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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

21st December 2021

There was discussion that the “test and go” scheme, which effectively eliminated quarantine for foreign travelers, would be suspended and then the discussion became moot as authorities in Thailand announced that the scheme would end effective immediately. To quote directly from the Thai Enquirer website:

The Thai government said on Tuesday that it will scrap the recently implemented Test and Go Plan as Omicron variant cases spike worldwide. The Test and Go Plan, which allowed foreign arrivals to skip quarantine, and the Thailand Pass system will be suspended and reevaluated again on January 4.

This raises the question: what about those who already booked their travel plans and were expecting to use the “test and go” system? Well, apparently, they will be allowed to enter so long as they had already booked their travel, quoting further:

All travelers that previously applied for and received the Thailand Pass can still enter the kingdom until January 10 but must report two more PCR negative tests.

Meanwhile, it seems the Thailand Pass system may also be suspended. To quote directly from the ASEAN Now website:

Thailand has suspended its ‘Thailand Pass’ and ‘Test & Go’ schemes due to fears over the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha has ordered the immediate suspension of new registrations for Thailand Pass and at the same reinstated mandatory quarantine effective immediately. The PM announced on Tuesday afternoon that Test & Go will be put on hold until at least January 4, 2022. The so-called ‘Sandbox’ programs will also be suspended. “After Dec. 21, there will be no new registrations for ‘Test and Go’, only quarantine or Phuket sandbox,” said deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhanadirek.

With a “stroke of the pen” the travel situation has reverted back to the status it was at in mid-summer of 2021. This raises the question: will certificates of entry once again be the order of the day when traveling to Thailand? It would appear so, although the situation remains in flux and could change rather rapidly as past events have shown.

Concurrently, many of those wishing to obtain visas to the USA are finding that backlogs are common throughout the Immigration process. Presently, there are very few interview being scheduled at the US Embassy in Bangkok, citing concerns about the pandemic. Furthermore, American tourist visa applications are not processing as quickly as they did in the past due to interviews being scheduled nearly a year out. Even cases that have seen interview are seeing issues as Administrative Processing is delaying a number of cases, sometimes for a prolonged period of time.

Hopefully, the overall situation will improve and we will update this blog as the situation evolves.

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14th June 2021

It recently came to this blogger’s attention via the website of the US Embassy in Thailand that there is a new policy in place regarding the expired passports of US Citizens. To quote directly from the aforementioned website:

U.S. citizens may directly return to the United States with certain expired U.S. passports.

If you are overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you may be able to use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until December 31, 2021.

You qualify for this exception if all the following are true:

  • You are a U.S. citizen.
  • You are currently abroad seeking direct return to the United States.
  • You are flying directly to the United States, a United States territory, or have only short-term transit (“connecting flights”) through a foreign country on your direct return to the United States or to a United States Territory.
  • Your expired passport was originally valid for 10 years. Or, if you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport was valid for 5 years.
  • Your expired passport is undamaged.
  • Your expired passport is unaltered.
  • Your expired passport is in your possession.

You do not qualify for this exception if:

  • You wish to depart from the United States to an international destination.
  • You are currently abroad seeking to travel to a foreign country for any length of stay longer than an airport connection en route to the United States or to a United States territory.
  • Your expired passport was limited in validity.
  • Your expired passport is a special issuance passport (such as a diplomatic, official, service, or no-fee regular passport).
  • Your expired passport is damaged.
  • Your expired passport is altered.
  • Your expired passport is not in your possession…

This is a major departure from standard procedures regarding American passports. Those keenly interested in this issue are advised to click the link above to read the entire announcement. Clearly, the United States Embassy in Thailand is attempting to provide solutions to Americans abroad who have seen their passports expire as the duration of the Thai government’s response to the COVID situation drags on. Although this is something of an “ad hoc” initiative the State Department’s policy is laudable as it creates flexibility for many Americans abroad who otherwise would be unable to return home.

Meanwhile, Thai Immigration policy continues to evolve. There has been significant progress made with regard to the proposed “Phuket Sandbox” initiative which, once implemented, would allow travelers to be admitted to Phuket, Thailand without being required to quarantine in their hotel for 14 days. However, there are been a number of developments in recent weeks which appear both positive and negative. For example, the following was noted in a recent article on ThaiVisa.com:

Over 50 percent of foreigners who had confirmed they would visit Phuket as part of the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ project have now cancelled their plans, Thailand’s tourism minister has said. Pipat Ratchakitprakarn, Minister of Tourism and Sports, told Spring News that after the Center for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) increased the minimum period of stay from 7 days to 14 days, 29,700 foreigners have now cancelled plans to visit Phuket. Under the Phuket Sandbox scheme, vaccinated foreigners do not need to be quarantined in a hotel room, but they are required to remain in Phuket before travelling to other provinces in Thailand…

The fluidity of regulations pertaining to the sandbox initiative seems to be alienating a number of otherwise interested travelers. Meanwhile, ThaiVisa.com went on to note that:

The Phuket Sandbox project, the launch of which is best described as chaotic, suffered another blow last week after it was announced that bars and pubs in Phuket would remain closed when the first tourists start arriving from July 1.

It seems immigration and quarantine policy are not the only obstacles standing in the way of substantial tourist numbers returning. It should be noted that the Phuket initiative has yet to be brought online so it remains to be seen if the “sandbox” plan will actually be implemented. It seems prudent to infer based upon comments from relevant Thai government officials that the sandbox program will be implemented. However, the popularity of such a plan remains to be seen. Presently, those arriving in other parts of Thailand, including Bangkok and Chiang Mai, are required to undergo 14 days of alternative state quarantine (ASQ) before being released. This quarantine pertains not only to foreign tourists, but also to those entering Thailand on non-immigrant visas such as the business visa, retirement visa, marriage visa as well as Thai nationals and permanent residents. The end date for quarantine enforcement in Thailand remains to be seen.

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