Where to start? I guess I should begin with an overview of my history with Thailand, where I am now and how I reached this point.
My first trip to Thailand was in April 2008. Before that trip I had never considered a visit to Southeast Asia and it was a friend of mine that first suggested we take a "lads holiday". It was the same friend that thought of Thailand as a possible destination, somewhere he had visited with his ex-girlfriend.
At that time I was 27 years old, single, with money to burn and it had been years since my last holiday abroad. I must admit my view of Thailand before that trip fell into the same stereotypical view that most first-timers have. The image in my head was of ladyboys, gogo bars, buddhist temples and poor rice farmers. I had no idea or real interest in the complexities involved with Thai culture and relationships.
One thing for certain, that first trip changed my life and the view I had of Thailand forever. I met a girl, and remained in contact with her after returning to England. Within a year I had returned to Thailand for a further two trips to visit her. On those visits I was introduced to a side of Thailand away from the touristy beach locations and ex-pat bars. I visited her family in the northeast, Isaan and was able to experience the "real Thailand" that so many westerners never see.
That relationship lasted a little over a year. There were none of the thai girl horror stories you hear so much about with us. Long distance relationships are hard and some don't work out, nothing more to it than that, but I learned a lot in that year. I tried to settle back into some kind of normal life in the months following that relationship but I could never seem to shake off the hold that Thailand had over me.
Several months later in April 2010, I decided to take another trip with the intention of catching up with some friends which I had made on previous trips and also to see whether Thailand still held the same draw for me. I went with no intention of becoming involved with another girl.....but again it didn't quite work out like that.
So in April of 2010 I met Janny and with a little help from mother nature, we spent just short of one month together. That trip was originally supposed to be for a little over two weeks. However, it was at this time that the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland was causing chaos all over Europe. My scheduled flight home was cancelled and I spent an extra ten days in Thailand with Janny. I'm not sure whether I believe in fate, but if it wasn't for that volcano, I really don't think we would be where we are today.
I returned home and remained in contact, but after my experience with my ex-girlfriend I was a little reluctant to become involved in another long distance relationship. But the weeks went by and we grew closer and I returned six months later to visit Janny. On that trip we visited Isaan where we spent time in Janny's home town of Maha Sarakham and also Khon Kaen before heading down to the islands. We grew very close and it broke my heart to leave, but again I returned home and continued to talk with Janny via Skype everyday after work.
After another visit the pressure to pay for the trips was catching up with me and so we started looking at a way forward for us. I had already looked at ways for me to stay in Thailand which for me just seemed impossible and so we had to find another way to be together. The only option left open to us was for Janny to come and live with me in the UK and so we decided to marry and apply for a settlement visa. This was two months before I was due back for another trip in May 2011 but not enough time to put the settlement application together and finalise everything. I decided that we should finalise some of the legal requirements on that trip in May and so we were legally married on 10th May 2011. (I will make a seperate post detailing the legal aspect of marriage within Thailand as it's too much to cover in a few sentences). One of the other things Janny managed to complete was a test to satisfy the English language requirement for the visa. This requirement was brought into effect in November 2010 for anyone wishing to settle in the UK. Again I will make another post detailing the English test.
So I've been home a little over a month now and my wife Janny is still in Thailand. I have started compiling together the masses of evidence required and building our settlement file. The fact that we have done the legal marriage and English test will save us a lot of time and running around on my next visit to submit the application so that has taken some pressure off. There are still some things that Janny will need to do before I head back, such as the TB test and she is planning on heading to Bangkok next month to do that. I have my flight booked and will head back to Thailand in September to submit Janny's application.
That's a brief summary but pretty much brings us up to date. One thing I have found frustrating so far relating to the visa process, is the (lack of) information provided by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). I have constantly found myself having to look to internet forums for advice and guidance due to the vague nature of the information given by the UKBA. An example of this is the A1 English language test requirement which I'll cover in another post. This is the main reason behind starting this blog. I hope that my experience of actually going through each stage will help clarify some of the processes for anyone looking to do the same.