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Posts Tagged ‘Thai Marriage Visa’

4th April 2020

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Thai government has halted all incoming flights from overseas to Thailand. To quote directly from a recent article in Thai PBS World:

“[T]he prime minister wants to see stringent measures imposed on overseas arrivals for the period between April 2-15.  The Foreign Ministry has been tasked to find out ways to implement the directive from the prime minister.”

Further, in another article from The Nation, the following was noted:

“Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has told the Foreign Ministry to issue a new directive prohibiting new arrivals.”For the immediately foreseeable future, it appears that it will not be possible for anyone to enter Thailand by air.

Clearly, the Thai government has deemed the COVID-19 issues of a seriousness that it warrants across the board restriction of incoming flights. That stated, there appears to be a end date for these restrictions on the horizon. In a further article from the Bangkok Post:

“All passenger flights have been banned from landing in the country to curb the outbreak of the new coronavirus, the aviation agency said on Friday. The ban came into effect on Saturday morning and will run until the end of Monday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand said in an order published late on Friday.”

Whether the government decides to extend this restriction on in-bound flights due to Coronavirus concerns remains to be seen. However, it seems logical to infer that if the restriction is lifted and in-bound flights are allowed to come to Thailand, the previously enacted restrictions on foreigners traveling to Thailand is likely to remain in effect over the medium term. To quote directly from the aforementioned Civil Aviation authority of Thailand:

With reference to the declaration of state of emergency in Thailand on 25 March 2020, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand hereby issues travel advisory to passengers planning to enter Thailand as follows:

1. Passengers or persons shall be permitted to enter, Transit or Transfer Thailand through international airport only if they fall under one of the following categories:

(a) Being in the situation or a person exempted by the Prime Minister or Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under certain conditions and prescribed time period

(b) Carriers of necessary cargoes, but required prompt exit after the mission is completed

(c) Pilot-in-command, and crew members of the flight entering Thailand with clear schedule to depart

(d) Persons on diplomatic or consular mission, or under International Organizations, representatives of the government performing their duties in Thailand or other persons or international agencies that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives permission, and their families. In this case, certificate of entry to the Kingdom issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs is required.

(e) Non-Thai nationals with work permit or who have been granted permission from Thai government agencies to work in Thailand (Smart Visa only)

(f) Thai nationals with certificate of entry to the Kingdom issued by Royal Thai Embassy or Royal Thai Consulate in their country of residence certifying that they are Thais returning to Thailand, and a Fit to Fly Health Certificate.
2. The persons in (d) (e) and (f) must have Fit to Fly Health Certificate issued no more than 72 hours before traveling.
3. Passengers or persons permitted to enter Thailand shall strictly comply with disease prevention measures imposed by the government.
4. The immigration officers have the power to deny the entry of Non-Thai nationals who have been tested positive for COVID- 19, or under the suspicion of being infected or who refuse to undergo such test.
5. All previous Notifications of CAAT become ineffective.

With limited exception, the vast majority of foreigners are not going to be permitted to enter Thailand in the upcoming weeks. The vast majority of those who are permitted to enter the Kingdom are likely to be Thai Work Permit holders. Bearing that in mind, it is notable that foreign nationals in Thailand maintaining work permit as well as Thai business visa status are likely to find unforeseen issues in renewing their work permits in coming months. This will likely be due to the unintended consequences of all of the lay-offs, furloughs, terminations, and voluntary reductions of work hours for Thai employees working in the Thai business sector.

In order to maintain a Thai work permit and business visa it is required that a Thai company maintain a 4-to-1 ratio of Thai employees to foreign employees. For those foreigners using a Thai marriage visa as a platform for maintaining lawful status in Thailand as well as employment authorization the ratio of Thai employees to foreign employees is 2:1. With this in mind, the small business sector of Thailand is likely to see a significant contraction of its workforce in the second and third quarter of 2020. As Thai employees are furloughed, terminated, or resign (sometimes in order to be eligible for newly created Thai unemployment benefits) it is likely that this will have a direct impact upon the Thai/Foreign employee ratio. If the ratio of Thai to Foreign employees is not maintained within a Thai business organization, then an application for a Thai business visa extension or Thai work permit renewal may prove impossible. Therefore, those businesses, small and large, employing foreigners in Thailand should keep a sharp eye on their labor force if they wish to maintain their foreign employees’ lawful status. This can be an especially acute issue for self-employed foreign nationals in Thailand who are using their Thai limited company as a platform to maintain their status. Those in the precarious position are strongly encouraged to seek the advice and counsel of legal professionals experiences in Thai corporate compliance, accounting, staffing, immigration, and labor issues

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17th March 2019

The past 3 years have been some of the most eventful in the history of the Thai immigration apparatus. For example, the “Good Guys In Bad Guys Out” initiative and the concurrent enforcement program known as “Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner” have resulted in a large number of arrests, deportations, and the blacklisting of a number of foreigners in the Kingdom. Meanwhile, there have been a number of initiatives involving those in Non-immigrant status which have been noteworthy.

Changes to the Enforcement Rules for Thai Retirement Visas

A particularly hot topic since the beginning of 2019 has been how the rules regarding retirement visa income and financial evidence will be adjudicated moving forward. Whereas in the past it was possible for American, British, and Australian retirees in Thailand to obtain a certified letter or income affidavit regarding their abilities to financially support themselves since the conclusion of 2019 this type of evidence is no longer available as Embassies and Consulates of the aforementioned countries will no longer issue such documentation. Thereafter, in the first quarter of 2019 many announcements were made with respect to how evidence of financing would be adjudicated. Those seeking a retirement visa extension must now show that they have maintained a balance in their personal account of not less than 800,000 THB for 60 days prior to their application for a retirement visa extension and after the extension is issued it must be shown that the 800,000 THB remained on balance for an additional 90 days thereafter. Throughout the rest of the year 400,000 THB must be maintained. The Head of Thai Immigration Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn has noted that for the year 2019 Immigration officers are permitted to be somewhat lenient, but after 2019 these rules are to be enforced strictly.

Thai Marriage Visa Applicants Increasingly Scrutinized for Sham Marriages

Meanwhile, those who are seeking Thai marriage visas should be careful to avoid entering into a marriage solely for the purpose of obtaining a Thai Immigration benefit as Immigration police are increasingly wary of sham marriages in the wake of a number of such unions being discovered. Furthermore, as is the case with retirement visas, financial requirements connected to Thai marriage visa applications are subject to new enforcement protocols in the aftermath of the discontinuation of the aforementioned income affidavit scheme.

The Business Visa Extensions Incur Increased Scrutiny

It is not only those seeking marriage or retirement visas who are feeling the watchful eye of Thai Immigration peering over their shoulder. An increasing number of small business owners are being subjected to inspection and document scrutiny in connection with their applications for business visa extension. In fact, according to this blogger’s experience virtually all first time visa extension applicants in Bangkok are being subjected to inspection. Whether this trend will continue in the future remains to be seen.

Education Visas have Become Far Less Easy to Obtain

Finally, the Education visa: this visa was once a rather straightforward extension to obtain if one could prove enrollment in some sort of government sanctioned education program, but in recent years such visas have been more difficult to obtain and those utilizing such documentation have been the subject of increased scrutiny as well as periodic Immigration raids. It appears Immigration officers believe certain schools were being used merely as a pretext for procuring immigration benefits and conducted a number of raids on such facilities culminating in a large amount of arrests and deportation.

In conclusion, it should also be noted that Immigration authorities have arrested a number of so-called “visa agents” for filing false documentation in connection with visa applications. All of the above evidence leads to one logical conclusion: the Immigration system is Thailand is becoming more sophisticated and focused on enforcement measures. The era of a lax immigration regime allowing a significant number of foreigners to remain in the Kingdom for no valid reason is drawing to a close.

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6th January 2019

As the year 2019 opens, it appears as though the process of obtaining and maintaining a Thai or American visa will be more difficult compared to years past. Although certain aspects of each process may involve increased laxity, flexibility, or efficiency the overall theme from immigration authorities in the United States and Thailand would seem to be one of heightened scrutiny and increasingly stringent enforcement measures.

American Immigration Issues

Some facets of the US visa process look to be improving. For example, the Department of State through the National Visa Center and various Embassies and Consulates abroad are becoming more efficient by shifting away from paper documentation over to a new digitized interface allowing faster processing of supporting documentation for immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications. This blogger can say from personal experience that the new system still has some issues to be worked out, but the overall system would suggest that faster processing times at NVC are likely to be a mainstay in the future.

That stated, the overall process of obtaining a US visa would appear to be getting more difficult especially in light of the current administration’s addition of a National Vetting Center tasked with adding scrutiny to the overall adjudication of visa petitions. Meanwhile, policy changes regarding adjudication of visa applications are likely to have substantial impact upon the amount of denials which are issued by USCIS in coming years. A memorandum which came into effect in September of 2018 allows officers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service to deny visa petitions much more easily compared to times past when a Request For Evidence generally had to be issued before a denial. These developments coupled with creation of bodies such as the DeNaturalization task force and the prospect of a prolonged government shutdown would suggest that matters pertaining to American immigration are likely to prove more difficult moving forward.

Thai Immigration Issues

Meanwhile, as the United States’ Immigration apparatus becomes more cumbersome, Immigration authorities in Thailand do not seem to be backing down from their position regarding immigration and immigration enforcement in the Kingdom. In the lead up to 2019, the overarching policy of “Good Guys in Bad Guys Out” (a policy of encouraging lawful visitors and immigrants to the Kingdom while attempting to discourage travelers with more nefarious motives) manifested itself in terms of enforcement with “Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner“. By the end of 2018 Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn had announced that tens of thousand of illegal aliens had been arrested, deported, and blacklisted from returning to Thailand. In December of 2018 further statements would suggest that although a great number of visa violators have been precluded from remaining in Thailand, the Immigration office’s vigilance will not decrease. Concurrently, the process of obtaining extensions of Thai retirement visas and Thai marriage visas are likely to become more difficult for some people as it will no longer be possible to obtain an income affidavit for such extensions. This comes at the same time as immigration authorities make comments that would indicate prospective increased scrutiny on those using visa services to obtain retirement and marriage visa extensions by dint of funds on account in a Thai bank.

All of the above developments would indicate that immigration matters in both countries will continue to be complex if not downright difficult in the coming year and beyond.

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25th October 2018

It recently came to this blogger’s attention, via a press release from the US Embassy in Bangkok, that the Embassy seems to be in the process of discontinuing issuance of income affidavits pertaining to verification of finances in the context of application for certain types of Thai visa extension. To quote directly from the press release:

As of January 1, 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai will cease to provide the income affidavit for the purpose of applying for Thai retirement and family visas and will not notarize previous versions of the income affidavit.  The Royal Thai Government requires actual verification of income to certify visa applicants meet financial requirements for long-stay visas.  The U.S. government cannot provide this verification and will no longer issue the affidavits.

Those unaware of the importance of these documents should take note of the fact that in the past notarized income affidavits were used in connection with applications for either a Thai retirement visa or a Thai marriage visa. Such documents were utilized in lieu of presenting evidence of a lump sum in a Thai bank account (800,000 THB for a retirement visa, and 400,000 THB for a marriage visa) or proof of a prolonged history of income in a Thai bank account (65,000 THB per month for a retirement visa and 40,000 per month for a marriage visa). These documents were generally issued by the American Citizen Services (ACS) Section of the US Embassy. In the past, a notarized income affidavit from the US Embassy which was legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was sufficient to meet the evidentiary requirements of the Thai Immigration officers adjudicating financial documentation in connection with applications for visa extensions. As seems to be the case in matters pertaining to British income letters, American officials appear to be unwilling to continue issuance these instruments in light of the recent official Thai requests that the veracity of the information in the affidavit be verified rather than merely the authenticity of the signature on the document. It seems that although the Embassy is unable to continue issuing such documentation as it was issued in the past, they will continue to notarize other documentation.

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3rd October 2016

In recent postings on this blog we have tracked the increasingly prevalent theme of Royal Thai Immigration Officers zealously enforcing immigration laws and regulations. In a recent posting on the website Asian Correspondent it was noted that Immigration officials have apparently taken their duties on the road as they appear to be traveling to foreign nationals stated addresses in an effort to ascertain if the individual in question actually resides at said address and more. It may be best to quote directly from Asian Correspondent:

Three foreigners living in Thailand have complained of receiving visits by policemen asking them to furnish personal details…[They] were visited at home by the uniformed officials who asked them to provide details like their monthly income, height, weight, and even skin color…They claimed that they were asked to provide the details in the ‘Personal Information’ form from the ‘Transnational Crime Coordination Unit Region 5 (TCCU R5).

This and many other events which have occurred recently with respect to Immigration policy appears to stem from the rather recently promulgated “Good Guys in, Bad Guys Out” campaign. It has been clear for some time that Thai immigration officers are increasingly ardent in their efforts to scrutinize foreign nationals in order to ensure adherence with Immigration law. Until this point it appeared that such zealousness was only experienced when foreign nationals traveled to an immigration office to seek some form of benefit or undertake some activity in an effort to stay in compliance with regulations (visa extension, reentry permit, 90 day report, etc).

From the information imparted above it seems logical to assume that this more fervent scrutiny may result in occasional visits by Immigration personnel to foreign nationals’ residences in the future. This being stated, it is difficult to foresee whether these developments portend the possibility that this may become a routine occurrence in the future or if this situation is simply a “one-off” event stemming from a non-routine set of circumstances. It remains to be seen if circumstances similar to those noted above will play out again in the future.

It should be noted that this blogger has personally received anecdotal information describing situations similar to those noted above. It may be of interest to readers that in all such instances this blogger has personally become aware of, the foreign national in question was present in Thailand on a Marriage visa. As has been noted in previous postings, it appears Thai Immigration officials are taking steps to tighten up the regulations and enforcement protocols pertaining to Thai marriage visa holders. This is not to imply that holders of other visa categories have not been subjected to heightened scrutiny (which this blogger can attest has definitely occurred, especially in the context of business visa extensions), but it appears that presently Thai immigration officers are taking a keen interest in those present in Thailand on a Thai O category marriage visa.

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19th August 2016

It appears that the fees for those who seek visas on arrival in Thailand are set to double beginning in September 2016. A full article regarding this issue can be read by clicking here.

It should be noted that this fee increase only pertains to those countries which require visas on arrival as opposed to Thai visa exemption stamps. Meanwhile it appears the the current fee structure for other Thai visa categories (such as the Thai business visa, retirement visa, marriage visa, and education visa) is to remain the same. However, it should be noted that as of the time of this writing, the practice of so-called “visa-runs” has effectively been eradicated as Thai immigration officials are no longer allowing multiple visa exemptions and/or tourist visas for the same individual in perpetuity.

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1st August 2016

In prior postings on this blog the issues of Thai immigration law and immigration enforcement have been discussed. In a rather recent posting it was noted that Thai immigration is placing increased scrutiny upon those seeking marriage visas (officially referred to as Thai O visas) in the Kingdom. It appears that after discovery of a spate of sham marriages perpetuated in order to obtain Thai immigration benefits, Thai immigration authorities began to subject Thai marriage visa applications to more intense scrutiny. This matter apparently remains a top priority of immigration officials in Thailand as a recent article in the Bangkok Post points out that high ranking officials with the Royal Thai Immigration Police have issued new directives with respect to this issue:

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn warned officers against dishonest acts as he listed the bureau’s action plans to screen foreigners in the country illegally…He ordered immigration officers to investigate if authorities colluded with foreigners to help enable sham marriages.

This news comes amidst the recent revelation that the so-called “border run” method of maintaining lawful immigration status in Thailand is coming to an end. In a recent posting on the Love Pattaya Thailand website it has been noted that as of August 13th 2016 the days of visa running to obtain a 15, 30, or even 60 day stamp is coming to an end. To quote directly from the aforementioned website:

The Immigration Bureau have already told the officials to refuse entry to foreigners on visa runs as a measure to stop the exploitation of tourist visas and visa exemptions to live or work here. Tourists wishing to extend their stay in Thailand must now need to exit the country and apply for a proper tourist visa

In the past, one could hope to obtain a new thirty day stamp at the airport in Thailand so long one was willing to fly out of the country and immediately get on a plane and fly back in. It appears that this is no longer feasible as so-called “fly-out/fly-in” visa runs will be discouraged following August 13th to the point where presumably such travelers will be turned away and not permitted to reenter the country without a duly issued visa from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Meanwhile, Japan just recently solidified her position as the number one tourist destination of people from Southeast Asia. Japan tops the list of most favored tourist destinations among Thai nationals. It appears that Thai tourism numbers in Japan has been on the upswing since the easing of visa rules for Thai nationals including 15 day visa free travel.

This news comes at the same time as news that Taiwan is allowing Thai tourists to travel visa free to that country starting August 1st. It will be interesting to see if this move has a positive impact upon the tourism sector in Taiwan.

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10th April 2016

In previous postings on this blog the recent policies of the Royal Thai Immigration Police regarding visa overstayers in Thailand have been noted. In follow up to those articles, it should be noted that Thai immigration officials have recorded a sharp decline in the number of people physically present in Thailand beyond the expiration date of their visa. In a recent Bangkok Post article, the drop in overstay was noted:

The more than 39% decline, from 810,522 in October last year to 486,947 in March, shows “our new measure is effective”, Immigration Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said on Friday.

While immigration officers chalk up a victory in the campaign to thwart overstaying foreigners it appears that a new issue has come to the forefront. In another article in a more recent edition of the Bangkok Post suspicious trends in Thai Marriage registration numbers were reported:

Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said several foreign nationals are believed to have resorted to sham marriages as a loophole to stay in the country…The [Royal Thai Immigration Police] received a tip-off from the Public Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) that at least 150 Thai women in one district of a northeastern province had married foreigners in the past few months.

Clearly, the recent spike in marriages and the recent change in immigration overstay policy cannot be assumed to be coincidental. However, the upshot of these developments is the very strong probability that all upcoming Thai marriage visa applications (otherwise referred to as O visa applications) will be more heavily scrutinized when compared to similar applications lodged in the past. This blogger can personally attest to the fact that since policy changes at Thai immigration in late 2015 the process of obtaining or renewing a Thai business visa has been a more intensive endeavor as Immigration officials scrutinize all business visa applications and supporting documentation extremely thoroughly. Therefore, this recent news regarding marriage scrutiny could easily lead one to infer that future marriage visa extension applications and renewal applications could require more documentation and the backlog for issuing such documents could become exacerbated as a result of the increased scrutiny and documentation requirements.

As a general rule, this blogger has advised those interested in remaining in Thailand to understand that the process of obtaining a long term Thai visa and/or a Thai work permit is becoming increasingly complex. As a result of this increased complexity, the notion that the Thai immigration process is something that is quick and easy is simply a fallacy. Thai immigration matters are arguably as complicated and time consuming as immigration issues arising in countries such as the USA or the UK. Those undertaking Thai immigration matters for the first time are strongly encouraged to retain the assistance of a competent professional.

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5th October 2015

Starting November 13th it will be possible for foreign tourists to apply for and obtain a 6 month Thai tourist visa. To provide more insight into this development it is necessary to quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

Unlike current tourist visas, which offer from one to three entries, the six-month multiple-entry visa will allow unlimited border crossings during the validity period. However, to prevent foreigners from basically living in Thailand on tourist visas, each entry will be limited to 60 days. The new multiple-entry visa will cost 5,000 baht, versus 1,000 baht for a single-entry, 60-day visa, which can be extended in-country for up to 30 days for an additional fee.

As noted above the new tourist visas will be more costly than previously, but the validity period will be longer. Meanwhile, those in Thailand on such visas will be required to adhere to the regulations which are already in place. It would appear that the Thai government is attempting to provide a long term visa solution for those travelers who wish to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time. It should be noted that in recent months Thai Immigration authorities have been cracking down on long term users of Thai visa exemption stamps as well as those attempting to remain in the Kingdom utilizing the Thai Education visa (also referred to as the ED visa). It remains to be seen whether Thai Immigration officers and Consular Officers at the various Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad will be willing to issue multiple Thai 6 month tourist visas, but the creation of this new type of visa should provide a much needed option to longer term tourists.

It may still be possible to obtain a 1 year multiple entry Thai visa from certain countries. Such one year visas are often issued for those wishing to conduct business or work in Thailand (the Thai business visa), stay in the Kingdom with a Thai family member including spouses (the Thai O visa), or retire in Thailand (the retirement visa, also known as the O-A visa). Under certain circumstances a Thai ED visa may still be an option for long term stay, but it has been reported that those staying in the Kingdom on an ED visa to attend Thai language school are being frequently tested on their language capability.

Those who enter the Kingdom in B, O, O-A, or ED visa status may be eligible for a visa extension provided the applicant can provide certain documentation.

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23rd March 2015

Many expatriates in Thailand have been finding it increasingly difficult to obtain a long term (1 year or more) visa in Thailand. This frustration may be due in part to the fact that in 2014 new immigration rules were promulgated and the governmental administration in Thailand went through a transition. Moreover, it would also appear as though Thai Consular Officers abroad have been increasingly less inclined to issue one year non-immigrant multiple entry visas to foreign nationals seeking such documents outside of Thailand. Even 90 day visa applications are being placed under increased scrutiny compared to years past. Whether one agrees with these policies is basically irrelevant  as foreign nationals must acclimate themselves to the notion that staying in Thailand long term is becoming more difficult.

In fact, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence to suggest that remaining in Thailand on an Education visa is not as simple as it used to be. In fact the cost of going to classes has increased for students in various Thai schools. This would appear to be the result of the fact that many so-called “visa mill” schools have been under review or in some cases even closed as they seem to exist only for the purpose of providing long term ED visas to foreign nationals.

Fortunately, all is not completely bleak on this topic. Some genuine schools which offer genuine classes are still able to offer Thai ED visas. That stated, it should be noted that attendance in such classes is being monitored more carefully. Also, if one wishes to conduct legitimate business in Thailand then it is possible to obtain a Thai business visa. However, such applications are being carefully reviewed. The same can be said for Thai retirement visa applications as applicants are finding their financial status reviewed carefully before new retirement visas or new  retirement visa extensions are being issued. Further, it appears that those present in the Kingdom of Thailand on a Thai marriage visa are being subjected to review and in some cases it appears that officers are traveling to marriage visa holder’s homes in order to ascertain whether or not such marriages are in fact genuine. Meanwhile, immigration authorities have imposed new rules requiring digital photographs of those seeking visa extensions notwithstanding the fact that such applicants routinely provide passport sized photos with their application.

In short, it appears that reforms of the Thai immigration system have changed the way in which foreign nationals apply for visas and the result could prove to be a more costly and/or cumbersome process for those seeking immigration benefits in Thailand.

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