I have written on this subject in the past but a recent event has triggered the need to pass on some opinions and observations, with the view to helping a few poor sods out. To cut a long story short, an American friend of mine, who has spent a total of less than six months in Thailand, has fallen in love. He has decided to marry the lady, but first he wants to get her a US Visa to take her for a holiday back to his home town. Just for fun, count up the problems so far – you may need to take your shoes and socks off.

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For starters, anyone who has only been in Thailand for six months cannot possibly know enough about the place and culture to make an informed decision. I have been here for ten years and learn something new every day. Expert on Thailand? No such thing. Secondly, he knows not one word of Thai and is oblivious to conversations his girlfriend has with her friends and family. All he knows is “they seem nice.” Thirdly, why on earth did he want to take her home? He doesn’t even like his small home town and could not wait to get out of there and head to Thailand. He has described the place to me as “cold and boring” so, if that is how he feels about it, just imagine how a Thai lady would feel.
But his biggest mistake was in not telling anybody his intentions and asking advice. Including myself, he has three very good friends living here who were more than willing to help him out. He said he didn’t want to bother us. That hurt, but even so, there are other sources of free information available. Expats must stick together and support each other and there are two Expat clubs he could have attended and asked questions. Alternatively, he could have simply found a bar frequented by Americans and started up a conversation. In my experience, Yanks are never shy about offering opinions and advice to other people. Nevertheless, the rule is: when in doubt, ask someone who you can be reasonably sure has nothing to gain from telling you a lie. Instead, he kept his plans to himself and soldiered on unassisted. What I am about to tell you is third hand and very vague but bear with me because, if only a fraction of it is true, my friend really screwed up.
He and his lady went to a visa place or legal office here in town. Yes, they would help him get a US visa for her. Their fee for the ‘service’ was 20,000 baht. Every time they had to make a trip to the embassy in Bangkok he would be charged 5,000 baht; every phone call, 4,000 baht; every page needing translation, 3,000 baht. And the charges went on and on – with no guarantee, of course, and all non-refundable. The company representative said that if they were unsuccessful they would simply try again. Why wouldn’t they? With all the money they are getting off him this time, why wouldn’t they want to keep the gravy train rolling?
I don’t pretend to know anything about obtaining a US visa but I have American friends who have done it and they said, as long as you know the criteria and can satisfy those criteria, it is possible to do it yourself at minimal cost. One friend who was legally married to the Thai lady had the application rejected because of one minor point. He fixed the problem, tried again, and they are now both happily holidaying in the States.
I have read about obtaining an Australian visa and I’m guessing the criteria are more or less the same, including, but not limited to:
1 Must have evidence of funds to support a visit of the proposed duration.
2 Must show a level of personal, financial, employment and other commitments which may provide inducement to return to country of usual residence.
3 Must be no circumstances in your country of usual residence which may provide inducement NOT to return.
4 Must be evidence of having previously complied with visa conditions of Australia or any other country.
5 Must be no inconsistencies in claims made by the applicant and those made by any other person supporting the application.
6 The person or persons supporting the application must not have supported other applicants who travelled to Australia and breached conditions of entry to Australia or undertakings made in connection with their entry.
7 Must be no likelihood that the applicant will engage in employment in Australia.
8 Must be no lack of credibility in terms of character and conduct.
9 The information provided in the context of the application must not be false or designed to mislead.
10 Must be sufficient evidence of credible and bonafide plans.
This comes all too late for my friend who, at last count, is out to the tune of 80,000 baht with still no visa in sight. My advice to anyone else overcome by the lunacy of wanting to take your lady back home to meet mum, is to do your homework first. Ask as many people as you can, especially those who have done it before. If you use a visa or legal company, do not part with one baht until they explain everything to you in full. Then shop around. Go to other companies, ask the same questions and compare their rates. Be aware some unscrupulous people will take your money knowing full well there is not a change the visa will be granted. Find out what you can do yourself to help fulfil any missing criteria before making the application.
I will leave the final comment to one American wit who asked me, “Why bother with a visa? Just do it the easy way – fly into Mexico and then just sneak her across the US border at night. It’s proven very successful so far because millions of people have done it!”