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Posts Tagged ‘Thai Retirement Visa’

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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8th February 2019

In recent days news regarding the changes in the approach to enforcing the rules regarding retirement visas has been a major topic of discussion among the expat community in Thailand. To provide some background it should be noted that in late 2018 new policies were promulgated by the American, British, and Australian Embassies regarding the issuance of income affidavits (also referred to as income verification letters). In the past, the American Citizen Services section of the United States Embassy in Bangkok, for example, would notarize documentation signed by Americans regarding their income. This notarization did not authenticate the veracity of the statements in such documentation, but instead merely attested to the signer’s identity and true signature. Thai authorities viewed this documentation as valid so long as the document was translated and legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2018 it was announced that income affidavits would no longer be issued by the foreign missions noted above. Thereafter, there was speculation regarding how income and/or assets would be verified for purposes of retirement visa issuance moving forward.

A clue regarding the direction on enforcement policy initially appeared when the head of Thai Immigration Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn made comments regarding the need to be cautious about utilizing the services of certain types of Thai visa agents. Then in recent days major news broke that immigration authorities would be granted a certain level of discretion throughout 2019 regarding adjudication of retirement visa applications based upon income. This was to allow retirement visa holders to more smoothly transition into the new regime. Concurrently, a significant change was announced with respect to those using a lump sum amount of money in a bank account as evidence of financial ability to support a retirement visa. In the past, it was theoretically possible to simply deposit funds into an account for a relatively short period of time (as little as a day supposedly) and use the funds in the account as the basis for issuance of the retirement visa. New rules coming into effect March 1, 2019 would preclude this practice. Beginning in March, those seeking a retirement visa based upon a bank account must show 800,000 THB in a Thai bank account, said funds must have been on hand in the account for the 2 months preceding a Thai retirement visa application. Thereafter, the funds must remain in the account for another 90 days following the issuance of the retirement visa (presumably this is to be proven at the applicant’s initial 90 day report). After the initial 90 days, funds may be drawn down to 400,000 THB, but 400,000 THB must remain in the account until 2 months prior to a subsequent application for renewal at which point the balance must exceed 800,000 THB and the cycle begins again. At this time, it is unclear what steps Royal Thai Immigration Police personnel will be taking to scrutinize individuals’ finances and enforce these changes, but any new regulatory changes will likely be observable in the early days of March.

It seems possible that some time in the relatively near future further rule changes could come into effect. In fact, discussion about future requirements with respect to health insurance has made many wonder whether this may eventually become a requirement for those wishing to retire and live long term in the Kingdom.

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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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20th December 2016

Many senior citizen expatriates living in Thailand are familiar with the Thai retirement visa. However, in recent weeks new information has come to light regarding possible changes to the retirement visa category. According to the Bangkok Post, the government in Thailand is willing to allow for a visa scheme which will provide individuals age 50 or older with a visa that could last for a duration of 10 years. To quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

The cabinet on Tuesday extended to 10 years from one the long-stay visa for foreigners aged 50 or more but they must report to immigration police every 90 days. The visa will be valid initially for five years and could be renewed for another five, Col Apisit Chaiyanuwat, vice minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, said.

It should be noted that as of the time of this writing, this blogger has yet to see this new visa scheme implemented in practice. However, it appears by all accounts that the government is serious about eventual implementation. According to the Bangkok Post and other sources the new visa fee will be 10,000 baht for these “extended retirement visas” and the applicant for such a visa will need to be able to demonstrate that he or she has maintained a bank balance of at least 3 million baht in a Thai bank account for one year prior to the application for such a visa. Of keen interest to many expats in Thailand is whether this scheme is intended to supplant the currently existing scheme granting 1 year Thai retirement visas. As of the time of this writing it appears that this newly proposed system will not have an impact on the 1 year retirement visa framework which is already in place, but will instead operate parallel to the current regime.

Meanwhile, while on the one hand the Thai government appears willing to provide more ease to certain individuals staying long term in Thailand, on the other hand the Immigration authorities seem very serious about keeping certain foreigners out of Thailand. According to a posting on the Stickboy Bangkok website, it appears that the era of so-called “visa runs” or “border runs” has finally come to an end once and for all. As noted on that site, it appears that new immigration rules have been promulgated through publication in the Royal Thai Gazette. It appears that the new rules will only allow 2 “border runs” per year. This will effectively put an end to the system of maintaining lawful status in Thailand by simply traveling outside of Thailand via overland border crossings and immediately coming back into the Kingdom.

It should be noted that the apparent ban on border running only applies to exemption stamps (the 30 or 15 day stamps granted to those of certain nationalities who arrive at a Thai border without a visa). It does not apply to multi-entry tourist visas or multi entry non-immigrant visas such as the business visa. It should be noted that the recent changes being implemented regarding border runs and the new enforcement of blacklisting foreign nationals who overstay in Thailand longer than 90 days creates a far less lax attitude toward immigration matters in Thailand.

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4th September 2016

In a previous posting on this blog the issue of one year multiple entry Thai visas issued at Royal Thai Honorary Consulates in the United Kingdom was discussed. It appeared at that time that honorary Consulates were no longer allowed to issue such travel documents as they could only be obtained from the Royal Thai Embassy in London. This same trend appeared across the Channel as Honorary Thai Consulates on the Continent apparently were also being foreclosed from issuing Thai multiple entry visas. Events since that previous wrting have proven that the only method of obtaining a multiple entry visa for Thailand arises from applying for such a document via an Embassy or non-honorary Consulate.

As of this time of this writing, it seems that the aforementioned trend in Europe has spread to North America. A recent posting on the website of a Royal Thai Honorary Consulate in the United States of America reads:

EFFECTIVE AUGUST 15, 2016, WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO ISSUE MULTIPLE ENTRY TOURIST OR NON-IMMIGRANT VISAS. YOU MAY APPLY FOR SINGLE ENTRY TOURIST, TRANSIT, AND NON-IMMIGRANT O, B, OR ED VISAS ONLY. YOU MAY APPLY FOR MULTIPLE ENTRY VISAS AT THE LOS ANGELES CONSULATE OR THE ROYAL THAI EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON, DC

Although this message cannot necessarily be assumed to apply to all similar posts in the USA or Greater North America, a trend is appearing. It seems logical to infer that in the future it will no longer be possible to obtain long term multiple entry Thai visas from Honorary Consulates. This situation should not be misunderstood: there appears no reason to assume that Embassies and Consulates (which are not honorary appointments) will be precluded from issuing such travel documents. On the contrary, the trend appears to support the conclusion that such posts will be the exclusive issuers of such documents.

For those unaware, in recent months an announcement has been made that Thai Embassies abroad would begin issuing 6 month multiple entry tourist visas. However, it appears that much like non-immigrant visas such travel documents will only be issued from non-honorary posts. There are a few main visa categories commonly utilized by those wishing to remain in the Kingdom long term: Thai Business visas, Thai Retirement visas, Thai O visas (for family members of Thai nationals), and Thai Education visas. If one is seeking a Thai visa of any of the aforementioned categories and wish said document to be issued with a one year validity and multiple entries allowed, then it appears the only way to obtain said visa would be to apply at either a Thai Embassy or regularly established Consulate.

 

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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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22nd January 2016

In a recent article in the Pattaya Mail it was noted that those who overstay their visa in Thailand will soon be facing harsh consequences. To quote directly from the aforementioned article:

For those who surrender, foreigners overstaying up to one year will be banned for a year from coming back to Thailand. Three-year bans await overstayers of 1-3 years while those who have lived here without a visa for 3-5 years will be banned for five years. Overstayers of more than five years will be banned for 10 years.

It appears from reading the original notice from immigration that even those who overstay for a period of 90 days will be blacklisted for a 90 day period following their last departure. It would also appear that in conjunction with the recently announced blacklisting rules the Royal Thai Immigration Police have measures in place which will greatly improve that organization’s ability to monitor travelers arriving in Thailand. To quote directly from a recent article in the Bangkok Post:

Immigration police announced Monday the opening of a centralised mechanism to oversee and control the entry and exit of foreigners. The newly established Thai Immigration 24/7 Centre, located at Immigration Bureau headquarters, is divided into three working rooms where officers can monitor real-time CCTV footage at airports, ports and border checkpoints. An advance passenger processing system installed at the centre will allow officers to know personal details of visitors before they arrive, with more than 50 airlines cooperating.

Clearly, Immigration authorities in Thailand are committed to more thorough enforcement of Thailand’s immigration laws. The practical impact of these measures remains to be seen as the new rules regarding overstay are not to come into wide effect until March 20, 2016.

What do these developments mean for foreigner nationals traveling, living, and working in Thailand? First, it is clear that foreigners who once used Thailand’s somewhat lax overstay policy to remain in the Kingdom long term will no longer be able to remain in Thailand this way without some serious repercussions. Also, as Thailand recently announced changes in tourist visa and visa exemption stamp policies it seems clear that although true long term tourists will be able to remain longer in the Kingdom, those who simply use tourist visas as a means of living in Thailand will see this avenue closed in the future.

The Thai business visa remains a viable option for some who wish to remain in Thailand long term while those with a Thai spouse can avail themselves of the O visa to remain in Thailand with their family. Meanwhile, for those who qualify, the Thai retirement visa and the Thai Education visa are also methods of maintaining long term status in the Kingdom.

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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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