Integrity Legal

28th December 2009

This author has had the good fortune to witness the many different ways in which Thailand visa applications are adjudicated. Generally, the adjudication of Thai visa applications depends upon the post at which the applicant is applying.

At many of the Thai Consulates and Embassies in Southeast Asia a long term Thai visa can be difficult to obtain (long term meaning those visas issued with a validity of more than 90 days). This is likely due to the fact that many of the posts in Southeastern Asia have become used to so-called “visa runners” who use nearby Thai Consulates to obtain visas to remain in the country long term. At one time, the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang was popular among visa runners. This author recently had the opportunity to visit the Thai Consulate in Burma and was surprised to find an extremely efficient and well run post, but one that does not routinely issue visas with more validity than 90 days.

Unlike the United States, Thailand issues very few, if any, immigrant visas at Consulates and Embassies abroad. Part of this is likely due to the fact that these two Immigration systems are very different. However, another explanation could be the fact that Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad may not have the capacity to handle the adjudication of Immigrant visas like a US Embassy or US Consulate. Also, Royal Thai Immigration is exclusively responsible for the adjudication of Immigrant visas (also known as Thai Permanent Residence) and such visa applications must be approved in Thailand.

Since Thai Embassies and Consulates generally only issue non-immigrant visas the next question that most people ask is: “how long are such visas valid.” This depends upon the category of the Thai visa, but Royal Thai Embassies generally have the discretion to issue visas with as much as 3 years validity. As a practical matter, the Consulate or Embassy will only issue a visa with a maximum validity of 1 year.

Some Consulates require the applicant to physically present themselves, while other allow for visas to be applied for by post. However, one should not assume that simply because the application is sent in by mail that the officer does not scrutinize the application. On the contrary, there are some who would argue that such applications are more heavily scrutinized compared to “walk in” applications.

Generally, Royal Thai Consulates post the general application requirements and it is incumbent upon the applicant to demonstrate that they meet the requirements and should therefore be granted the Thai visa. Thai tourist visas generally require the least expediture of resources on the part of the applicant. However, Thai Business visas, Thai Retirement visas, and Thai O visas can require a great deal of work in order for the applicant to obtain approval.


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