Once we had our permanent residency application in Canada refused it seemed as though the country did everything it could to make us move. Little irritating things seemed to happen every day. We took the hint.
We have lived in Thailand for almost eight years now. For a number of those years we have questioned the viability of running our business here, and in particular the credibility of the company as seen by our customers. After all, if there is news about Thailand, it is almost never positive and that is hardly likely to get better with the continued incompetent military dictatorship we have (and who have just changed the law so they remain in overall control until at least 2027). We have seriously considered moving the company to Singapore for the last few months, researching everything from apartment costs to the rules and regulations for setting up a company.
I've just got back from a trip to Kuala Lumpur to renew my Thai visa. I used to go to Singapore where, the day after my application, I could pick up a nice shiny new 12 month multiple-entry visa. But no longer. For multi-entry visas you must now be resident in that country. I cannot even get a 12 month visa in the UK because the proof of funds has to be in a UK bank account, which I don't have. So I get a 3 month single entry visa, which means I cannot leave the country during that time (or more accurately, when I return I just get a 30 day stamp). But why, those in know cry, do you not extend your visa in Thailand. There are lots of reasons. The main one is perhaps the 15,000 baht we were asked to pay 'under the table' to renew our non-B (business) visa. Ploy managed to get that reduced to 6000 baht but if we hadn't have paid it we would not have got the visa. The horrible woman visited us in the evening to collect her dirty money. She still works at Lop Buri immigration and handles all the non-immigrant visas. There are other options, such as the Thailand Elite visa which costs the not inconsiderable amount of 500,000 baht (about $15,000). And although they proclaim this is a government endorsed scheme, it is run by a private company and everything the government has done recently has been to make visas more difficult - they only want a very specific type of person here now, and running a company, married to a Thai and paying taxes doesn't seem to fit that profile. But the real question is can I keep doing this. Permanent residency seems off the table here, and anyway I don't have the patience (or money) to jump the never-ending hoops they would put in the way to getting it.
But as with Canada, even visas aside, each day seems to bring a new irritation. To be fair, most of these events are not specifically targeted at foreigners, although they do not affect the elite of course. In that respect Thailand is doing its best to emulate other countries and succeeding rather well to give the government its due.
But is Singapore the answer? We got permanent residency (PR) the last time we stayed there, but that was more than 10 years ago and I worked for a well established and large company then. I was also more than 10 years younger. I would have to pay myself a large salary to meet the employment pass requirements and hope to qualify for PR. And what if, as with Canada, they refused it. Another 5 years gone.
So, somewhat reluctantly, I have looked at the UK. Now I have already tried this route when we decided to move the company there two years ago. It was after the eighth visit to a bank that I realised I was not going to get a bank account. I needed a permanent address but also utility bills in my name. And how do you rent anywhere without a bank account. Or a pass a credit search which, after 15 years abroad, would presumably show me as being nonexistent. But, I can own a company. My own company, which I cannot do here, and cannot do initially in Singapore. And I can buy a house, should some before unknown Nigerian uncle die and leave me 42 million pounds in his will.
Ayr. It's by the sea, not to big, but has most necessary amenities such as a bookshop and a wine shop, doesn't seem too expensive (by UK standards) and is relatively close to Glasgow which has major train and air links and a Thai consulate so I could return easily to Thailand for an extended stay.
Because Ploy would stay in Thailand initially. Until that Nigerian uncle dies and I can show 65,000 pounds in the bank to get her a visa for the UK (or whatever it will be by then as the UK's xenophobia reaches untold heights). It may seem odd to leave a country that is third world but still has a positive GDP to a country that has a negative GDP and is doing everything it can to achieve third world status (that apartment fire is like something you'd expect of the Philippines). But I was so close to punching the immigration officer in the face as I entered Thailand this last time. Welcome to Thailand? Fuck off, more like. And I was going through the Priority lane with all those Thailand Elite people they say they want. In the poor people's immigration rabid dogs are unleashed to reduce the length of the interminably long queues.
I like to think I am doing this with my eyes wide open. It was only 18 months ago that I last visited the UK so I don't think there is any nostalgia in the decision. I am not 'going home'. Home is here because that is where Ploy and our dogs are. I am moving to another country, one that is easier for me to run a business and live in and where I expect to be treated like shit and no pretence is made to it being the 'Land of Smiles'. Maybe it will become home when Ploy and the dogs join me. Or maybe in three years I will be back here, joining the red shirts in their valiant attempt to overthrow the elite of this country once and for all. Or maybe I will only get as far as the Heathrow Express ticket machine as it refuses my debit card because of insufficient funds as it tries to extort 1,782.67 pounds for the 15 minute journey.
But I have to look positively at this. I will be able to buy a car that is something other than white, black or grey, the only colours on offer here in Thailand. I will be able to drive without both watching for pot holes that could hide a submarine and for an overloaded pickup with no lights driving the wrong way up the highway. My tap water will not have the consistency of milk. I will have an office that has a proper ground connection so I don't keep getting zapped when I touch some metal component (albeit an office that is likely to be consumed by fire within seconds of opening a fridge). I will be able to tell the bank staff in elaborate detail what to do with their new 50 pound notes with the bare arsed Prince Harry on the front when they refuse me an account for the umpteenth time because I have the wrong colour utility bill and without having to ask Ploy to do it for me (and before you say I should have learned the language by now - the English language seems to offer so much more variety and invention when castigating people - as indeed it has had to, to cope with life in the UK. Thai people are subservient to people deemed superior and therefore this aspect of the language has remained under-developed). And I will be able to freely write what I really think about a monarchy.
So the clock is ticking. By the time this visa expires you may find this writer sitting in a lonely Ayr bedsit, trying to warm a bowl of cup-a-soup over a candle while wrapping himself in newspapers to try to keep warm and listening to his neighbour's all-night rave party.
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