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Posts Tagged ‘big joke’

3rd April 2019

In recent weeks, a major topic of conversation among the expat community has been the issue of address notification for foreign nationals staying in locations other than those noted on prior immigration documentation (e.g. prior application for extension of stay, or an address noted on a TM6 arrival card). In a recent article from the BuriRam Times the Head of Immigration, Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn was noted for making comments regarding changes to the penalty system associated with landlords failing to report foreigners staying on their premises:

“Channel 7 said that in the past warnings to people such as hotel owners and condo owners for failing to report foreigners in their properties would now be replaced by fines.”

In order to provide further clarity on this topic it may be best to quote directly from the official site of Thai Immigration:

“According to section 38 of the 1979 immigration act, “House owners, heads of household, landlords or managers of hotels who accommodate foreign nationals on a temporary basis who stay in the kingdom legally, must notify the local immigration authorities within 24 hours from the time of arrival of the foreign national.” If there is no immigration office in the province or locality of the respective house or hotel, the notification is made to the local police station. In Bangkok the notification is made to the Immigration Bureau. The notification of residence of foreign nationals is made by the manager of licensed hotels according to the hotel act, owners of guesthouses, mansions, apartments and rented houses using the form TM. 30. The notification of residence of foreign nationals within 24 hours can be made in a number of ways…”

Clearly, landlords have an affirmative duty to report foreigners staying on their premises through use of the TM30 form. What some foreign nationals staying in Thailand are unaware of is the fact that the duty to notify Thai Immigration of a change in address does not fall exclusively upon the landlord of the location at which the foreigner is staying, but in fact the duty also falls upon the foreign national in question to also unilaterally notify Royal Thai Immigration Police of a change in location (if the duration of stay is longer than 24 hours) through use of the TM28 form. As the administration of this blog reads the relevant regulations, foreign nationals who are deemed to be temporarily staying in the Kingdom must submit the TM28 form if their address should change. What constitutes an address change? Any stay of 24 hours in a given location. In what type of visa status is a foreign national considered to be staying “temporarily” in Thailand? The regulations would seem to dictate that those staying in the Kingdom on a visa exemption stamp, visa on arrival, tourist visa, or any type of non-immigrant visa (including, but not limited to, categories: B, O, ED, or O-A retirement) are considered to be staying in the Kingdom temporarily (regardless of the total duration of stay) and therefore are required to comply with the rules associated with the TM28.

Immigration officials have noted that the Immigration regulations are likely to soon see amendment due to the fact that many of the protocols associated with Thai Immigration law are somewhat outdated. Actual amendment of the regulations remains to be seen, but we will update readers as soon as changes occur.

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17th March 2019

The past 3 years have been some of the most eventful in the history of the Thai immigration apparatus. For example, the “Good Guys In Bad Guys Out” initiative and the concurrent enforcement program known as “Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner” have resulted in a large number of arrests, deportations, and the blacklisting of a number of foreigners in the Kingdom. Meanwhile, there have been a number of initiatives involving those in Non-immigrant status which have been noteworthy.

Changes to the Enforcement Rules for Thai Retirement Visas

A particularly hot topic since the beginning of 2019 has been how the rules regarding retirement visa income and financial evidence will be adjudicated moving forward. Whereas in the past it was possible for American, British, and Australian retirees in Thailand to obtain a certified letter or income affidavit regarding their abilities to financially support themselves since the conclusion of 2019 this type of evidence is no longer available as Embassies and Consulates of the aforementioned countries will no longer issue such documentation. Thereafter, in the first quarter of 2019 many announcements were made with respect to how evidence of financing would be adjudicated. Those seeking a retirement visa extension must now show that they have maintained a balance in their personal account of not less than 800,000 THB for 60 days prior to their application for a retirement visa extension and after the extension is issued it must be shown that the 800,000 THB remained on balance for an additional 90 days thereafter. Throughout the rest of the year 400,000 THB must be maintained. The Head of Thai Immigration Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn has noted that for the year 2019 Immigration officers are permitted to be somewhat lenient, but after 2019 these rules are to be enforced strictly.

Thai Marriage Visa Applicants Increasingly Scrutinized for Sham Marriages

Meanwhile, those who are seeking Thai marriage visas should be careful to avoid entering into a marriage solely for the purpose of obtaining a Thai Immigration benefit as Immigration police are increasingly wary of sham marriages in the wake of a number of such unions being discovered. Furthermore, as is the case with retirement visas, financial requirements connected to Thai marriage visa applications are subject to new enforcement protocols in the aftermath of the discontinuation of the aforementioned income affidavit scheme.

The Business Visa Extensions Incur Increased Scrutiny

It is not only those seeking marriage or retirement visas who are feeling the watchful eye of Thai Immigration peering over their shoulder. An increasing number of small business owners are being subjected to inspection and document scrutiny in connection with their applications for business visa extension. In fact, according to this blogger’s experience virtually all first time visa extension applicants in Bangkok are being subjected to inspection. Whether this trend will continue in the future remains to be seen.

Education Visas have Become Far Less Easy to Obtain

Finally, the Education visa: this visa was once a rather straightforward extension to obtain if one could prove enrollment in some sort of government sanctioned education program, but in recent years such visas have been more difficult to obtain and those utilizing such documentation have been the subject of increased scrutiny as well as periodic Immigration raids. It appears Immigration officers believe certain schools were being used merely as a pretext for procuring immigration benefits and conducted a number of raids on such facilities culminating in a large amount of arrests and deportation.

In conclusion, it should also be noted that Immigration authorities have arrested a number of so-called “visa agents” for filing false documentation in connection with visa applications. All of the above evidence leads to one logical conclusion: the Immigration system is Thailand is becoming more sophisticated and focused on enforcement measures. The era of a lax immigration regime allowing a significant number of foreigners to remain in the Kingdom for no valid reason is drawing to a close.

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6th January 2019

As the year 2019 opens, it appears as though the process of obtaining and maintaining a Thai or American visa will be more difficult compared to years past. Although certain aspects of each process may involve increased laxity, flexibility, or efficiency the overall theme from immigration authorities in the United States and Thailand would seem to be one of heightened scrutiny and increasingly stringent enforcement measures.

American Immigration Issues

Some facets of the US visa process look to be improving. For example, the Department of State through the National Visa Center and various Embassies and Consulates abroad are becoming more efficient by shifting away from paper documentation over to a new digitized interface allowing faster processing of supporting documentation for immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications. This blogger can say from personal experience that the new system still has some issues to be worked out, but the overall system would suggest that faster processing times at NVC are likely to be a mainstay in the future.

That stated, the overall process of obtaining a US visa would appear to be getting more difficult especially in light of the current administration’s addition of a National Vetting Center tasked with adding scrutiny to the overall adjudication of visa petitions. Meanwhile, policy changes regarding adjudication of visa applications are likely to have substantial impact upon the amount of denials which are issued by USCIS in coming years. A memorandum which came into effect in September of 2018 allows officers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service to deny visa petitions much more easily compared to times past when a Request For Evidence generally had to be issued before a denial. These developments coupled with creation of bodies such as the DeNaturalization task force and the prospect of a prolonged government shutdown would suggest that matters pertaining to American immigration are likely to prove more difficult moving forward.

Thai Immigration Issues

Meanwhile, as the United States’ Immigration apparatus becomes more cumbersome, Immigration authorities in Thailand do not seem to be backing down from their position regarding immigration and immigration enforcement in the Kingdom. In the lead up to 2019, the overarching policy of “Good Guys in Bad Guys Out” (a policy of encouraging lawful visitors and immigrants to the Kingdom while attempting to discourage travelers with more nefarious motives) manifested itself in terms of enforcement with “Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner“. By the end of 2018 Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn had announced that tens of thousand of illegal aliens had been arrested, deported, and blacklisted from returning to Thailand. In December of 2018 further statements would suggest that although a great number of visa violators have been precluded from remaining in Thailand, the Immigration office’s vigilance will not decrease. Concurrently, the process of obtaining extensions of Thai retirement visas and Thai marriage visas are likely to become more difficult for some people as it will no longer be possible to obtain an income affidavit for such extensions. This comes at the same time as immigration authorities make comments that would indicate prospective increased scrutiny on those using visa services to obtain retirement and marriage visa extensions by dint of funds on account in a Thai bank.

All of the above developments would indicate that immigration matters in both countries will continue to be complex if not downright difficult in the coming year and beyond.

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