Thailand Pass affects post-arrival immigration procedures

Recently-arrived tourists and expats often have business at Chonburi Immigration in Jomtien.

Since the introduction last month of Thailand Pass, around 150,000 foreigners have entered the country by air. A sizeable number of them, perhaps a third, have made a beeline for Pattaya and Jomtien. Most appear to be returning residents or family members, but there are also many European snowbird vacationers fleeing the cold weather in northern Europe.

Chonburi Immigration (amongst other offices) is reminding newly-arrived foreigners that they need to register their address by providing passport details and proof of address under the TM30 regulations. There is no need to do this in person if the hotel or condominium has actually recorded personal details online to the immigration bureau. It is not possible to obtain immigration services, such as a visa extension or a certificate of residence to open a bank account or sell/buy a car, without a TM30 form dated after the last arrival from abroad. Short trips within Thailand itself no longer require re-registration.

Thailand Pass has directly affected anyone seeking an extension of a visa obtained from a Thai embassy abroad. In the past, all such visas were stamped into the passport by the embassy in the country of departure. Later, this system was replaced by a vignette or sticker which the applicant placed in his or her passport. But this system has now also been replaced by a new e-visa which is sent to applicants in a detailed email prior to flying to Thailand. This email should be retained after arrival in Thailand. A copy is required by the immigration bureau if and when a foreigner applies for an extension of stay.

Foreigners arriving at local immigration this month say they are confused by the situation at land borders. Although there are active plans to reopen Thailand’s borders with Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos, the purpose is to facilitate the transport of goods and to permit open access for workers and market stall holders in border regions. There has not yet been an announcement that foreign tourists, or Thai-based expats, can pass through border posts as sightseers or visa runners.

Nationally, the immigration bureau has extended the 60 days “Covid extensions” application deadline to late January 2022. This flexibility, which is partly a consequence of land border closures since March 2020, allows foreign tourists whose permissions of stay are running out to remain in Thailand on an ongoing basis. Like all visas, this one is discretionary which means that officers may want to know the reasons for the delay in leaving Thailand, or restrict the initial permission to four weeks pending a notional review. Several thousand “tourists” have not left Thailand for almost two years under the Covid permission arrangements.