Notwithstanding intense lobbying by the Tourist Authority of Thailand, citizens of the 60 or so visa-exempt countries will no longer receive 45 days on entry. Tourists from mainland Europe, the UK, the US, Australia, Saudi Arabia etc will receive from April 1 only 30 days if they choose to arrive without a prior visa. However, they will be able to extend for a further 30 days just once at Thai immigration. This is a return to the situation prior to October 1 2022 when the 45 days rule was brought in as a temporary measure to boost tourism until March 31 2023.
In other words, nationals from visa exempt countries now will have a maximum of 60 days rather than 75 before their time expires. However, they will still be able to leave the country, however briefly, and repeat the procedure for a further 30 + 30 days. But land border runs are limited to a maximum of two in a calendar year. There is no formal restriction on entries by air, though immigration officers can refuse admission if they feel a formal visa from a Thai embassy should be obtained in advance. “Don’t try to live in Thailand on short permissions of stay,” has long been a common refrain in the country’s immigration halls and border posts.
Citizens of a further 19 countries, wishing to enter without a prior visa, are categorized as visa on arrival. They pay 2,000 baht on entering the country and are mostly from China and India. In the period October 1 2022 to March 31 2023 they received 30 days on arrival, but this has now been replaced by 15 days which was the situation until the end of September last year. Nationals from visa on arrival countries can now receive only a seven days extension at immigration bureaux provided they can show a return airticket to the home country. They cannot extend their stay by a border run.
No official announcement was made by immigration or the government about the reversion to historical precedent. The decision to liberalize the rules for six months only was agreed by the Cabinet last autumn and thus, technically, required no termination notice. Most Thai embassies abroad, including those in the UK and the US, have long had notices on their websites about the March 31 truncation. From April 1, foreign tourists were subject to the new entry rules at both Thai airports and land crossing points.
One reason for the decision not to renew the scheme is the belief in some government circles that Thailand is seeing a welcome rebound in international tourism without special measures. Some visa gurus say that abuses in the system may also have played a part. Last December, immigration commander police lt gen Pakpoompipat Sajjapan promised to tighten visa rules after mainly Chinese tourists were shown to have corruptly obtained visas to which they were not entitled.
Thailand has various other bilateral agreements with several countries. Citizens of South Korea and four Latin American nations receive 90 days on arrival and are unaffected by the latest changes. Russia allows visa free, short-term travel for Thai nationals and, in return, Thailand for the past six months has awarded 45 days on Russian passports, though without the 30 days bonus opportunity at Thai immigration. From April 1, the 45 days becomes 30 once again for Russians amongst other nationalities. No extensions internally, but they can do a border run to receive a new 30 days. The nationals of about half the countries in the world, including most of Africa, cannot have any sort of visa free travel to Thailand and must obtain a prior visa at their nearest Thai embassy. Nobody said immigration rules are a quick read – anywhere in the world!