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Posts Tagged ‘A-O’

28th August 2022

As the Immigration system in the Thailand increasingly normalizes two major events are near on the horizon with respect to Thai Immigration policy. The most pressing development is the introduction of the Thai Long Term Residence Visa (which is NOT actually a visa which confers permanent residence in Thailand). To quote directly from a recent article in the Bangkok Post:

Since the lifting of the strict lockdown in the first quarter of 2022, and the decrease in the number of Covid-19 cases, the Thai economy has shown signs of recovery. However, Thailand still faces a battle in bringing its economy back up to pre-pandemic levels in order to compete with its Asean neighbours, not to mention the world. Therefore, in June this year, the Royal Gazette formally announced the introduction of an initiative between the Ministry of Interior (MOI), the Ministry of Labour (MOL), and the Board of Investment (BOI) in the form of a Long-Term Resident (LTR) visa that is designed to attract a new wave of foreign direct investment (FDI) and knowledge transfer experts….Furthermore, while some of the related official regulations were enforceable in the middle of this year, others will be gradually implemented from the end of August 2022 to early September 2022 as the BOI plans to start accepting applications from Sept 1, 2022, onwards. However, there has been no announcement regarding the actual starting date or official online system to support the applications.

Although these visas seems unlikely to be utilized broadly, it does appear to be government policy to attract “High Net Worth” individuals to Thailand. Meanwhile, changes are also set to take effect with regard to the O-A retirement visa, to quote directly from the Pattaya Mail:

Special rules apply to those retirees with an O/A annual retirement visa issued by Thai embassies abroad. They need comprehensive, not Covid only, medical insurance worth US$100,000 to obtain the visa in the first place. They will also need it on applying for an annual extension of stay at immigration offices, although the amount is much smaller – around US$13,000 or 400,000 baht for hospitalization – until October 2022. Thai Cabinet news releases last year stated that the renewal insurance minimum would rise to US$100,000 on that date.

September and October appear to be months where major changes to Thai immigration policy will transpire. It is notable that this is all occurring while major changes are taking place with regarding to Thai visa exemption stamps and visas on arrival are poised to provide double the status to those eligible upon entry to Thailand. It will be interesting to see exactly how these developments play out from a practical perspective.

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26th February 2022

In what can only be described as good news for the tourism industry in Thailand, it appears the re-introduced “Test and Go” scheme is about to be less cumbersome. To quote directly from a recent article in the Bangkok Post:

The government will further relax entry rules for foreign visitors starting next month, bowing to demand from the local tourism industry to lower costs as more countries ease border controls to lure holidaymakers. Vaccinated arrivals to Thailand will not be required to undergo a mandatory polymerase chain reaction test on the fifth day of the arrival starting March 1. Instead, they can do a self-antigen test, scrapping the requirement to have a confirmed hotel reservation for the test. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), the main virus task force chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, also lowered the minimum medical insurance coverage for visitors to no less than $20,000 from $50,000.

The 5 day test requirement proved to be a major sticking point for many prospective travelers especially as it created a rather expensive accommodation requirement. It is also noteworthy that insurance requirements have been eased as well. Insurance requirements have proven to be a point of concerns for many would-be tourists to Thailand. It is also a concern for many retirees in Thailand. This is especially the case as new regulations are set to come online in October which would require those with an O-A retirement visa to obtain 100,000 USD coverage for health insurance. For those unable to obtain such coverage, it may be possible to utilize new rules allowing for “self-insurance“. That stated, the requirements would mean a substantially higher burden on some prospective retired expats. It is worth nothing that these requirements do not appear to apply to those holding an O retirement visa, but only the O-A subcategory.

The Thailand Elite Visa will now have the option for issuance of a Thai work permit, but with a price tag of 32 million Baht, and the fact that the Elite visa does not confer Thai permanent residence, it seems unlikely that a large number for foreign nationals will avail themselves of the privilege.

Meanwhile, in an American immigration context, backlog appears to be the greatest overall concern. Quoting directly from a recent article from the Guardian:

America’s immigration courts are struggling to function at the most basic level, with courts that are already woefully understaffed and judges often undertrained now overwhelmed by a growing backlog of more than 1.6m cases, industry leaders have warned. The system is so damaged that judges, scholars and attorneys all share concerns about whether immigrants due in court will even receive notice before their hearings so they know to show up and aren’t ordered deported in absentia – an urgent concern made worse by volatile immigration policies at the US-Mexico border.

Many similar issues are occurring in the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) as backlogs and slow processing plague cases of those seeking a K-1 fiance visa or marriage visas such as the K-3 visa or the immigrant spouse visa categories such as the CR-1 or IR-1 visa. There is legitimate concern that these backlog issues are straining the underlying relationships in these cases to the point where they are sometimes destroyed. Hopefully these issues will be rectified in the foreseeable future.

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22nd November 2021

As Thailand’s recent reopening continues unabated the Thailand Pass appears to pose issues for some wishing to travel to Thailand. The following was quoted from the official website of the Bangkok Post:

Some hotels are deceiving visitors from overseas, taking room reservations but omitting transport from the airport and Covid-testing, which means they must buy a new package on arrival or be rejected. Apisamai Srirangson, a spokeswoman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said on Monday that some hotels misled visitors and booked them only for the room. The charge did not include a limousine service from the airport to the hotel or the RT-PCR Covid-19 test on arrival, even though both were required as conditions of entry on a Thailand Pass…Thailand Pass replaced the certificate of entry (CoE) on Nov 1 when the kingdom reopened to visitors. It requires visitors to have been fully vaccinated, have a clean RT-PCR test within 72 hours before boarding their flight and have US$50,000 health insurance.

Clearly, not all of the “bugs” have been worked out of the system as some of these issues may have been due to the vast number of technical issues associated with the increased logistics associated with traveling to Thailand under current conditions.

Meanwhile, there are rumors circulating that Thailand may soon see a reopening of the nightlife venues as the country moves forward. Prior announcements have stated that Thailand’s nightlife sector (bars, pubs, and entertainment zones) will not reopen until mid-January at the earliest, but there is now talk among some government officials that things may reopen sooner than that. However, an official announcement remains to be seen.

Recent policy changes with respect to retirement visas (and indirectly, reentry permits) may be the cause of consternation among the expat retiree community. Insurance requirements for all Thai visas except business visa holders has been a major topic of discussion recently. Meanwhile, it appears on more than one Thai consulate website that the minimum financial requirements for Thai retirement visas is increasing. For example, on the Thai Consulate in Los Angeles‘s website it now appears that 1.2 million baht will be the requirement in a bank account to obtain a Thai O-A retirement visa. In the past, the requirement has long been 800,000 THB. Concurrently, the same website is stating 100,000 THB in pension income would also prove sufficient, where once 65,000 THB was considered adequate. After further review, the Thai Consulate in Sydney‘s website showed similar information. What precisely this means for those looking to undertake the Thai retirement visa process remains to be seen.

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10th August 2021

As the current economic situation in Thailand continues down a precarious path due to lockdowns. There are many who fear tourism may not return to Thailand in high numbers any time in the near future. In fact, quarantine rules do not look like they are going away and the Phuket sandbox has proven to be less of a draw than initially anticipated. There are some who have speculated that Thailand may have come to overly rely upon tourism as an integral component of the overall economy. Whether or not this is true is difficult to ascertain, but it should be noted that anyone predicting the events of 2020 and 2021 in, say, the year 2018 would have been called worse names than crazy so the notion that Thailand came to overly depend upon tourism is only an argument that operates logically in hindsight.

Although the Phuket sandbox has been discussed a great deal as of late, there is also a similar program which has been initiated in Samui and those wishing to avail themselves of this tourism opportunity may do so by traveling through Bangkok in “sealed terminals” in order to undergo “sandbox quarantine” for 14 days on that island. Presently, travel restrictions in Thailand have precluded wide travel latitude for those wishing to leave the Phuket sandbox, but this does not appear to currently be an issue in the Samui system. Those wishing to travel to Bangkok from abroad may do so, but they are still required to undergo quarantine in a Bangkok hotel via the Alternative State Quarantine system.

Business travelers to Thailand are not precluded from using either the Samui or Phuket sandboxes so those with a Thai business visa and/or Thai work permit may return to Thailand without undue hardship. It is worth pointing out that Thailand is one of the few jurisdictions in Southeast Asia which is trying to maintain tourist travel as well as admitting non-immigrant visa holders such as the aforementioned B visa holders as well as those holding an O visa for marriage to a Thai or for retirement. Thai Embassies and Consulates are still issuing O-A retirement visas to those retirees abroad. Thailand remains one of the few countries in Southeast Asia actively issuing visas to foreign retirees.

Those seeking visas to the USA may continue to do so under present circumstances although appointment scheduling has proven somewhat cumbersome in recent months as the American Embassy in Bangkok appears to be either understaffed or unable to process a large caseload due to restrictions associated with the response to COVID-19. However, appointments are available, albeit it in a relatively limited number.

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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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8th December 2020

There have been a number of developments regarding Thai immigration in recent weeks including the recent announcement that the Special Tourist Visa program will be expanded to include more than a limited number of countries. To quote directly from a recent article in the Bangkok Post:

The cabinet on Tuesday resolved to offer long-stay special tourist visas (STV) to visitors from every country instead of only those with low risks of the novel coronavirus.

This news comes as it appears there are again talks of creating “travel bubble” corridors on a bilateral basis between Thailand and counterpart countries. It seems under this travel bubble scheme nationals from some countries may be fast-tracked through quarantine or not required to quarantine at all so long as they remain in a restricted geographic area. As of the time of this writing, such a plan has yet to be implemented. With respect to in-country Thai Immigration matters is noteworthy that the Thai visa amnesty has been extended for those unable to leave the country. Meanwhile, the caseload volume of Thai visas being consular processed appears to be increasing as visa categories such as the Thai retirement visa, business visa, and tourist visa are, depending upon the jurisdiction, opening up. At the same time, there is some discussion surrounding the notion of implementing a contact tracing app for those traveling to Thailand as tourists. It remains to be seen whether this will apply to non-immigrants such as retirees and businesspersons. A notable requirement now associated with Thai visa processing which has become ubiquitous, but was never required in the past is insurance. Insurance coverage for COVID-19 is required for all visa categories including the Single Entry Tourist Visa (or SETV). Concurrently, some of those who were able to avoid needing insurance due to usage of an O retirement visa (as opposed to an O-A retirement visa) are finding that, if abroad, they are being compelled to obtain insurance in order to obtain a Certificate of Entry (COE) notwithstanding the fact that such coverage would not be required if applying for or extending status in Thailand.

With respect to American immigration, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding whether the transition from a Trump administration to an administration of the presumptive President-Elect Joe Biden will change the overall process and paradigm of the American immigration apparatus. In the long run, it is likely that a change of administration would dramatically improve processing conditions for American visas, including K-1 visas and immigrant visas which seem to be languishing at the National Visa Center and at US Embassies and Consulates abroad. That stated, the transition, although likely, is not yet a foregone conclusion as of the time of this writing. Meanwhile, it should be noted that bureaucracies such as the USCIS, NVC, and Department of State do not “stop on a dime” it takes time to reorganize and implement new policy. Therefore, it is likely that substantial changes will not be seen until deep into 2021.

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