Pattaya Grapevine: Immigration Melody


The end of insurance
Compulsory Covid insurance ends July 1 for anyone entering Thailand. But those applying for retirement visas at Thai embassies still need comprehensive medical cover. Details on individual embassy sites. Whether you need such cover to extend such a visa for twelve months at immigration depends which kind it is: O/A yes and O no. It’s quite a jumble.

Looking forward
Anyone applying for the rich-person’s 10-year visa will have to wait until September 1 before applications are accepted either at embassies or immigration. Comprehensive medical insurance again raises its head (3 million baht) with the escape-clause that you will be able to self-insure to that amount if you are too old or infirm to obtain cover.

Watch for September 1
The beginning of September looks like a key date for the latest tranche of immigration requirements, particularly for expats. There may be other surprises in store. If compulsory insurance continues to advance as a criterion for annual stays, expect the multiple entry, 5-20 years Elite visa to become suddenly more popular. It’s not specifically designed for the elderly and doesn’t need insurance of any kind.

After 45 days?
The 30 days visa exempt entry for nationals of almost 60 countries, now including Saudi Arabia, is expected to move to 45 days. At the moment, such arrivals can extend at immigration for a further month (30+30). Once 45 days comes in, will there be an extension? Will it be for 7 or 30 or 45 days? Nobody knows at the moment.

Covid extension final curtain
The last day for obtaining a further 60 days under the Covid discretion is July 25. The very last of these guys and gals will have until late September to decide what to do. In spite of rumors that immigration offices would crack down on “tourists” claiming they can’t get back to their home countries, the evidence nationally is that the Covid extensions are being generously handled.

Work permit flexibility
These days, there seem to be far fewer prosecutions for working without a permit. Occasional voluntary work is usually exempt as long as it isn’t “regular” and the old debates about whether you can paint your next door neighbor’s front door as a favour seem to have died down. One of the perks of the new 10-year visas may well be working flexibility, although the details have not yet been published.

Discretion is the key
Since the 2014 coup, individual immigration offices appear to have used a lot more local discretion. Exactly what documents you need for particular extensions and whether a certificate of residence can be issued in English are all matters which differ up and down the country. In other words, plant bargaining (to a limited extent) has grown apace. The old advice of “ask locally” has never been more true.

Border visa runs
With the passing of Thailand Pass on July 1, it should be quicker crossing by land into a neighboring country and returning fairly quickly. That’s because you no longer have to wait for a QR code issued centrally. However, some border immigration posts will insist you spend at least one night out of Thailand before coming back. Again, ask locally.

Digital nomads
In spite of promises, there is still no visa aimed directly at digital nomads. The 10-year visa proposals won’t fit the majority who travel from country to country with a suitcase and don’t want to prove big assets, salary level or the name of sponsoring company. Mostly, they survive on tourist visas and are left alone by the authorities as long as they are not working directly for a Thai-based employer.