The Low-Down on ED Visas for Studying Thai

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Tod Daniels
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Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2014 3:38 am
Location: Bangkok Thailand

The Low-Down on ED Visas for Studying Thai

Post by Tod Daniels »

SORRY IN ADVANCE THIS IS SO LONG!!! Stick with it, especially if you're on an ED visa learning thai... ;)

There have been some big changes to the education visa and extension process for foreigners learning Thai this year. I want to take some time and let you guyz know what's what.

First some history about how ED visas and extensions used to work.

Prior to August of 2014 a student enrolled in a thai language school for a year. The schools were following the Ministry of Education guidelines for minimum study hours which at that time was written as 16 hours in a calendar month or as the schools sold their programs "4 hours a week" (180-192 hours per year).. Once students enrolled and paid their tuition, the school applied for and received paperwork from the MOE. With that paperwork students could go to a thai embassy or consulate outside thailand (seeing as there is NO thai embassy inside the country!), and secure a single entry 90 day ED visa.
When the initial 90 days was up, the school provided students with more paperwork from the MOE. The students then went to Thai Immigrations and applied for a 90 day extension of stay. Students could do this for an entire year; first 90 day ED visa and THREE 90 day extensions = one year.

After that first year, the school took students to the Ministry of Education for "testing". Now being nosy, I went out there to see how intensive the testing was. It was a joke and honestly if a student had been studying thai for a year or according to the old rules, 180 hours and couldn't pass that test, they had NO business being on an ED visa for learning thai. The testing was done in such a low level of spoon-fed thai, enunciated so slowly, so clearly, that a half-wit could pass it. Sheesh, taxi drivers ask harder questions than the MOE did.

Once the students 'passed' the MOE test they could study thai for an additional year of 90 day extensions. After the second year; students went to the MOE and were tested again (same test) and got approval to study an additional year. That made it possible to stay in thailand on a single ED visa for 3 years!
In August this all came to a crashing halt. The new Police Order which came into effect 327/2557 had the ED visa extension process re-written. It stated that a student could get NO MORE than a year's extension of stay per ED visa. That'd be the initial 90 day ED visa and then three more 90 day extensions of stay inside the country. After that the student would have to go out of the country and get another ED visa to start the process over again.

Needless to say, this being thailand, when this new rule came into effect, there was no communication between Immigrations (who wrote the Police Order) and the Ministry of Education who provided the paperwork via the schools for extensions of stay. Some people who had already been tested and approved by the MOE for their second year of studying thai showed up at Immigrations after August 29th and were given just a 7 day extension of stay, because as the new rules were written you couldn't study thai on an ED visa for more than a year.

The system ran like that for a month or two, then changed again.

The new minimum hours of study were raised from 4 hours a week to 8 hours a week or 200 hours in a 6 month period. A thai 'course' or 'level' could NOT run longer than 6 months. After getting a 90 day ED visa outside the country, students could extend it ONCE inside the country for a total of 6 months before having to leave the country and start the process over again.

The MOE was cut completely out of the "testing loop", as in students NEVER went to the MOE, they were instead tested by Immigrations officers when they applied for their 90 day extensions of stay. Needless to say this was not the best situation. The area where people go to get ED visa extensions became LOG JAMMED with people waiting to be tested, waiting for their paperwork to be processed, etc. Also because Immigrations is NOT the MOE, there was no rhyme or reason to the testing students took.

Now I've been to over 20 private thai language schools in Bangkok, and there are possibly 5 or more different methods how thai is taught to foreigners in use. For instance IF a student is enrolled in AUA's Thai program they are taught by the ALG (automatic language growth) method. This is where a student doesn't speak thai, doesn't learn to read thai, doesn't do anything BUT listen to Thais talking! How do you test a student's ability to "listen" to thai? Another example, IF a student is enrolled in what I call a "Union Clone School", they learn to speak thai ONLY via karaoke (not by thai script) for 180 hours BEFORE they even enroll in a class which begins to teach reading and writing Thai. This means perhaps those students can understand and converse in thai but can't tell a chicken; กอ ไก่ from an owl; ฮอ นกฮูก (the first and last characters in the 'thai alphabet'). There are a couple other whacky method schools out there, but I won't get into those (because I've never seen a person come out of them speaking or reading thai with any proficiency, EVER)!

Just from what I've outlined you can see that having a "standardized thai test" after a students initial 90 day ED visa comes up for an extension at Immigrations ain't gonna work! There are just too many disparate methodologies being used to teach thai to foreigners to have a one-size-fitz-all test.
Now last week I spent 6+ hours at Thai Immigrations out at Chaengwattana and watched the grinder students were put thru to get an extension to their ED visa.. It is broken down into 3 sections;
•document checking area; this wasn't too bad because face it, as a rule the schools provide the correct documentation for their studentz..
•testing area; this was painful to watch and some students actually cried at this stage of the process because what they were being asked was NOT what they'd been studying for the previous 90 dayz
•receive extension area; this is where students got their passports back after getting an extension of stay..

While I was there, I didn't see anyone studying thai get a 90 day extension of stay (the maximum allowed for studying thai in a private thai language school). The most I saw people get were 60 days. I saw some people get only 30 days and some got the 7 dayz to get outta dodge (emergency extension). Those people were told to go get a new ED visa outside the country and start over. One guy had paperwork from his school saying he'd attended class the required 8 hours a week, BUT when the officer looked at his passport it showed he'd left thailand and was in Singapore when the school's time sheet said he was in Bangkok attending class! He got 30 dayz, ONLY because when he was questioned he said he was attending class via Skype!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why this all came about. Seeing as there is NO viable long term way for someone under 50, not married to a thai national, not raising half-thai kidz and not legally working here to stay in thailand the ED visa became the "catch all". Especially when Immigrations cracked down on "border-bouncerz" (people who were living here via the visa exempt program).

There are more than a few schools out there (which I will NOT name) who sell their thai language program as a; pay for schooling and then don't come study sort of plan. Every 90 days those students would show up at the school, get paperwork which said they'd attended class and go get a 90 day extension at immigrations without a problem. Immigrations was made aware of this somehow and started their own 'vetting procedure'.

Now the testing is NOT fair, it is not well thought out, and rather than single out the schools which are nothing more than visa mills, they did a typical thai knee-jerk reaction (as thai bureaucracy always does) and penalized EVERYONE on an ED visa studying thai... Interestingly enough people studying English, Korean, Japanese, or any language NOT thai weren't even questioned, they just got their 90 day extensions..

The ED visa area at Chaengwattana is totally packed with people from 8:30 in the morning when they open and they're the last section to close EVERY nite! I talked to one officer there who said they finally got to go home after 7:30 in the evening. FWIW: Immigrations closes at 4:30, so that was 3 hours AFTER the entire places shuts down..

I've got text books from probably 15 different private thai language schools (NO I didn't attend them! I had people who were attending them buy me the books). I'm going to Immigrations tomorrow to show the officers in the ED visa section what the text books from different schools look like and how the methods being used to teach thai to foreigners at various schools differ from each other. When I mentioned to one officer that different schools taught thai differently, he was very surprised. He thought if they were all MOE approved schools they'd all teach thai the same way. Quite honestly, Immigrations does NOT want to be the 'gate keeper' for ED visas for foreigners learning thai, BUT by the same token, to a person those officers feel, IF a foreigner is enrolled in a thai class, they want them to actually be showing up in class and learning Thai! I hope and pray, once they know/understand that different schools teach via different methodologies they may change their 'testing procedures'..

It's really tough and my heart goes out to the thai students enrolled in those Union Clone School intensive 3 hours a day 5 days a week programs who were put thru the wringer by being asked to write their name in thai, write their address, or read thai off a paper..

All I can see as far as what will come about from these changes if they stay this way is: Private thai language schools will start "teaching the test". By that I mean they will start teaching students what Immigrations expects students to know after their first 90 days. It doesn’t mean the student knows any practical thai, ONLY that students will know how to pass the testing and get their 90 day extension.. It’s not going stop the exploitation of the ED visa system it's just gonna make schools (who teach thai via a sucky method) find a work around to the system.

IF any students of thai have been to immigrations in Bangkok and have a story to share about their extension if stay, please respond to this..

That’s all I got, hope it was somewhat helpful.. :)
Whoever said 'Money can't buy you love or joy' obviously was not making enough money. <- Quote by Gene $immon$ of the rock group KISS
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