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Posts Tagged ‘test and go’

30th April 2022

It has recently come to this blogger’s attention that the Thailand Pass, a system not unlike the US’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (also known as ESTA), will remain in place for at least the immediately foreseeable future. To quote directly from Thai PBS World:

The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) will not scrap the “Thailand Pass” scheme, as has been widely anticipated, but will shorten the registration process for overseas tourists applying to enter Thailand as the “Test and Go” one-night quarantine scheme for the fully vaccinated is scheduled to come to an end on April 30, CCSA assistant spokesperson Sumanee Wacharasint said today (Thursday). Dr. Sumanee added, however, that when COVID-19 situation in the country steadily improves, the CCSA may consider further easing of restrictions. She explained that there are currently four steps in the “Thailand Pass” application process, namely checking of vaccination certification, checking of the evidence of advanced hotel bookings, checking of proof of insurance coverage while in Thailand, and proof of booking for RT-PCR testing…Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will personally oversee preparations by all agencies to cope with overseas arrivals, once the “Test and Go” scheme ends on April 30, according to Traisulee Traisoranakul, deputy spokesperson for Government House today (Thursday).

The Thai Pass has proven to be an obstacle to seeing tourism fully recover in Thailand as many prospective tourists do not wish to undertake the process of getting a Thailand Pass issued. That stated, there is reason to be hopeful for the return of tourists to Thailand as a substantial amount of obstacles have been removed for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers wishing to gain admission to Thailand. Most notably, either of the aforementioned groups of travelers, with correct documentation, can now avoid the need to quarantine in a Thai hotel. This requirement, sometimes referred to as the Test and Go program, has been removed.

Notwithstanding recent announcements from the Biden administration regarding the desire to decease the Immigration case processing backlog, US visa cases are still processing in a relatively slower manner than they were prior to the pandemic. This seems to be especially true in cases where applicants are seeking immigrant spouse visas, such as the CR-1 visa and the IR-1 visa, for the USA. The National Visa Center seems to be a major sticking point in terms of overall processing time. For this reason, some prospective immigrants are opting to use the K-1 visa rather than an immigrant spouse visa in order to gain admission to the USA more quickly. Hopefully the situation will improve over the course of the rest of the year and we will update this blog accordingly.

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26th February 2022

In what can only be described as good news for the tourism industry in Thailand, it appears the re-introduced “Test and Go” scheme is about to be less cumbersome. To quote directly from a recent article in the Bangkok Post:

The government will further relax entry rules for foreign visitors starting next month, bowing to demand from the local tourism industry to lower costs as more countries ease border controls to lure holidaymakers. Vaccinated arrivals to Thailand will not be required to undergo a mandatory polymerase chain reaction test on the fifth day of the arrival starting March 1. Instead, they can do a self-antigen test, scrapping the requirement to have a confirmed hotel reservation for the test. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), the main virus task force chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, also lowered the minimum medical insurance coverage for visitors to no less than $20,000 from $50,000.

The 5 day test requirement proved to be a major sticking point for many prospective travelers especially as it created a rather expensive accommodation requirement. It is also noteworthy that insurance requirements have been eased as well. Insurance requirements have proven to be a point of concerns for many would-be tourists to Thailand. It is also a concern for many retirees in Thailand. This is especially the case as new regulations are set to come online in October which would require those with an O-A retirement visa to obtain 100,000 USD coverage for health insurance. For those unable to obtain such coverage, it may be possible to utilize new rules allowing for “self-insurance“. That stated, the requirements would mean a substantially higher burden on some prospective retired expats. It is worth nothing that these requirements do not appear to apply to those holding an O retirement visa, but only the O-A subcategory.

The Thailand Elite Visa will now have the option for issuance of a Thai work permit, but with a price tag of 32 million Baht, and the fact that the Elite visa does not confer Thai permanent residence, it seems unlikely that a large number for foreign nationals will avail themselves of the privilege.

Meanwhile, in an American immigration context, backlog appears to be the greatest overall concern. Quoting directly from a recent article from the Guardian:

America’s immigration courts are struggling to function at the most basic level, with courts that are already woefully understaffed and judges often undertrained now overwhelmed by a growing backlog of more than 1.6m cases, industry leaders have warned. The system is so damaged that judges, scholars and attorneys all share concerns about whether immigrants due in court will even receive notice before their hearings so they know to show up and aren’t ordered deported in absentia – an urgent concern made worse by volatile immigration policies at the US-Mexico border.

Many similar issues are occurring in the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) as backlogs and slow processing plague cases of those seeking a K-1 fiance visa or marriage visas such as the K-3 visa or the immigrant spouse visa categories such as the CR-1 or IR-1 visa. There is legitimate concern that these backlog issues are straining the underlying relationships in these cases to the point where they are sometimes destroyed. Hopefully these issues will be rectified in the foreseeable future.

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19th January 2022

It appears that officials in Thailand may be planning to resume the “Test and Go” initiative in an effort to spur tourism to Thailand. To quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

The expected resumption of the Test & Go tourism scheme in February should allow the country to attract at least 8 million tourists this year, says the Tourism and Sports Ministry. Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said his ministry plans to push for the resumption of the quarantine-free Test & Go scheme next month as this proposal is scheduled for discussion at the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration meeting on Jan 20….The resumption of Test & Go in February still allows enough time to reach 8 million arrivals this year, he said.

Clearly, tourism numbers have suffered since the suspension of the “test and go” program and although actual resumption of the protocol remains to be seen, it can be surmised from numbers prior to the program’s suspension that the reopening of the country would bring in much needed revenue to Thailand’s ailing tourism industry. Meanwhile, on a related note, it appears Immigration authorities in Thailand are seeking to create a new set of visas to lure “high net worth” foreign nationals to the Kingdom. To quote again from the Bangkok Post:

The cabinet on Tuesday approved visa changes intended to attract affluent foreigners for lengthy stays, targeting the rich, retirees, remote workers and skilled professionals…Deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said the new regulations were in two draft ministerial announcements submitted by the Interior Ministry and the Labour Ministry…They target foreigners with enormous wealth, wealthy pensioners, foreigners who want to work remotely from Thailand, and highly skilled professionals. The Interior Ministry proposals provide for long-term residence (LTR) visas, each for up to four family members including children up to 20 years old. The Board of Investment will set the qualifications of the applicants.

It should be noted that the proposed visa scheme remains approved only in principle as the regulatory structure has yet to be fully “ironed out.” However, there are some clues as to what this visa regime may ultimately look like. For example, the integral participation of the Board of Investment in Thailand leads this blogger to believe that the proposed visa scheme will ultimately look very similar to the current SMART visa program which has been operational in Thailand for a bit less than 5 years as of the time of this writing. Although the final rules regarding this proposal have yet to be promulgated so the final criteria for visa approval remain to be seen.

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