Well, after my last visit to my second home, the next part of the 'Thailand plan' is for my wife to visit my home country. More specifically, London. If you want to get picky, East London.
When we, as UK citizens, want to go to Thailand, we just go. Unless you're staying longer than thirty days, you don't need anything more than a return ticket. You show up at the airport having filled out your landing card, show it and your passport to the nice people at immigration, and that's it.
It's not quite the same in the UK!
The first port of call for anyone who needs to get a visa would be The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Thailand page
If you think they will tell you what you need to do, well they kind of do and they kind of don't!
They certainly do tell you where all the forms are that you need to fill out .
(currently, the UKBA in Thailand only accepts online applications!)
What they don't tell you, is how to make a successful application. Oh no, that would be too easy!
If they did that, the Daily Mail would have to be twice as thick.
The thing with visas is, not really many people know how to go about getting them. The 'expat' community, if there is such a thing, is full of 'experts' they've all been there, done this that and the other, been in the SAS, escaped from GTMO, the lot!
The Thai community also has it's experts. 'My friend me go Switzerland already she tell me I have to change my name to Franzelshitzselsperger and have new passport, ID card and pay somebody friend 50,000 baht, can do easy no problem'
As with all advice, some of it is true and some of it isn't. The fact is that every application is different. The good thing is that, we do have reasonably fair systems in the UK and, if you present your case properly, you should get fair treatment by the UKBA. If you don't in some cases you can appeal their decision.
This place is an excellent place to start.. There are members on this forum who do know exactly how a visa application should be done. Read it first as many of your questions will already have been answered.
I have to say that, whilst some of the 'characters' can be abrasive, to say the least, it is a great resource for information. Not just about visas, but pretty much anything to do with Thailand.
Another, perhaps more friendly, place is this one. As with all of these 'internet forums' you'll get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people, but the information is there and there are 'resident' experts and 'moderators' who will be able to help you.
The one thing you will definitely need, if you want to bring your Thai partner or friend over to the UK for a visit, is evidence! And then more evidence, and finally, some evidence.
You;ll learn some of the terms...an ECO (Entry Clearance Officer) will make a decision on the applicant's visa based on the evidence in front of them at the time. You can not add to the file once it has been submitted. You may be asked for more information, but it's more likely that, if something is missing, you just get a rejection.
What are they looking for in terms of evidence?
Well, there are three main points. If you have a relationship with the applicant, ie. they're your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband etc. They want to know that the relationship is a real and subsisting one.
What does that mean? It means they want to make sure you haven't just met someone for five minutes and let them con you into getting them a visa so they can arrive at at Heathrow, kiss you on the cheek and then disappear into the night to begin an onslaught of crime and depravity likely to bring the nation to it's knees.
They don't say that on the website, but that's what they mean.
What evidence can you get?
Start with the stamps on your passport that show when you went to Thailand, then show them photos of you and Lek/Noi/Dear/Bow/Somchai or whoever, together. NOT in a bar in Pattaya with all kinds of weird and wonderful things going on around you!
By all means, do go to bars in Pattaya and there's nothing at all wrong with weird and wonderful things, long may they continue to go on around you. However, you're trying to show the ECO that you're not ;
a) fresh off the plane fallen for the first girl that smiled at you.
b) not trying to bring a 'person of dubious character' into the UK so that he/she can pervert the moral fibre of our great nation.
c) taking the piss.
d) being conned into, or personally contriving to, bring sex workers into the UK.
You know the perception that lots of people have of Thailand (mostly this is people who have never been there!) if you've got a Thai partner, all of your friends have thought about it. They have, they just might not have told you!
Anyway, photos of you and partner doing 'normal stuff', temples, restaurants, generally spending time together.
If you've met the family, include those shots too.
This will, in most cases, be a long-distance relationship, the ECO quite rightly, will want to know, how is it sustained day to day, when you are both separated. Email? Phone calls? Skype? Letters? (do people still write letters?) This is all evidence, well it is if you've kept it!
If you haven't, there's no proof that you didn't walk out of the airport, get in a taxi to Soi Cowboy, find the first stripper you could lay your hands on and ask her if he/she/he-she wants to come to England!
It may indeed be the truth. If it is, I wouldn't mention that in the application process!
If you are currently in a relationship with someone from Thailand and you think, that at some point in the future, it may be a possibility that you might want them to visit the UK, start collecting the evidence now!
I've got over eighteen months of phone records showing that I call my wife at least once, everyday.
I use a company called Moneybookers to send money for the house and the monthly bills etc. And the 'old favourite' Western Union. Moneybookers allows you to print a history record of all transactions, I've kept all the Western Union receipts as well, these go back for well over a year.
I know it seems like a bit of overkill for some people. My friends have all said things like "how come she can't just come here? She's your wife!"
It is a lot of work, but over the years people have abused the system, marriages of convenience, sham marriage etc. have all contributed to what we have now.
A very lengthy and difficult process, especially if you're a Thai national who doesn't read or write English very well.
Imagine if it were the other way round and if you wanted to got to Thailand for a holiday you were presented with an application in the Thai language that took over a week to process and involved visiting the Thai embassy in london!
Still, I understand why it's like that, but it certainly has opened my eyes to the difficulties people face when trying to be together with their loved ones.
See the second part here