Sometime during our travels to France and the States last year, I looked at my passport and realized I’d need to renew it soon to allow for the six-month validity required to enter and exit most countries.
And then I glanced at all the other paperwork I held–probably on a plane headed somewhere; the perfect place to pull out all your documents and realize they are all about to expire. Many, many things would be expiring soon, hopefully just as we’d be placed in our adoption.
Taking note (and learning from when we had to rush Stephen’s passport renewal a few years ago!), I made a calendar of 2019 specifically noting all the things that needed renewals and applications. It included:
April: my American drivers license and my Thai drivers license
May: Stephen’s work permit, our current Thai visas (requiring us to cross the border for an additional 90 days)
June: our car, one year until my passport
July: our motorbike
August: our Thai visas (this time requiring a visit to a neighboring embassy)
September: Stephen’s American drivers license
Let the paperwork begin.
I started the process for renewing my American drivers license in January. After five late night calls to the Arkansas DMV, I received my new license last week, in the first week of August. That’s eight months.
Because of this, we began the process for Stephen’s American licesnse in June. Here’s too hoping.
I started the process for renewing my Thai drivers license on 15 April. Simply trying to renew my license as a housewife on Stephen’s work permit proved very, very difficult. It also revealed that we hadn’t “registered our re-entry” the last time we entered Thailand, so we had to rush across the border early, in May, to avoid significant fines and appease the angry immigration officers. I also had to wait to renew my license until immigration sent an approval letter, which took many, many weeks.
After about fifteen visits to the Thai DMV on most of the Wednesdays and Fridays of April, May, June, & July, both with and without a child in tow, I was able to renew my license on 17 July. I wore my yellow shirt & I said my red-green-yellow colors in Thai to win hearts. I watched an hour of motorbike and car crash footage that hopefully will make me a better driver. Overall, it took three months.
Stephen’s work permit, and our motorbike and car renewals all went without incident, just requiring paperwork.
And then last week, we made our trek to Yangon to apply for new visas. In order to do this, we needed a passport for Oak, which we got in Bangkok in June (another trip, another office, more paperwork). We also needed paperwork giving us permission to travel with him outside of Thailand, which we asked for in May. It was approved on Friday–three months after it was requested and just two days before we left. This wasn’t enough time for it to get to us in Mae Sot, so we took a photograph of the paperwork with us, and hoped for the best.
Just days before we left, I made a sad realization. I was filling out our visa applications and saw the notice: When applying for a one-year visa, it’s required that you have eighteen months remaining on your passport.
Eighteen months!? I had ten. And just a few days to: change plans? attempt to renew my passport in Bangkok?
After some research, it would be impossible to renew my passport in that time, as they don’t offered expedited services overseas. And changing plans would add up in cost quickly, so our boss advised us to try for it. She said it might work, and if not–well, Stephen would likely get a year and I’d be given three months, until I had to return to Yangon to apply again.
Honestly, I was pretty sad. I’ve never made a renewal calendar before; and here it wasn’t even helping! I had worked so hard to not make mistakes on our paperwork, particularly with Oak in the mix, and failed.
The trip was starting out on a stressful foot, as we boarded our first flight without Oak’s proper paperwork and with slim hopes of me getting a year visa.
At airport immigration, they stamped Stephen & I out without incident, and we were a day before our visas expired. (An accomplishment for us, unfortunately. I have two shame-inducing “LATE” stamps in my current passport.😔) Once stamping us out, the immigration officers noticed Oak’s passport was for Thailand, and seemed skeptical. They asked for all our paperwork for him; they called over supervisors and made copies and whispered among themselves for nearly half an hour, while Stephen & I held up the long immigration lines and said prayers. With us already stamped out, we couldn’t actually “return” back into Thailand if there was a problem with Oak’s paperwork! Thankfully, after thoroughly scaring us, Oak was stamped out of Thailand we gave our gracious thank yous.
As we boarded the plane, barely catching lunch at 3pm and Oak lacking a nap, trying to calm our nerves, Stephen said, “Whew! They let us all leave!”
And I pessimistically replied with, “…Now we just have to figure out how to get back in.” And that became the week’s goal.
The stressors weren’t over. We showed up to the Thai Embassy as a matching family of yellow, requesting one-year visas. While they asked us absolutely nothing about Oak, they did deny our visas three times. Each time they’d tell us a reason, we’d counter it: Wait! I have that document! and I can get that, one minute! Surprisingly, none of the denials were because of my passport! And after a very stressful morning, they accepted our visas, granted us one-year each!
And so we’re back. I’ll post more about our fun adventures in Yangon and Bangkok, but for now: thankful we are back home as a family of three. (That is more of a miracle than I could say!) Thankful for another year in the Kingdom of Thailand!