Integrity Legal

21st Sep 2009

It is interesting to discuss recent changes in Thai Immigration rules with the so-called “old timers” or “old Thailand hands” because they can remember far simpler times when Thai Immigration rules were far less byzantine and self-contradictory. That being said, Thailand was also a far less hospitable place in the past and a by-product of Thailand’s overall economic expansion has been a tightening of Thai Immigration regulations.

At one time, immediately following the second world war any entrant into the Kingdom was immediately accorded immigrant status which today would be known as Thai Permanent Residence. Although not Thai Citizens, Immigrant in the Kingdom were accorded a great many legal rights and privileges.

As time passed, a new immigration category was added: Non-immigrant. This category was initially intended for obvious tourists and other persons present in the Kingdom with non-immigrant intent. At this point it was still relatively easy to acquire permanent resident status in the Kingdom of Thailand. A visa holder classified as non-immigrant could generally convert their visa to the immigrant visa category within a few weeks and legally take up permanent residence (a process called adjustment of status in present USA visa parlance).

In the early to middle nineteen seventies, the sub-stratification of the non-immigrant visa category began. Within the non-immigrant visa category, the entrant was deemed to be in the Kingdom for a certain purpose. As a result there were Thai tourist visas, Thai business visas, Thai O visas, etc. Also, at this time, Thai Permanent Residence became extremely difficult to obtain when compared to the ease with which it could have been acquired in the past. Quotas were set regarding the number of applications that would be accepted for applicants of differing nationality.  An applicant was also required to remain in the Kingdom for at least three consecutive legally unbroken years before an application for residence would be accepted.

It is also interesting to hear about times past because the Thai work permit was originally not an issue. For a long time, it was not necessary for a foreign national in Thailand to obtain a work permit in order to be employed in the Kingdom. In the nineteen seventies, this situation changed and any non-Thai national was compelled to acquire a work permit to be employed in Thailand. Originally, many people were granted lifetime work permits. In other cases, the work permit itself had to be renewed but the particulars of the permit were not reviewable. This meant that although one had to maintain the necessary fees, the Ministry of Labour could not cancel the permit for any reason other than failure to pay the administrative fee. All of this is very different than the system today where Thai work permits are constantly renewable and visa regulations seem to change with the wind.

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