30 April 2010

Immigration Bureau Blues

.
“I’ve got the blues,
The Immigration Bureau blues.
I’ve really, really got the blues,
I’ve got them clear down
To the bottom of my shoes.
Blue, blue, blue, blue,
Boo Hoo,
I’ve got the Immigration Bureau blues.”
.
Wednesday – and for the last month – it was that dread time of year when we must prepare for and visit the Immigration office to renew my one-year Visa. It’s a horrible experience, as anyone knows who has often dealt with bureaucratic institutions and the curious souls who haunt such places. It is extra horrible for us because April is the hottest, muggiest time of year when you want nothing more than to stay inside in front of a fan.
.
Take a number. Sit and wait. Experience boredom and frustration enough to give a Zen master the blues or make a Saint fighting mean.
.
When you do finally get to sit face-to-face with an official, you always find that the rules have suddenly changed regarding which forms to use, about how many copies of each document to prepare, what additional documents are required, what other esoteric rituals you must master and hoops you must jump through, etc. In fact, the only predictable thing about such bureaucracies is that you will be hit with major surprises that are impossible to foresee. We have a running checklist of specifications required in the previous four years’ experience, a checklist of documentation, info required, number of copies, etc., but we never see the next new unexpected task. Kafka would feel at home here, and Sisyphus would recognize the unrelenting drudgery.
.
And it’s not just annual changes in rules, because usually two or three different immigration officials whom you meet on the same day will dictate two or three different versions of the rules to you. You can absolutely bet on such contradictions. If your karma is bad, you run into an embittered sadist enthroned as a paperwork tyrant. With good karma, you have your final interview with an official whose view of the rules is more casual and relaxed, one who smiles and waves you off as being in the clear.
.
The police/immigration officer sits across from you with his/her wizard’s array of official forms, rubber-stamps, staplers, paperclips, pens, etc. Their performance is a completely enigmatic alchemy of paper and permissions, and they hold the keys to the kingdom, your fate in their hands. You never know what will happen.
.
Our karma was good this Wednesday. They have built a new Immigration office just for our province. It is still far away and out in the boonies, but it is better than the old downtown Bangkok office that smelled of refugees and dirty farang. The office is small and not too busy, so the three police/immigration officers were not under much pressure. The place was more relaxed than the old office. Again, two officers interpreted the rules and requirements differently, but we lucked out and got waved through after only two hours. My brand new passport only confused things for a short while.
.
I must go back in a month to get a final visa stamp – if, that is, they approve it. They will use the month to double-check our bank accounts and consult our local police to make sure that I’m not too shady a character.
.
“I’ve got the Immigration Bureau blues.” But I feel better for now.
.
-Zenwind.
.

No comments:

Post a Comment