Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How to NOT get a Foreign Visa in Japan

What do you get when three bureaucratic organizations collide? High blood pressure and not much else. I doubt even a 7-hour soak could calm me down. This was my official response after being turned down again for a Thai visa.

Dear sirs,

Good afternoon. I'm currently a foreign resident who has lived in Japan for two years. Recently, I decided to terminate my residency and travel to China and Thailand, to volunteer as a English teacher in underfunded rural schools near Thai Mueang with a group known as the Thai Mueang Volunteers. The events that led me to your consulate are as follows:

1. On May 1st, I called the Royal Thai Consulate-General Osaka to confirm the documentation needed to apply for a Non-Immigrant Type O Visa (volunteer). I was informed that:

Documents Required
a. 1 designated application form signed with the same signature as appears on passport
b. Passport (original & copy: holder's data) with validity over 6 months
c. 1 photo size 4.5 x 4 cm, color or black
d. Airline ticket or flight confirmation sheet from air carrier or tour company (original & copy)
e. Recommendation letter* from institute in Japan (original in English)
f. Invitation letter* from institute in Thailand (original in English or Thai)   
g. Registration document of an institute in Thailand (copy)            

2. Later that day, I confirmed with my organization in Thailand, who themselves were in close contact with local government authorities, that a registration document would not be necessary (invitation letter in English and Thai only, containing the registration notification and number). Having discovered that your consulate does not accept mail-in applications, I decided to travel from Kagoshima to Osaka at my own expense (approx ¥50,000 round trip).

3. On May 19th, I arrived in Osaka and immediately applied at the Royal Thai Consulate-General. Having presented all documentation, I was told everything was in order, with the exception of the registration document. Thereafter, I contacted the Thai Mueang Volunteers, and had them fax the registration document to me. On May 20th, I applied again, only to be told that all documents were in order, with the exception of the registration document, which was not the correct format: the copy my organization had provided was the official notification from the Thai government, but did not contain a statement of purpose. Such a document never existed for the Thai Mueang Volunteers, which had already been registered for some time.

4. Lacking the paperwork to even have my application accepted, I returned to Kagoshima and was informed, upon consultation between the Royal Thai Consulate-General Osaka and the manager of Thai Mueang Volunteers, that it would be in my best interest to apply for a two-month tourist visa.

5. Today, June 4th, I returned to Osaka and applied for a two-month tourist visa, only to be told that my recommendation letter from a Japanese institute, which had previously been deemed acceptable by the Thai consulate, was now unacceptable. Upon learning this, your visa section receptionist suggested I return to Kagoshima (at whose expense, I might add?) and have the document rewritten. At one point, he even offered to break the rules and accept my application by fax, suggesting that although the consulate has the power to accept my application, it chooses not to.

Let me speak simply and to the point: your consulate is a disgrace and an embarrassment to promoting tourism. Foreign residents or visitors to Japan cannot reasonably expect to meet the requirements of obtaining a foreign visa in Japan, namely:

A. An official recommendation with a copy of the passport and inkan stamp of a permanent resident or Japanese

B. An English translation of a Japanese bank account statement

Many non-Japanese may just be passing through the country and are unable to obtain Thai visas in their respective home countries (due to spending months in Japan, or not securing transportation until in Japan). I would be surprised if your Osaka consulate has processed even one application by a non-Japanese seeking to explore Thailand.

As a result of the aforementioned actions, it's quite obvious that your consulate has no interest in bringing in foreign visitors or immigrants to Thailand; this is not an issue of safety when traveling abroad, but discrimination based on nationality. I would have liked to have seen Thailand benefit from the education of international volunteers, but you have made that nearly impossible. From this affair, I have lost:

¥50,000 for transportation to/from Osaka
¥100,000+ for non-refundable enrollment in the Thai Mueang Volunteer program
¥60,000 for transportation to Thailand

Please let me know your thoughts on this matter, and if you will considering changing these policies in the future.


Heather said...

Definitely doesn't sound easy...I think I've learned to always try and get foreign visas before leaving my home country.