Integrity Legal

22nd Jul 2009

Tuesday July 22, 2009 the website is reporting that the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang has apparently made a rule restricting issuance of multiple Thai tourist visas. As can be imagined, this is causing something of a stir among expats and long term vacationers in Thailand because the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang has long been a traditionally convenient post for those wishing to extend their stay in Thailand.

In recent years, the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang has tightened their regulations with regard to issuance of the Thai business visa. In many cases, applicants were continuously traveling to Penang, Malaysia in order to obtain visas for extended stays in the Kingdom with the bonus of having the right to petition for a Thailand work permit should it be deemed necessary at a later date.

The Thai Tourist visa is, by definition, not a visa intended for those wishing to engage in employment activities within the Kingdom of Thailand. Instead, it is a visa designed to allow foreign  nationals entry into Thailand for recreational purposes.  There have been cases where the Thai tourist visa was used to remain in Thailand and work illegally. A similar situation occurs in the United States when foreign nationals enter America using a US Tourist Visa and subsequently obtain employment. As the holder of a US Tourist visa does not have work authorization in the United States, this method of immigration is illegal. In both cases, the respective governments feel the need to crackdown on such activity in order to keep up enforcement of administrative and labor regulations.

That being said, in the case of restriction of Thai Tourist Visas one has to wonder if now was the appropriate time to make the rules more stringent. Currently Thai tourism is at one of its lowest ebbs in years. A combination of domestic turbulence, airport closures, and the world economic crisis has left much of the tourist sector in dire financial straits. Although, this author agrees that the Thailand immigration rules must be enforced, it seems an inopportune moment to begin such enforcement.

It should also be noted that this may not be a rule initiated by the Immigration authorities in Thailand. Consulates and Embassies abroad are governed under the jurisdiction of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That being said, Consulates and Embassies are allowed to set their own rules with regard to who they will issue visas to and under what conditions. It would seem that the Consulate in Penang has exercised their discretion in order to clamp down on those abusing the Thai Tourist Visa.

(This is not legal advice, nor should it be used as such. A lawyer-client relationship is not created by reading this posting.)

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