Integrity Legal

Archive for the ‘Thailand Visa’ Category

7th June 2018

As noted in the prior entry on this blog, Thai immigration policies, procedures, and enforcement protocols are in a state of flux. This entry will attempt to provide a sort of round up regarding the recent developments with respect to changes in the Thai Immigration apparatus.

In recent weeks, there have been further crackdowns on visa violators. Most notably, there have been raids which have netted a number of foreign nationals either physically present in Thailand while on overstay or present in Thailand with no evidence that the nationals in question had ever been lawfully admitted to the Kingdom in the first place. It seems that this trend of conducting raids at venues where illegal aliens may be present is set to continue. It is notable that schools of all types are being included in such raids.

Furthermore, where once the bureaucracy associated with accepting and processing visa applications (particularly Business visa applications) seemed primarily concerned with simply ascertaining whether the formalities required to secure a visa or visa extension were in place. Now, Immigration authorities and adjudicating officers seem to be prioritizing heightened scrutiny of Thai visa applications.  This is having the effect of seeing further requests for documentation especially in business visa extension applications. This change in attitude also has an investigative component as it seems to be required that all new B visa extension applicants be subjected to inspection by Thai Immigration officers.

Increased enforcement activity has not been confined only to Business visas in recent weeks. In fact, it seems further scrutiny of Thai O visa applications is likely in the future especially in light of authorities recently uncovering what would appear to have been an ongoing scheme to defraud the immigration system though use of sham marriages in Thailand. Although not directly attributable to concern over sham marriages the fact is that fewer and fewer Multiple Entry O visas are being issued by Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad when compared to times past. It is this blogger’s personal opinion that the decline in the number of such visas issued is directly attributable to the fact that Thai Immigration authorities are seeking to scrutinize those living in the Kingdom on a permanent basis and multiple entry visas do not accord them the level of scrutiny as would exist in the adjudication of an O visa extension.

It has been this blogger’s observation that many expats in Thailand take the position that efforts like these eventually fade into the background as the initial zealousness of those undertaking these policies and enforcement measures wanes. However, to assume that these new policies of heightened scrutiny and increased enforcement activities will “just go away” would fail to take into consideration the fact Thai Immigration authorities seem very keen on implementing long term policies and utilizing technology which will preclude regressive tendencies in the system moving forward.

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5th May 2018

For at least 2 years, Thai immigration officials have been ramping up their efforts to improve Immigration and visa policy. We have seen a substantial change in the attitude toward Thai tourist visa issuance as well as Immigration protocols associated therewith. This has especially been the case where those foreigners utilizing tourist visas are suspected of using such travel documents in order to live and work illegally in the Kingdom. Meanwhile, changes to the rules regarding so called “Visa runs”or “border runs” have resulted, as a practical matter, in an immigration apparatus that operates in a wholly different way than it once did.

While the above paragraph describes the changes in the laws, rules, and regulations related to Thai visas, it does not speak to issues involving enforcement of immigration law in the Kingdom as enforcement measures had largely remained unchanged during the time of the legal transitions discussed above: until recently. While the “Good Guys in Bad Guys Out” initiative describes a change in paradigm within the institutions charged with maintaining Thailand’s Immigration apparatus, the “Operation Outlaw Foreigner” and “Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner” programs represent concrete steps taken by Immigration law enforcement officials to confront visa violators and deal with them accordingly. In recent months, an unprecedented number of raids at unprecedented types of venues have taken place in an effort to track down foreigners who are overstaying in Thailand or utilizing visas otherwise meant for recreational pursuits in Thailand to engage in unauthorized employment or as a means for undertaking criminal activity in the Kingdom. These raids have resulted in the arrest and deportation of thousands of foreign nationals.

In the rather recent past, those who maintained lawful non-immigrant status in the Kingdom could generally breathe easily knowing that Immigration officials’ primary targets in immigration crackdowns were: those in the country in overstay status, pretextual tourist visa status, or prolonged visa exemption status. However, recent weeks have shown that immigration officials are placing increased scrutiny upon those who could be considered otherwise lawfully present in the Kingdom on a non-immigrant Education visa. ED visas have been used by many to remain in the Kingdom in order to pursue a course of study. However, Immigration authorities seem to be increasingly of the opinion that such travel documents are being used as a pretext for living in the Kingdom and that the educational endeavor is in fact a sham. Whether this assumption is warranted likely depends upon the underlying circumstances, but this is not the point. Instead, it should be noted that scrutiny such as this represents a substantial change in mindset with respect to immigration officers as such individuals were, at one time, generally satisfied when a non-immigrant visa was produced, but it now seems as though such providence may no longer suffice when attempting to terminate an investigation into one’s status as providence of an ED visa may result in further scrutiny and possible revocation of the visa if it is determined that it is being used as a pretext.

A final noteworthy development: it seems that immigration authorities are now collecting relevant bio-metric data from those foreigners apprehended in the Kingdom for Immigration or criminal violations. In fact, it has been reported that fingerprints, facial recognition, and even DNA collection protocols may be utilized to create a database to track those who have been processed through the immigration system in an effort to track and likely enforce blacklisting measures prospectively.

Those reading this posting are well advised to note that the official attitude toward Immigration matters in Thailand has changed. The once lax enforcement attitude is a thing of the past and if recent reports are any indication, it seems likely that the immigration system will be increasingly stringent in the future.

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17th April 2018

In recent months, this blogger has dealt with a number of cases involving Thai visa applications at a Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad. Furthermore, after initial visa issuance there have been a number of cases involving Thai visa extensions. In nearly every case the process of obtaining the initial visa or extending the previously issued visa has seemed to be more difficult when compared to the past. This blogger has discussed this issue with other expatriates and long term visitors in Thailand and the general consensus seems to conclude that immigration matters are becoming more difficult in the Kingdom. A valid question to ask: is this true? The answer: yes, at least to some degree. While it does not appear that those seeking visas through the One-Stop visa and work permit facilities are particularly burdened by increased document scrutiny and more stringent policy enforcement, although those able to seek benefits in the One-Stop facilities generally would not be particularly “borderline” cases and therefore may not need to fret over increased scrutiny anyway. It does appear that current immigration protocols have had the effect, whether intended or not, of making the process comparatively more difficult to undergo.

It should be noted that processing a visa application through a Thai Consulate abroad or seeking an extension at an immigration office in Thailand is by no means impossible. However, without assiduous compilation of requisite documentation, careful recordation of relevant photographic evidence, and, in some cases, assistance of competent accounting professionals well-versed in the necessities of Thai immigration officials the task of extending a visa can seem virtually insurmountable. There are those who pose the question: does there appear to be any point in the future where these difficulties may ease up? This blogger’s answer: no. Since the advent of the “Good Guys in Bad Guys Out” initiative, immigration officials in multiple regions and in multiple roles have made it clear that relevant regulations will be strictly adhered to while the use of discretion will be curtailed. If anything, it appears that the overarching stringency may spread to other realms which impact foreigners in Thailand. In fact, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that Labor Ministry officials are not as readily issuing 1 year work permits as they once were. Meanwhile, Thai Embassies and Consulates that were once rather lax in issuing long term multiple entry visas for Thailand have either stopped completely, or vastly curtailed the criteria under which such visas would be issued.

The immigration apparatus of Thailand is increasingly looking more and more like those of its counterparts in the West and although many westerners travel to Thailand and complain about the stringency of immigration policy in the Kingdom it still should be noted that Thai Immigration regulations are still, generally speaking, more relaxed than those of the home countries of many of the aggrieved arrivals.

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29th July 2017

If there is one overriding notion that can be gleaned from the whole of this blog it should be this: over time the process of obtaining immigration and work authorization benefits (regardless of the nation in which such benefits are sought) tends to get more time consuming and difficult over time.

In Thailand, over the course of recent months there have been dramatic changes to both the Thai visa process as well as the process by which Thai work permit authorization is granted.

Initially, this trend began with the promulgation of the so-called “Good Guys in Bad Guys Out” policy which was initiated by a newly appointed Thai Immigration Chief. At first, the program focused upon those who were clearly in Thailand with less-than-optimal intentions. In fact, the beginning of the sea change in immigration policy could be said to have occurred when there was a rather significant round-up of suspected criminals and over-stayers which culminated in significant numbers of deportations. Quickly thereafter it became clear that those wishing to effectively live in Thailand using things such as 30 day stamps and tourist visas would be a thing of the past as a clear cap was placed on issuance of 30 day visa exemption stamps and those with multiple tourist visas began to become the subject of enhanced scrutiny at border check points. This scrutiny has been recently evidenced by the fact that those entering Thailand on tourist visas with a history of multiple tourist visas are being asked to show that they have 20,000 baht in their possession at the time of entry into the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, recently promulgated legislation has created more severe penalties with respect to working illegally in Thailand. Enhanced civil and criminal penalties are at the forefront of the recent changes. As of the time of this writing a sort of moratorium has been placed upon the implementation of these new rules, but it has been made very clear by relevant authorities that these new provisions are set to come into effect as of January 1, 2018. It is this blogger’s opinion that the moratorium was only enacted to stem the exodus of migrant workers from neighboring countries and will effectively have no bearing upon foreign workers in Thailand from Western countries or countries further afield than those which border the Kingdom.

What can be taken from these developments? First, certain aspects of the immigration and work authorization regimes were outdated and needed to be upgraded. Meanwhile, Thai authorities have made it clear that they expect those who wish to live and work in Thailand to make appropriate efforts to obtain proper immigration and employment documentation. Where there was something of a lax attitude regarding these issues in the past such laxity cannot be expected to exist moving forward. Therefore those wishing to live and work in Thailand in the future are well advised to do substantial research before traveling to Thailand and after ascertaining the correct legal documentation, take necessary steps to only be physically present in Thailand on appropriate documentation.

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3rd January 2017

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the officials of the Royal Thai Immigration Police have made policy changes regarding passport holders of certain countries. It appears that passport holders from 37 different countries will now be able to obtain a 30 day visa exemption stamp by crossing a land border into Thailand. The recently announced list includes the following countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey

It should be noted that most holders of passports on the above list were already eligible to receive 30 day exemption stamps when arriving at one of Thailand’s many international airports. However, 30 day exemption stamps were apparently not available when arriving at land borders. While this liberalization is likely welcome news to prospective tourists who wish to travel to countries surrounding Thailand it should be be analyzed in conjunction with recent announcements regarding so-called border runs.

As previously noted on this blog and other sites, Thai border runs are effectively a thing of the past as recent laws have been enacted which bar individuals from making border runs more than 2 times per calendar year. Although this new rule is unlikely to impact genuine tourists in Thailand, those who have used ostensibly temporary visas and visa exemption stamps to live in Thailand are likely to find maintaining their status in this way to be very difficult in the future. This news comes at the same time as a number of foreign owned or managed businesses in Thailand are reporting significant increases in immigration inspections as well as well known hostels are being raided by those seeking not only criminals, but over-stayers in particular. How this will all play out in 2017 remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: staying long term in Thailand is becoming increasingly difficult, expensive, and time consuming.

Meanwhile, as Thai Immigration cracks down, it appears that the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has made new regulations regarding the forms which must be submitted in connection with petitions for various immigration benefits. Forms such as the I-130 (associated with spousal immigration petitions for visas such as the CR-1 or the IR-1) have been upgraded and apparently the USCIS will no longer accept forms of an older pedigree. The same is apparently true with respect to the I-129f (the form associated with the K-1 visa used to bring fiancees of American Citizens to the USA) as that form has been updated.

Concurrently, it appears that there has been an across-the-board increase in the fees associated with the filing of certain immigration petitions. It is advised that those interested in this matter either speak with a qualified professional or conduct their own research to ascertain the current costs and fees associated with a visa to the USA.

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20th December 2016

Many senior citizen expatriates living in Thailand are familiar with the Thai retirement visa. However, in recent weeks new information has come to light regarding possible changes to the retirement visa category. According to the Bangkok Post, the government in Thailand is willing to allow for a visa scheme which will provide individuals age 50 or older with a visa that could last for a duration of 10 years. To quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

The cabinet on Tuesday extended to 10 years from one the long-stay visa for foreigners aged 50 or more but they must report to immigration police every 90 days. The visa will be valid initially for five years and could be renewed for another five, Col Apisit Chaiyanuwat, vice minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, said.

It should be noted that as of the time of this writing, this blogger has yet to see this new visa scheme implemented in practice. However, it appears by all accounts that the government is serious about eventual implementation. According to the Bangkok Post and other sources the new visa fee will be 10,000 baht for these “extended retirement visas” and the applicant for such a visa will need to be able to demonstrate that he or she has maintained a bank balance of at least 3 million baht in a Thai bank account for one year prior to the application for such a visa. Of keen interest to many expats in Thailand is whether this scheme is intended to supplant the currently existing scheme granting 1 year Thai retirement visas. As of the time of this writing it appears that this newly proposed system will not have an impact on the 1 year retirement visa framework which is already in place, but will instead operate parallel to the current regime.

Meanwhile, while on the one hand the Thai government appears willing to provide more ease to certain individuals staying long term in Thailand, on the other hand the Immigration authorities seem very serious about keeping certain foreigners out of Thailand. According to a posting on the Stickboy Bangkok website, it appears that the era of so-called “visa runs” or “border runs” has finally come to an end once and for all. As noted on that site, it appears that new immigration rules have been promulgated through publication in the Royal Thai Gazette. It appears that the new rules will only allow 2 “border runs” per year. This will effectively put an end to the system of maintaining lawful status in Thailand by simply traveling outside of Thailand via overland border crossings and immediately coming back into the Kingdom.

It should be noted that the apparent ban on border running only applies to exemption stamps (the 30 or 15 day stamps granted to those of certain nationalities who arrive at a Thai border without a visa). It does not apply to multi-entry tourist visas or multi entry non-immigrant visas such as the business visa. It should be noted that the recent changes being implemented regarding border runs and the new enforcement of blacklisting foreign nationals who overstay in Thailand longer than 90 days creates a far less lax attitude toward immigration matters in Thailand.

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3rd October 2016

In recent postings on this blog we have tracked the increasingly prevalent theme of Royal Thai Immigration Officers zealously enforcing immigration laws and regulations. In a recent posting on the website Asian Correspondent it was noted that Immigration officials have apparently taken their duties on the road as they appear to be traveling to foreign nationals stated addresses in an effort to ascertain if the individual in question actually resides at said address and more. It may be best to quote directly from Asian Correspondent:

Three foreigners living in Thailand have complained of receiving visits by policemen asking them to furnish personal details…[They] were visited at home by the uniformed officials who asked them to provide details like their monthly income, height, weight, and even skin color…They claimed that they were asked to provide the details in the ‘Personal Information’ form from the ‘Transnational Crime Coordination Unit Region 5 (TCCU R5).

This and many other events which have occurred recently with respect to Immigration policy appears to stem from the rather recently promulgated “Good Guys in, Bad Guys Out” campaign. It has been clear for some time that Thai immigration officers are increasingly ardent in their efforts to scrutinize foreign nationals in order to ensure adherence with Immigration law. Until this point it appeared that such zealousness was only experienced when foreign nationals traveled to an immigration office to seek some form of benefit or undertake some activity in an effort to stay in compliance with regulations (visa extension, reentry permit, 90 day report, etc).

From the information imparted above it seems logical to assume that this more fervent scrutiny may result in occasional visits by Immigration personnel to foreign nationals’ residences in the future. This being stated, it is difficult to foresee whether these developments portend the possibility that this may become a routine occurrence in the future or if this situation is simply a “one-off” event stemming from a non-routine set of circumstances. It remains to be seen if circumstances similar to those noted above will play out again in the future.

It should be noted that this blogger has personally received anecdotal information describing situations similar to those noted above. It may be of interest to readers that in all such instances this blogger has personally become aware of, the foreign national in question was present in Thailand on a Marriage visa. As has been noted in previous postings, it appears Thai Immigration officials are taking steps to tighten up the regulations and enforcement protocols pertaining to Thai marriage visa holders. This is not to imply that holders of other visa categories have not been subjected to heightened scrutiny (which this blogger can attest has definitely occurred, especially in the context of business visa extensions), but it appears that presently Thai immigration officers are taking a keen interest in those present in Thailand on a Thai O category marriage visa.

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4th September 2016

In a previous posting on this blog the issue of one year multiple entry Thai visas issued at Royal Thai Honorary Consulates in the United Kingdom was discussed. It appeared at that time that honorary Consulates were no longer allowed to issue such travel documents as they could only be obtained from the Royal Thai Embassy in London. This same trend appeared across the Channel as Honorary Thai Consulates on the Continent apparently were also being foreclosed from issuing Thai multiple entry visas. Events since that previous wrting have proven that the only method of obtaining a multiple entry visa for Thailand arises from applying for such a document via an Embassy or non-honorary Consulate.

As of this time of this writing, it seems that the aforementioned trend in Europe has spread to North America. A recent posting on the website of a Royal Thai Honorary Consulate in the United States of America reads:

EFFECTIVE AUGUST 15, 2016, WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO ISSUE MULTIPLE ENTRY TOURIST OR NON-IMMIGRANT VISAS. YOU MAY APPLY FOR SINGLE ENTRY TOURIST, TRANSIT, AND NON-IMMIGRANT O, B, OR ED VISAS ONLY. YOU MAY APPLY FOR MULTIPLE ENTRY VISAS AT THE LOS ANGELES CONSULATE OR THE ROYAL THAI EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON, DC

Although this message cannot necessarily be assumed to apply to all similar posts in the USA or Greater North America, a trend is appearing. It seems logical to infer that in the future it will no longer be possible to obtain long term multiple entry Thai visas from Honorary Consulates. This situation should not be misunderstood: there appears no reason to assume that Embassies and Consulates (which are not honorary appointments) will be precluded from issuing such travel documents. On the contrary, the trend appears to support the conclusion that such posts will be the exclusive issuers of such documents.

For those unaware, in recent months an announcement has been made that Thai Embassies abroad would begin issuing 6 month multiple entry tourist visas. However, it appears that much like non-immigrant visas such travel documents will only be issued from non-honorary posts. There are a few main visa categories commonly utilized by those wishing to remain in the Kingdom long term: Thai Business visas, Thai Retirement visas, Thai O visas (for family members of Thai nationals), and Thai Education visas. If one is seeking a Thai visa of any of the aforementioned categories and wish said document to be issued with a one year validity and multiple entries allowed, then it appears the only way to obtain said visa would be to apply at either a Thai Embassy or regularly established Consulate.

 

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19th August 2016

It appears that the fees for those who seek visas on arrival in Thailand are set to double beginning in September 2016. A full article regarding this issue can be read by clicking here.

It should be noted that this fee increase only pertains to those countries which require visas on arrival as opposed to Thai visa exemption stamps. Meanwhile it appears the the current fee structure for other Thai visa categories (such as the Thai business visa, retirement visa, marriage visa, and education visa) is to remain the same. However, it should be noted that as of the time of this writing, the practice of so-called “visa-runs” has effectively been eradicated as Thai immigration officials are no longer allowing multiple visa exemptions and/or tourist visas for the same individual in perpetuity.

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1st August 2016

In prior postings on this blog the issues of Thai immigration law and immigration enforcement have been discussed. In a rather recent posting it was noted that Thai immigration is placing increased scrutiny upon those seeking marriage visas (officially referred to as Thai O visas) in the Kingdom. It appears that after discovery of a spate of sham marriages perpetuated in order to obtain Thai immigration benefits, Thai immigration authorities began to subject Thai marriage visa applications to more intense scrutiny. This matter apparently remains a top priority of immigration officials in Thailand as a recent article in the Bangkok Post points out that high ranking officials with the Royal Thai Immigration Police have issued new directives with respect to this issue:

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn warned officers against dishonest acts as he listed the bureau’s action plans to screen foreigners in the country illegally…He ordered immigration officers to investigate if authorities colluded with foreigners to help enable sham marriages.

This news comes amidst the recent revelation that the so-called “border run” method of maintaining lawful immigration status in Thailand is coming to an end. In a recent posting on the Love Pattaya Thailand website it has been noted that as of August 13th 2016 the days of visa running to obtain a 15, 30, or even 60 day stamp is coming to an end. To quote directly from the aforementioned website:

The Immigration Bureau have already told the officials to refuse entry to foreigners on visa runs as a measure to stop the exploitation of tourist visas and visa exemptions to live or work here. Tourists wishing to extend their stay in Thailand must now need to exit the country and apply for a proper tourist visa

In the past, one could hope to obtain a new thirty day stamp at the airport in Thailand so long one was willing to fly out of the country and immediately get on a plane and fly back in. It appears that this is no longer feasible as so-called “fly-out/fly-in” visa runs will be discouraged following August 13th to the point where presumably such travelers will be turned away and not permitted to reenter the country without a duly issued visa from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Meanwhile, Japan just recently solidified her position as the number one tourist destination of people from Southeast Asia. Japan tops the list of most favored tourist destinations among Thai nationals. It appears that Thai tourism numbers in Japan has been on the upswing since the easing of visa rules for Thai nationals including 15 day visa free travel.

This news comes at the same time as news that Taiwan is allowing Thai tourists to travel visa free to that country starting August 1st. It will be interesting to see if this move has a positive impact upon the tourism sector in Taiwan.

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