Passport Visas for Thai Girlfriends

The difficulty or ease of getting a travel visa for a Thai lady to enter your country varies greatly from country to country. I have not yet had the time to address the issue in regard to any countries other than my own, the U.S., as covered below, and I would like to hereby solicit inputs from others who are citizens of other countries so that I may post them here for the benefit of your compatriots.

If you're legally married in Thailand, i.e., a signed, registered marriage, which is a whole other process that will also involve your embassy/consulate in documentation, then getting a travel visa is usually not difficult. However, just going thru the Buddhist ceremony isn't the same thing. (You can take lots of photos, which can help your chances in getting another kind of travel visa, but it's not the same as a registered marriage.)

The process is for your Thai girlfriend to get a Thai passport, then for you and her to apply at your embassy or consulate in Bangkok for a travel visa to your country. The first thing you should do is inquire with your consulate for a list of required documentation. You should also seek out others from your country who have done this before, to get a feel for how your embassy/consulate handles matters, and for tips.

Your embassy/consulate can reject a visa application without stating any reason. Just because they have given you a list of documentation to bring together doesn't mean that if you follow all the procedural steps then you will get a visa.

Further, you want to give it your best shot the first time, and not submit an application to see if it's rejected before you go to great efforts. Your girlfriend does not want to get a rejection noted in her passport. Notably, most embassies/consulates don't put any ugly "rejection" stamp in the passport, but do stamp that a visa was applied for on a particular date. If there's no corresponding visa stamp (essentially an approval), then a subsequent officer will probably take note and read between the lines -- a rejection. This is standard procedure. In fact, they'll often put the "visa applied for" stamp into the passport as they're handing it back to you after telling you that you've been rejected.

The reason for these problems is obvious. People from less developed countries want to immigrate to rich countries so that they can work there and make more money. If international travel were free, then the rich countries would soon be overrun by people from less developed countries. The domestic governments would be overwhelmed in dealing with people working and staying there illegally. To some extent, they already are. In fact, countless people from less developed countries get entangled in mafia circles whereby they work in overseas sweatshops or brothels, or meet a worse fate.

Some kinds of Thais have little or no problem getting visas. One example is wealthy businesspeople who are obviously going for business or a short vacation. Another example is students who wish to study at a foreign university and who have good grades, speak the foreign language very well, and are from well to do families. Highly educated people who have a high tech skill in short supply relative to demand in another country can often get a visa and work permit. (The latter is an unfortunate phenomenon called "brain drain", where the most valuable people leave their own country.)

Besides that, the things your embassy/consulate will be looking for are reasons for them to return to Thailand, e.g., land ownership and major assets, money in the bank over a long time (looking thru past bank books over time), and/or a good job in Thailand. If your girlfriend has a 6th grade Thai government school education, no business of her own, and no assets besides a little farmland in the middle of nowhere with a buffalo, then her chances are often slim.

Bar girls are routinely rejected. They usually can't even read English (or any other western romanized language), are high risk to not return before their visa expires, and are seen as likely to be prostitutes and/or get into problems in the other country. The embassies/consulates are also used to dealing with lonely foreigners who have come to Thailand on a short visit and with awesome naivete think they have met the girl of their dreams in a bar, who they think will be grateful and loving ... blah, blah, blah.

Finally, I would strongly advise people on two things:

  1. Don't marry a lady just to get a travel visa. A marriage in Thailand is recognized in the U.S., i.e., if you are legally married in Thailand, then you are legally married in the U.S. I would not be surprised to find that it's the same in other countries. If the relationship doesn't work out, it may not be easy to arrange a legal divorce, plus all the paperwork proof you'll have to bring with you, including the translation issue, since the marriage documents in Thailand are in the Thai language. Take your time to make sure she's really the one you want to marry. If you think that you can get a "fiancee visa" (see below), then consider that.

  2. Don't get into human trafficking. The underworld often pays farang guys money to marry a Thai lady (sham marriage) and take her to another country. I won't address the moral issues here, which are obvious. Just look at the realities. If you get caught, you can get into serious trouble, especially in your home country or as regards Thailand. Thailand's immigration is computerized, so that they can see your history and all associated notes. With international cooperation on these issues, even if you change passports (e.g., losing your current one), your records may be linked (as already reported by others in Thailand). If the lady you "courier" gets harmed or in major trouble, you may be an accessory to that crime. In many cases, neither the man nor the woman has much of an idea where she will really be going, and there are a lot of tricks out there, including forced sweatshop labor, prostitution, porno flicks, "snuff flicks" (e.g., where they are viciously raped, tortured and murdered in the movie), and various other tragedies. It is common for a poor lady to believe a trusted associate and take a chance with wishful thinking only to find that she's been tricked on the other end (less pay, or the job isn't a restaurant but is prostitution, she's imprisoned until she "earns" the mountain of money she owes for being brought over, she's raped and told if she goes to the police she'll go to jail, she's blackmailed about revealing her shame back home, etc., etc.). You probably don't know what will really happen. Maybe she will be better off with a real job, but maybe it will be a terrible tragedy. They'll usually try to convince you that it's nothing bad, of course. Or, they may not really know... But YOU are documented on paper as her sponsor.

This concludes the general discussion of travel visas. Below, I cover what I know of particular kinds of visas, based on what others have reported. However, your best source of information is your embassy or consulate in Bangkok.

U.S. Fiancee K-1 visa

A client of mine, who is trying to get his girlfriend to the U.S. on a K-1 "fiancee visa", sent me the following info:

    You have to file an I-129F petition with the INS in the states. It is filed at the regional office of the INS that has jurisdiction over the state you live in. The petition is very detailed (long) and you must prove you are financially able to support your fiancee/wife when she gets here. The I-129F forms can be downloaded from the INS site or they will send you the forms if you call. If you have previously been married you have to send a certified copy of your divorce decree with the petition. The processing time ranges from 4-12 weeks. If approved, the INS will send you a I-797 approval form and forward your petition to the embassy in the country your finance lives. The petition is valid for 4 months, ie, she must get the K-1 within this timeframe. Some consular officers will extend the time if given a good enough reason. My packet I sent to the Texas Center was 47 pages long. It included proof we had met in person.. pictures together, copies of my passport with Thai stamps, phone records, etc. The primary focus of the petition is to prove support and that there is a valid relationship. Most petitions are approved, but some are not. Sometimes the INS will ask for more information. This delays the process by 4-8 weeks. Once the embassy receives the petition, they send the finance packet #3. This includes a biographical sheet, the actual visa application, instructions for the medical exam ([name withheld]'s was at Bumungard and cost almost 4000Baht), instructions for birth certificates (must be certified), divorce decrees. etc. When all the info has been gathered, she sends back a checklist of things completed and the bio sketch. She retains all the other info and takes that to the interview. After the embassy receives the checklist they will send her a letter in a few weeks telling her the interview date. That is usually 2-4 weeks later.

    The interview can be a bitch!! If they suspect she ever worked in a bar, she will be grilled. If she admits having working there, she is denied. They may lie and tell her untruths to get her to admit she "worked." If she cracks, she's a goner. They are tough!! If they so graciously give her the visa, it costs 45 bucks and she can pick it up that afternoon.

    She then has 6 months to leave the country. Once she arrives in the US, she has 90 days to marry. If this does not happen, she must return to Thailand. Her chances of ever getting back to the states [would be low if she doesn't marry within that 90 days]. If she does marry, they file for an adjustment of status, authorization to work, and advanced parole. That allows her to leave the country (US) for vacation, return to Thailand, etc.

    The whole process through the Bangkok Embassy takes 4-8 months. If she is denied, the consular officer's decision is not appealable.

I would like to solicit others' experiences and inputs from all countries.

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