Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Thai Visa Extension’

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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10th October 2018

Even less-than-avid readers of news regarding Thai Immigration matters are probably aware that there have been a number of changes which have occurred within the ranks of the Immigration Bureau in Thailand (including the appointment of Surachate Hakparn also known as “Big Joke” as head of Immigration). Also, there have been a number of incidents which point to an overall shift in the paradigm of Immigration officers in the Kingdom of Thailand. For example, the ongoing raids occurring throughout Thailand under the Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner program and the follow-on arrests, deportations, and blacklisting associated therewith.

Meanwhile, Immigration Checkpoints at various ports of entry throughout the country have seen multiple postings of signs explaining that there is to be “No Tipping” of Immigration personnel by those entering the Kingdom from abroad. The initiative appears to be especially aimed at those arriving in Thailand in need of a Visa on Arrival. This news came upon the heels of reports that individuals were recently arrested in connection with an immigration matter as it was found that the individuals in question were apparently attempting to use forged documents in order to obtain a Thai visa extension. The upshot of these arrests has resulted in increased scrutiny of those filing applications for Thai visa extension. As of the time of this writing, the heightened scrutiny of extension applications appears to be being applied across the board and not exclusively to cases which may be deemed suspicious. This is resulting in delays and difficulties for many people seeking to extend their non-immigrant visa status in the Kingdom.

It recently came to this blogger’s attention via the Bangkok Post that there are even further developments with respect to Thai Immigration. To quote directly from a recent Bangkok Post article:

The defence minister has ordered the IB to strictly enforce the law against foreign nationals overstaying their visas and those who remain in the country despite their visas having been revoked…Lt Gen Kongcheep added the foreign nationals identity database has to be integrated with the immigration screening facilities at border checkpoints and airports to help identify more quickly those who might pose as a threat to national security. Meanwhile, Pol Maj Gen Surachate announced IB will begin to deport visa overstayers — of which there are at least 40,000 — within a month.

These developments would represent substantial changes in terms of the way Immigration authorities currently enforce the law. Moreover, it is notable that the Immigration database will soon be linked to a more broad identity database which will likely result in better coordination between different government ministries in Thailand. As a result, Immigration authorities will be better equipped to identify and possibly forestall those deemed to be undesirable from entering or reentering the Kingdom.

If there are actually 40,000 individuals currently overstaying their status in Thailand it seems logical to infer that the implementation of these measures along with those previously implemented will result in a large number of such individuals being apprehended and possibly deported from Thailand. It should be noted that those arrested in Thailand for visa overstay are likely to be placed on the Blacklist and precluded from returning to the Kingdom for a prolonged period of time.

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9th August 2018

In recent months, the rules upon which the regime for issuing and maintaining Thai work permits and visas have been undergoing some changes. However, the permanence of these changes remains to be seen and the practical implications of these changes are also open to speculation. Hopefully the following posting with provide some clarification with respect to where work permit and visa rules currently stand.

Work Permit Restrictions Appear to be Loosened

Since the promulgation of the Emergency decrees regarding work permits in Thailand analysts seem increasingly convinced that regulations regarding time, place, and manner of work in Thailand have loosened. In the past, Thai work permit regulations (and the enforcement agencies associated therewith) viewed the rules very strictly when it came to the specific locations where foreigners could undertake labor, the specific functions foreigners could perform, and the timing of when a foreign worker could begin working. For example, foreign temporary workers had to await issuance of a work permit book or temporary work document in order to begin working. Meanwhile, those issued with long term work permits were at one time restricted to performing their job only within the premises of the business acting as the work permit sponsor. Later, the geographic scope of labor endeavor was expanded to allow foreigners to undertake work throughout a specific province in Thailand. However, under any circumstances the foreign national with work authorization had to be circumspect in their endeavors as the work activities they undertook had to fall within the boundaries of the job description specified within the provisions of the work permit itself.

Pursuant to the provisions of the second emergency decree regarding the management of foreign workers in Thailand it appears that many of the restrictions regarding geographic scope of activity have been lifted. Meanwhile, the strict scrutiny of job functions appears to be a thing of the past as well (although a list of occupations restricted to Thai nationals is still in force so long as the activity in question is not specifically in violation of that list the foreign worker should be free from sanction). Furthermore, it appears that certain temporary workers who are brought into Thailand for a short period of time may be able to perform their function in a much more immediate manner compared to the past as, depending upon circumstances and subject to the aforementioned list of restricted activity, many workers may be able to immediately begin performing their functions.

The Return of the One Year Multiple Entry Visa?

It would seem that there is another possible change to Thai regulations regarding work authorization and business visas in Thailand. Apparently, regulations now stipulate that some of those working for a foreign company in Thailand (such as a Representative Office) are no longer required to obtain a work permit. This new exemption apparently only extends to Directors of such organizations. Furthermore, it appears that so-called Amity Treaty Companies (those corporations certified as American and therefore accorded protections pursuant to the US-Thai Treaty of Amity) are now subject to such exemption. Under such circumstances the directors of such companies are able to apply for a 1 year multiple entry visa from their country of origin. As of the time of this writing, this blogger has yet to personally deal with a matter arising under these new rule changes, but the creation of new immigration options is always noteworthy. It should be noted that these regulatory changes appear to be exclusive to Labor matters. Thai immigration regulations have not changed with respect to the rules regarding visa extension in the Kingdom. At the present time a work permit appears to still be required for those wishing to remain in the Kingdom long term via a Thai business visa extension application.

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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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5th November 2015

During the month of October 2015, it came to this blogger’s attention that the Thai government began to heavily enforce regulations against those overstaying their Thai visa and those utilizing nominees in order to control companies in Thailand. In a recent article on the Khaosod English website it was noted that more than 9000 people were arrested and detained pending deportation for overstaying their visas. The article went on to note:

The penalties announced Sunday are identical to regulations announced by the immigration bureau last year that have been in effect since Aug. 17, 2014. Foreign nationals who remain in the country more than 90 days after their visa expires are to be banned for one year. Those who overstay for one year, three years or five years are forbidden from re-entering the country for three years, five years and 10 years respectively. If they don’t turn themselves in and are instead caught by police, those who have overstayed less than a year would be blacklisted for five years while those with over a year face a 10-year ban…

The penalties referred to above were apparently applied to those detained in the aforementioned roundup and it would appear that such measures are likely to be applied to overstayers in the future. For this reason it is strongly recommended that those wishing to stay in Thailand obtain a visa and leave within the specified period of validity unless a Thai visa extension is obtained. There are many types of Thai visa categories including business visas, retirement visas, O visas for family members of Thai nationals, and the greatly anticipated long stay tourist visa which is set to begin being issued in mid-November.

Meanwhile, Thai officials in the Ministry of Commerce seem to be implementing stricter enforcement of rules regarding the use of nominee shareholders in Thai companies. Under the Foreign Business Act, foreign nationals are not permitted to use Thai nominee shareholders in order to circumvent the restrictions on foreign ownership of Thai companies. Those caught violating this law can face fines or possible imprisonment. Apparently, officials with the Department of Business Development will be investigating certain companies to determine if nominees are in use. To quote directly from The Nation:

The 10 sectors to be inspected are food and beverage, tourism, property rental, the property trade, car rental, spa, handicraft and souvenir retail, Internet retailing, direct sales, and education consultants. Chainarong said that those sectors would be targeted because it was believed that a high proportion of their businesses were foreign controlled through the use of Thai nominees…

Clearly Thai regulators are becoming increasingly serious regarding the enforcement of Thai law in both the realm of immigration and business. It should be noted that American Citizens are permitted to own 100% of certain types of Thai corporations pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity.

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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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30th September 2014

The Thailand Retirement Visa

Posted by : admin

With recent changes to Thai Immigration regulations, it has become clear that many long term travelers or prospective expatriates should get their status regularized either in the Kingdom or prior to arrival. While in the past it was possible to remain in Thailand in what were otherwise ostensibly short term Thai tourist visas or thirty day exemption stamps, now it seems that obtaining a long term visa extension is going to be necessary. For those under 50 years of age, this would mean obtaining a Thai marriage visa, a Thai business visa, or a Thai Education visa. However, for those over 50, the Thai retirement visa (often referred to as the O-A visa) could prove to be an effective way of remaining in the Kingdom. One reason this is the case, a retiree in Thailand does not need (and legally cannot get) a work permit in Thailand. The work permit process can be difficult and document-intensive. Meanwhile, a retirement visa, unlike and education visa, does not require that the visa holder attend any type of schooling. Also, for those not married to a Thai the retirement visa is generally a good option since such a visa does not require marriage to a Thai unlike a marriage visa. Retirement visa extensions are issued in one-year intervals and so long as the visa holder has the requisite pension or savings, then the process of obtaining such a visa is rather straightforward. Like any other type of Thai visa, it is expected that the retirement visa holder continually check in ever 90 days to inform immigration of their place of residence. However, for those who leave prior to 90 days, this is not necessary. However, it should be noted that in order to maintain visa status while outside of Thailand, the visa holder would need to obtain a reentry permit.

For those over 50 who work in industries such as the offshore oil business, which only requires the employee to work in given intervals, the retirement could prove to be a substantially better visa option compared to other types of temporary Thai visas as a retirement visa allows the bearer to remain in the Kingdom for a year as well as enter and exit as necessary provided the reentry permits are in order. Those looking at this as an option should bear in mind that the retirement visa holder cannot work in Thailand, but if working outside of Thailand there would really not be any issue as to immigration status in the Kingdom.

When dealing with Thai business visas, the holder of such an extension generally needs to have corporate sponsorship as well as a Thai work permit. Meanwhile, those remaining in Thailand on a marriage visa must be married to a Thai national. Finally, those staying in the Kingdom on an Education visa must be attending a course of study approved by the Ministry of Education. For many, the retirement visa is a much less difficult type of visa to obtain and also does not require a great deal of supporting documentation other than proving the financial ability to support oneself long term while present in the Kingdom.

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15th May 2014

It has been reported that officials at the Immigration Department in Thailand are taking steps to curtail the use of 30 day Thai visa exemptions by those traveling to the Kingdom of Thailand. It also appears that usage of Thai tourist visas is to be increasingly scrutinized. Apparently, these measures are being undertaken in an effort to decrease purported abuse of the immigration system by those who routinely travel to border crossings, depart the country, and immediately re-enter in order to gain a new visa exemption stamp or further status on a multiple entry tourist visa. These so-called “visa runs” have been a mainstay in Thailand for a number of years as many long term tourists have used this method to maintain lawful status. It appears that moving forward these methods may no longer be possible.

The Phuket News has recently reported that “Out-In” visa runs have officially been deemed a thing of the past. Citing Lieutenant General Phanu Kerdlaphon the aforementioned publication quoted the General as saying:

“We have been very lenient about this. I’ve had many comments about [our excessive leniency]…Thirty days should be enough for a normal tourist.”
However, there may be room for some discretion by Immigration officers to allow legitimate tourists back into the country on an exemption stamp as the General further noted:
“If they really want to travel around the country for more than 30 days, then they must show us a plausible plan. If officers are suspicious, then they will carry out checks…If we believe their purpose in coming to Thailand is not what they say it is, then we will order them to leave and they will be blacklisted. They will not be able to return to Thailand, ever.”
Clearly, those without a plausible reason for remaining in Thailand could face severe sanctions. These efforts appear to be less focused on business or marriage visa holders and instead directed at those who use the current Thai visa exemption system and tourist visa system to illegally work in Thailand as the General further pointed out:
“Lots of nationalities come to Thailand on tourist visas but they come to work. I really want them to do the right thing, not try to dodge around the law and evade taxes…If you are coming here not as a tourist, then please get the correct visa. Do it properly…”
This appears aimed primarily at visa exemption stamps, but as noted above even those with an actual tourist visa could be affected. This blogger has learned anecdotally that some travelers with multiple entry tourist visas have been stopped at the border and, in some situations, apparently turned away if they have multiple tourist visas in their passports. How this will impact tourism remains to be seen, but it is clear that those wishing to remain in Thailand for a long period of time should obtain a long term visa or visa extension in the category that fits with their intentions. Currently, it is possible to remain in Thailand for one year intervals by obtaining a Thai business visa, a Thai ED visa (Education), a Thai Marriage Visa, or a Thai retirement visa.  In some cases, long term multiple entry visas in the aforementioned categories can be obtained at Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad. However, regulations regarding such travel documents have become more stringent in recent years when compared with the past. It appears immigration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would prefer that a foreign national obtain a 90 day visa abroad and thereafter apply for a Thai visa extension once in the Kingdom.
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25th April 2014

In recent years there has been a strong feeling among expatriates and travelers to Thailand that getting a Thai visa is more difficult when compared to the past. In another posting on this blog it was noted that rules regarding application for one year multiple entry visas from Thai honorary Consulates in the United Kingdom had changed. Notably, applications for such long term visas are henceforth to be forwarded to the Royal Thai Embassy in London for review prior to adjudication. There are some who believe that this change in the process has resulted in fewer long term visas being sought, and/or fewer such visas being issued. As of the time of this writing there is no way to discern whether this processing change resulted in fewer multiple entry visas being issued. However one thing is clear, the rules regarding application for long term multiple entry Thai visas are being more strictly enforced. Therefore, some explanation regarding the general application guidelines may be warranted.

One significant concern of Thai immigration officials, as reflected in recent rule changes and enforcement procedures, would seem to be the physical location of the applicant. At one time, it was common to see foreign nationals in Thailand using less than reputable visa services to procure visas from Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad while physically remaining in Thailand. This practice was severely curtailed by immigration authorities in a few notable “crack-downs”.  At this point, it is very clear that immigration authorities strongly prefer that those applying for a Thai visa at an Embassy or Consulate abroad be physically present in the jurisdiction where the post is located. Moreover, it also seems clear that documentary requirements for those applying for one year multiple entry visas are more substantial compared to the past and it seems logical to assume that such requirements may be more stringent in the future.

It seems that immigration authorities now prefer that those wishing to remain in Thailand for a significant period of time obtain a 90 day visa from abroad, travel to Thailand, and upon meeting further criteria; apply for a Thai visa extension. This should not be inferred to mean that obtaining a 1 year Thai multiple entry visa is impossible, but rules regarding application for such travel documents vary by jurisdiction and for some simply obtaining a 90 day visa and then seeking an extension may be a more efficient option.

There are multiple visa categories under Thai immigration law. Some of the most commonly sought visas are: the Thai Business Visa (“B” Visa), the Thai “O” visa for the family of Thai nationals, the Thai retirement visa, the Thai tourist visa, and the Thai education visa (“ED” visa); although there are many other specific visa categories. Depending upon the needs and intentions of the visa seeker the rules for applying for such travel documents may vary. In any case, it may be prudent to seek the advice of those who routinely deal with Thai immigration matters as the rules and regulations regarding those issues can be complex.

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29th August 2013

The rules regarding processing and adjudication of applications for one year multiple entry Thai visas appear to have changed. The following was recently posted on the official website of the Honorary Thai Consulate in Birmingham, UK:

With immediate effect all Non-Immigrant Multiple Entry visas can not be issued on the same day, as we require authorisation from the Royal Thai Embassy  in London. Once approval has been granted the visa will be issued.
If your application is declined you will be informed.
Please ensure we have your UK contact telephone number.
All other visas will be issued on the same day as usual  providing we have all the correct documentation.

Although the procedural change noted above may not negatively affect Thai visa applicants, it may be an indication that Thai authorities are more diligently scrutinizing long term visa applications. Some visa issuance procedures have been in a state of flux for some time now, as many Royal Thai Honorary Consulates in the United States have already placed information on their websites which states that only 90 day Thai business visas will be issued and those wishing to remain longer in the Kingdom of Thailand must make a request for a Thai work permit and Thai visa extension.

As noted above, in the past it was possible to obtain one year multiple entry Thai visas from some Honorary Thai Consulates in as little as a day. However, as new non-immigrant multiple entry visa applications appear to be subject to increased scrutiny from Thai Consular Officers it could be argued that more long term Thai visa applications may be denied in the future.

The posting of these processing changes have come shortly after recent reports that Thai visa stickers destined for Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad went missing and that some foreign nationals in Thailand had been found with previously unaccounted for stickers in their passports. Perhaps Thai authorities are implementing stricter visa processing and adjudication rules in an attempt to curtail immigration fraud, or these rule changes could simply be the result of the naturally evolving state of Thai immigration policy. On a related note, it was recently reported that Thai immigration officials are thinking of implementing new E-visa procedures at the various Thai Consulates and Embassies around the world in order to maintain more security in the visa process. In any case, it appears that those seeking long term Thai visas from Thai Consulates and Embassies abroad will see their applications examined more closely compared to the past.

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