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Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education
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    Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education
    Monday, July 28th, 2014

    Thailand'™s crackdown on people living and working on tourist visas will have far-reaching effects in several sectors, not the least of which is education. English teachers who have not been able to secure work permits may soon face unemployment or an uphill battle to get the documents needed to work there legally.

    In the past, some schools hired foreign teachers and had them work on tourist visas to avoid the time and expense of getting work permits. But with immigration vowing to weed out those living in Thailand without the proper long-term visas, the days of getting around those regulations may be coming to a close.

    Another concern is Thailand'™s English proficiency rates ahead of the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) integration in 2015.

    There are a number of factors at play in the teacher work permit issue. One problem is that smaller schools simply don'™t have the manpower to oversee the lengthy and expensive visa and work permit process for foreign teachers. Richard Barrow, a Thailand-based travel blogger who also works as a recruiter and liaison for foreign teachers, said securing a work permit can take up to two months and requires extensive paperwork and correspondence with several different offices.

    Large, well-funded schools that can hire administrative staff to handle these tasks do fine. But those that can'™t afford an admin personnel don'™t have the capacity to go through the process for every foreign teacher. The teachers would have a hard time navigating the process by themselves, as there are several bureaucratic steps that need to be taken and require assistance from a more knowledgable colleague.

    'œIt'™s very difficult to apply for the visa and work permit by yourself,' Barrow said. The teachers 'œneed collaboration with the school. The school doesn'™t always have the resources to do it.'

    That'™s when the tourist visa or border run route become attractive. Until recently, teachers could do an in-and-out border run once a month, granting them a 30-day stay each time. Alternatively, some would get tourist visas that allow for up to three months in the country per entry (each entry is good for 60 days, after which visa holders can apply for a 30-day extension). But border runs are becoming a thing of the past, especially ahead of Aug. 12, when immigration will be enforcing the laws more strictly. A tourist visa may not even cut it now, as anyone believed to be working in Thailand without proper documentation can be refused admittance. That creates an even greater hassle for teachers who are often saddled with the cost of the visa, plus expenses for leaving the country to apply for the visa and work permit.

    'œA complaint you often hear from teachers is the school does not pay, at least not for all the expenses. And it can be very expensive,' said Phil Williams, who runs the popular teaching site ajarn.com. 'œThey have to find train tickets, accommodation. When you'™re only earning 30,000 baht (US$943) a month, it'™s a lot of money out of your paycheck. Teachers have always complained about having to pay for visa runs themselves, but what'™s important now is that you'™ve got the risk of not getting back.'

    Working on a tourist visa or with a visa exemption stamp is illegal. But it is also the only option for teachers who do not have a bachelor'™s degree, a prerequisite for obtaining a work permit to teach English. Although some say it'™s for the best that those teachers without degrees be rooted out, Barrow disagrees.
    'œThat'™s not necessarily fair,' Barrow said. 'œJust because you don'™t have a bachelor'™s degree doesn'™t mean you can'™t be a good teacher. We'™ve got people who'™ve been in Thailand teaching for five or 10 years. I feel sorry for them, [the restriction is] not necessarily fair. Some of them are experienced and are good teachers.'

    Paul Garrigan, a freelance writer and former teacher, also said the degree requirement is not the best way to ensure schools hire good instructors.
    'œIt is reasonable that Thailand wants to attract the best teachers, but the authorities are going about it the wrong way,' Garrigan said via email. 'œI have a PGCE, but I know plenty of non-degree teachers who are more capable than I am to manage a classroom and get the most out of students. I would feel better putting my son in a classroom with a teacher who was passionate about the job rather than with someone who just has the right paperwork.'
    The work permit problem has been an ongoing one, something Garrigan can attest to. He began teaching in 2002, and recalled his employer'™s reluctance to help him get the right paperwork.

    'œI was promised a work permit, but my boss kept on coming up with excuses for why it was being delayed. I was told this delay was normal and not to worry about it,' Garrigan said. 'œI'™ve heard from other lots of other people who have also been put in the position of working illegally due to broken promises by employers. I would imagine the majority of teachers in Thailand start off by working illegally while on tourist visas.'

    Stricter enforcement of the rules and a less-than-attractive compensation package may also keep teachers away from Thailand. Williams noted that although living expenses have increased in Thailand during the past several decades, particularly in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, teacher salaries have not gone up by much.

    The combination of relatively low pay and the uncertainty of getting a work permit will likely have qualified teachers looking elsewhere in Asia for employment. Countries such as South Korea offer attractive teaching packages, a good starting salary, and assistance with obtaining the proper work permits. Someone looking to make money and possibly pay off debt back home will find it hard to turn an offer like that down in favor of work in Thailand. Japan and China are also more attractive destinations in certain respects.

    Williams speculated that Thailand will increasingly become a destination for 'œgap year' teachers willing to do a three- to six-month stint with a school. Agencies offer teachers perks such as airport pick-up and guaranteed employment, and can make handsome fees off travelers doing a tour of the region. The gap year trend is not ideal by quality teaching standards, but it solves the problem for schools that can'™t afford to go through the work permit process, or are reluctant to do so.

    How many people will be affected by the crackdown is hard to pin down, Williams said. Especially with teachers working on tourist visas, it'™s difficult to know how many are employed in Thailand. But he predicted the stricter regulations will impact a significant number of people.

    Another concern is Thailand'™s English proficiency rates ahead of the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) integration in 2015. The Ministry of Education allocated more than 500 million baht (US$15.7 million) to help students improve their English skills, according to The Nation. If the problem seems to affect Thailand'™s competitiveness in the regional community, Williams said the government may loosen the restrictions or make changes to the existing guidelines.

    'œOf course you'™ve got the whole Asian concept, the whole Thai concept of losing face, so if a few months down the line the schools are saying '˜we'™ve got no teachers,'™ they might find some ways to subtly backtrack,' he said.

    'œWhat I hope is that the government will realize this is a problem sooner rather than later and will make the process of schools getting work permits easier for the schools and teachers,' Barrow said. 'œIf they are serious about getting English in the schools, they have to do something.'

    Schools that cannot afford to bring on long-term English teachers may resort to having Thai teachers instruct the English lessons. But this is less than ideal, Williams said, since they often teach the lessons still using Thai.
    'œThe reality is most Thai teachers just don'™t speak English well enough to be able to teach it effectively,' Garrigan said.
    Both Williams and Barrow said it'™s too soon to tell what the impact will be. Barrow said most schools will likely have enough teachers to get through the next term, but may see shortages come November if teachers on tourist visas are unable to get back in the country. He said many schools and teachers are likely hoping immigration will loosen enforcement standards again, but that they should not get their hopes up.
    'œIt'™s going to carry on like this,' he said. 'œYou'™re going to find a lot of schools aren'™t going to be able to afford the teachers.'
    Willams shares that sentiment, suggesting many small schools may face a shortage in the coming months.
    'œI think a lot of schools will just do without,' he said. 'œWhat else could possibly happen?"

    By Casey Hynes

    http://www.chiangraitimes.com/thaila...education.html

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    Re: Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    I took note of this article being a bit more than a year old, but thought it relevant anyway since visa information is always pertinent, at least in my opinion.

    My apologies in case this is a repeat.

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    Re: Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    "One problem is that smaller schools simply don€™t have the manpower to oversee the lengthy and expensive visa and work permit process for foreign teachers. Richard Barrow, a Thailand-based travel blogger who also works as a recruiter and liaison for foreign teachers, said securing a work permit can take up to two months and requires extensive paperwork and correspondence with several different offices."

    Absolute balderdash, the cost of a visa is 2k, a new issue wp is 3.1k and an extension is 1.9k, and most employers in the education sector will get the teacher to pay these fees. So cost is not an issue. Getting a wp takes on average..............a week, not months.

    The problem is people like Richard Barrow scaremongering and giving out incorrect information. He seems to publish whatever "news" he likes in the hope of driving traffic to his website.

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    Re: Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    Thank you for your comment.

    Firstly I didn't write that article and the link goes to Chiang Rai Times and not my own website. So, I am not sure why you are saying I'm trying to drive people to my blog.

    Secondly, I have 22 years of experience of helping to process applications for dozens and dozens of foreign teachers. What I told this reporter was that it can take several months to prepare and process all the documents needed for the extension of stay and work permit. There are many steps to be taken which also includes visiting the Education Ministry to get a temporary exemption for the teacher's license. There are also documents that have to be translated from English to Thai. We also take them to the hospital for a medical. It is not a quick process.

    Thirdly, my school, and most I know, pay for the work permit, medical check up, and extension of stay.

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    Re: Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    8 days - start to finish, that is what it took for me to get my Non-B, medical, work permit and then extension...................8 days.

    If it is taking months, then someone somewhere is not doing their job.

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    Re: Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    "There are also documents that have to be translated from English to Thai" - what documents are these ?

    The degree, transcripts and TEFL certificate don't need to be translated. The contract will be in both Thai and English anyway, so no translation needed there.

    So what else would be in English that needs translating ?

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    Re: Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    Eight days from getting your 90 day Non-B to finishing everything? You have to wait several months before Immigration will allow you to extend it. Hence why I said it takes several months. We start the process the day the teachers arrive by translating their degree and letter from their college. We also do background checks on them which takes time. Then, a month before the visa is due to expire we submit the documents for work permit and extension of stay.

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    Re: Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    Personally I believe a country needs to fix the work visa process rather than have people ignore the laws for sake of expediency.

    To me, that is crucial to having a nation where "Rule of Law" has any meaning.

    RickThai

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    Re: Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Barrow View Post
    Eight days from getting your 90 day Non-B to finishing everything? You have to wait several months before Immigration will allow you to extend it. Hence why I said it takes several months. We start the process the day the teachers arrive by translating their degree and letter from their college. We also do background checks on them which takes time. Then, a month before the visa is due to expire we submit the documents for work permit and extension of stay.
    Yes 8 days, but then I am in the wilds, and I think them doing the extension early is for their benefit, not mine. The degree does not need translating ? I didn't have a letter from my college, so maybe that is a new thing ? (I got my stuff done in Jan this year). Background checks are not part of the process for Immigration or the Department of Labour, so you can't really count the time it takes to get them. If you only submit the documents for the work permit and extension on about day 60, that would imply that your teacher has been working illegally for 2 months ?

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    Re: Thailand Visa Crackdown Likely to Impact English Education

    Interesting this article was dredged up from July 28 2014 which was BEFORE the new Police Order concerning extensions of stay came out revising the policies.

    I'm going to side with bigt116 on a LOT of this..

    There are more than a few errors;

    smaller schools simply don't have the manpower to oversee the lengthy and expensive visa and work permit process for foreign teachers.
    That statement is blatantly FALSE.. The smaller schools don't know HOW to process the paperwork. It's got nothing to do with man-power and everything to do with the fixation on 'not losing face' by telling the foreign teacher the school doesn't know how to get a Non-B and a work permit. Once a school figures out how to do it, it's the same time after time.. They just won't invest the time to figure it out the first time..

    It is neither perilous nor all that hard to get the documents compiled to get a proper Non-B 90 day visa and then an extension for the remainder of the contract. Nor is it tough to get a work permit. It's also NOT expensive.. A 90 day Non-B is 2000 baht, an extension of stay for the rest of your contract is 1900 baht, and if I'm not mistaken a first time work permit is about 3100 baht (100 baht application fee, 3000 baht for a year work permit). So all in we're looking at a WHOPPING 7000 baht in government fees to get legal. That's peanuts!! It also doesn't have to take MONTHS unless the school has NO clue about what do to. I've personally seen it done pretty darned fast by a school that knows what they're doing. I've also seen people have a visa exempt stamp, go get the WP3 (proof of application for a work permit), get a Non-B inside the country AND their years extension of stay in one trip to immigrations. Then they just to go DOL and get the work permit issued in sync with the extension..

    A BIG reason schools will hire foreigners thru agencies and not be in a rush to get them legal is; even though the thai labor laws cover illegal workers, few foreigners would go to the Department of Labor Protection and file a complaint against a school or agency over a grievance. The fear foreigners here have of thai officialdom is just mind wobbling.. Even though IF a foreigner filed a complaint and it was justified the department of labor protection would pursue the complaint for the foreigner for FREE. Whether they were legal or not has no bearing on the case because Labor Protection doesn't do work permit enforcement they handle disputes between employers and employees ONLY.

    The pervasive attitude is the real deal breaker.. Also the fact that a LOT of foreign teachers are sourced for schools by agencies who don't offer support in this area for their teachers. Having foreigners work illegally makes them open to being taken advantage of, being exploited, and always being on egg-shells in case the school fires them. You want total control over someone, keep them scared! I know a TON of public schools which hire foreign teachers of english like this.

    As far as AEC and english proficiency.. All I've seen thailand do is pay lip service to wanting to increase their english proficiency.. I've never seen them do any sweeping changes to their programs, to their curriculum or anything of the sort. They're at the bottom of the curve as far as cranking out even semi-proficient english speakers and I'm sure once AEC opens up there will be a plethora of excuses why thailand couldn't pre-act to this and instead does some knee-jerk reaction..

    Sheesh, I read in the paper the other day they were offering classes in Vietnamese, Burmese and another language to "better communicate with our ASEAN partners".. Hang about, last time I checked they decided a long time ago ENGLISH was gonna be the language between the countries.

    As it is now, there are just too many foreigners coming here, fresh off the boat with the "I'm going to teach english in thailand" bug. The constant influx more than make up for the disenchanted ones who get chewed up and spit out by the system as it is today.

    About the only thing I'd wholeheartedly agree with is; a foreigner can throw a dart at almost any other S/E Asian country and go make far more money legally hawking english there than they ever can here.

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