Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Thailand border 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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3rd January 2017

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the officials of the Royal Thai Immigration Police have made policy changes regarding passport holders of certain countries. It appears that passport holders from 37 different countries will now be able to obtain a 30 day visa exemption stamp by crossing a land border into Thailand. The recently announced list includes the following countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey

It should be noted that most holders of passports on the above list were already eligible to receive 30 day exemption stamps when arriving at one of Thailand’s many international airports. However, 30 day exemption stamps were apparently not available when arriving at land borders. While this liberalization is likely welcome news to prospective tourists who wish to travel to countries surrounding Thailand it should be be analyzed in conjunction with recent announcements regarding so-called border runs.

As previously noted on this blog and other sites, Thai border runs are effectively a thing of the past as recent laws have been enacted which bar individuals from making border runs more than 2 times per calendar year. Although this new rule is unlikely to impact genuine tourists in Thailand, those who have used ostensibly temporary visas and visa exemption stamps to live in Thailand are likely to find maintaining their status in this way to be very difficult in the future. This news comes at the same time as a number of foreign owned or managed businesses in Thailand are reporting significant increases in immigration inspections as well as well known hostels are being raided by those seeking not only criminals, but over-stayers in particular. How this will all play out in 2017 remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: staying long term in Thailand is becoming increasingly difficult, expensive, and time consuming.

Meanwhile, as Thai Immigration cracks down, it appears that the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has made new regulations regarding the forms which must be submitted in connection with petitions for various immigration benefits. Forms such as the I-130 (associated with spousal immigration petitions for visas such as the CR-1 or the IR-1) have been upgraded and apparently the USCIS will no longer accept forms of an older pedigree. The same is apparently true with respect to the I-129f (the form associated with the K-1 visa used to bring fiancees of American Citizens to the USA) as that form has been updated.

Concurrently, it appears that there has been an across-the-board increase in the fees associated with the filing of certain immigration petitions. It is advised that those interested in this matter either speak with a qualified professional or conduct their own research to ascertain the current costs and fees associated with a visa to the USA.

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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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