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Posts Tagged ‘Good Guys in Bad Guys out’

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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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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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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