This post is about my first experience to the Chiang Mai Immigration Office for my first extension for my recently Education Visa that I got in Laos about 3 months ago. Presently, under the new rules you have to check in every 90 days for the ED Visa and to get it extended. There is often some confusing on the 90 Visa Extension and the 90 Day Reporting. They are not the same thing, the 90 Day Visa Extension is for your Education Visa and the 90 reporting is to inform immigration where you are living Thailand.

Queue in the morning Chiang Mai Immigration

Queue in the morning Chiang Mai Immigration

The Chiang Mai Immigration is located on Airport Road close to the Older Central Mall and of course as the road suggests the airport. If you are taking a taxi then you should have no worries on getting lost as all the taxi drivers will surely know where it is. If you are driving there by car take note that car parking is limited so you might be more inclined to park at the mall or close by and walk down. However, if you do get their early enough you might be able to squeeze into a spot. There is parking for motorbikes but from what I have experienced you will have to park twice if you come early, more on that farther down the post.

Inside the Chiang Mai Immigration Office

Inside the Chiang Mai Immigration Office Waiting for Queue

So here is my experience with the Chiang Mai Immigration Office for extending my Student ED Visa. First I was told if I want to get a good queue number I should get up early and head there before 5 or 6 in the morning as people even get there before 3 in the morning in some cases.

On Monday I decided to try to get there by 4 in the morning but only managed to get there by 4:30 as to be honest my body does not function well that early in the morning.

THE EXTENSION PROCESS:

1. Upon arriving I parked my bike in the main parking lot close to the gate entrance
2. When I arrived there was already people queuing up for the line
3. There were three lines. Line 1 was for Education, Retirement, Business, Teachers and so forth. Line 2 was for marriage and volunteer work and line 3 was for 90 Report.
4. Usually the bigger line is the line with Education, Retirement and so forth and that was the case in my situation. The line already had 20 people in front of me and people were sitting on chairs that you could get to the side of the building that pushes into the parking lot. The later you arrive the more chance you will not get a chair, I think they have about 30 chairs available…
5. Each line has a sign hanging from the Immigration building to tell you what line to get into. Line 3 sign is above a florescent light which was impossible to read in the dark but you could once the sun came up, in this case it was the 90 day reporting.
6. At about 7am a loud speaker starts to play both in English and the Thai Language about the process. Though the loudspeaker is very hard to hear. Don’t worry about it, just wait until the immigration officers come outside and take it from there.
7 Just after 7am some officers come outside and you start going up to them one at a time. You tell them the reasons you are here and they will issue you a queue number which you then take inside the immigration building.
8. Inside when you queue numbers is called you once again go up and tell them what you are doing and they quickly check your passport and scan your paperwork and give you another queue number, this is the queue number you will use to talk to the officer and extend your visa.
9. This was about 7:30am for the first round but the actually calling of your new queue number will not even start until 8:30am in the morning when the office official opens.
10. At 11:30am I was called up and extended my visa for 1900 Baht. She asked me a few questions in the Thai Language. Checked my documents and then sent me to another area to get my photo taken. I was then told to sit down and wait until my name was called out to claim my finished passport which was about 1 hour later and then took my tired body and headed home.

Queue Area Chiang Mai Immigration

Queue Area Chiang Mai Immigration

Some Tips:

1. If you are just doing the 90 Day report you really do not have to come early in the morning as that process is quite quick. Coming in during the day you should be fine. If you are doing a Visa Extension or something similar then yes coming early to get a good queue number would probably be wise. I had a couple friends that went at 2pm hoping to do their visas and was told to come back next day.

2. For those that go early I would recommend bringing some water, snacks, something to read etc… As you will be there for several hours, both in the waiting queue and inside the office waiting for number to be called.

3. As a motorcycle driver I parked just beside the gate by the entrance, but at around 7am an official came out to tell us to move our bikes to another gated area just to the side of the office. A gate that is closed early in the morning. Do not worry about losing your spot, just tell the people beside you that you got to move your bike and you will be right back.

4. I actually had to go twice because I was missing a document. The second time I went it was more chaotic as some of the foreigners that came later pushed up to the front and managed to sneak into the line in front of people that would not say anything. Be respectful and don’t budge into the queue, tensions are high with all the people waiting and it is not fair to the people that actually took the initiative to wake up early.

5. There is a place to take photos and photocopies but to speed things up for both you and the people behind you, try to have everything in order. If you are missing a document you can actually go and get it and come back and slip back into the queue. If you can’t get that document during the day you will have to come back and start the whole queue process once again. Something I had the joy of doing as a new ED rule was in place that my school was not aware of. So I had to go to immigration twice that week.

6. There is a small coffee shop beside the office for drinks and snacks. I had a small banana cake which was tasty and a rather tasteless coffee but I wasn’t expecting gourmet coffee either. There is also a small Thai Food area close to the office as well. Basically like a set up you would see by the road. A couple tables and local Thai cuisine, nothing to fancy but for a quick and cheap bite not a bad option.

7. There are bathrooms on site but both days I was there the Men’s washroom toilets were broken. The urinals were working and there was no water to wash your hands.

8. As I stated before the queue doesn’t start until 8:30am. If your queue number is higher you could just go somewhere else and come back, but if you miss your queue you will be out of luck so make sure you judge it correctly.

9. The immigration office staff is very busy and was surprised to see that even though they were quite overworked they managed to have a smile on their face most of the time. There is an information counter right at the front which was busy all day for people asking questions and making sure they were in the right spot.

10. Though from what I have seen of the foreigners there you do not have to dress up but perhaps skip wearing the Beer T-shirt, shorts or Flip Flops if you can.  Certainly, can’t hurt if you decide to go in a nice shirt and tie which was a rare sight both times that I went.

Chiang Mai Immigration

Chiang Mai Immigration

From what I hear this office has never really changed with the times and it shows. Though the staff is friendly the system for processing all the immigration issues really needs to be updated. People waiting in the parking lot at 3am, multiple queue numbers, long wait times all get under your skin but sometimes you just got put up with it if you want to live in the Land Of Smiles. Just expect a long day, keep your cool and act pleasant and friendly to the staff, it will only help increase your chances for whatever issue you have. One last tip is they often play the Thai National Anthem, make sure you stand up and pay your respects just like everyone else.

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