Surreal Relations: The Sex Industry of Vietnam
Sex tourism offers the key to a deeper understanding of the real nature of the
global economy, of the true meaning of so-called 'interdependence' between
profoundly unequal partners.
By Jeremy Seabrook
Third World Network Features
Pursuit of Bliss is for dreamers to be shattered by
This issue has a peculiar poignancy, for the relationship between rich tourists
and the sex workers they meet in Thailand or the Philippines. It is one of the
rare occasions where privilege confronts poverty face to face. In this sense,
sex tourism makes tangible one small part of a fateful global relationship,
whereby the rich depend for their comfort and advantage upon the labor of the
poor. The West usually perceives this relationship to be the opposite of what it
is: we, by means of aid, humanitarian assistance, the promotion of 'free trade'
and the market economy, like to think we are contributing towards the
'development' of the poor, towards global economic growth, the creation of
wealth, with all the benefits that flow from these things to the disadvantaged.
This ensures that, for the most part, the global connections remain hidden, and
the serene confidence of the West in its own goodness is maintained. Who from
the West ever seeks to make friends, for instance, with the half million young
women working in the garments industry of Dhaka, whose daily labor furnishes us
with so many items of cheap daily wear - shirts, trousers, jeans, jackets,
blouses? The slum hutments around the polluted ponds of Dhaka in which these
young women live are not our concern, any more than is their daily remuneration
of - on average - US$0.66.
The curiosity of people is not aroused by the army of Chinese workers who
provide most of the toys which make the eyes of Western children shine on
Christmas morning. Who asks in what conditions they work, how much they earn,
how they live, what pressures have driven them into the factories and sweatshops
of the city?
Similarly, the greatest obscurity envelops the lives of those whose efforts
supply us with the kinds of luxury food that are available in any Western
supermarket: fruit and vegetables from Venezuela, Zambia, Jordan, Zimbabwe,
Kenya, Ivory Coast, Brazil. Whose land has been used to facilitate the export of
these amenities, which subsistence farmers have ceased to be self-reliant in the
Similarly, who is bothered by the frightful industrial suburbs of Jakarta, whose
occupants assemble electronic goods for world-wide distribution, or labor for
sub-contractors to the transnationals, whose names are known to all. The global
market has this immense advantage for the rich, that it sets up an almost total
segregation between producers and consumers, an unacknowledged form of
apartheid, which effectively obscures the connections between them. This, in
turn, permits 'sovereign' consumers to consider only how they will spend their
precious money, as though this bore no relation to the ways in which the goods
they purchase are produced; and leaves ample space for the advertisers and
publicists, whose job it is to cleanse all the objects of consumption of the
filth, blood and pain with which they are created.
This is why the sex industry is significant and symbolic. It is one of the few
arenas where people from North and South and east & West actually meet one
another, where living humanity comes face to face with the reality of its own
experience. Surely, nothing more direct, immediate and inescapable could be
And yet, these encounters remain, for the most part, full of lies, evasions,
pretence and illusion. It should not be thought that while the real relationship
between rich and poor remains in perpetual fog, mere flesh-and-blood meetings
are going to dispel the cloud of unknowing in which these actually take place.
There is a broad pattern in the relationships that develop between Westerners
and the young women and men whose lives they touch on their gilded and temporary
migrations to the South.
Of course, some individual attachments become permanent; some grow and develop
into enduring friendship. Lasting relationships, successful marriages do occur.
For the casual tourist, there are brief meetings without consequences and no
tomorrows. But many foreigners find themselves enchanted, attracted by the
apparently compliant, welcoming and tender ministrations of Thai sex workers.
Their experience of Western sex workers is that they tend to be functional,
mechanistic and loveless. When they meet Thai women, they believe they have
found something special. The seemingly warm and affectionate sensibility of
Thais makes them feel they have transcended the crude market transaction and
Those who have recently 'discovered' Thailand can be heard praising the
superiority of Thai over Western women. 'They are all woman.' 'They know how to
give a man what he wants.' 'She cannot do enough for me.' 'When I go into the
bathroom in the morning, I find the toothpaste already squeezed onto the brush -
that's what I call caring.' Of course, in this version of woman as nurturer and
as sensual Oriental there are sexist and racist stereotypes, which the delighted
punter does not perceive.
What he also does not realise is that there may well be a whole network of
extended family in the village depending upon the remittance of the woman who
is, after all, a sex worker. There may be children, elderly parents, brothers
and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins whose survival is guaranteed only by her
earnings. He believes that he is loved for himself. As one worker said, 'There
is no man so repelling, so arrogant, so devoid of charm who does not think in
his heart that he is loveable.' The monetary transaction becomes buried in a
haze of emotion.
Only when he discovers that he is expected to pay for and help keep many
dependents, when he learns there is a hospital operation for a grandmother
urgently needed, a brother to be put through school, a vegetable plot to be
bought for a poor relative, he becomes swiftly disillusioned. The demands for
more money force him to reevaluate the relationship. Self-righteous anger and
resentment come to the surface. He begins to see himself as victim.
'I was conned, cheated, betrayed.' He reaches for other, racist stereotypes
which are always readily available in the Western psyche. 'You can't trust
them.' 'You never know what they're thinking.' 'They're dishonest, treacherous.'
'You can't trust them.'
This second stereotype is already implicit in the first. The Eastern woman as
sensual and instinctively seductive becomes the scheming, duplicitous whore. As
Siriporn Skrobanek of the Foundation for Women in Bangkok says, 'In no other
country do people expect to establish long-term relationships with sex workers;
nowhere else in the world do they even think of marrying them. So what is going
on in their head, when they meet women in clubs, bars and brothels?'
The transnational sex industry is unique in that it makes explicit the
underlying relationship between North and South, between privilege and
oppression. But it does not make that connection clear to the actors in these
sad, doomed dramas. The men all too often return home full of bitterness and
anger. They, whose money buys them the right to travel half way round the world
to make use of the sexual services of the poor, become sour and self-pitying, as
though they were the victims of a global system of which they are supposed to be
In a deeper sense, of course, they are. For as they take the unacknowledged
luggage of strange unappeased hungers on their travels, as they seek to assuage
who knows what aching absences and internal emptiness in their lives, they are
showing the limits of the rich market economies to answer many basic human
needs. That they imagine they will transcend this by rushing to find some exotic
commodity not available on the home market, is a sad paradox; for in their
flight from broken relationships, ruined marriages, spoiled loves, they find
they have a rendezvous with the same market which offers only different
packaging and alternative selling strategies to those which they have left
Sex tourism offers the key to a deeper understanding of the real nature of the
global economy, of the true meaning of so-called 'interdependence' between
profoundly unequal partners. It might have been thought that where rich meet
poor face to face, where flesh and blood establish some of the most intimate
relationships which human beings are capable of, that those involved might
That they do not demonstrates the power of ideologies of superiority. Even when
Western men have been compelled to revise some of their sexist convictions at
home, as soon as they travel abroad, these readily spring back to life,
reinforced by some of the variants of a racism which they have scarcely begun to
- Third World Network Features
Good guys and bad ladies of the night!
This article is from The Thailand Guru
Ploymitr Bldg., Floor 7
Sukhumvit soi 2
Klongtoey Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110 THAILAND
Riviera Tower 3, 226/15-16 Bond St., Muang Thong Thani
Pakkred, Nonthaburi, Bangkok 11120 THAILAND
First of all, I must state the fact that I know several
guys who have former bargirls as wives, and the ladies are exceptionally good
wives. They cook, they clean meticulously, they serve their husband, and they
put out an equitable effort to help their husbands in day to day life. They go
to school to improve their English, and they complete their coursework for
their level at a reasonable rate. They are full partners in a relationship.
However, these are the exceptions to the rule. Far more
commonly, a nice guy puts out all the effort, and money, and gets burned in
the end by an ungrateful and lazy bum of a lady who carelessly does things to
piss off their husband/boyfriend (e.g., neglectful of his needs and/or blows
money despite budget arguments and/or is unfaithful). When it comes time to
part ways, she takes all she can get and makes his life miserable, in a most
When you're a guy in Thailand who starts talking with
prostitutes, you find a few who say clearly that they do not want to do what
they are doing, but they have no money, no skill, and few alternatives. You
want to help, feeling that they've just had bad luck in life.
Many of these ladies are quite pleasant and calm. Others
have a lot of energy and hustle at what they do. Some even have considerable
education, e.g., are attending the university and supporting themselves by
"working" on men at discos.
I'm an entrepreneur with 16 years of continuous
self-employment and hiring people. I can always find something profitable for
people to do in order to sustain themselves in society, including Thais from
top to bottom. However, after several attempts at hiring university level
ladies who asked me to hire them out of prostitution, and other freelancer
down the skills scale, for anything from running messenger errands around town
(low education), to answering the phone and making simple phone calls (medium
education), to simple computer tasks (university level), I now must agree with
my predecessors in this regard -- you will almost surely get burned.
The following describes some of my experiences. I have had
0% success with hiring ladies of the night who ask for and agree to a job,
though admittedly it's a sample of less than 10, and I gave up a long time ago
in view of alternative sources of hiring such as word of mouth in my Thai
communities. However, I know a lot of good guys who have tried the same thing.
The success of my associates is also pretty close to zero.
We always offer them more money than what other Thais are
eager to work for, wage levels and job descriptions that many self-disciplined
Thais would consider fortunate to get. However, the freelance prostitutes fail
to be nearly as reliable or do acceptable quality of service. Fortunately, we
usually don't even have to fire them. They just don't show up for work after
awhile ... that is, they don't show up at the office, but they do show up at
the discos again.
In considering "saving" a prostitute, guys lower their
expectations for the lady's standard of work and professionality, and
dramatically up the salary and fringe benefits.
I am sure that there are some prostitutes out there who
would do a good job if given an opportunity, and be very appreciative.
However, they are a very small percent, and I haven't met them in all my years
(If you want to know why the go-go bars are so strict and
"cruel" by deducting a baht per minute for late ladies, and strict in
enforcing that rule, this is why. As bar owners have told me, it's the only
way to get them to work on time. Some companies have adopted this policy for
professional employees, too.)
First, they usually don't show up for work on time, if at
all. Secondly, if they do show up, then they aren't as good a worker as
others, and often do careless work. You care for them, but they don't care
much for your business and your clients. Why should you care any more?
In the end:
You have wasted effort, money and precious time
Your heart has been torn and your faith in mankind has
disappeared as fast as your money!
Some things you expected to get done in your business
and/or your surreal relationship just never materialize!
Fortunately, thanks to some of my predecessors sharing
their wisdom with me, as I am sharing my experiences with you, I myself did
not lose heavily. However, I know guys who tried to set up their former
prostitute girlfriend in a business of their own and lost a LOT of money. Some
have been successful, but they are just a very small percentage -- the
exceptions to the rule. Far more commonly, the lady neglects to do what she
says, spends the money irresponsibly "like there's no tomorrow", and sometimes
outright scams the guy.
LISTEN TO THESE GUYS. Make up your own mind, but do listen,
and look for the warning signs.
Hearing many of their stories, I quickly see their mistakes
from the start, and excuse them for being new to Thailand. On the other hand,
I learned some painful lessons several times over in my 9 years here. Each
time, I raised my threshold for helping people.
I really don't like to be negative, and I hope that my
experience was unlucky, but let me share with you my experiences.
First of all, unlike some other foreigners, I don't tell
ladies what they should do, or lead ladies too much. I don't do that with
anyone. For example, when I interview people for a job, I must see initiative
from them, and I hire only those who express initiative.
I am guilty of lowering my standards when it comes to
helping a lady get off the street. I have also been wrong to believe that they
would appreciate it and try to help me back. The same goes for some of my
Let's go thru some of our experiences.
I've changed the names to protect the not-so-innocent.
Noot was intelligent, street-smart and had a lot of energy.
She could speak English well, and could read and write it fairly well, too.
She could do email. Noot hung out at the open air beer bars but I never saw
her flirting with men. She talked more with other women, a joker, and just
watched people coming and going, with no interaction with men. She was a
friend who was somewhat interesting to talk with, but not someone to have a
sexual relationship with, and I made it clear that I did not have sexual
interest in her. (She is quite pretty, nonetheless, but just not my type.) She
expressed that she didn't like going with men, but she could not do get a job
to make enough money to support herself, her son (foreign father long gone and
she hated him) and crippled father.
She asked about me, and I explained my business with her.
She expressed interest in helping me, including stating some solutions to some
problems I had. I was fairly impressed. She seemed perfect for a particular
role. I just had street errands for her to do for starters, as her first test,
but she was happy with that, as she needed a financial break.
She had sold her mobile for needed cash but had an active
SIM card, so I gave her an old mobile handphone of mine, and since she had
only 78 baht credit, I also got a 300 baht recharge card, and gave her a
little bit of cash to eat and general expenses for several days. (I figured it
would take just one day to test her.) I told her to wait for my calls.
I immediately sent her an SMS on the way home that night
with a concrete task for the next day. That next day, at the end of the day
when I had some time, I called her to find out how she'd done. She hadn't done
the task, and didn't want to talk about the SMS. She just wanted to meet with
me to talk more about the possibility of her working for me. What DID she do
that day? She didn't have anything to report, and pressing the matter I found
that she had just sat around at home.
I sensed that she wanted to meet just to pressure me
face-to-face for more money. I've heard this before. Nonetheless, I had
already invested too much of my own time thinking about her, and wanted some
answers to some questions about her past. I'd jotted them down on a pad,
preparing for an interview. I had nothing to lose, and if the interview went
bad and she just asked for money then I'd get my phone back.
I decided to meet at a quiet place outside the bars, and
stated a specific place halfway, careful to pick a place where numerous air
conditioned buses go and there were nice coffee shops. It would be a 30 minute
ride for her in traffic.
However, then she complained about meeting me halfway. It
was a cheap bus ride on a main route from her home, yet she complained about
the taxi fare, and in a tone like she was seeking excuses not to go. She
wanted me to come all the way to her. Then, while I was talking, she just
started yelling at someone else, not giving me her undivided attention. I felt
disrespected, and in response my tone got more disciplinarian, stating to her
that if she wanted to work with me then she would need to be more
professional. She lost her self-control and started yelling at ME about how I
was letting her down and screamed "f*** you!" twice in the phone and hung up.
(Ten minutes later, she called me but I had moved back to working with my
other employees and didn't bother to answer.)
Maybe her explosiveness is why her farang boyfriend left
her for friend (and now ex-friend).
I still feel sorry for her, but she had her chance with me
and she blew it. There are a lot of other people in this world who I can give
a chance to, and they are more sustainable, profitable and mutually
Ae was proper and strove to run her own business selling
nice clothes, with the ultimate ambition of exporting clothes and other labor
intensive things. She had nice styles herself, clearly an artistic sort. She
also had a full high school education and had started at a university but
dropped out shortly thereafter. Her stated reason was lack of money.
I had a client who was upgrading their CAD computers and
had an idle stack of Pentium I's and 14 inch monitors. (This was MANY years
Ae had expressed interest in improving her
computer/Windows/business software skills, so I bought one from the client for
cheap, spent time reformatting and setting it up for her with good software,
bought books for her, delivered it all and helped her get started with some
personal lessons. However, when I was gone, she did nothing more than write
emails to guys. She made no progress whatsoever on our strategy. Whenever I'd
stop by with cheerful expectations, I'd be disappointed to find her just
sitting around watching trash TV. Checking the computer, she had only done
emails, visited on-line games, and other trash things. The only questions
asked was how we could get the computer to play 3D video games.
I discussed my issues gently, but she was just quiet and
pleasant, always accommodating and made plans for the next day, but never
executed them. After a few weeks of that, I just dumped that "project".
Shortly after that, she was back into the discos without money.
Jae was similar to Ae in stated aspirations. A friend of
mine sent her to BCC (Business and Computers). Unfortunately, he had to push
her out the door to get there on time, as she didn't watch the clock. When he
wasn't there, she skipped class.
Guys out of town get stories from the ladies that they are
attending classes, but having a private investigator check up on them reveals
that many do not. In fact, some go back and get a partial refund of their
Pim did more damage than any other Thai prostitute, as
regards my willingness to try to help. Same story, about how she felt very bad
about what she had done and was doing, but needed the money.
Pim was studying a difficult subject in a university, was
studious (as I observed repeatedly), was oh-so-close to graduation, and some
checking revealed that her grades were fairly good. She was in fact a good
student. I thought that if there was any prostitute who I could help get out
of the business, then Pim was her.
I went and paid her tuition for her, gave her some cash to
get her by for awhile, and by email gave her a list of phone calls to make to
get information, which she could do at her own schedule.
Unfortunately, the calls didn't get made. She would call ME
very sweetly when she needed more money, and the money seemed to go too
quickly. I knew other students who stretched their money much further. Pim was
just months from graduation if she just past her last (and most difficult)
courses, and with her degree and grades she could immediately get a good
paying job. With some excuses, I gave her a second chance. However, round two
of this got a couple of business calls made but then slacked off, not caring
about my business.
She was just another lady who was good at pleading for
help, but was not willing to help me in return. Big talk, no implementation.
Talk is easy...
The next time Pim called, I specifically raised these
principles with her. She said she was sorry, but I said I'm sorry, too, and no
"salary" until she does her work. I gave her another chance -- when the work
is completed satisfactorily, then the salary is waiting. Her response? A
pleading but increasingly aggressive "please don't do this to me, I have no
money, what will I do now, boo-hoo-hoo, please not right now, the worst
possible time, I have just 45 baht now and I was depending on you, I must
finish my classes, ..." bit.
Just a few hours before her call, a customer had called me
to pay me 2500 baht which he owed me, but wanted me to go pick it up and sign
a receipt with his accountant. I wasn't going to spend the time making a
special trip, so I had made a "someday when I'm in the area" kind of
arrangement. However, I called back and he agreed that this lady could go pick
up the money and sign for it.
The office was right along an air conditioned bus route
from her Ramkamhaeng apartment, maybe a 30 minute trip and 14 baht each way. I
called her and told her that if she went to pick up the 2500 baht, then she
could keep it all, and she'd have enough money to get by a while longer until
she could complete the other tasks I'd given her. She said OK, though not as
happily as I expected. A few hours later I called the client but he reported
no sign of her. So I called her back. She hadn't gone, sounded lazy, and at
that point she asked me to go get the money and bring it to her!
The difference between these ladies and the people I
normally hire is literally like night and day.
With normal people, no up front money to pay their
apartment, food, etc. They take the bus habitually with no complaints, not
taxis. I get the feeling that they have normal communities and "credit" among
family members and friends, and are trusted by others in their community. They
are more reasonable and composed.
I am careful about who I hire. For example, after receiving
a referral from someone, I'll call them. In the telephone interview, if their
first question is "how much is the salary" then the interview is over. If it
is about the job description, then the interview continues on to the next
levels, including the salary.
So, what are prostitutes planning?
Usually, they have no plan, except to find a rich foreign
guy willing to support them. They live day to day. They don't make much effort
to think proactively. They just follow and react to others in their
If they have a plan, then it is to sit at home and watch TV
all day, gossip with their friends, and go shopping.
If you expect them to cook special food for you or do other
considerate things -- for them to put out the same level of effort for you
that you put out for them -- then you're usually setting yourself up for
disappointment. In fact, you will be lucky if they can even manage the maid
and gain the respect of one for long.
That said, I must say that there are exceptions, as I know
guys who have wives and girlfriends who are appreciative, diligent and more
than earn their keep. (Sometimes I wonder if the guy deserves the lady!)
However, the good situations are far outweighed in sheer
numbers by the negligent ladies.
Over time, a guy becomes more and more skeptical about
ladies who express a willingness to develop a career alternative to
prostitution. Is it just easy talk, "at the moment"? That is the issue to
For awhile, I gave them credit for having the courage to
venture out into farangland in order to expand their horizons. However, more
often than not, it's just to find someone to support their lazy, ultra laid
back lifestyle, and take them away for some exciting and free (indeed,
profitable for them) vacation adventures.
You can put in a lot of effort, time and money to help
them, but when you need it in return, will they give you a significant amount
of time and effort to help you?
Don't try to make them into something they are not. They
are professional pleasers, and they will please your need to try to help them,
but most of them won't help you back. When the time comes, after they've
sucked you dry, they will just spit you out, often dramatically ... more often
If misery loves company, then let it be known that I've
known guys who have lost millions of baht ($25,000+), some their entire life
savings, all hard earned and saved. Beyond people I've known, I've also heard
of guys who have lost TENS of millions of baht. One guy married the lady and
bought a life insurance policy, assigning her as the beneficiary. Her family
hacked him to death (not very cleverly, either) in order to claim the money.
Thus, he lost not just his money, but literally his life.
If you have invested a lot of money into a lady and have
been ripped off, then be careful about trying to get any of it back,
considering the possible dangers of this pursuit.
In most Asian countries foreigners can not own property and
many put their homes and businesses in their local wife's and girlfriends
names...a big mistake!
Be thankful for what you've got, and don't expect too much!
Passport Visas for Thai Girlfriends
(in case you do find a good one)
The difficulty or ease of getting a travel visa for a Thai
lady to enter your country varies greatly from country to country. I have not
yet had the time to address the issue in regard to any countries other than my
own, the U.S., as covered below, and I would like to hereby solicit inputs
from others who are citizens of other countries so that I may post them here
for the benefit of your compatriots.
If you're legally married in Thailand, i.e., a signed,
registered marriage, which is a whole other process that will also involve
your embassy/consulate in documentation, then getting a travel visa is usually
not difficult. However, just going thru the Buddhist ceremony isn't the same
thing. (You can take lots of photos, which can help your chances in getting
another kind of travel visa, but it's not the same as a registered marriage.)
The process is for your Thai girlfriend to get a Thai
passport, then for you and her to apply at your embassy or consulate in
Bangkok for a travel visa to your country. The first thing you should do is
inquire with your consulate for a list of required documentation. You should
also seek out others from your country who have done this before, to get a
feel for how your embassy/consulate handles matters, and for tips.
Your embassy/consulate can reject a visa application
without stating any reason. Just because they have given you a list of
documentation to bring together doesn't mean that if you follow all the
procedural steps then you will get a visa.
Further, you want to give it your best shot the first time,
and not submit an application to see if it's rejected before you go to
great efforts. Your girlfriend does not want to get a rejection noted in her
passport. Notably, most embassies/consulates don't put any ugly "rejection"
stamp in the passport, but do stamp that a visa was applied for on a
particular date. If there's no corresponding visa stamp (essentially an
approval), then a subsequent officer will probably take note and read between
the lines -- a rejection. This is standard procedure. In fact, they'll often
put the "visa applied for" stamp into the passport as they're handing it back
to you after telling you that you've been rejected.
The reason for these problems is obvious. People from less
developed countries want to immigrate to rich countries so that they can work
there and make more money. If international travel were free, then the rich
countries would soon be overrun by people from less developed countries. The
domestic governments would be overwhelmed in dealing with people working and
staying there illegally. To some extent, they already are. In fact, countless
people from less developed countries get entangled in mafia circles whereby
they work in overseas sweatshops or brothels, or meet a worse fate.
Some kinds of Thais have little or no problem getting
visas. One example is wealthy businesspeople who are obviously going for
business or a short vacation. Another example is students who wish to study at
a foreign university and who have good grades, speak the foreign language very
well, and are from well to do families. Highly educated people who have a high
tech skill in short supply relative to demand in another country can often get
a visa and work permit. (The latter is an unfortunate phenomenon called "brain
drain", where the most valuable people leave their own country.)
Besides that, the things your embassy/consulate will be
looking for are reasons for them to return to Thailand, e.g., land ownership
and major assets, money in the bank over a long time (looking thru past bank
books over time), and/or a good job in Thailand. If your girlfriend has a 6th
grade Thai government school education, no business of her own, and no assets
besides a little farmland in the middle of nowhere with a buffalo, then her
chances are often slim.
Bar girls are routinely rejected. They usually can't even
read English (or any other western romanized language), are high risk to not
return before their visa expires, and are seen as likely to be prostitutes
and/or get into problems in the other country. The embassies/consulates are
also used to dealing with lonely foreigners who have come to Thailand on a
short visit and with awesome naiveté think they have met the girl of their
dreams in a bar, who they think will be grateful and loving ... blah, blah,
Finally, I would strongly advise people on two things:
Don't marry a lady just to get a travel visa. A marriage
in Thailand is recognized in the U.S., i.e., if you are legally married in
Thailand, then you are legally married in the U.S. I would not be surprised
to find that it's the same in other countries. If the relationship doesn't
work out, it may not be easy to arrange a legal divorce, plus all the
paperwork proof you'll have to bring with you, including the translation
issue, since the marriage documents in Thailand are in the Thai language.
Take your time to make sure she's really the one you want to marry. If you
think that you can get a "fiancée visa" (see below), then consider
Don't get into human trafficking. The underworld often
pays farang guys money to marry a Thai lady (sham marriage) and take her to
another country. I won't address the moral issues here, which are obvious.
Just look at the realities. If you get caught, you can get into serious
trouble, especially in your home country or as regards Thailand. Thailand's
immigration is computerized, so that they can see your history and all
associated notes. With international cooperation on these issues, even if
you change passports (e.g., losing your current one), your records may be
linked (as already reported by others in Thailand). If the lady you
"courier" gets harmed or in major trouble, you may be an accessory to that
crime. In many cases, neither the man nor the woman has much of an idea
where she will really be going, and there are a lot of tricks out there,
including forced sweatshop labor, prostitution, porno flicks, "snuff flicks"
(e.g., where they are viciously raped, tortured and murdered in the movie),
and various other tragedies. It is common for a poor lady to believe a
trusted associate and take a chance with wishful thinking only to find that
she's been tricked on the other end (less pay, or the job isn't a restaurant
but is prostitution, she's imprisoned until she "earns" the mountain of
money she owes for being brought over, she's raped and told if she goes to
the police she'll go to jail, she's blackmailed about revealing her shame
back home, etc., etc.). You probably don't know what will really
happen. Maybe she will be better off with a real job, but maybe it will be a
terrible tragedy. They'll usually try to convince you that it's nothing bad,
of course. Or, they may not really know... But YOU are documented on paper
as her sponsor.
This concludes the general discussion of travel visas.
Below, I cover what I know of particular kinds of visas, based on what others
have reported. However, your best source of information is your embassy or
consulate in Bangkok.
U.S. Fiancee K-1 visa
A client of mine, who is trying to get his girlfriend to
the U.S. on a K-1 "fiancée visa", sent me the following info:
You have to file an I-129F petition with the INS in the
states. It is filed at the regional office of the INS that has jurisdiction
over the state you live in. The petition is very detailed (long) and you
must prove you are financially able to support your fiancée/wife when she
gets here. The I-129F forms can be downloaded from the INS site or they will
send you the forms if you call. If you have previously been married you have
to send a certified copy of your divorce decree with the petition. The
processing time ranges from 4-12 weeks. If approved, the INS will send you a
I-797 approval form and forward your petition to the embassy in the country
your finance lives. The petition is valid for 4 months, i.e., she must get
the K-1 within this timeframe. Some consular officers will extend the time
if given a good enough reason. My packet I sent to the Texas Center was 47
pages long. It included proof we had met in person.. pictures together,
copies of my passport with Thai stamps, phone records, etc. The primary
focus of the petition is to prove support and that there is a valid
relationship. Most petitions are approved, but some are not. Sometimes the
INS will ask for more information. This delays the process by 4-8 weeks.
Once the embassy receives the petition, they send the finance packet #3.
This includes a biographical sheet, the actual visa application,
instructions for the medical exam was at Bumungard and cost almost
4000Baht), instructions for birth certificates (must be certified), divorce
decrees. etc. When all the info has been gathered, she sends back a
checklist of things completed and the bio sketch. She retains all the other
info and takes that to the interview. After the embassy receives the
checklist they will send her a letter in a few weeks telling her the
interview date. That is usually 2-4 weeks later.
The interview can be a bitch!! If they suspect she ever
worked in a bar, she will be grilled. If she admits having working there,
she is denied. They may lie and tell her untruths to get her to admit she
"worked." If she cracks, she's a goner. They are tough!! If they so
graciously give her the visa, it costs 45 bucks and she can pick it up that
She then has 6 months to leave the country. Once she
arrives in the US, she has 90 days to marry. If this does not happen, she
must return to Thailand. Her chances of ever getting back to the states
[would be low if she doesn't marry within that 90 days]. If she does marry,
they file for an adjustment of status, authorization to work, and advanced
parole. That allows her to leave the country (US) for vacation, return to
The whole process through the Bangkok Embassy takes 4-8
months. If she is denied, the consular officer's decision can not be
I would like to solicit others' experiences and inputs from