More Restrictions applied to ‘Visa Runs’, maybe

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As you may have seen, the Thai government has officially announced that it is cracking down further on expats who regularly extend their stay in the kingdom by going on visa runs.

So-called visa runs in some cases do not actually involve an application for a normal visa to work in Thailand at all. They are in fact a way for people holding 60-day tourist visas and 30-day exemptions to live and work in Thailand.

Back in June, I wrote that Thailand’s Immigration Bureau had instructed officials to only allow initial extensions of stay – in other words only up to three entries would be permitted on the same visa.

However, a few weeks later the Immigration Bureau then made a more official move, informing foreign embassies and consulates in Thailand1 that anyone allowed back into the country will have an O-I (Out-In) mark stamped in their passport.

According to the Immigration Bureau’s website, leniency was granted until 12th August, but only for those arriving in Thailand by air. Since 13th August if you don’t have the O-I stamp in your passport, you will not be allowed back into Thailand, unless you have a proper visa related to the purpose of your intended stay.

The penalties for over-staying will become harsher too. Under the old system, they stand at a THB 500/day fine, up to a maximum of THB 20,000. From October the penalty will be anything from a one to ten-year ban from entering Thailand.2

These changes could severely affect some sectors, such as English-teaching by native speakers. As some teachers do not intend to stay in Thailand for more than a year, employers find it inefficient to apply for work permits and accompanying visas. Multiple visa extensions would no longer be permitted, meaning schools would have to find another way to ensure their teachers are staying legally in the country.3

In fact the above example became an issue of concern to the military government. In August – a week after the leniency period expired – General Prayuth announced in his weekly television address that the changes to the system may lead to a “shortage of English teachers and guides.” He said that it was an ongoing problem that needed to be resolved.

For this reason, the General announced that people who require a ‘visa run’ could register with the Immigration Bureau, which would find a solution. In addition, the government has told the Immigration Bureau to be flexible when dealing with these matters.

One part of the new immigration regulations already in place is the lifting of restrictions on tourists visiting Thailand regularly. Visitors can now spend up to 90 days in a six-month period in the country, provided that they obtain a 30-day “Visa on Arrival” at airports or a 15-day equivalent at land borders. These changes are aimed at helping the struggling tourist industry.

Thus whilst the government looks at changing the system, so that it keeps out people they do not wish to enter, yet has no detriment to those who help the Thai economy, the situation remains unclear and open to interpretation. For that reason, it’s best to ensure that you have the visa that covers your purpose for being in Thailand.

All-in-all, obtaining a visa is a bureaucratic process in which the relevant rules and regulations can sometimes be altered. It can be complicated and time-consuming if you do it yourself. If you need a visa – especially one to live in Thailand – and/or a work permit, it’s more efficient to get a specialist to the do all the work for you.

Footnotes:

1 http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/738876-confirmed-visa-run-crackdown-effective-from-august-12-2014-thai-foreign-ministry/

2 http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/investigation/423791/coming-to-the-end-of-the-run

3 Ibid

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