Integrity Legal

Archive for June, 2021

15th June 2021

It recently came to this blogger attention that anyone holding a non-immigrant visa (NIV) in Thailand may soon be required to obtain insurance coverage of 100,000 USD against COVID-19. The following was recently reported in the Bangkok Post:

All foreigners living in Thailand as non-immigrants will in the future have to prove they have insurance coverage of at least US$100,000 (three million baht) against Covid-19. The proposal was approved in principle by the cabinet yesterday and Traisuree Taisaranakul, deputy spokeswoman for the government, said it would apply to all holders of the one-year, non-immigrant visa (NIV). NIVs are awarded in four categories: marriage, work, business and retirement…Ms Traisuree said that since the cabinet had approved the new rule in principle the next step would be for the Immigration Bureau to publish full details and make it official. The Foreign Affairs Ministry will also work to improve the NIV application procedure while the Public Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry will be in charge of modifying related regulations and telling the public about them…

It is noteworthy that Thai business visas, marriage visas, and visas associated with work permits in Thailand were specifically mentioned. Meanwhile, The Nation reports the recent rule changes may provide some relief for retirees in Thailand:

The new rules offer a lifeline for expats over the age of 70 who cannot purchase insurance in Thailand and thus face having their applications for extension of stay rejected…If an insurer refuses coverage due to health risks, visa applicants must submit additional documents including the letter of refusal, plus securities, deposits and other health insurance accounting for at least 3 million baht.

Since the inception of the Emergency Decree in response to the COVID-19 situation in March 2020 there have been a number of changes to rules regarding entry to the Kingdom of Thailand. However, such changes had not yet impacted the immigration rules associated with remaining in Thailand on a Thai visa extension. Clearly, the rules are currently undergoing revision. However, it is worth noting that the specific regulations have yet to be promulgated as the cabinet appears to have only approved these measures in principle as of the time of this writing. Therefore, those to whom this announcement may pertain are well advised to wait until the specific regulations are promulgated before making irrevocable arrangements regarding their visa status. The aforementioned policy change does not appear to pertain to those holding permanent residence in the Kingdom of Thailand. We will keep this blog updated as the situation evolves.

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14th June 2021

It recently came to this blogger’s attention via the website of the US Embassy in Thailand that there is a new policy in place regarding the expired passports of US Citizens. To quote directly from the aforementioned website:

U.S. citizens may directly return to the United States with certain expired U.S. passports.

If you are overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you may be able to use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until December 31, 2021.

You qualify for this exception if all the following are true:

  • You are a U.S. citizen.
  • You are currently abroad seeking direct return to the United States.
  • You are flying directly to the United States, a United States territory, or have only short-term transit (“connecting flights”) through a foreign country on your direct return to the United States or to a United States Territory.
  • Your expired passport was originally valid for 10 years. Or, if you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport was valid for 5 years.
  • Your expired passport is undamaged.
  • Your expired passport is unaltered.
  • Your expired passport is in your possession.

You do not qualify for this exception if:

  • You wish to depart from the United States to an international destination.
  • You are currently abroad seeking to travel to a foreign country for any length of stay longer than an airport connection en route to the United States or to a United States territory.
  • Your expired passport was limited in validity.
  • Your expired passport is a special issuance passport (such as a diplomatic, official, service, or no-fee regular passport).
  • Your expired passport is damaged.
  • Your expired passport is altered.
  • Your expired passport is not in your possession…

This is a major departure from standard procedures regarding American passports. Those keenly interested in this issue are advised to click the link above to read the entire announcement. Clearly, the United States Embassy in Thailand is attempting to provide solutions to Americans abroad who have seen their passports expire as the duration of the Thai government’s response to the COVID situation drags on. Although this is something of an “ad hoc” initiative the State Department’s policy is laudable as it creates flexibility for many Americans abroad who otherwise would be unable to return home.

Meanwhile, Thai Immigration policy continues to evolve. There has been significant progress made with regard to the proposed “Phuket Sandbox” initiative which, once implemented, would allow travelers to be admitted to Phuket, Thailand without being required to quarantine in their hotel for 14 days. However, there are been a number of developments in recent weeks which appear both positive and negative. For example, the following was noted in a recent article on ThaiVisa.com:

Over 50 percent of foreigners who had confirmed they would visit Phuket as part of the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ project have now cancelled their plans, Thailand’s tourism minister has said. Pipat Ratchakitprakarn, Minister of Tourism and Sports, told Spring News that after the Center for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) increased the minimum period of stay from 7 days to 14 days, 29,700 foreigners have now cancelled plans to visit Phuket. Under the Phuket Sandbox scheme, vaccinated foreigners do not need to be quarantined in a hotel room, but they are required to remain in Phuket before travelling to other provinces in Thailand…

The fluidity of regulations pertaining to the sandbox initiative seems to be alienating a number of otherwise interested travelers. Meanwhile, ThaiVisa.com went on to note that:

The Phuket Sandbox project, the launch of which is best described as chaotic, suffered another blow last week after it was announced that bars and pubs in Phuket would remain closed when the first tourists start arriving from July 1.

It seems immigration and quarantine policy are not the only obstacles standing in the way of substantial tourist numbers returning. It should be noted that the Phuket initiative has yet to be brought online so it remains to be seen if the “sandbox” plan will actually be implemented. It seems prudent to infer based upon comments from relevant Thai government officials that the sandbox program will be implemented. However, the popularity of such a plan remains to be seen. Presently, those arriving in other parts of Thailand, including Bangkok and Chiang Mai, are required to undergo 14 days of alternative state quarantine (ASQ) before being released. This quarantine pertains not only to foreign tourists, but also to those entering Thailand on non-immigrant visas such as the business visa, retirement visa, marriage visa as well as Thai nationals and permanent residents. The end date for quarantine enforcement in Thailand remains to be seen.

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