Integrity Legal

24th Jan 2010

Thai business visa rules can be confusing for some as those who are new to the Kingdom of Thailand can become confused by the Thai Immigration system. Even seasoned expatriates in Thailand have trouble keeping up with the constantly changing rules and administrative procedures. The reason for the confusion can at least be partially attributed to the fact that, like US immigration rules and regulations, there are two Thai government agencies with overlapping authority where Thai visa matters are concerned. The first agency is the Royal Thai Immigration Police who are similar to United States Immigration officials at the Department of Homeland Security in that they oversee the administration of Thai Immigration rules from inside the Kingdom. Then there is the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad, is tasked with adjudicating visa applications outside of Thailand and when said visa applications are approved they are tasked with promulgating visas.

This brings us to the issue of Thai visa extensions. For many foreign nationals working in the Kingdom of Thailand a visa extension is necessary in order to remain in the Kingdom long term. Some opt to use multiple entry visas, but generally, these visas are not convenient for those who wish to remain uninterrupted or eventually apply for Thai Permanent Residence.

In recent months there has been some discussion among Thai government officers about tightening up the Ministry of Labour regulations regarding foreign workers. Apparently, new rules will go into effect in February 2010 which would make Thai work permit rules more stringent. This will likely have a collateral impact upon those seeking Thai visa extensions as work permit renewal is usually required by Thai Immigration before they will extend a Thai visa. At one time, the One Stop Service could be used by employees of companies with a high registered capital or BOI Companies. One Stop Service allowed foreigners to apply for both a work permit renewal and a visa extension at the same time.

However, One Stop’s jurisdiction has been significantly curtailed and the service itself is effectively non-existent for small businesses. Now, most foreigners wishing to renew their work permit and visa must do so by first making a trip to the Ministry of Labour and then traveling to the Royal Thai Immigration Police headquarters to extend the visa after work permit renewal. At this time, the process seems cumbersome, but there is some hope that the system will be streamlined so as to facilitate more efficient processing of work permits and visas.

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