Integrity Legal

Archive for May, 2014

15th May 2014

It has been reported that officials at the Immigration Department in Thailand are taking steps to curtail the use of 30 day Thai visa exemptions by those traveling to the Kingdom of Thailand. It also appears that usage of Thai tourist visas is to be increasingly scrutinized. Apparently, these measures are being undertaken in an effort to decrease purported abuse of the immigration system by those who routinely travel to border crossings, depart the country, and immediately re-enter in order to gain a new visa exemption stamp or further status on a multiple entry tourist visa. These so-called “visa runs” have been a mainstay in Thailand for a number of years as many long term tourists have used this method to maintain lawful status. It appears that moving forward these methods may no longer be possible.

The Phuket News has recently reported that “Out-In” visa runs have officially been deemed a thing of the past. Citing Lieutenant General Phanu Kerdlaphon the aforementioned publication quoted the General as saying:

“We have been very lenient about this. I’ve had many comments about [our excessive leniency]…Thirty days should be enough for a normal tourist.”
However, there may be room for some discretion by Immigration officers to allow legitimate tourists back into the country on an exemption stamp as the General further noted:
“If they really want to travel around the country for more than 30 days, then they must show us a plausible plan. If officers are suspicious, then they will carry out checks…If we believe their purpose in coming to Thailand is not what they say it is, then we will order them to leave and they will be blacklisted. They will not be able to return to Thailand, ever.”
Clearly, those without a plausible reason for remaining in Thailand could face severe sanctions. These efforts appear to be less focused on business or marriage visa holders and instead directed at those who use the current Thai visa exemption system and tourist visa system to illegally work in Thailand as the General further pointed out:
“Lots of nationalities come to Thailand on tourist visas but they come to work. I really want them to do the right thing, not try to dodge around the law and evade taxes…If you are coming here not as a tourist, then please get the correct visa. Do it properly…”
This appears aimed primarily at visa exemption stamps, but as noted above even those with an actual tourist visa could be affected. This blogger has learned anecdotally that some travelers with multiple entry tourist visas have been stopped at the border and, in some situations, apparently turned away if they have multiple tourist visas in their passports. How this will impact tourism remains to be seen, but it is clear that those wishing to remain in Thailand for a long period of time should obtain a long term visa or visa extension in the category that fits with their intentions. Currently, it is possible to remain in Thailand for one year intervals by obtaining a Thai business visa, a Thai ED visa (Education), a Thai Marriage Visa, or a Thai retirement visa.  In some cases, long term multiple entry visas in the aforementioned categories can be obtained at Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad. However, regulations regarding such travel documents have become more stringent in recent years when compared with the past. It appears immigration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would prefer that a foreign national obtain a 90 day visa abroad and thereafter apply for a Thai visa extension once in the Kingdom.
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6th May 2014

In recent articles in the Financial Times the argument has be made that the Peoples’ Republic of China will economically overtake the United States of America in the year 2014. It  should be noted that Chinese economic outpacing of the United States is only measured in terms of statistical purchasing power and little more. In any event, this revealation is significant as it shows the increasing dominance of China in the world economy. The authors of the two articles (which can be found on the Financial Times official website here and here) appear to disagree as to the importance of these developments. The  author of the first article seems rather alarmist about the fact that China will overtake the USA in statistical purchasing power while the second author notes that this should not be viewed as China overtaking the USA in all facets of comparative economics. Furthermore, the second article notes that the United States still remains politically the most powerful nation in the world despite the fact that the world is evolving from a state of unipolarity with the United States as the lone Superpower able to effectively and virtually unilaterally project its power throughout the world, to a state of multipolarity in which many nations have increasing regional (or even global) dominance in certain spheres of economics as well as politics.

The notion that the world is moving toward a state of multipolarity leads this blogger to posit: how will the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) fit into the framework of a multipolar world? It seems reasonable to infer that ASEAN will become an increasingly important economic bloc following the integration of the various member states’ economies under the framework of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) which is set to take effect on January 1, 2015. The creation of a single economic platform which will include approximately 400-500 million people, some of the fastest growing economies in the world, and some of the most strategically important geographical locations will likely lead to greater economies of scale for businesses in the region, a larger market for goods and services for the member states, and greater leverage to trade with countries outside of the bloc. However, these issues are not entirely pertinent to the question posited above. The differences between China and an integrated ASEAN economic platform will be substantial. First, some members of ASEAN rank amongst some of the largest economies in the world, in their own right. Meanwhile other economies within the region are still developing. This could lead to a “best of both worlds” scenario for ASEAN, China, and the USA. Case in point, Thailand has seen difficulties in recent years competing with cheaper Chinese labor, but the movements of labor and capital which will come hand-in-hand with ASEAN economic integration could lead to a situation where Thai companies could utilize labor pools in developing ASEAN member countries to offset the low cost of Chinese labor and thereby mitigate previous competitive disadvantages. Furthermore, the United States may find new markets for US goods in an integrated ASEAN and new venues for the manufacture of low cost goods in developing ASEAN nations that would allow for some economic de-coupling from China by the USA, thereby allowing the United States a freer hand in making foreign policy decisions vis-a-vis China. Finally, China stands to gain due to the increase in trade between China and the ASEAN nations which has recently been evidenced by the evolving nature of the geography of the Chinese economy. In recent years, increasing economic activity has been noted in Southern China across the border from Laos, which acts as a kind of entrepot for trade between China and Thailand as well as the Greater ASEAN community. Recent discussions of a high speed rail link connecting China, Laos and Thailand have also been cause for optimism that one day this region could play host to a booming economy which will bring large numbers of people out of poverty and create wealth for the peoples of all nations concerned.

Following ASEAN economic integration, there are likely to be myriad legal challenges for those businesses in ASEAN nations and abroad wishing to gain a foothold in this burgeoning market. The legal challenges posed will likely require the assistance of legal professionals in the region familiar with new ASEAN regulations as well as the internal regulatory frameworks of the various member states.

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