The stress of visa and work permit renewal for my Myanmar maid is returning to give me a big headache once again.
I think many of you who also have migrant maids feel the same way, because we have to spend several days heading back and forth to the labour and immigration offices, filling in many forms, and waiting in long queues to get things done.
I have been going through this kind of registration red tape for seven years now and things haven't changed much at all.
Isn't Thai bureaucracy consistent in its inefficiency?
I don't understand why people who want to legally hire migrant workers have to face such a bureaucratic maze.
In fact, we should receive incentives, not this kind of inconvenience. I think many employers have become fed up with this time-consuming process, so much so that they no longer want their maids or workers to get legal papers.
For my maid, she had to wait for her current work permit for almost two years. When she finally got it, it was only valid another month. Then the permit expired. Now, she has to renew it for two more years. The process began with her health check-up. Then she went to the Myanmar embassy to renew her passport. Next, I took her to the Immigration Bureau's Suan Plu office last week to renew her visa.
After spending a half-hour filling in the form and preparing the documents, an immigration police officer told me that my maid and I had to go Bangkok's Labour Office District 6 first to have the work permit application endorsed before the visa could be renewed at the Immigration Bureau.
When I asked my maid why she did not ask her friends about the right procedures first, she told me that her friends had gone to the Suan Plu office to renew their visa first and then to the district labour office to renew the work permit.
Of course, I was angry discovering that this little change had been made without any public announcements. They expect you to know these things by going to the immigration office in person, asking the officials, or finding out from one of the notice boards.
Anyway, I had no choice. So I took my maid to the district labour office located near the Southern Bus Terminal in the Taling Chan area to submit the work permit renewal application. An official there issued me with a letter saying the application was accepted. Then I was told to go to Suan Plu immigration office, show the letter, renew the visa, and then come back to the district labour office again. Then my maid could pay for the work permit renewal, and wait for six months or a year to get it.
Poor us, right?
We are still not done with this headache yet as we still have to go to Suan Plu tomorrow.
Bored, tired, and frustrated. These three words explain my feelings at the moment.
After having had first-hand experience in dealing with the labour and immigration offices for several years, can I suggest one solution to make the situation better?
At present, Thailand has a few million migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Those who are legally registered probably number about 1 million. This number is big enough for the government to set up a special work permit and visa centre where they can report on their own every three months.
IT technology in the 21st century can help government agencies pool information. The work process will be much shorter and traffic will be lighter if these workers do not have to travel to so many places to get things done. A website to provide information about the procedures should also be set up. If the process is more convenient, I think many of them will be more willing to register themselves legally. And the problem about police asking for tea money from unregistered workers will drop.
I hope authorities take on board my opinion as it reflects the feelings of many frustrated employers and migrant workers who are so exasperated with this unfriendly system.
Krissana Parnsoonthorn is Deputy Business Editor, Bangkok Post.