Soi Suan Phlu is now dedicated solely to long-term residents from Laos, Cambodia and Burma.
The cheapest way to reach the new office from most parts of Bangkok is to take the BTS sky train to Mo Chit station, or the MRT subway to Chatuchak Park station, and then wait for bus #52 at the bus stop in front of the park on the west side of Phahon Yothin Road (exit 2 from the BTS station takes you straight to it). The bus costs eight baht and drops you at the front of government complex. From here, the immigration building is the furthest away of three that all resemble airport terminals.
A handful of minibuses also line up near the same bus stop (they say “Government Complex” above the windshield) — these are quicker than regular buses and cost 25 baht. If going by taxi, expect to pay between 100 and 150 baht each way from Mo Chit station, depending on traffic. A taxi from somewhere in central Bangkok, Lumpini Park for example, will cost twice that.
Note that it’s a solid kilometre walk from where buses and minibuses drop off passengers along Chaeng Watthana. We didn’t have the patience to look for it, but this guy says there’s a free shuttle bus that runs back to Building B. Otherwise, you can walk, or shell out 20 baht to a readily available motorbike taxi. If walking, head straight down Soi 7 away from Chaeng Watthana Road and go right after you pass the entirety of that last huge building. The entrance faces away from Chaeng Watthana and is easily found thanks to the stream of waiting taxis.
After entering the building, the immigration office is visible on the right hand side, marked by a sign that says “Immigration Division 1“. You’ll first enter a general information centre; the desk clerks here will provide necessary forms and answer questions. Once you’ve filled out the proper paperwork, head into the next room and pick up a queue number from the main desk. Make sure to be clear about what you’re there for as you’ll have to wait in queue all over again if the clerk directs you to the wrong counter.
The office offers just about anything you could need apart from applying for a Thai visa, which must be done outside of the country. If you already have a tourist visa, you can get a 30-day extension for 1,900 baht, but only once per entry (so only once in total if you have a single entry visa). If you’re on a 30-day (arrived by air) or 15-day (arrived by land) visa-free stay, you can get a one-time seven day extension, also for 1,900 baht. Chaeng Watthana is also the most common place to apply for a 1,000 baht re-entry permit if you have a long-term visa and are leaving the country, although this source says it’s not too difficult to get that done at Suvarnabhumi airport.
Some longer term visas, such as the non-immigrant education, need to be extended every 90 days for 1,900 baht each time, and in this case you’ll need to supply an updated address in the kingdom. Along with permanent residents, those with other long-term visas such as marriage and retirement don’t need to apply for extensions but do still need to report their address every 90 days. This is free, and while it can be done through the mail it seems that most still make their way to Chaeng Watthana every few months.
After you’ve received the queue ticket, you’ll need to locate the correct counter amid the many that surround a sprawling waiting room. Ninety-day reporting is taken care of in an entirely separate, smaller room off one side of the main room. For most services, expect a wait of at least an hour unless you arrive in the early morning, and keep in mind that the entire office closes for lunch from 12:00 to 13:00. Even if your number has already been called and your passport is being processed, you’ll still need to leave when the clock strikes 12:00 and return a full hour later.
Should this be the case, the complex boasts a range of eating and shopping options to keep you occupied. On the ground floor you’ll find a plethora of banks and ATMs to go with internet/copy/photo shops that can come in handy if you forget something. Several sit-down coffee shops with free WiFi and chain restaurants like Chester’s and Hong Kong Noodle are also found here.
For a cheap Thai meal, head into the huge cafeteria with street food-style stalls on all sides, or walk all the way back — through the many clothing vendor stalls — to find inexpensive home-cooked curries, stir-fries, fried chicken, fish and som tam at makeshift food counters. No seating is available at these, but you can always head back to the main floor and sit under a fake tree in the building’s central atrium. Flanked by all manner of government ministry headquarters, it’s bigger than a pro football pitch — now there’s a way to kill some time.
Bangkok Immigration Bureau
Building B, Government Complex
Chaeng Watthana Road, Bangkok
T: (021) 419 889
F: (021) 438 228
Open: Mon-Fri 08:30-12:00, 13:00-16:30. Closed on public holidays.
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