After leaks on social media, immigration authorities are confirming that longer stays for foreigner tourists, unable or unwilling to return home, are to be granted until January 25 2022. This means that the 60 days, so-called Covid visas are available beyond the previous date of late November. The new permissions obtained would be valid a further two months with the last ones being stamped until the end of March 2022.
Individual immigration offices operate slightly different rules when awarding the Covid extensions. Some require applicants to state orally the pandemic is preventing their return home, others require either embassy written approval or confirmation that the diplomatic post does not issue support on such matters. Theoretically, immigration officers can refuse to issue extensions on the grounds of “abuse of hospitality”, but problems have been few and far between in practice.
The Covid visas were introduced by Thailand two years ago after the pandemic caused international lockdowns with many airports closing down completely for passenger traffic. That is no longer true, but some observers believe that the country needs all the visitors it can persuade to stay at the moment. However, the renewals must be made punctually, two months at a time, and overstayers are still subject to fines, or even deportation in serious cases.
An alternative view is that the extensions reflect that Thailand’s land borders remain closed to most people. They are partially open to returning nationals of Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos who have been working in Thailand on Memorandum of Understanding labour permits, as well as most goods traffic in both directions. As the health dangers of Covid slowly recede, international border traffic may resume in the normal way. Cambodian and Thai officials are meeting this week to consider the formal opening of Poipet, Stung Bot and Koh Kong border posts this week, although Thai authorities are thought to be hesitant about liberalization until coronavirus numbers fall further.