New Thai immigration visa amnesty to September 26 has many discretionary elements to watch for

The visa amnesty period has been extended to September 26, but has many discretionary elements to watch for.

Thai immigration has now cleared up most of the macro questions relating to the visa amnesty period to September 26. It is decidedly more detailed and complex than its predecessor ending on July 31. Local discretion in immigration offices has always been present, as rightly reminds us on a daily basis, but that official latitude has now grown immeasurably.

Foreigners with an original visa for 15-60 days (or a visa-exempt stamp) – provided your visa expired in the country on March 26 or later – can now stay hassle-free until September 26. Effectively, short-term tourists have been given a six months free extension under the two amnesties. They do not need to take any action, fill in any forms or pay any money. Bon voyage.

But if foreigners in those categories do stay longer, without permission, they face prosecution and blacklisting. The latest information does not go into detail about fines, but the best advice is not to wait and find out. However, there are three reasons why such a foreigner may seek permission from the immigration to stay longer than September 26: if they are too ill to travel (get a letter from the hospital), if there are no flights available to their foreign destination (obtain a letter from your embassy which will be on a scale of fairly easy to absolutely impossible) and if there is a sudden new coronavirus outbreak which limits international travel (hypothetical situation).

The immigration authorities will handle each individual above on a case-by-case basis, but each extension will be for a month or less. Just because you are waving around a letter from a hospital or an embassy just not mean an automatic extension. You can bet your bottom dollar that detailed questions will be asked and, in some cases, further documentation required. After six months that’s understandable.

Will this be revisited at immigration offices throughout Thailand after September 26?

Those foreigners with a 90 days non-immigrant visa (for example, type B for business/employment or type O for family or type Ed for student status) who wish to stay beyond September 26 will need to appear at their immigration office between now and then with their weighty and relevant documentation under their arm to apply for a fresh visa. Again, decisions will be made on a case by case basis.

Many of the foreigners having good reasons to stay will have multiple-entry non-immigrant visas but, as matters stand, cannot do a border run or leave the country and return because of immigration restrictions here and abroad. The immigration bureau is advising such applicants to apply “early” and not wait till mid-September when queues will be longer and tempers frayed all round. These new visas will all the dated from September 27, presumably for three months in most cases. Best of luck.

Those foreigners with visas or extensions of stay for a year or more should renew at the usual time as stated in their passport. Both amnesties were, and are, directed at short stayers and not at retirees or spouses on one year extensions, or the few with an 0/X (ten year) permission to stay. However, these groups were permitted in the amnesty finishing on July 31 to ignore their 90 day report to avoid overcrowding at immigration branches. That 90 day amnesty has now ended and the three-monthly chore must be done any time during the month of August for those whose due date fell between March 26 and July 31. On-line registration of address works in some areas.

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Those in any doubt about their position should clarify it in person at their local immigration office. That would certainly include smaller groups of people such as pending work permit applicants and Elite visa card holders. To misquote Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts and be prepared for a bumpy ride.”