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Posts Tagged ‘Thai visa run’

5th May 2018

For at least 2 years, Thai immigration officials have been ramping up their efforts to improve Immigration and visa policy. We have seen a substantial change in the attitude toward Thai tourist visa issuance as well as Immigration protocols associated therewith. This has especially been the case where those foreigners utilizing tourist visas are suspected of using such travel documents in order to live and work illegally in the Kingdom. Meanwhile, changes to the rules regarding so called “Visa runs”or “border runs” have resulted, as a practical matter, in an immigration apparatus that operates in a wholly different way than it once did.

While the above paragraph describes the changes in the laws, rules, and regulations related to Thai visas, it does not speak to issues involving enforcement of immigration law in the Kingdom as enforcement measures had largely remained unchanged during the time of the legal transitions discussed above: until recently. While the “Good Guys in Bad Guys Out” initiative describes a change in paradigm within the institutions charged with maintaining Thailand’s Immigration apparatus, the “Operation Outlaw Foreigner” and “Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner” programs represent concrete steps taken by Immigration law enforcement officials to confront visa violators and deal with them accordingly. In recent months, an unprecedented number of raids at unprecedented types of venues have taken place in an effort to track down foreigners who are overstaying in Thailand or utilizing visas otherwise meant for recreational pursuits in Thailand to engage in unauthorized employment or as a means for undertaking criminal activity in the Kingdom. These raids have resulted in the arrest and deportation of thousands of foreign nationals.

In the rather recent past, those who maintained lawful non-immigrant status in the Kingdom could generally breathe easily knowing that Immigration officials’ primary targets in immigration crackdowns were: those in the country in overstay status, pretextual tourist visa status, or prolonged visa exemption status. However, recent weeks have shown that immigration officials are placing increased scrutiny upon those who could be considered otherwise lawfully present in the Kingdom on a non-immigrant Education visa. ED visas have been used by many to remain in the Kingdom in order to pursue a course of study. However, Immigration authorities seem to be increasingly of the opinion that such travel documents are being used as a pretext for living in the Kingdom and that the educational endeavor is in fact a sham. Whether this assumption is warranted likely depends upon the underlying circumstances, but this is not the point. Instead, it should be noted that scrutiny such as this represents a substantial change in mindset with respect to immigration officers as such individuals were, at one time, generally satisfied when a non-immigrant visa was produced, but it now seems as though such providence may no longer suffice when attempting to terminate an investigation into one’s status as providence of an ED visa may result in further scrutiny and possible revocation of the visa if it is determined that it is being used as a pretext.

A final noteworthy development: it seems that immigration authorities are now collecting relevant bio-metric data from those foreigners apprehended in the Kingdom for Immigration or criminal violations. In fact, it has been reported that fingerprints, facial recognition, and even DNA collection protocols may be utilized to create a database to track those who have been processed through the immigration system in an effort to track and likely enforce blacklisting measures prospectively.

Those reading this posting are well advised to note that the official attitude toward Immigration matters in Thailand has changed. The once lax enforcement attitude is a thing of the past and if recent reports are any indication, it seems likely that the immigration system will be increasingly stringent in the future.

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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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21st July 2014

In recent weeks, sweeping new changes have been announced regarding Thai visa exemptions and so-called visa runs. As has been previously noted on this blog, as of August 12, 2014 those using the in/out method to obtain 30 day visa exemption status will no longer be permitted to do so. However, in the weeks leading up to this clampdown anecdotal evidence has been noted which shows that those currently seeking to enter the country this way have been denied entry. Meanwhile, further information has come to light which shows that some have been stopped at the Thai border attempting to enter on Thai 60 day tourist visas, many such individuals have apparently been turned away.

It further came to light that Thai immigration authorities will be imposing a blacklisting scheme to bar those who have overstayed in the country from reentering for certain designated periods of time. What this system will ultimately look like remains to be seen as it was recently rumored that officials are re-looking at the plan in an effort to ensure that consequences are not excessively harsh. However, it would appear that long term overstayers and visa runners could see themselves turned away at the border in the future and possibly banned from returning for an extended period depending upon their situation.

A bright note was reported this week, as officials have apparently announced that visa exemption extensions may be granted in the future for 30 days as opposed to a mere 7.  Apparently, immigration officials are looking into allowing 30 day extensions for those in Thailand on a 30 day exemption stamp. Obviously, the decision to grant a 30 day extension will be made on a case by case basis and at this time it seems that the proposed plan would require the foreign tourist to pay 1900 baht when seeking a visa extension.

All of these developments mean that in the future those wishing to remain in the Kingdom of Thailand for a prolonged period of time are well advised to obtain a long term Thai visa in a category in which they qualify. For example, those coming to Thailand to work or start a company are well advised to seek a Thai business visa as well as a Thai work permit. Meanwhile, those wishing to study in Thailand may do so, so long as they obtain a Thai education visa from a school duly accredited by the Thai Ministry of Education. Retirees may remain in the Kingdom on a Thai retirement visa so long as they have the requisite funds or pension. Concurrently, those with family in Thailand could apply for a Thai O visa so long as they meet the necessary financial requirements.

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2nd July 2014

Followers of this blog will likely have noticed the recent news that Thai visa runs are being curtailed in an effort to stop those who abuse the 30 day visa exemption stamp system in the Kingdom of Thailand. The following is quoted directly from a recent announcement made by the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Savannakhet:

Announcement Concerning the Strict Implemmentation of the Visa Exemption Scheme

From 12th August 2014, Thai Immigration Bureau will strictly implement the border crossing law and regulations to prevent visa runners from abusing the visa exemption scheme by prohibiting entry into the country.

The purpose of this scheme is for tourism only. The Royal Thai Consulate-General in Savannakhet advises those wishing to enter Thailand for other purposes to apply for appropriate visa in all circumstances.

In accordance with Immigration Act B.E. 2522 and other relevant law and regulations, employment is prohibited when entering Thailand without appropriate visa and violation is punishable by up to 5-year imprisonment or up to 100,000-baht fine or both.

Royal Thai Consulate-General Savannakhet

June 27, 2014

Clearly, beginning in mid-August immigration officers will be scrutinizing travelers entering Thailand on 30 day visa exemptions. Those deemed to be utilizing the exemption scheme inappropriately could find themselves barred from entering the Kingdom. Meanwhile, this annoucment seems to also imply that those using the scheme to work illegally in the Kingdom could find themselves facing incarceration or serious fines. Anyone thinking of traveling to Thailand long term are strongly encouraged to seek an appropriate visa. Those thinking of working in Thailand should also be prepared to undertake the process of obtaining a Thai work permit.

At present there are multiple visa options for long term tourists and others wishing to remain in the Kingdom long term. The Thai business visa can be utilized by those wishing to conduct business in the Kingdom. Meanwhile, those with spouses or family in Thailand could obtain a Thai O visa (sometimes referred to as a Thai marriage visa) in order to remain lawfully present in the Kingdom. Those wishing to undertake an educational course in Thailand may be eligible for a Thai ED visa. Those over 50 years of  age who wish to retire in Thailand may be eligible for a Thai retirement visa.

Long term tourists who wish to remain in Thailand longer than 30 days are strongly encouraged to obtain a Thai tourist visa at a Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad in order to forestall possible problems that may arise as a result of the new stricter enforcement of the Thai visa exemption system.

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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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19th November 2009

Although not a major topic on this blog, the visa run is an issue for many expatriates, or expats, in Thailand. There was a time when remaining in Thailand for a virtually indefinite period of time simply required a “visa run” or “border run,” once every thirty days. However, Thai Immigration regulations have been in a state of flux for approximately 5-10 years and one of the biggest changes was the end of the infinite 3o day visa exemption. Today, a foreigner will usually only receive a 15 day visa exemption at a land border in Thailand. This is unhelpful for those wishing to remain in Thailand for a long period of time as Thai Immigration officials require at least 21 days of lawful status to convert a Thai visa or extend a Thai visa.

The border run or “visa run” is still important for many as it is still required of one in the Kingdom on a long term multiple entry Thai visa.  A one year multiple entry visa for Thailand provides the bearer with 90 days of lawful status per entry. In the case of the Thai business visa, business travelers often leave Thailand before their duration of stay has ended. However, in cases where the traveler must remain past 90 days he or she will need to leave the country and be stamped back in at a port of entry.

A common method of fulfilling this Thai Immigration requirement is through use of a land border. A very popular “border run” or “visa run” destination for those residing in Bangkok is Cambodia. Although currently their are some tensions with Cambodia that threaten to close the Cambodia border. At present, it would appear that the border will remain open. That being said, another issue arises. Namely, does one need a visa to enter Cambodia on their “visa run?” For most passport holders the answer to this question is: Yes. With the exception of ASEAN nations, most foreign passport holders need a visa to enter Cambodia. Currently the price of a Cambodian visa is $20 although this price could change.

Some border runners and visa runners opt to travel to other countries near Thailand as a method of fulfilling Thai Immigration requirements. Popular destinations are Burma (Myanmar), Laos, and Malaysia. Currently, Malaysia has a visa waiver program for most passport holders while Burma (Myanmar) requires a visa for those from nearly every nation. A Burmese visa can be obtained at the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok. As to Laos, a visa exemption or visa on arrival is granted to most entrants when they are admitted to Laos at a port of entry.

Some opt to do their “visa run” using an airport. In this situation the visa runner needs to leave Thailand by plane and be stamped back into the Kingdom upon return. Malaysia has become a popular destination as the Royal Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur is popular for short term Thai visa applications.

Thailand visa rules can act as an inconvenience to many foreigners in Thailand, but through research on the current Immigration laws one can make the process as hassle-free as possible.

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