Subject to Cabinet approval, the top brass in the foreign affairs and immigration bureaux have now given us an insight into the future of visa amnesty from August onwards. No problems for current amnesty beneficiaries as long as they leave Thailand by September 26. There is no need to extend your visa, visit an immigration office or pay any money.
Why September 26 which is a Saturday anyway? That’s because the original amnesty was backdated to March 26 which means that the total period of grace and indulgence will have been exactly six months. Those who intend to stay in Thailand beyond September 26 and currently possess only 60 day passes or 90 day non-immigrant visas should apply for new visas at their local immigration office before the final amnesty date. Bring a bundle of papers though.
Decisions, we are told, will be handled on a case by case basis. Those most likely to obtain new visas will be foreigners married to Thais and/or with a Thai family, work permit applicants and holders, potential or actual students and possibly the long-term sick. They will need to present voluminous documentation to justify their gaining a new visa, but that’s nothing new. So there is no need to rush to the immigration on the morning of Monday August 2.
The foreigners who will need to leave the kingdom by September 26 are mostly 15 day visa holders (including Indians and Chinese visitors), 30 day visa exempt travellers (from USA, UK, most of Europe and Australia) and 60 day tourist visa holders from anywhere (who have obtained that visa at a Thai embassy or consulate abroad). Will there be any exceptions?
Recent comments from the immigration commissioner hinted that they will need special reasons and be considered case by case. For example, there are some destinations in the world where even nationals may have difficulty returning. For example, the former Yugoslavia and several Caribbean countries might be hard to reach, whilst the Australian embassy in Bangkok has already confirmed that it will issue letters where necessary to request Thai immigration to grant dispensation to some Australian nationals who can’t just hop on a plane and fly back.
There are also many European and American etc. expats who live in neighboring countries, often based on one year visas there. They may have visited Thailand through a land border last spring and can’t return that way as all frontier posts are still closed to non-nationals. And they can’t even travel back by air as ordinary flights are not operating into Laos, Malaysia or Myanmar. Cambodia is not quite so restrictive but permission has to be given by the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok and there are hurdles such as a US$50,000 comprehensive insurance bond. Of course, the land borders might be open again by late September which is doubtless what many are praying for.
If a foreigner in Thailand is forced to leave and doesn’t wish to return to his or her home base, a few countries are still ready to welcome strangers. Belarus and the Lebanon will let you in with a Covid-free certificate but you are advised to avoid sensitive sites including government oil installations and Palestinian refugee camps. Afghanistan is still a possibility but, once in Kabul, you are asked to hurry to the EXZ or Enhanced Security Zone. Of course, how you get to these spots from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is up to you.
In Haiti, you are welcome with only a passport as long as you undergo a Covid test at Port au Prince airport. However, you have to pay for two rooms at a quarantine hotel of your choice, the second one being for the well-built dude in the dark glasses who will ensure you stay put in your accommodation for 14 days. So, after all, it might be the best bet simply to go home. As Miss Dorothy Gale explained in the movie The Wizard of Oz as she clicked those ruby slippers, “There’s no place like home”. And you don’t need a visa.