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Archive for the ‘Thailand Embassy’ Category

25th April 2014

In recent years there has been a strong feeling among expatriates and travelers to Thailand that getting a Thai visa is more difficult when compared to the past. In another posting on this blog it was noted that rules regarding application for one year multiple entry visas from Thai honorary Consulates in the United Kingdom had changed. Notably, applications for such long term visas are henceforth to be forwarded to the Royal Thai Embassy in London for review prior to adjudication. There are some who believe that this change in the process has resulted in fewer long term visas being sought, and/or fewer such visas being issued. As of the time of this writing there is no way to discern whether this processing change resulted in fewer multiple entry visas being issued. However one thing is clear, the rules regarding application for long term multiple entry Thai visas are being more strictly enforced. Therefore, some explanation regarding the general application guidelines may be warranted.

One significant concern of Thai immigration officials, as reflected in recent rule changes and enforcement procedures, would seem to be the physical location of the applicant. At one time, it was common to see foreign nationals in Thailand using less than reputable visa services to procure visas from Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad while physically remaining in Thailand. This practice was severely curtailed by immigration authorities in a few notable “crack-downs”.  At this point, it is very clear that immigration authorities strongly prefer that those applying for a Thai visa at an Embassy or Consulate abroad be physically present in the jurisdiction where the post is located. Moreover, it also seems clear that documentary requirements for those applying for one year multiple entry visas are more substantial compared to the past and it seems logical to assume that such requirements may be more stringent in the future.

It seems that immigration authorities now prefer that those wishing to remain in Thailand for a significant period of time obtain a 90 day visa from abroad, travel to Thailand, and upon meeting further criteria; apply for a Thai visa extension. This should not be inferred to mean that obtaining a 1 year Thai multiple entry visa is impossible, but rules regarding application for such travel documents vary by jurisdiction and for some simply obtaining a 90 day visa and then seeking an extension may be a more efficient option.

There are multiple visa categories under Thai immigration law. Some of the most commonly sought visas are: the Thai Business Visa (“B” Visa), the Thai “O” visa for the family of Thai nationals, the Thai retirement visa, the Thai tourist visa, and the Thai education visa (“ED” visa); although there are many other specific visa categories. Depending upon the needs and intentions of the visa seeker the rules for applying for such travel documents may vary. In any case, it may be prudent to seek the advice of those who routinely deal with Thai immigration matters as the rules and regulations regarding those issues can be complex.

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18th August 2013

The National News Bureau of Thailand is reporting that Thai authorities are implementing an evacuation program for Thai nationals in Egypt, the recent report noted that:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is evacuating 2,000 Thai people in Egypt with the first group of 560 people scheduled to arrive in Suvarnabhumi Airport this 19 August due to increasing violence. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on Sunday that the situation in Egypt is still violent with heavy clashes between authorities and protesters…Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Manaswee Srisodapol said the Royal Thai Embassy in Cairo had been contacted by about 900 Thai people who wanted to return to Thailand. The embassy would arrange charter flights to take them from Cairo to Dubai where they would change planes to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand, he said…

As the situation in Egypt continues to deteriorate many nations around the world are urging their Citizens to exercise caution if traveling to Egypt and in some cases such nations are making efforts to assist their citizens in departing from the country. The above cited report comes after a recent press release posted on the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs website citing the concerns of the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and Foreign Minister Mr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul:

1. Thailand is increasingly concerned by the deteriorating situation in Egypt, with violence resulting in heavy loss of lives and injuries, especially among innocent people.
2. As a country that is committed to upholding democratic principles and non-use of force, Thailand joins a large number of countries in condemning the excessive use of force which could only lead to further violence and undermine efforts to return to the democratic process and achieve an inclusive national reconciliation in the interest of all Egyptian people, which we believe, at this point in time, should be the most urgent priority.
3. We call on all parties to exercise utmost restraint and refrain from further violence. We also call on the interim Government of Egypt to ensure the safety and security of foreign nationals residing in Egypt.

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for administering the various Royal Thai Embassies and Royal Thai Consulates around the world. It would appear from the reports noted above that officials in the Kingdom of Thailand are going to great lengths to ensure that Thais in Egypt are given an opportunity to return to Thailand should they so desire. Those around the world can only hope that this situation will be brought to a peaceful solution as quickly as possible.

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31st October 2010

In recent weeks there seems to have been some confusion related to the issue of overstaying one’s visa in Thailand. It would appear that there was a certain amount of consternation being created as a result of postings on the internet discussing Thai Immigration policies regarding overstay. Apparently, Thai Immigration authorities are heavily scrutinizing departing foreigners’ visas to ensure that those leaving the Kingdom of Thailand remained in lawful status for the duration of their stay and those not in lawful status at the time of departure must face legal consequences in the form of fines and possible incarceration. Penalties for overstay in Thailand have always been prescribed by relevant Thai Immigration law, but confusion seems to have arisen as a result of a posting on the internet stating that Thai Immigration procedures would be changing. However, the Phuket Gazette website phuketgazette.net subsequently reported that such speculation was incorrect. To quote directly from the Phuket Gazette:

Col Panuwat today told the Gazette, “I contacted the legal department at Immigration Bureau Headquarters on Soi Suan Plu in Bangkok, the Phuket Airport Immigration Superintendent and other authorities as well.”

“All have assured me that they are still following all the terms of the Immigration Act 1979, enacted on February 29 that year,” he said.

Under the Act, “any alien who stays in the Kingdom without permission, or with permission expired or revoked, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding two years, or a fine not exceeding 20,000 baht, or both.”

Penalties for Immigration violators can be rather severe, but in many cases individuals find that they have overstayed their visa by a matter of days. In a situation similar to this it is reasonable to believe that Immigration officers are unlikely to impose more than a fine on the offending party as they depart Thailand of their own accord. However, as the duration of one’s unlawful presence increases so too could one assume that the potential penalties might increase as well. Bearing that in mind, those pondering the overstay issue are wise to note that Royal Thai Immigration Officers have significant discretion in matters involving visas, admission to Thailand, and overstay in Thailand. As the aforementioned posting went on to note:

The Phuket Gazette notes that Immigration officers at checkpoints have always had complete discretion on what punitive measures to take with overstays, as specified above.

They can also deny entry to anyone arriving at a border checkpoint for any reason, even if the person arriving is in possession of a valid visa.

In the United States, Immigration matters are generally dealt with under Congressional plenary power and Immigration officers at the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP) are empowered with the authority to place prospective entrants into expedited removal proceedings or to simply deny a foreign national, even if said individual has a valid visa, admission to the USA. Thailand’s immigration rules are different from those of the United States, but one thing remains constant: Immigration Officers at any checkpoint throughout Thailand retain a great deal of discretion in matters pertaining to overstay under Thai law. Therefore, foreign nationals in Thailand should expect for overstay matters to be handled on a cases by case basis as each case is unique and no one has a right to remain in the Kingdom of Thailand without being in lawful status.

For related information please see: Thailand visa or I-601 waiver.

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28th April 2010

Recently, the website Thaivisa.com has reported that the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that the Tourist visa waiver program will be extended. The following is a direct quote from Thaivisa.com:

“Thailand extends tourist visa fee exemption scheme until 31 March 2011

BANGKOK: — The Royal Thai Government has extended the tourist visa fee exemption scheme that had expired in March 2010. As a result of the decision, foreign citizens that qualify for a tourist visa are not subjected to a visa fee. The exemption scheme will be in effect from 11 May 2010 until 31 March 2011 (the fee exemption is not extended to other types of visas).

For further information please contact the Consular Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand (662-981-7171)or the Royal Thai Missions or visit Visas and Travel Documents webpage.”

Although the impact of this program remains to be seen it can be assumed that this can only benefit the Thai Tourism sector, particularly in light of the recent disturbances in Bangkok. Hopefully, this fee waiver, along with a concerted effort by Thai Tourism authorities will lead to an increase in the annual number of tourists traveling to the Kingdom of Thailand.

It should be noted that this will likely not have any impact upon the fees associated with other categories such as the O visa and the ED visa. However, business travelers to Thailand still seem to be applying for the Thai business visa with the same frequency as was the case prior to the recent slump of travelers to Thailand.

Those interested in obtaining a Thai tourist visa should contact the nearest Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate. In the immediate vicinity of the Kingdom of Thailand the most popular destinations for “visa runs” are Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar. Although Cambodia is a frequent destination for Thai visa runners it is not generally the location of choice for those wishing to obtain a new visa, but is instead rather popular for those who simply wish to travel to the border and get stamped in and out of Thailand.

The Royal Thai Consulate in Penang was once a popular locale for “visa runs,” but fewer visa runners seem to be using this post since they seem to only allow issuance of one Tourist visa per applicant. Recently the Thai Embassy Kuala Lumpur began requiring a that applicants have a work permit with a rather lengthy period of validity remaining  when applying for a 1 year Thailand business visa. This has caused many who seek 1 year Thai visas to opt to seek such travel documents at other Consulates.

For further information please see: Thailand Tourist visa.


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17th April 2010

In previous posts, this author has discussed visa runs and border runs. Another common method of obtaining lawful status in the form of a Thai visa is by traveling to Thai Embassies and Consulates outside of the Kingdom of Thailand. This can be a difficult endeavor for some, but the difficulty can be increased as Embassies and Consulates change their internal rules frequently. This is a by-product of doctrines similar to that of Consular Absolutism also known as Consular NonReviewability. This doctrine states, in a nutshell, that Consular Officers are given wide latitude to use their own discretion when making factual determinations about visa issuance.

Recently, this author has learned that the Royal Thai Embassy Kuala Lumpur will no longer issue the 1 year multiple entry Thai business visa to those with a work permit that is valid for less than 7 months. In the past, it was routine to see the 1 year Thailand business visa issued to those with a valid work permit regardless of the duration of its validity. Now, it seems that only a 90 day business visa will be granted to those with a Thai work permit that is valid for less than 7 months.

In recent years, the Thailand work permit and the Thailand visa have been effectively “decoupled” in the sense that one is no longer necessarily dependent upon the other. For a long period of time one had to have a work permit in order to obtain a Thai visa extension. Once that extension was obtained one needed to then extend the work permit so that the two documents’ validity were in sync. This has changed as the Ministry of Labour is more apt to grant a 1 year work permit to first time applicants and then the applicant can easily obtain a visa extension. The side effect of this system is that Thai Embassies and Consulates are increasingly less willing to issue one year Thai visas since their personnel view the decision regarding issuance of such a long term travel document ought to be made by the Royal Thai Immigration Police in the Kingdom of Thailand.

When analyzed, this policy makes sense as the Royal Thai Immigration Police in Thailand are often better equipped to adjudicate visa extension requests. However, there are often very compelling reasons why an applicant would wish to obtain a 1 year multiple entry visa from outside of Thailand. One notable reason, such a travel document would not require the issuance of a Thai Reentry Permit as would be necessary if a one year visa extension were issued.

It should be noted that each Thai Consular and/or Diplomatic Post has a different set of rules with regard to visa issuance so what is the rule at one post may not be the same at another.

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3rd March 2010

As readers of this blog may recall from a previous post, the Thai authorities recently announced that the fee waiver for Thai tourist visas was ending in March of this year. However, ThaiVisa.com has recently reported that the tourist visa waiver program is to be re-instituted in April of this year. Apparently, the positive impact upon the tourism sector is one of the underlying reasons for the extension of this program:

“Less than one month after Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed Thaivisa.com that the free tourist visa scheme would end on March 5, 2010, the Thailand Government has announced the tourism stimulus package will continue for another year, including $US10,000 in free riot insurance for tourists. The extension of the tourism industry stimulus package was approved by the cabinet today, March 2, 2010 in response to a request from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports. The extension will be effective from April 1, 2010 and go through to March 31, 2011 and appears to leave a three and a half week window in which tourist visas for Thailand will be charged for.”

As some may recall from another previous post on this blog, many Royal Thai Embassies, Consulates, and  Honorary Consuls around the world were unhappy with the no-cost tourist visa scheme as the funds previously accrued from processing tourist visas were no longer being paid. How this recent announcement will impact the Honorary Consulates as well as the Embassies and Consulates-General remains to be seen.

Another interesting aspect of the recent announcement is the fact that foreign nationals are also to be provided with no-cost riot insurance as part of this new program to revitalize the Thai tourist industry. To further quote from ThaiVisa.com:

“The $10,000 free riot insurance coverage was introduced last year and initiated by the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) in response to international insurance firms’ refusal to sell insurance coverage to visitors to Thailand following the 2008 closure of Thailand airports by members of the Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD). When the insurance coverage was first introduced last year, Kongkrit Hiranyakit, president of TCT, said the government had set aside Bt190.75 million ($US5.820 million) for the initial six month period covering May to October, 2009, with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports responsible for paying the insurance premium of $1 per visitor. The insurance policy provides for payments of up to $10,000 in the event of death, injury, and/or trip inconvenience, and appears to only cover people in possession of a 60-day tourist visa. Resident expatriates living and working in Thailand on non-immigrant visas do not appear to be covered for death, injury or inconvenience caused by riots.”

It will be interesting to see if the provision of this insurance will cause any stir among foreign residents as all of those who do not have Thai Permanent Residence are technically considered non-immigrants and therefore only “temporarily” staying in the Kingdom. This even applies to those with a Foreign Tabien Baan (also know as a Yellow Tabien Baan) as these registrations are specifically noted as “temporary.” Even though all non-residents are classified as non-immigrants, the category of the visa determines the privileges that will be extended to the visa holder. Therefore, those with a Thai business visa are entitled to file for a Thai work permit while those holding a tourist visa are not accorded that privilege. As a result, the provision of riot insurance could be viewed as as specific privilege that is only accorded to those holding certain types of Thai visas.

For further information about Thai Immigration please see: Thai visa.

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4th February 2010

Among the Expatriate Community in Thailand, one of the popular websites for up-to-the-minute information about visas and immigration issues is: Thaivisa.com. At the time of this writing Thaivisa.com is reporting that the free Thai tourist visa program is coming to an end. To quote a posting on that site directly:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, who oversees the Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates worldwide, today confirms to Thaivisa.com that visa fees will be levied for all visa classes from March 5, 2010. Tourist visas are valid for a 60 days stay and may be extended at local Thai Immigration offices…Tourist visas has been issued free of charge since June 25, 2009 in an effort to revive the Thai travel and tourism industry.”

As stated above, the Tourist visa fee waiver program was initiated to help in reviving the beleaguered Thai tourism industry which suffered some setbacks after an airport closure and the worldwide economic downturn. It would seem that these measures have been successful in buoying the economy as the decision has been made to end the program.

This may come as a relief to the staff of Royal Thai Consulates and Embassies overseas as it has been rumored that the tourist visa fee waiver has caused an upsurge in tourist visa applications and caused a drain upon the resources of many Thai Diplomatic and Consular postings.

These authors hope that the rescission of the Thai visa fee waiver marks the beginning of an overall recovery in the Thai tourism sector as it is one of the most important facets of Thailand’s service economy. The impact that the re-imposition of the tourist visa application fee will have upon the “visa run” remains to be seen, but many believe that most visa runners will continue to opt for the tourist visa as it currently provides a significantly longer duration of status compared to land border visa exemptions which are currently only being granted for a maximum validity of 15 days.

Some have also noted that the end of the free tourist visa may result in the increased promulgation of dual entry tourist visas as Thai Consulates and Embassies are more willing to grant such travel documents because they are once again being compensated for the processing.

It should be noted that a 60 day Thai tourist visa can be extended by 30 more days if the bearer takes their passport and visa to a local Thai Immigration office and pays the extension fee. At present, the extension fee is approximately 1900 Thai baht.

For related information please see: Business Visa Thailand.

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25th January 2010

Thai Visas From Canada

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Thailand has been voted one of the top vacation destinations for those on a budget. Many believe that Thailand with its beautiful weather, captivating beaches, and incredible nightlife, is truly a modern paradise. Many look to the Kingdom of Thailand as a great place for long term tourism or as a location for retirement. No matter what one’s desires are, Thailand has something for everyone. In recent years, Immigration rules, regulations, and restrictions have made staying in Thailand for a long period of time something of a challenge. However, there are still ways in which foreigners can obtain long term visas.

For those of Canadian nationality who are thinking of remaining in Thailand long term, it may be better to obtain a Thai visa while in Canada rather than traveling to Thailand and seeking a Thai visa extension from within the Kingdom. The reason for the need for preparation is based upon the fact that Thai Immigration does allow a foreigner to enter Thailand for a period of 30 days without a visa. At the time of this writing, this rule applies to Canadian nationals. However, the fact is that the foreigner in the Kingdom in this status does not actually have a Thai visa, but instead has a Thai visa exemption. Therefore, applying for an extension in Thailand is very difficult as, legally speaking, there is no visa to extend. This scenario often creates a situation in which the foreigner must then do a “visa run” to an Embassy or Consulate outside of Thailand in order to obtain a visa and return to the Kingdom.

By obtaining a Thai visa before leaving Canada, Canadians can forestall the need for a visa run as Thai multiple entry visas can sometimes be issued with a validity of one year. Upon each entry, the foreign national using a 1 year multiple entry visa will be admitted to the Kingdom for a period of 90 days. That being said, in order for a new 90 days of lawful status to commence all the foreign national need do is leave the Kingdom and reenter. In a sense, this is a visa run, but it only occurs every 90 days rather than once every 30 or 60 days. Also, in this situation, there is no need to go to an Embassy near Thailand as the foreigner’s 90 day stamp should be granted automatically upon reentry.

Another issue that should be considered is that of employment. A 1 year multiple entry Thai business visa can be used as a basis for submitting a Thai work permit application.

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13th January 2010

Thailand visa issues seem to be one of the most popular topics discussed on this blog. This may be due to the fact that many people who travel to the Kingdom of Thailand find that they would prefer to remain for a long period of time. Unfortunately, obtaining a Thai long term visa seems to be getting more and more difficult as visa regulations become increasingly complex and cumbersome. That being said, there is one rule that can have a major impact upon one’s chances of obtaining a Thai visa. This rule deals with foreign passport validity.

In many cases, Thai Consular Officers working at Consulates and Embassies overseas are hesitant to provide long term visas to Thailand if the applicant’s underlying passport is not valid for the entire duration of the visa. This being said, there is a bright line rule at most Consulates: the applicant must have at least 6 months of validity left on their passport in order for any visa to be issued. However, as a practical matter Consular Officers have a great deal of discretion regarding visa issuance and short term passport validity is frowned upon. This negative attitude could translate into a Thai visa application’s denial if the officer is uncomfortable issuing a visa to the applicant based upon the totality of the circumstances.

For those interested in obtaining a Thailand visa it is wise to have a passport that is valid for at least one year. Further, some posts prefer machine readable passports as they provide an extra level of security and act as a means of preventing visa fraud because it is more difficult to forge a machine readable travel document.

As with US Consulates and Embassies, each Thai Consulate or Thai Embassy has a slightly unique procedure for processing visa applications and as a result the above information should be checked against the post policies and guidelines at the time of application. As a general rule, a Thai visa applicant would be wise to present a well-founded application along with a machine readable passport valid for more than six months, but preferably more than one year.

For Americans seeking a new passport in Thailand please contact the American Citizen Services Section of the US Embassy Bangkok as this office is primarily responsible for passport issuance to those resident in Thailand. For those living in Northern Thailand the US Consulate Chiang Mai can also assist with passport procurement for American Citizens.

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28th December 2009

This author has had the good fortune to witness the many different ways in which Thailand visa applications are adjudicated. Generally, the adjudication of Thai visa applications depends upon the post at which the applicant is applying.

At many of the Thai Consulates and Embassies in Southeast Asia a long term Thai visa can be difficult to obtain (long term meaning those visas issued with a validity of more than 90 days). This is likely due to the fact that many of the posts in Southeastern Asia have become used to so-called “visa runners” who use nearby Thai Consulates to obtain visas to remain in the country long term. At one time, the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang was popular among visa runners. This author recently had the opportunity to visit the Thai Consulate in Burma and was surprised to find an extremely efficient and well run post, but one that does not routinely issue visas with more validity than 90 days.

Unlike the United States, Thailand issues very few, if any, immigrant visas at Consulates and Embassies abroad. Part of this is likely due to the fact that these two Immigration systems are very different. However, another explanation could be the fact that Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad may not have the capacity to handle the adjudication of Immigrant visas like a US Embassy or US Consulate. Also, Royal Thai Immigration is exclusively responsible for the adjudication of Immigrant visas (also known as Thai Permanent Residence) and such visa applications must be approved in Thailand.

Since Thai Embassies and Consulates generally only issue non-immigrant visas the next question that most people ask is: “how long are such visas valid.” This depends upon the category of the Thai visa, but Royal Thai Embassies generally have the discretion to issue visas with as much as 3 years validity. As a practical matter, the Consulate or Embassy will only issue a visa with a maximum validity of 1 year.

Some Consulates require the applicant to physically present themselves, while other allow for visas to be applied for by post. However, one should not assume that simply because the application is sent in by mail that the officer does not scrutinize the application. On the contrary, there are some who would argue that such applications are more heavily scrutinized compared to “walk in” applications.

Generally, Royal Thai Consulates post the general application requirements and it is incumbent upon the applicant to demonstrate that they meet the requirements and should therefore be granted the Thai visa. Thai tourist visas generally require the least expediture of resources on the part of the applicant. However, Thai Business visas, Thai Retirement visas, and Thai O visas can require a great deal of work in order for the applicant to obtain approval.

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