Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘quarantine’

14th June 2021

It recently came to this blogger’s attention via the website of the US Embassy in Thailand that there is a new policy in place regarding the expired passports of US Citizens. To quote directly from the aforementioned website:

U.S. citizens may directly return to the United States with certain expired U.S. passports.

If you are overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you may be able to use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until December 31, 2021.

You qualify for this exception if all the following are true:

  • You are a U.S. citizen.
  • You are currently abroad seeking direct return to the United States.
  • You are flying directly to the United States, a United States territory, or have only short-term transit (“connecting flights”) through a foreign country on your direct return to the United States or to a United States Territory.
  • Your expired passport was originally valid for 10 years. Or, if you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport was valid for 5 years.
  • Your expired passport is undamaged.
  • Your expired passport is unaltered.
  • Your expired passport is in your possession.

You do not qualify for this exception if:

  • You wish to depart from the United States to an international destination.
  • You are currently abroad seeking to travel to a foreign country for any length of stay longer than an airport connection en route to the United States or to a United States territory.
  • Your expired passport was limited in validity.
  • Your expired passport is a special issuance passport (such as a diplomatic, official, service, or no-fee regular passport).
  • Your expired passport is damaged.
  • Your expired passport is altered.
  • Your expired passport is not in your possession…

This is a major departure from standard procedures regarding American passports. Those keenly interested in this issue are advised to click the link above to read the entire announcement. Clearly, the United States Embassy in Thailand is attempting to provide solutions to Americans abroad who have seen their passports expire as the duration of the Thai government’s response to the COVID situation drags on. Although this is something of an “ad hoc” initiative the State Department’s policy is laudable as it creates flexibility for many Americans abroad who otherwise would be unable to return home.

Meanwhile, Thai Immigration policy continues to evolve. There has been significant progress made with regard to the proposed “Phuket Sandbox” initiative which, once implemented, would allow travelers to be admitted to Phuket, Thailand without being required to quarantine in their hotel for 14 days. However, there are been a number of developments in recent weeks which appear both positive and negative. For example, the following was noted in a recent article on ThaiVisa.com:

Over 50 percent of foreigners who had confirmed they would visit Phuket as part of the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ project have now cancelled their plans, Thailand’s tourism minister has said. Pipat Ratchakitprakarn, Minister of Tourism and Sports, told Spring News that after the Center for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) increased the minimum period of stay from 7 days to 14 days, 29,700 foreigners have now cancelled plans to visit Phuket. Under the Phuket Sandbox scheme, vaccinated foreigners do not need to be quarantined in a hotel room, but they are required to remain in Phuket before travelling to other provinces in Thailand…

The fluidity of regulations pertaining to the sandbox initiative seems to be alienating a number of otherwise interested travelers. Meanwhile, ThaiVisa.com went on to note that:

The Phuket Sandbox project, the launch of which is best described as chaotic, suffered another blow last week after it was announced that bars and pubs in Phuket would remain closed when the first tourists start arriving from July 1.

It seems immigration and quarantine policy are not the only obstacles standing in the way of substantial tourist numbers returning. It should be noted that the Phuket initiative has yet to be brought online so it remains to be seen if the “sandbox” plan will actually be implemented. It seems prudent to infer based upon comments from relevant Thai government officials that the sandbox program will be implemented. However, the popularity of such a plan remains to be seen. Presently, those arriving in other parts of Thailand, including Bangkok and Chiang Mai, are required to undergo 14 days of alternative state quarantine (ASQ) before being released. This quarantine pertains not only to foreign tourists, but also to those entering Thailand on non-immigrant visas such as the business visa, retirement visa, marriage visa as well as Thai nationals and permanent residents. The end date for quarantine enforcement in Thailand remains to be seen.

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23rd April 2021

As the government’s response to the COVID situation persists, there are a number of tangential effects reverberating in an Immigration context. For example, the oft discussed “sandbox” initiative in Thailand to allow particularly Phuket to reopen in July may be under threat. To quote a recent article from The Phuket News:

The question of re-opening Thailand to Tourism, starting with Phuket, has obviously taken a knock backwards. The Tourism and Sports Minster said, “The key determinant is insufficient vaccines, we are concerned about the re-opening timeline. We still need to discuss the vaccine administration plan. If the herd immunity goal cannot be achieved, we may have to consider opening only certain areas in Phuket,” he said.

Although July, the proposed month to begin the sandbox program, is some time off and the future is difficult to predict it seems increasingly unlikely that the program will be implemented in that time frame. That stated, a recent excerpt from the Bangkok Post could be viewed as more optimistic:

However, authorities will continue with their plan to bring in vaccinated international visitors via a pilot project called Phuket Sandbox in July. The Tourism and Sports Ministry will help distribute Covid-19 vaccines to cover 70% of Phuket’s residents to prepare for international tourists.

Meanwhile, the truncated quarantine policies, allowing for 7 days of quarantine and 10 days of quarantine for foreign vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers, respectively appears unchanged. This appears to be the case so long as said foreign nationals are not originating from “high risk” countries. In that case, the 14 day quarantine remains the standard. These protocols also include those traveling to Thailand on Thai retirement visas as well as visas for marriage and business purposes.

The economy in Thailand has been taking a hit due to the recently announced “lockdown” measures (although officials are at pains to point out that an actual “lockdown” is not in effect). All bars and entertainment establishments have been ordered closed and restaurants cannot serve alcohol for some weeks. How exactly this situation plays out remains to be seen, but Thai business leaders have voiced their concerns about the devastating economic impact of these policies.

In the realm of American immigration, the situation has had something of an impact upon those seeking visas to the USA, but cases continue to process out of the National Visa Center and the Embassy continues to conduct interviews. Whether this trend continues remains to be seen, but we will provide updates on the situation as it continues to evolve.

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18th March 2021

The overall Immigration system in both the United States and Thailand have been in a state of flux for a number of months. The transition in Administrations in the United States has had a number of effects upon the Immigration apparatus as a whole, most recently the Secretary of Homeland Security announced changes with respect to the public charge rule. To quote directly from the Department of Homeland Security website:

Today, DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced that the government will no longer defend the 2019 public charge rule as doing so is neither in the public interest nor an efficient use of limited government resources.

“The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation’s values. It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “Consistent with the President’s vision, we will continue to implement reforms that improve our legal immigration system.”

President Biden’s Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans called for an immediate review of agency actions on public charge inadmissibility and deportability. DHS’s review, in consultation with the Departments of Justice and State and the federal benefits-granting agencies, is ongoing.

Clearly, this represents a sea change with respect to immigration policy on issues associated with acting as a sponsor for an intending immigrant or in cases where adjustment of status is involved. This is likely to have a tremendous impact upon processing of cases such as the K1 Visa, the K3 Visa, the CR1 Visa, and the IR1 Visa. In K-1 visa cases, those acting as sponsors must file an I-134 affidavit of support while the I-864 applies to immigrant visas. Hopefully, the recently announced policy change will benefit those seeking these types of visas.

Meanwhile, it seems officials in Thailand are going ahead with easing of quarantine measures. The process of lifting the quarantine is slated to occur in phases, with phase 1 set to commence in April. There are to be 4 phases of the quarantine easing with phase 2 (so-called “area quarantine“) set to commence at the beginning of the summer and apparently the Kingdom will open much more in October. Much of the reopening appears contingent upon the broad adoption of so-called vaccine passports, with certificates of entry to be phased out in favor of that documentation. Notwithstanding these announcements, it now appears that quarantine will continue albeit on a truncated basis, with those who can prove prior vaccination and a clear COVID test able to enjoy 7 days of quarantine (as opposed to 14 days) beginning in April. Those unvaccinated with a clear COVID test will only be compelled to quarantine for 10 days.

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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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14th March 2020

We have been trying to keep up on the news regarding Coronavirus (also know as COVID-19) in #Thailand. In prior posts on this blog we noted that a number of countries have had their visa on arrival or 30 day stamp privileges suspended. It now appears that Americans coming to Thailand will need to deal with new protocols upon entry. To quote directly from a recent Health Alert from the US Embassy:

There is an ongoing outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) first identified in Wuhan, China.  The global public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, with more than 145,000 reported cases worldwide. The government of the Kingdom of Thailand has implemented enhanced screening and quarantine measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  On March 13, 2020, the Kingdom of Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health added the United States to its list of countries with ongoing local transmission. Travelers entering the Kingdom of Thailand who have been in the United States within the prior 14 days are subject to self-monitoring and reporting requirements.  There are no mandatory quarantine requirements in effect at this time for travelers arriving from the United States who do not display signs of infection.  Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.  Visit the website of Ministry of Public Health for additional information on these new measures.

We urge readers of this blog to click on the link above to read the complete announcement. Clearly, Thai officials are taking increasingly stringent precautions as the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate. It appears officials from the American Embassy will be assisting Americans where possible in the coming days. We will keep readers updated on this blog as the situation evolves.

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