Does your school have a work permit and visa superhero?
I remember back to a language school I worked at many years ago and the legend that was Khun Oat. He was tall, slim, good-looking and outrageously camp in the nicest possible way. Khun Oat was employed by the school to take charge of two main jobs - and he was brilliant at both of them! To the school owner and to the teachers, he was worth his weight in Thai gold.
The host with the most
If the language school held an event such as a students evening or if there a bunch of VIPs coming to visit, Khun Oat was immediately put in charge of the hosting duties. If balloons needed to be hung from the ceiling and nibbles arranged fastidiously on silver trays, Oat was your man! Then cometh the hour, put a microphone in his hand and he become a sort of drag queen-cum-master of ceremonies - but thankfully without the feathers and sequins.
King of the immigration office
Oat's other main job - and the reason the foreign teachers loved him so much - was to take care of visa applications and work permits. And he was the work permit and visa application guru.
I never once saw him refer to a checklist but he knew every application form and photocopy necessary in order to make processes go smoothly. But it was at the labour department and immigration offices where Khun Oat came into his own.
I accompanied him a couple of times to these government departments and to watch him interact with Thai civil servants was to watch a master at work. Everyone loved Khun Oat! He knew the staff he could joke around with, the ones he could flatter and the staff who appreciated 'a box of chocolates' in return for their service. But he never once took his eyes off the objective - to leave with either a work permit book or an appropriate visa stamp.
A 24/7 helping hand
In the afternoon, with his main jobs accomplished, Khun Oat would mince around the school corridors looking for anyone who needed his assistance. If a teacher had a problem with their apartment building or needed help communicating with a member of the Thai staff, Oat was the go-to guy.
The only time the work stopped was if Oat was walking past a TV and they played the latest pop video from one of his favourite boy bands. Oat would spend the next three minutes practicing his elaborate dance moves in readiness for a big Saturday night out in Boys Town. The teachers just loved this guy! I don't know what became of him but I'm sure he's been a great success in whatever career path he eventually chose.
So does your school or agency have a Khun Oat? - someone who takes away all those red tape headaches? Or is your place of employment generally clueless about immigration / ministry of labor procedures and the teachers are left to fight for themselves? Do you feel your employer could do better in this department?
Here's what the teachers said........
I've been doing all the compiling and filing of my own documents for four years at the same school. It's a real pain in the ass but it is so much better to do it on your own and to be familiar with the processes - and make sure that I am working legally here.
The large agency that I work for also has a 'Khun Oat' and I think he's the best one out there. The agency has over 230 employees and he gets the job done! He even knows all of the teachers by name.
Yes, at my agency we have a member of staff called Fon and she specializes in all this stuff. She got my work permit and visa for me. Without her my life would be tougher in Thailand.
We have a wonderful woman working at my school who is very good and getting all of us foreigners legal. Unfortunately the new director is thinking of switching to an agency, taking all that out of her hands.
My company not only has a great Thai staff person in charge of this sort of thing but also employs a lawyer to make everything so much easier. I'm lucky!
The private school I used to work for had someone who used to work for immigration doing that. They never had a problem until she went on maternity leave and suddenly all the teachers were having problems with their visas.
My school does a great job of taking care of it for 30 foreign teachers!
We have a couple of staff members who are quite good about getting our documents sorted for us, and even help out and do our 90-day reports. For the our visa renewals, they invited immigration to come visit our school for a couple of hours on a Saturday and everything got sorted.