Integrity Legal

27th Jun 2009

There have been some interesting developments regarding the Thai Tourist visa. Recently the Thai government authorities and Royal Thai Immigration announced that they would extend the free tourist visa program. This initiative was designed to spur tourism to Thailand which has been a sector of the economy that was hard-hit by the airport closures in late 2008, government instability at the beginning of 2009, the Asean summit cancellation, the  Songkran disturbances, and the worldwide economic distress. A recent statistic published in Thailand has stated that Tourism in Thailand has decreased by 50% year-on-year, for a country heavily dependent upon foreign tourist currency this finding was disconcerting. By providing free tourist visas the Thai government hopes recreational travel to Thailand will increase.

The free tourist visa program would seem to be just one pillar of Thailand’s long term Immigration program. It would seem that Thai Immigration Authorities want to ween foreigners off of the Thai visa exemption and onto the use of Thai visas. Many foreigners are under the mistaken impression that when they are stamped through the immigration counter at the airport in Thailand, they are provided with a 30 day visa. In reality, the stamp for a person entering without a visa is a 30 day visa exemption. This stamp allows a non-Thai national to remain in Thailand without a visa for the time period stipulated on the foreigner’s passport (currently 30 days at the airport and 15 days at land border immigration checkpoints).

At one time, foreigners were able to remain in Thailand for a nearly indefinite period so long as they made a “visa run” every 30 days to renew their exemption stamp. The authorities issuing Thai visas first put a stop to this practice approximately 3 years ago when they mandated that a person was only entitled to visa exemptions for 90 out of every 180 days. Approximately 6 months ago, the Immigration authorities again changed the regulations. Currently, 15 day visa exemptions will be granted to foreigners at the land border and 30 days will be granted at the airport.  Further, those using visa exemption stamps at a land border will only be able to get 4 consecutive 15 day stamps.

This change of policy has created the necessity for longer term visas. Currently the Thai government is providing free Tourist visas to those who wish to travel to Thailand. The visa has a validity of 60 days, but one can travel to the Thai Immigration office in Thailand and, for an extra fee, one can extend the visa for an extra 30 days intra-country.  Another option is the “double entry” Thai tourist visa. this has a double validity for 60 days (with extendability) and if used properly can confer lawful status to a foreigner in Thailand for 6 months.

Apparently, the free tourist visa scheme is not being well received by some of Thailand’s honorary consulates around the globe, because these posts make a substantial portion of their revenue from Tourist visas. According to government officials in Thailand, these posts will receive reimbursement for the free visas they issue. The free visa promotion does not affect the price of the Thailand Business visa, Thailand O Visa, or the Thailand Retirement Visa.

For information on a related topic please see: US Tourist Visa

(This post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created between reader and author.)

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