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Posts Tagged ‘retirement visa insurance’

20th June 2019

In the past 18 months it appears that there has been a major shift in the institutional paradigm of both the American and Thai immigration systems. For example, notwithstanding the fact that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has recently announced that more petition categories will be processed digitally moving forward, it appears that the increasingly complex nature of immigration forms and procedures is actually slowing down the overall US visa process. This news comes closely on the heels of the announcement that all International USCIS offices will be closed. In recent announcements, March 2020 is the deadline at which all international operations of USCIS shall cease. For readers in Thailand it should be noted that this announcement will also impact the USCIS Bangkok Field Office, although the exact date of closure remains to be seen. In anticipation of the upcoming office closures USCIS recently made the following announcement (quoting directly from the official USCIS website):

Beginning July 1, USCIS will no longer accept Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status at international field offices by mail or in person.

Seemingly in anticipation of questions raised by relevant parties living abroad, the announcement went on to note:

In very rare circumstances, a U.S. embassy, U.S. consulate, or USCIS international field office may accept a Form I-407 in person if an individual needs immediate proof that they have abandoned LPR status.

It is worth noting that the announcement makes special mention that I-407 surrenders at Embassies and Consulates will only be accepted under “rare” circumstances, it seems logical to presume that as a practical matter it will not be possible to file an I-407 form abroad after July 1, 2019. As can be seen from the information above, undertaking matters which pertain to American immigration is becoming increasingly arduous. It does not appear that the US immigration process is going to become less difficult to navigate any time in the near future.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, authorities are rolling out changes to rules regarding certain long-stay visa categories. Most notably, Ministry of Public Health officials have announced that an insurance regime will be brought into effect which will require foreign retirees in Thailand to obtain insurance as part of the application process for a Thai retirement visa. There is still some confusion regarding whether these new insurance regulations will pertain only to those who file a retirement visa application abroad or whether these new regulations will also apply to those seeking an extension of stay in retiree status in the Kingdom. Presently, all commentary on that topic is speculation as the new regulations have yet to be fully finalized.

Meanwhile, those seeking Thai visas from Laos have seen the Thai Embassy in Vientiane begin processing visa application appointments online. This has resulted in the number of applications processed diminishing as the appointment system effectively “caps” the number of applications which can be lodged in a given day. The upshot of this is that the Thai Consulate in Savannakhet has seen an increase in their case load. Laos is a popular destination for those in Thailand wishing to undertake a “visa run” or “border run” in order to prolong their lawful status in the Kingdom. The fact that the number of applications processed in Vientiane has diminished has resulted in the number of applications processed in Savannakhet rise.

After being granted lawful status in Thailand, the authorities appear increasingly concerned that foreign nationals are reporting their whereabouts in Thailand. A harder line regarding filing of the TM30 notice of residence has resulted in the number of fines being levied for failure to file being increased. Meanwhile, the added complexity of TM30 compliance has added a new layer of difficulty to the overall immigration process. In short, immigration matters in both Thailand and the United States are arguably becoming more byzantine. For this reason, it may be prudent for those wishing to navigate the immigration system to retain the services of a legal professional in order to achieve success in obtaining and maintaining lawful status in either jurisdiction.

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13th May 2019

The topic of retirement visa regulations has been of intense concern for some expats living in the Kingdom of Thailand. At first there was speculation that the income affidavit regime might come to an end in the context of retirement and marriage visas. Eventually, those speculating that income affidavits would no longer be provided by many Embassies in the Kingdom would be proven correct. Then, at the beginning of 2019, Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn (then Immigration Chief) promulgated rules with respect to financial requirements for those wishing to remain in the Kingdom in O-A retirement visa status or O marriage visa status. Shortly, thereafter, the Tourism Authority in Thailand announced an insurance scheme which would provide medical coverage for those temporarily in the Kingdom on tourist visa status. Members of the administration of this blog began to wonder if this insurance scheme was a precursor to a possible new requirement for Thai retirement visa insurance.

It appears, that such speculation is no longer necessary as Thai authorities have recently announced that insurance will soon be a prerequisite for Thai retirement visa issuance. To quote directly from The Nation’s website:

HEALTH insurance has been made mandatory for foreigners aged 50 years and above seeking long-term stay in Thailand. The insurance policy must offer up to Bt40,000 coverage for outpatient treatment and up to Bt400,000 for inpatient treatment…According to Nattawuth, the new rule applies to both new applicants for the non-immigrant visa (O-A) [retirement], which offers a stay of up to one year, and those wishing to renew their visa. Each renewal is valid for one year.

Clearly, authorities in Thailand have been concerned about the issue of uninsured retirees in the Kingdom as evidenced by the relative alacrity with which this policy has been implemented. This recent turn of events has left many to ponder whether they may use their own insurance which was obtained abroad. It appears that overseas insurance will be considered acceptable so long as the coverage comports with that mentioned in the quotation above. However, readers of this blog should note that exact regulations regarding how immigration officers should adjudicate overseas insurance have yet to be promulgated.

The past year has seen a tremendous change in Thai retirement visa law. It remains to be seen how these most recent developments will impact the expatriate community in Thailand, but we will update this blog or our other various media organs as the situation progresses.

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