Who can come to Thailand at present?
The permitted groups are mainly foreign diplomats, aliens with Thai spouses and/or dependants, work permit holders, foreigners with secured job offers and regular students. In addition to proving with documents their claimed status to the satisfaction of the local Thai embassy, all applicants must present a fit-to-fly certificate, a coronavirus-free test shortly before departure, have comprehensive medical insurance worth at least US$100,000 and confirmed booking for 14 days quarantine at a Thai ASQ hotel (Alternative State Quarantine). The Thai embassy has the final say and will issue an essential Certificate of Entry to those permitted to fly.
What visas are Thai embassies issuing?
Only a three months’ non immigrant visa which under some circumstances can be extended in Thailand. Visas valid for 12 months and 60 day tourist visas are not being issued and visas-on-arrival and 30 day visa exemptions are also precluded at the present time. This policy is in line with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ insistence that visas at present must be for a limited time and for specific purposes.
What flights are on offer?
Because scheduled flights into the country are still banned, non-Thai nationals must obtain a ticket to board a repatriation flight for Thai citizens which can lead to delays. For example, in September, there are three such flights being organized by Thai Airways from London with 50 seats only on each plane reserved for British and Irish nationals. Other airlines may not operate a quota system, but tickets can be expensive. Quotes of 1,000 UK pounds for a one-way economy ticket or 2,500 UK business class are reported on social media.
What about medical tourists?
This is indeed an approved category but is surrounded with ifs and buts. A medical tourist must have a letter from the home country stating that suitable treatment is not available there and another letter from a Thai hospital describing the life-threatening condition and the prescribed treatment. It also appears that the medical tourist must not travel alone but must be supported by up to three care assistants. Several private hospitals in Thailand specializing in medical tourism have stated that, to date, very few applications to embassies have been successful.
What about Elite visa holders?
The Elite visa offers a 5-20 year multiple-entry visa in exchange for a non-returnable cash deposit between 500,000 and two million baht. Last month, the Privilege Card Company sent an email to all card holders and applicants who had paid the cash up-front stating that Elite was now an approved category for applying to the local Thai embassy for permission to enter Thailand. However, many Thai embassies are stating that final permission is still awaited from Bangkok. No foreigner is known to have yet entered Thailand recently solely by virtue of Elite membership.
Are any other groups able to come to Thailand?
Permanent residents – those select foreigners who can stay in Thailand as long as they like without leaving or applying for an extension – are another eligible group. But they still need that all-important Certificate of Entry from the Thai embassy with all the supporting paperwork and insurance. Short-term arrivals such as air crews, film crews and cargo carriers are permitted to enter under a dispensation clause and do not necessarily quarantine for two weeks. But they must leave promptly. Last June there was publicity about a special dispensation for wealthy tourists arriving in Thailand by private jet, but nothing more was heard of this proposal.
What’s the position with foreign retirees and property owners?
At present, holders of an annual retiree visa or extension of stay are not able to return by virtue of that status. Nor are the owners of condominium units or long-term lease holders. In late August, one government minister stated that the future of both groups was being examined, but there is no policy statement at the time of writing. The attraction of these groups seems to be that they are believed to be “wealthy”, though one can certainly argue about that supposition.
And tourists, vacationers, travel-bubblers and snowbirds?
No general tourists are able to enter Thailand at the present time and there are not any relevant charter flights. There are reports that the government is pondering allowing selected foreign groups to visit Phuket under a Safe and Sealed policy, possibly in November, but there is nothing definite. Many influential government medical advisors are known to be firmly opposed to tourist experiments lest they unintentionally create a second wave of that pesky virus.