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Posts Tagged ‘blacklist’

15th July 2019

Issues surrounding the decline in tourism have been of increasing concern in Thailand over the past months. Many factors seem to be at play when discussing the issue of the tourism downturn in Thailand. For instance, fallout from the US-China Trade War may be playing an integral role in the declining number of tourists coming to Thailand since the slowing of the Chinese economy has knock-on effects regionally. Specifically, the decreased purchasing power of Chinese consumers is causing a decrease in demand for travel packages to Thailand.

The China-specific issues notwithstanding, many have pointed to the increasing strength of the Thai baht as a cause of concern. Budget conscious travelers to Thailand are being put off by the relative increase in cost to travel to the Kingdom as a result of the appreciating local currency.

Finally, some of the decreasing tourist numbers could be attributed to the increasingly stringent immigration policies being placed upon ostensible tourists. In the past, there were a number of individuals who opted to live in Thailand utilizing tourist visas or 30 day stamps. These individuals who have been tabulated as “tourists” in the immigration records, but the reality was that these people were using such visas to live in the Kingdom. New enforcement measures have been put in place and new policies promulgated which are designed to discourage such behavior. For example, where once overstay in Thailand was considered a rather trivial offense which resulted in a relatively nominal fine, especially for those who overstayed their visa for a prolonged period. Now overstay can result in deportation and a prolonged registration on the Thailand Blacklist. Meanwhile, Immigration officers at border checkpoints have been turning away prospective entrants to Thailand if they are using multiple 30 day stamps in one year or are attempting to remain for a prolonged period of time in the Kingdom on single entry or multiple entry tourist visas.

Notwithstanding the above issues, Thailand remains one of the best jurisdictions in Southeast Asia to do business. Proof of the increased interest in Thailand is the fact that Foreign Direct Investment in Thailand has increased by over 200% in 2018. This increase in FDI may be attributed to the fact that the benefits which can be accorded to companies looking to do business in Thailand under the Board of Investment (BOI) are substantial and can even include prolonged tax holidays. Meanwhile, Thailand boasts the best infrastructure in the region and Bangkok has seen tremendous real estate growth as well as infrastructural improvement including, but not limited to, the expansion of the rail system within the city. High speed rail systems are likely to be brought online in coming years as well. Clearly, although Thailand is seeing some decline in terms of tourism it is increasingly apparent that business travelers and investors are choosing the Kingdom to conduct business.

It should be noted that along with all of the above developments, Thailand remains arguably the best jurisdiction for Americans doing business in the region as Americans can enjoy the benefits of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. This agreement allows Americans citizens and American companies “national treatment” when doing business in the Kingdom thereby permitting 100% ownership of American enterprises operating in Thailand. This coupled with Thailand’s infrastructure and business environment makes Thailand an especially welcoming destination for American investment.

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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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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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2nd March 2016

In a recent posting on the website of the National News Bureau of Thailand the possibility of issuing Thai work permits with a validity of two years was discussed. To see the announcement please read this quotation from the aforementioned website:

The Cabinet has approved the extension of the work permit for foreign nationals to two years while giving employers four months to bring their workers to apply for the document. Director-General of the Department of Employment Arak Prommanee revealed that Cabinet approval has been granted to the proposal of the committee in charge of foreign labor management policies to have the life of foreign workers’ temporary work permit, or the pink card, extended from one year to two years. As a result, workers whose permits will expire on March 31, 2016 will be allowed to stay in the Kingdom for two more years, pending the nationality verification process. To apply for the new permit, employers will be required to take their foreign employees to report themselves at registration spots designated by the Department of Employment within 120 days from April 1. The Cabinet also assigned the Department of Employment to adopt regulations in support of the permit extension within 120 days, with consideration to be given to the prevention of foreign labor shortage, national security, prevention of permanent residency, assurance of workers’ protection and establishment of an efficient management system.

It should be noted that the announcement above seems unclear regarding the type of work permit discussed. Some foreign nationals, such as Burmese, Cambodian, and Lao nationals, have a different work permit regime compared to other foreign nationals and from the above information it is difficult to ascertain whether the proposed 2 year Thai work permit scheme is meant for all foreign work permits or a specified subset. Further information will be provided for clarification should a further announcement be made.

Meanwhile, while it appears from the above announcement that Thai officials may be poised to implement more favorable conditions regarding foreign labor regulations, Thai immigration rules are poised to become much more stringently applied. New immigration rules have been on the horizon for some time now as evidenced by a January 2016 articlein the Bangkok Post discussing the proposed rule changes:

In just under two months, the Immigration Bureau will officially begin arrests and tough new penalties against foreign law-breakers. The programme is in the hands of Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn Prousoontorn, one of the most experienced immigration officers. He has spent some time drawing up new laws, rules and regulations, as part of the first major overhaul of immigration enforcement in decades.

Those overstaying a visa in Thailand will soon face strict fines and penalties. Moreover, those caught committing a crime while overstaying could see themselves barred from entering Thailand for as long as ten years. There are some who would argue that these changes are long overdue. For decades, Thailand’s immigration rules have been quite lax when compared with the rules and regulations of other countries (notably the United States which has, since the mid 1950s, had severe bars for overstaying enshrined in the provisions of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act), but that era appears to be coming to an end. In the future, those overstaying more than 90 days could see themselves barred from reentering Thailand for varying periods of time depending upon the amount of time they have overstayed.

In a more recent article in the Bangkok Post further clarification was provided regarding how far immigration officials are seemingly willing to go in enforcing the soon-to-be enacted rules for overstayers:

Overstaying just got serious. After decades of treating visa-overstay less seriously than jaywalking, there now will be real and lasting consequences…the computerised blacklist operators at every airport and border crossing are going to kick out those who have overstayed, and not let them back. This is the really new part of the plan – exile.

Finally, notwithstanding the previously noted implementation of stricter overstay rules, it appears that those in Thailand as journalists may face increased scrutiny from immigration. In the aforementioned article, new rules for M visa holders (“M” standing for Media) was discussed:

The Foreign Ministry announced tweaked rules for the M-class non-immigrant visa and extension. Minister Don Pramudwinai himself helped to write, signed off, defended and will oversee the new rules for journalists.

Although presently there are no clear guidelines yet set regarding the new regime for administering M visas the consensus seems to be that M visa issuance may become more selective. Some have surmised that fewer freelance journalists will be granted M visas moving forward. This blog will continue to provide updates on the situation as the rules come into effect and the methods of enforcing new rule changes become clearer. Readers are strongly encouraged to follow the links above and conduct their own research on these matters as failure to adequately understand these policies could lead to problems in the future. New rules for overstay in Thailand are set to be implemented in mid-March 2016.

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