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Posts Tagged ‘Operation XRay Outlaw Foreigner’

13th December 2018

Although probably coincidental it appears that Immigration officials in both the United States as well as Thailand are taking a firmer stance regarding immigration violations compared to times past. In a recent article from USA Today it was noted:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was ordered to quadruple worksite enforcement this year, and it did just that. In fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, ICE set 10-year highs for the number of worksite audits conducted (5,981) and criminal charges filed (779). ICE leadership claimed its crackdown is focused on employers and employees equally as part of a balanced approach to worksite enforcement, but the data show that the majority of arrests in 2018 were of workers. The 113 members of management charged with criminal violations in 2018 increased 82 percent from the previous year, but the 666 workers charged with criminal violations increased by 812 percent. The number of “administrative arrests” – those for basic immigration violations that are predominantly used against workers – spiked from 172 in 2017 to 1,525 in 2018. The 121 federal indictments and convictions of managers in 2018 represented a 10-year low for the agency.

It appears officials in the United States are predominantly concerned with immigration violations in an employment context, but there have also been developments which show the administration’s determination to more zealously scrutinize proposed beneficiary’s of immigration benefits as evidenced by the creation of the National Vetting Center as well as the formation of a task force designed to de-naturalize those suspected of immigration fraud. All of these developments in the aggregate provide substantial evidence that American officials are keen to suppress illegality in the Immigration apparatus.

Meanwhile, in Thailand officials continue to conduct raids on locations where “outlaw foreigners” are suspected of congregating or residing. However, it appears as though sham marriages have been an issue of more pressing concern as The Nation recently reported that Immigration authorities have had to deal with a number of individuals who have arranged marriages of convenience solely for the purpose of obtaining Thai Immigration benefits:

Police, in the ongoing crackdown on foreigners living unlawfully in the Kingdom, have arrested 10 Indian men and 24 Thai women os suspicion of involvement in a scam whereby fake marriages and false documents were used to extend the men’s stay in Thailand…Immigration Police Bureau 1 in Bangkok had detected the fake marriages between the 30 men and 30 women, which were falsely documented in order to extend spousal visas for the men, most of whom made a living in Thailand as illegal moneylenders or salesmen for pay-by-installment goods such as clothing and electrical appliances, police explained.

These recent developments evidence both an increased interest on the part of immigration officials to ascertain whether marriages are being entered into for legitimate purposes as well as an increasing level of sophistication utilized by Thai law enforcement officials in targeting suspected visa violators.

As of the time of this writing, it does not appear as though the pressure on illegal immigration operators in Thailand and the USA will let up.

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10th October 2018

Even less-than-avid readers of news regarding Thai Immigration matters are probably aware that there have been a number of changes which have occurred within the ranks of the Immigration Bureau in Thailand (including the appointment of Surachate Hakparn also known as “Big Joke” as head of Immigration). Also, there have been a number of incidents which point to an overall shift in the paradigm of Immigration officers in the Kingdom of Thailand. For example, the ongoing raids occurring throughout Thailand under the Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner program and the follow-on arrests, deportations, and blacklisting associated therewith.

Meanwhile, Immigration Checkpoints at various ports of entry throughout the country have seen multiple postings of signs explaining that there is to be “No Tipping” of Immigration personnel by those entering the Kingdom from abroad. The initiative appears to be especially aimed at those arriving in Thailand in need of a Visa on Arrival. This news came upon the heels of reports that individuals were recently arrested in connection with an immigration matter as it was found that the individuals in question were apparently attempting to use forged documents in order to obtain a Thai visa extension. The upshot of these arrests has resulted in increased scrutiny of those filing applications for Thai visa extension. As of the time of this writing, the heightened scrutiny of extension applications appears to be being applied across the board and not exclusively to cases which may be deemed suspicious. This is resulting in delays and difficulties for many people seeking to extend their non-immigrant visa status in the Kingdom.

It recently came to this blogger’s attention via the Bangkok Post that there are even further developments with respect to Thai Immigration. To quote directly from a recent Bangkok Post article:

The defence minister has ordered the IB to strictly enforce the law against foreign nationals overstaying their visas and those who remain in the country despite their visas having been revoked…Lt Gen Kongcheep added the foreign nationals identity database has to be integrated with the immigration screening facilities at border checkpoints and airports to help identify more quickly those who might pose as a threat to national security. Meanwhile, Pol Maj Gen Surachate announced IB will begin to deport visa overstayers — of which there are at least 40,000 — within a month.

These developments would represent substantial changes in terms of the way Immigration authorities currently enforce the law. Moreover, it is notable that the Immigration database will soon be linked to a more broad identity database which will likely result in better coordination between different government ministries in Thailand. As a result, Immigration authorities will be better equipped to identify and possibly forestall those deemed to be undesirable from entering or reentering the Kingdom.

If there are actually 40,000 individuals currently overstaying their status in Thailand it seems logical to infer that the implementation of these measures along with those previously implemented will result in a large number of such individuals being apprehended and possibly deported from Thailand. It should be noted that those arrested in Thailand for visa overstay are likely to be placed on the Blacklist and precluded from returning to the Kingdom for a prolonged period of time.

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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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