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Posts Tagged ‘Thai Immigration’

2nd June 2020

While certain aspects of the COVID-19 situation seem to be evolving in a positive manner, there remain many travel restrictions in Thailand and the USA.

It appears that notwithstanding the overall restriction of foreign travel into Thailand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that accommodation for foreign nationals entering Thailand may be possible, provided they have a Thai Work Permit. However, it should be noted that a work permit (and presumably Business Visa or O Visa) is not the exclusive requirement to gain entry to the Kingdom. It appears that “fit-to-fly” documents must be obtained by travelers before departing for Thailand. Concurrently, it also appears that a Thai Entry Certificate issued by the Ministry of foreign Affairs in Bangkok will also be necessary, in addition to standard travel documents. These announcements are rather recent and full implementation of these policies remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, there is a great deal of interest regarding the possibility that the US Embassy in Thailand and the surrounding countries may reopen for visa interviews. However, as of the time of this writing it appears that the Embassies in Southeast Asia are unlikely to process out cases for K-1 visas, CR-1 visas, K-3 visas, or IR-1 visas any time soon. The following statement is noted on the US Travel Docs website for Thailand:

As of March 19, 2020, the United States Embassy and Consulate in Thailand are cancelling routine non-immigrant visa appointments. From March 24, the United States Embassy and Consulate is not accepting applications through Interview Waiver for any visa categories. We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

The following is noted on the same website for Cambodia:

In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State has temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Embassies and consulates have canceled all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020

Finally, a similar message is noted for Laos:

As of March 20, the United States Embassy in Vientiane, Laos is suspending routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments.  We will resume routine visa services as soon as possible but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.

Clearly, it seems unlikely that visa applications, and the interviews associated therewith, are unlikely to occur in any of the above posts for the foreseeable future. The overall situation regarding entry to the USA and Thailand remains rather fluid, we will keep updating this blog as the situation progresses.

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21st April 2020

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that President Trump has announced he will be suspending immigration into the USA. To quote directly from a recent artcile in Bloomberg.com:

President Donald Trump said he’ll sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States as the country tries to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Trump made the announcement by tweet late Monday night, and did not offer specifics, such as the time frame or the scope of who would be affected. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clearly, the ramifications of this announcement are significant. However, as noted above, the specifics of this suspension have yet to be fully explained. That stated, as this executive order is designed to be temporary there may not be long term ramifications. Concurrently, it seems probable that while immigration is suspended it is still possible to file immigration petitions so as to have one’s case in the queue when the visa interview facilities are brought back online at US Embassies and Consulates abroad and, provided the proposed executive order is lifted, immigration to the USA can continue.

Meanwhile, on a somewhat brighter note, it appears that Thai Immigration will be extending the automatic Thai visa extension program, also referred to as the Thai visa amnesty or Thai visa waiver program, for those who have been stranded in Thailand, to quote directly from a recent article from Reuters:

Thailand’s cabinet approved a second automatic visa extension for foreigners for three more months on Tuesday, in a bid to prevent long queues at immigration centres and stem the spread of the coronavirus. Foreigners whose visas had expired since March 26 will be permitted to stay until July 30 without having to apply for an extension, said Narumon Pinyosinwat, spokeswoman for the Thai government…

Although this is certainly good news it remains to be seen if this announcement will pertain to those who are present in Thailand in a non-immigrant visa, such as a Thai Business Visa, Thai Retirement Visa, or Thai O visa. Further, those who saw their visa status expire prior to March 26, 2020 may have issues maintaining visa status if they used  an Embassy letter to maintain lawful status prior to the enactment of the amnesty. It should also be noted, that the previous announcement regarding visa extension took some time to see implementation after cabinet approval as the regulatory scheme had to be drawn up. Therefore, it remains to be seen exactly what the practical implications of both of these announcements will be.

We will keep readers posted via this blog.

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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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12th March 2020

It now appears that the previously discussed restrictions of visa exemption and visa on arrival privileges will be implemented. To quote a recent article from The Nation:

(Update) Beginning on Friday (March 13), visitors to Thailand from 18 countries will no longer be eligible for visas on arrival, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda announced on Thursday…Anupong said visitors must apply for visas in their home countries and bring a certificate of sound health…Visitors from hard-hit locales Italy, South Korea and Hong Kong also become ineligible for visa-free entry, he said. The 18 countries are Bulgaria, Bhutan, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu and “China (including Taiwan)”…Department of Consular Affairs’ director-general Chatree Atchananant said earlier today that there would be no official announcement of the measure until the Cabinet considers it on March 17, before Anupong came out later to confirm that the measure would be implemented tomorrow (March 13).

As evidenced from the back-and-forth noted above, the coronavirus (or COVID-19) pandemic is causing a great deal of confusion at a policy level as officials seem hard pressed to come to a coherent solution which will protect the uninfected while simultaneously having the least detrimental impact upon foreign tourism and the overall Thai economy.

As this situation continues we will update this blog accordingly.

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12th March 2020

In our prior posting on this blog the issue of coronavirus and the impact upon US and Thai Immigration was discussed. At the time of that posting it appeared that a number of foreign nationals were going to see their visa exemption and/or visa on arrival privileges suspended in the wake of COVID-19 being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. It now appears this this policy is being put on hold. To quote directly from the Star:

The government has put on hold its plan to suspend visa on arrival (VoA) for 18 countries and visa-free entry from high-risk areas (South Korea, Hong Kong and Italy) after an urgent meeting on Thursday (March 12). The Department of Consular Affairs director-general, Chatree Atchananant, said that the matter will be discussed further at a Cabinet meeting on March 17.

Exactly if or when this policy will be enforced, if ever, remains to be seen. It is clear that governments around the world are having difficulty in crafting coherent policy in response to the spread of COVID-19. WE will keep this blog as up to date as possible as the situation evolves.

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9th February 2020

The coronavirus has been in the news quite a bit in recent days. It appears that China is taking drastic measures to curtail movement of people domestically and internationally in an effort to curb transmission of the disease. This article will look at some of the responses to these circumstances from both the Thai and American Immigration perspective.

Prior to the coronavirus’s prominence as a concern for international health authorities, Thai Immigration officials seemed to be mulling over the notion of waiving the fees associated with Thai tourist visas for Chinese and Indian nationals. This seemed to have been discussed in response to what was viewed by some as a rather less-than-optimal high season. Presently, it seems unlikely that visa fees will be waived for the foreseeable future. This news came at the end of a year which saw Thai Immigration officials promulgating regulations which placed new requirements and scrutiny on those seeking long-stay visas (including retirement, marriage, and business visas). It seems policymakers in the Immigration sector were looking to encourage a higher volume of tourists while simultaneously enhancing scrutiny and on those wishing to live in Thailand for prolonged periods.

As of the time of this posting, the numbers of Chinese nationals entering Thailand as tourists have substantially dropped. This is likely due to the fact that many cities and regions in China have been effectively quarantined and travelers are precluded from departing many cities in China for Thailand, or anywhere else. Concurrently, Thai Immigration authorities in airports are taking measures to screen individuals entering the country. However, it seems China’s domestic travel policies seem to be curtailing more travelers than Thai immigration policy. Exactly how coronavirus-related developments will further impact Thai immigration and tourism policy remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Coronavirus is impacting United States Immigration policy. However, as of the time of this writing it seems that the impact will not be substantial for those seeking US visas from places such as Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia as a recent proclamation from President Trump stated:

“I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.”

This news comes after reports that US visas are currently not being issued in China. Clearly, the administration is taking the coronavirus seriously, but it does not seem likely that this will directly impact the bulk of visa seekers from Southeast Asia. The current policy only will pertain to those who have visited China relatively recently. Therefore those seeking visas who hail from other countries (such as member states of ASEAN), and have not visited China, are unlikely to be affected by the new American proclamation regarding the coronavirus.

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1st January 2020

By any estimate, 2019 was not a great year for those dealing with either the American or Thai Immigration systems. In 2019, those seeking to live in Thailand under an O retirement or marriage visa saw many of the rules regarding that visa category changed. For example, it is now no longer possible for many expats in Thailand to use income affidavits issued from the Embassies or Consulates of their home country in order to prove their financial ability to remain in the Kingdom. Concurrently, the regulations regarding the income or bank balance requirements associated with the marriage and retirement visas are now more strictly enforced and may require a more prolonged maintenance of a bank balance compared with times past. Meanwhile, with respect to Thai retirement visas specifically, the rules regarding retirement visa issuance and extension underwent another adjustment with the introduction of the rule that retirement visa holders in Thailand must obtain health insurance coverage in order to cover medical expenses while maintaining their retiree status in Thailand. Although there were no specific changes with regard to the rules pertaining to Thai business visas, 2019 saw a level of scrutiny with respect to adjudication which is rather unprecedented.

Meanwhile, in the USA the Immigration apparatus has seen a great deal of administrative transformation. Some Immigration practitioners in the USA are calling this the “Invisible Wall” in reference to the current President’s promise to build a wall to deter illegal immigration. With respect to US visas from Thailand specifically, it should be noted that 2019 saw the closing of the USCIS office in Bangkok. Moving forward through 2020 and beyond it appears that those who could once file for Immigration benefits through that office, including applications for IR-1 and CR-1 visas from Thailand, must now file their cases through the relevant USCIS office in the USA. Furthermore, it appears that the number of requests for evidence in cases involving American family based cases is on the rise while it remains to be seen exactly what the National Vetting Center is doing as cases processing through the National Visa Center seem to be processed in increasingly slowly. In cases involving K-1 visas from Thailand the overall process has seen little fundamental change, but the as with other American immigration petitions there seems to be a rise in the number of RFEs issued especially in the wake of changes to the relevant forms associated with such matters.

What can be expected moving forward? With respect to Thai Immigration it seems unlikely that fundamental changes to the retirement visa category (such as the medical insurance requirement) are in the offing. In fact, it seems that the current regulatory framework has been set in place as a rather permanently. However, there is speculation that insurance requirements may be imposed for other categories such as marriage visas and perhaps even business visas, but this remains pure speculation. Further, in light of recent down turns in certain parts of the Thai tourism sector and the increasing strength of the baht it seems Immigration officials are signaling a more moderating tone in order to forestall damage to the tourism sector. With regard to American immigration it seems logical to surmise that the trends of 2019 will continue into 2020 with everyone focusing upon the forthcoming election in November as a possible indicator of where immigration policy will be heading in the forthcoming decade.

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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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3rd April 2019

In recent weeks, a major topic of conversation among the expat community has been the issue of address notification for foreign nationals staying in locations other than those noted on prior immigration documentation (e.g. prior application for extension of stay, or an address noted on a TM6 arrival card). In a recent article from the BuriRam Times the Head of Immigration, Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn was noted for making comments regarding changes to the penalty system associated with landlords failing to report foreigners staying on their premises:

“Channel 7 said that in the past warnings to people such as hotel owners and condo owners for failing to report foreigners in their properties would now be replaced by fines.”

In order to provide further clarity on this topic it may be best to quote directly from the official site of Thai Immigration:

“According to section 38 of the 1979 immigration act, “House owners, heads of household, landlords or managers of hotels who accommodate foreign nationals on a temporary basis who stay in the kingdom legally, must notify the local immigration authorities within 24 hours from the time of arrival of the foreign national.” If there is no immigration office in the province or locality of the respective house or hotel, the notification is made to the local police station. In Bangkok the notification is made to the Immigration Bureau. The notification of residence of foreign nationals is made by the manager of licensed hotels according to the hotel act, owners of guesthouses, mansions, apartments and rented houses using the form TM. 30. The notification of residence of foreign nationals within 24 hours can be made in a number of ways…”

Clearly, landlords have an affirmative duty to report foreigners staying on their premises through use of the TM30 form. What some foreign nationals staying in Thailand are unaware of is the fact that the duty to notify Thai Immigration of a change in address does not fall exclusively upon the landlord of the location at which the foreigner is staying, but in fact the duty also falls upon the foreign national in question to also unilaterally notify Royal Thai Immigration Police of a change in location (if the duration of stay is longer than 24 hours) through use of the TM28 form. As the administration of this blog reads the relevant regulations, foreign nationals who are deemed to be temporarily staying in the Kingdom must submit the TM28 form if their address should change. What constitutes an address change? Any stay of 24 hours in a given location. In what type of visa status is a foreign national considered to be staying “temporarily” in Thailand? The regulations would seem to dictate that those staying in the Kingdom on a visa exemption stamp, visa on arrival, tourist visa, or any type of non-immigrant visa (including, but not limited to, categories: B, O, ED, or O-A retirement) are considered to be staying in the Kingdom temporarily (regardless of the total duration of stay) and therefore are required to comply with the rules associated with the TM28.

Immigration officials have noted that the Immigration regulations are likely to soon see amendment due to the fact that many of the protocols associated with Thai Immigration law are somewhat outdated. Actual amendment of the regulations remains to be seen, but we will update readers as soon as changes occur.

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