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Posts Tagged ‘Thailand Tourist Visa’

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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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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3rd June 2014

As of the time of this writing, the reader is likely aware of the recent developments in the Kingdom of Thailand. In recent weeks, the political tension that placed Thailand in a political stalemate came to an end with the military taking over the civilian functions of the government. Although these developments may be confusing to those operating within a Western paradigm, such events are rather un-extraordinary when viewed within the framework of relatively recent Thai history. That stated, these developments are unlikely to have a day-to-day affect upon tourists and expatriates in the Kingdom. However, as the situation may lead to regulatory changes in Thailand, one would be prudent to keep an eye upon administrative developments moving forward.

Another issue which is likely to have a very significant impact upon both temporary travelers and long term residents in Thailand is the evolving state of Thai immigration rules. At present, the previous immigration rules are still essentially in effect (although one should note that all Thai immigration authorities have discretion to withhold admission to foreign nationals whom they deem unsuitable and with the recent announcement of upcoming rule changes such discretion may be utilized more frequently in the immediate future). On August 12th of this year the administrative procedures regarding those using multiple 30 day visa exemption stamps will change. After that date it will  likely prove much more difficult for foreign nationals in Thailand to use more than one 30 day exemption stamp within a relatively short period of time as such travelers are viewed as using such stamps to abuse the relative laxity of the Thai Immigration system. Therefore, it appears likely that those wishing to enter on such stamps consecutively will be highly scrutinized at the border with anecdotal evidence suggesting that immigration officials are likely to ask for proof of hotel accommodations and sufficient funds to remain in the Kingdom. The issue of hotel accommodation could prove significant to those who have used such stamps consecutively in the past as many such individuals maintain apartments or condos in Thailand and where that is the case anecdotal evidence suggests that such foreign nationals will be asked to depart and re-enter on a proper Thai visa rather than utilize the 30 stamp.

As a result of these developments and the substantial likelihood that the current administration in Thailand will stringently enforce these  new directives it seems reasonable to assume that the best course of action for those wishing to remain in the Kingdom for a significant period of time is to obtain a long term visa in some non-immigrant category. Currently, the Thai business visa is available for business travelers, while those wishing to undertake educational endeavors in Thailand could obtain a Thai ED visa. Furthermore, those with family members in Thailand could obtain a Thai O visa, while those wishing to simply retire in the Kingdom can opt to seek a Thai retirement visa. A 60 day Thai tourist visa may also be a possibility, but some have noted that usage of multiple Thai tourist visas may prove less feasible moving forward.

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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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30th June 2013

It has come to this blogger’s attention that Thai authorities may one day require that tourists traveling to the Kingdom of Thailand purchase health insurance prior to being granted entry, to quote directly from the website UPI.com:

Lawmakers in Thailand say they want all foreign tourists to be required to purchase travel and health insurance before arriving in their country. Thailand’s Public Health Ministry Wednesday proposed the measure…The health ministry has suggested the cost of health insurance coverage might be included in visa fees, Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong said at the meeting. Those visiting Thailand without visas would be required to buy insurance at immigration checkpoints or the fees could be added to the cost of airline tickets.

To learn more about this issue readers are encouraged to click HERE to view this story in detail.

Although this policy is still in the discussion stage, if Immigration officials in Thailand eventually do decide to require foreign tourists to obtain health insurance then surely this would increase the costs associated with being granted entry to the Kingdom. Currently, those wishing to enter the Kingdom of Thailand for tourism purposes are required to obtain a Thai tourist visa. A single entry Thai tourist visa grants the bearer lawful presence in Thailand for 60 days, with an optional 30 day extension. It should be noted that foreign nationals from many countries can currently enter Thailand on a Thai visa exemption which is granted at an immigration checkpoint at the foreign national’s port of entry. In most cases a Thai visa exemption stamp in a foreign national’s passport will grant the bearer 30 days of lawful prensence in the Kingdom of Thailand.

Those wishing to travel to Thailand for the purpose of conducting business are required to obtain a Thai business visa which is categorized as a non-immigrant “B” visa by immigration authorities in Thailand. Once present in Thailand if the foreign national holding a business visa wishes to work then a Thai work permit must be first obtained before undertaking any type of labor in Thailand. Those traveling to Thailand to reunite with family may obtain a Thai “O” visa. This type of visa may allow the bearer to apply for a work permit depending upon the bearer’s circumstances. Foreign nationals wishing to retire in Thailand may obtain a Thai retirement visa which will permit the retiree to remain in the Kingdom for one-year intervals. However, those holding a retirement visa cannot apply for a work permit. Also, retirement visa seekers must be over the age of 50 and meet certain financial requirements. Some foreign nationals opt to travel to Thailand in order to receive schooling, in such cases it may be possible to obtain a Thai education visa (officially classified as an “ED” visa). It should be noted that in virtually all cases an ED visa holder cannot obtain a work permit.

For related information please see: Thailand Visa.

 

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4th February 2010

Among the Expatriate Community in Thailand, one of the popular websites for up-to-the-minute information about visas and immigration issues is: Thaivisa.com. At the time of this writing Thaivisa.com is reporting that the free Thai tourist visa program is coming to an end. To quote a posting on that site directly:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, who oversees the Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates worldwide, today confirms to Thaivisa.com that visa fees will be levied for all visa classes from March 5, 2010. Tourist visas are valid for a 60 days stay and may be extended at local Thai Immigration offices…Tourist visas has been issued free of charge since June 25, 2009 in an effort to revive the Thai travel and tourism industry.”

As stated above, the Tourist visa fee waiver program was initiated to help in reviving the beleaguered Thai tourism industry which suffered some setbacks after an airport closure and the worldwide economic downturn. It would seem that these measures have been successful in buoying the economy as the decision has been made to end the program.

This may come as a relief to the staff of Royal Thai Consulates and Embassies overseas as it has been rumored that the tourist visa fee waiver has caused an upsurge in tourist visa applications and caused a drain upon the resources of many Thai Diplomatic and Consular postings.

These authors hope that the rescission of the Thai visa fee waiver marks the beginning of an overall recovery in the Thai tourism sector as it is one of the most important facets of Thailand’s service economy. The impact that the re-imposition of the tourist visa application fee will have upon the “visa run” remains to be seen, but many believe that most visa runners will continue to opt for the tourist visa as it currently provides a significantly longer duration of status compared to land border visa exemptions which are currently only being granted for a maximum validity of 15 days.

Some have also noted that the end of the free tourist visa may result in the increased promulgation of dual entry tourist visas as Thai Consulates and Embassies are more willing to grant such travel documents because they are once again being compensated for the processing.

It should be noted that a 60 day Thai tourist visa can be extended by 30 more days if the bearer takes their passport and visa to a local Thai Immigration office and pays the extension fee. At present, the extension fee is approximately 1900 Thai baht.

For related information please see: Business Visa Thailand.

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10th September 2009

In an apparent effort to deal with a are number of foreign nationals using Thai Tourist visas for unintended purposes, the authorities at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are instructing Consular Officials at Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates to heavily scrutinize applicants for tourist visas. This edict seems especially targeted at Consulates and Embassies in the Southeast Asia region.  Thaivisa.com is covering the story and quotes the edict directly:

“As there has been a number of visa applicants having entered Thailand via tourist visa and misused it to illegally seek employment during their stay and, upon its expiry, sought to re-apply their tourist visas at the Royal Thai Embassy or the Royal Thai Consulate in neighboring countries, requests for visa renewal by such applicants are subject to rejection as their applications are not based on tourism motive, but to continue their illegal employment, which is unlawful.

This is in accordance with the Immigration Act, B.B. 2552 which stipulates that visa applicants are required to clearly express their real purpose of visiting Thailand. Should the case be found that the applicant’s real intention were concealed, the application will be rejected.

Please be informed that the intention of applicants to repeatedly depart and re-enter Thailand via tourist visa issued by the Royal Thai Embassy or the Royal Thai Consulate in neighboring countries in recent years upon its expiry, is considered as concealment of real purpose of visiting Thailand. Thus their visas applications will be rejected.”

Unlike the Thai O visa and the Thai Business visa, the Thai Tourist visa is not designed for those who wish to work in the Kingdom.  One present on a tourist visa is not entitled to apply for a Thai work permit. Due to this restriction, many foreigners opt to stay in Thailand and work illegally or “off the books.” Although tolerated at one time, this practice is viewed with increasing animosity by Thai Immigration officials particularly since the world wide economic downturn.

Thailand’s policy regarding this practice is similar to Section 214b of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. This statute creates the presumption that those entering the United States on a non-immigrant visa, like a US Tourist visa, are in fact intending immigrants. United States Consular officers often reject tourist visa applicants because they cannot demonstrate true “tourist intention,” meaning that they do not have sufficiently strong ties to a country outside of the US which would compel them to depart the United States.  Working in the United States on a tourist visa without work authorization is also considered to be a major violation of non-immigrant status (although not a ground of inadmissibility). Thailand seems like it is beginning to tighten up immigration protocols and coincidentally these measures are making the system resemble the US Immigration system.

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