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Posts Tagged ‘Royal Thai Immigration’

31st October 2010

In recent weeks there seems to have been some confusion related to the issue of overstaying one’s visa in Thailand. It would appear that there was a certain amount of consternation being created as a result of postings on the internet discussing Thai Immigration policies regarding overstay. Apparently, Thai Immigration authorities are heavily scrutinizing departing foreigners’ visas to ensure that those leaving the Kingdom of Thailand remained in lawful status for the duration of their stay and those not in lawful status at the time of departure must face legal consequences in the form of fines and possible incarceration. Penalties for overstay in Thailand have always been prescribed by relevant Thai Immigration law, but confusion seems to have arisen as a result of a posting on the internet stating that Thai Immigration procedures would be changing. However, the Phuket Gazette website phuketgazette.net subsequently reported that such speculation was incorrect. To quote directly from the Phuket Gazette:

Col Panuwat today told the Gazette, “I contacted the legal department at Immigration Bureau Headquarters on Soi Suan Plu in Bangkok, the Phuket Airport Immigration Superintendent and other authorities as well.”

“All have assured me that they are still following all the terms of the Immigration Act 1979, enacted on February 29 that year,” he said.

Under the Act, “any alien who stays in the Kingdom without permission, or with permission expired or revoked, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding two years, or a fine not exceeding 20,000 baht, or both.”

Penalties for Immigration violators can be rather severe, but in many cases individuals find that they have overstayed their visa by a matter of days. In a situation similar to this it is reasonable to believe that Immigration officers are unlikely to impose more than a fine on the offending party as they depart Thailand of their own accord. However, as the duration of one’s unlawful presence increases so too could one assume that the potential penalties might increase as well. Bearing that in mind, those pondering the overstay issue are wise to note that Royal Thai Immigration Officers have significant discretion in matters involving visas, admission to Thailand, and overstay in Thailand. As the aforementioned posting went on to note:

The Phuket Gazette notes that Immigration officers at checkpoints have always had complete discretion on what punitive measures to take with overstays, as specified above.

They can also deny entry to anyone arriving at a border checkpoint for any reason, even if the person arriving is in possession of a valid visa.

In the United States, Immigration matters are generally dealt with under Congressional plenary power and Immigration officers at the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP) are empowered with the authority to place prospective entrants into expedited removal proceedings or to simply deny a foreign national, even if said individual has a valid visa, admission to the USA. Thailand’s immigration rules are different from those of the United States, but one thing remains constant: Immigration Officers at any checkpoint throughout Thailand retain a great deal of discretion in matters pertaining to overstay under Thai law. Therefore, foreign nationals in Thailand should expect for overstay matters to be handled on a cases by case basis as each case is unique and no one has a right to remain in the Kingdom of Thailand without being in lawful status.

For related information please see: Thailand visa or I-601 waiver.

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22nd June 2010

In the relatively recent past, there were some who felt that Thailand was something of a “safe haven” for those with a criminal record or a criminal warrant issued outside of the Kingdom. However, in recent years, this appellation would seem to be increasingly misapplied as Thai authorities take evermore stringent measures against criminals from other jurisdictions. For example, Pattaya One News recently reported the arrest of a Belgian National for falsification of official documents. The following is a direct quote from that story:

On Tuesday afternoon at the Chonburi Immigration Office located in Soi 5 off Jomtien Beach Road, Police Lieutenant Colonel Prapansuk, the Deputy Superintendant of Chonburi Immigration, held a press conference to announce the arrest of a Belgian man wanted by the Belgian Authorities. Mr. Justin Andre Cornelius Van Den Bussche aged 38, a part-owner of a bar here in Pattaya and a resident of 3 years, was arrested at his house within the Sabai Jai Village in Central Pattaya. According to information received by the Belgian Embassy in Bangkok, Mr. Van Den Bussche was recently sentenced to 1 year in prison by a Belgian Court in relation to a case involving the falsifying of official documents. He was able to flee to Thailand and Immigration Police were informed that his Belgian passport was going to be cancelled on 15th June. On 15th he was arrested and charged with not possessing a valid passport and will be deported to Belgium where authorities will be waiting for him.

Thai authorities in Pattaya are not the only law enforcement agents in Thailand who appear to be taking a firm line against foreign nationals committing crimes in Thailand. The following is a quote from the Pattaya Today blog:

An American man was arrested and alleged to have committed paedophilia, or having engaged in sex, with an underage child in this northern Thai province, according to provincial tourist police. Police found evidence that the man identified as Wilbert Willis Holley, 72, had sexually abused a ten-year-old female student at a local school in Chiang Mai’s provincial seat. The girl told officials that she had been sexually molested several times by Mr Holley at a local guesthouse. The suspect however denied the charge but the investigators are confidence that they have strong evidence to take legal action against him. Police brought Mr Holley to search his residence in order to find whether or not there was further evidence for human trafficking or any other offences.

Those who believe that Thailand is a “safe haven” for criminal elements would be wise to note Royal Thai Immigration’s recent efforts to integrate their database with that of the United States and other international criminal and terrorism databases. This would seem to indicate strong resolve on the part of the Thai government to both prosecute and/or commence extradition proceeding against foreign and domestic criminals in Thailand.

For related reading on arrest warrants and criminal matters please see: warrant for my arrest or American attorney.

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17th December 2009

In a recent announcement posted on Thaivisa.com one individual renewing his visa in Thailand was taken aback by the fact that a Royal Thai Immigration officer wanted to test his knowledge of Thai before a Thai visa extension would be granted. To quote the posting directly:

“[I]went to pattaya/jomtien immigration today with all my paperwork to extend my ed visa (callen & walen) for the next 3 months. [A]ll ok on desk number 5 then she pass’s my paperwork to a desk behind her and moves me. [T]he lady starts talking to me in [T]hai, then tells me they are now testing applicants from there 2nd renewal onwards , ie after 6 months on a ed visa. [S]he stated my [T]hai was not up to scratch and that if i did not pass on the next renewal [I] would have my application refused next time. [S]he made it very clear they were now cracking down on ed visa applicants, not surprising really [I] guess with all the signs appearing claiming 1-10 year ed visa’s freely available.”

In recent years Thai ED visas have become extremely popular amongst those who wish to remain in Thailand for a long period of time without resorting “visa runs.” Many have speculated whether these visas would continue to be promulgated as easily as they have been up until this point. One of the popular reasons for obtaining such visas is based upon the applicant’s enrollment in Thai language classes. Until recently, Thai proficiency examinations were not required in order for foreign nationals to remain in the Kingdom on ED visas, but as the above quotation points out, this is no longer the case as Thai immigration officers seem to increasingly demand that applicants for ED visa renewal show some sort of proficiency in the Thai language.

A Thai visa classified as “ED” can be a useful travel document for a student in Thailand, but they are not particularly useful for those who wish to obtain a Thai work permit. Under current Thai immigration and labor regulations it is very difficult to obtain a Thai work permit if the applicant is present in the Kingdom on an ED visa. In some limited cases it may be possible to obtain a work permit on an ED visa if the work is in connection with the applicant’s school. For those interested in working or owning a business in Thailand it may be wise to apply for a Thai business visa as this document can be used, in conjunction with other documentation, as a basis for submitting a work permit application.

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