Darren McGarry from Key Visa, speaking on a subject of great interest to Expats, brings his PCEC audience up to date on current Thai Immigration issues.They all were topics at the Sunday, January 12, meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club (PCEC), which was to a packed house with about 150 members and guests in attendance.
The first speaker was Dr. Thundon Ngamprasertchai, MD, with the Faculty of Tropical Medicine at Mahidol University to talk about his research study and explain why the meeting lobby had several of his staff gathering information and taking blood samples from those that wished to participate in the study. His short presentation was followed by the main speaker, Darren McGarry from Key Visa Thailand who spoke on the topic “The Latest Visa Opportunities and Challenges in Thailand”. Last but not least was Dr. Wanapa Intaprasert, PhD, to give another short talk about Pattaya’s Homerly Senior Living facility.
Dr. Thundon is an infectious diseases doctor conducting a research project related to Latent Tuberculosis (TB). He explained the project’s primary focus is on TB in expatriates, particularly in an early stage called “latent tuberculosis.” He then described what TB is and its prevalence in Thailand. TB is an airborne bacterium that infects organs, usually the lungs, and can be quite fatal if not treated. In 2018, 1.5 million died of the disease and it is the single highest cause of death to HIV positive people. Thailand is a country with a high propensity for the disease. He mentioned that while active TB will have symptoms, latent TB will not and can only be detected by a blood test. He pointed out that while latent TB does not necessarily result in one getting an active case, a percentage will develop an active case.
Latent TB can only be detected by a blood test that normally costs around 4,000 baht, but for those that wished to participate in the study, they would receive the test for free. If it reveals the person has latent TB, they will be notified in about one month for a follow-up test. He emphasized that all information is kept strictly confidential. He reported back later that there were about 60 Expats from the meeting that were participating.
Next up was Darren, a British Expat with over 15 years of experience as a visa consultant in Thailand. His company is Key Visa and he is the driving force behind the company. He began by noting that in 2019, Immigration seems to be toning things down a bit to encourage tourism. In 2018 they began being stricter and increasing enforcement. This saw closer scrutiny of those arriving on Visa Exempt and Tourist visas that have many visits and spend a lot of time in Thailand as they were suspected as working rather than being a real tourist. Further, Immigration’s actions in asking embassies in providing monthly income certification letters to verify the income information which resulted in 3 major embassies no longer issuing such letters (UK, USA, and Australia), to the frustration of many of their Expat citizens that relied on them. This, along with the appreciation of the baht against Expats’ home currency, plus new requirements for health insurance if on a Category O-A Visa, has frustrated many Expats. As a result, many are choosing to go elsewhere.
Generally, the present position on immigration is to continue to enforce requirements for those coming into Thailand. Entry by Visa Exempt at land borders are limited to twice in a calendar year. Fingerprint checks have been instituted at the airport points of entry and scrutiny will continue for those that frequently enter, but may be less stringent. Darren noted that this past year, from 50 to 60 foreigners a day have been sent back to their home countries, but this is now more like 10. He also recommended, especially for off shore workers who visit regularly, to obtain a Tourist visa in lieu of entering as Visa Exempt.
In conclusion, he offered some observations of what in his view could be in store for the future, but cautioned that these were just speculation on his part.
Darren was followed by Dr. Wanapa who is Senior Director at Homerly Senior Living. She has a PhD in the field of Special Education from the University of Alberta, Canada; a Masters in social work and community psychology from West Virginia University (USA) and University of New Brunswick (Canada). She says she combines her knowledge of psycho-social and physical health into creating a place that you may want to call home.
She presented several slides as she spoke about the Homerly Senior Living facility and what services they offer with emphasis on what makes their living arrangements unique, such as: state of the art salt water pool therapy, fitness and garden facility, individualized exercises and meal plans, daily recreational and social activities, etc. They also offer a shuttle service for their guests and on-site medical are provided. There are four room options the premier room offering comfortable seating and an in room refrigerator. The average monthly cost for staying ranges around 50,000 baht a month more or less depending on the room (40,000 for a couple). She pointed out that the facility is available for long term stay or shorter stay if recuperating from surgery or illness that requires special care.
After the presentation, the MC brought everyone up to date on the upcoming club events and others of interest. This was followed by the Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya. For more information about the PCEC, visit their website at: www.pcec.club.