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Posts Tagged ‘Thailand 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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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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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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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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20th October 2009

There are many Thai Embassies and Consulates throughout Southeast Asia. One of the major posts in the region is definitely the Royal Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Thailand and Malaysia share a border and are two of the larger members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This likely explains why both nations maintain relatively large diplomatic and consular posts in each of  these countries. Kuala Lumpur is also a major destination for those wishing to acquire a Thai visa at a Consular post abroad.

The reason for the attraction is likely based largely upon the fact that there are frequent flights from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and these flights are relatively cheap compared to airfares for other destinations in the region. Recently, the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang, Malaysia began restricting the issuance of Thai tourist visas to those who have been remaining in Thailand for long periods of time. As a result, many so called “visa runners” have been searching for more flexible consulates in the region. There seems to be no doubt that the Royal Thai Embassy in KL is maintaining a visa issuance policy similar to Penang. However, many visa runners opt to use different posts in an effort to obtain a new visa.

For those thinking of traveling long term in Southeast Asia, it may be wise to develop a strategy regarding one’s visa needs before leaving one’s home country. For example, obtaining a 1 year multiple entry visa before traveling to Thailand would create a great deal of flexibility for the traveler even if he or she does not stay in Thailand for a year and opts to travel throughout the region. This would be a benefit because a long term Thai visa such as this allows for 90 days upon each entry and permits infinite entries for as long as the visa is valid. Therefore, if one is backpacking throughout the region and Thailand is the main country to be toured, a long term visa would be a great deal more beneficial than simply using visa exemption stamps or single entry tourist visas because one cannot cross land borders and be admitted multiple times using either of these methods. Currently, one will only be granted 15 days of lawful presence at any land border port of entry to Thailand.

For the most part, Consulates and Embassies in Southeast Asia will only issue non-immigrant visas such as the Thai Business visa and the Thai O visa for a duration of 90 days.  Therefore, if one obtains a non-immigrant visa at one of these posts, then it may be necessary to acquire a visa extension through the Royal Thai Immigration Police Department in Thailand.

For more information please see: thailand visa

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