It’s certainly never been easy for expats and long-stay tourists to obtain a proper visa for Thailand that allows them to stay in the kingdom for longer than just a couple of weeks or months. Since August 2014, this certainly hasn’t become any easier.
Not only were the official requirements for certain types of Non-Immigrant visa tightened in several countries – a number of general changes to the visa rules have also been announced by immigration. While it still remains to be seen how strictly the new regulations will be enforced, here’s a summary of the main changes. More detailed information can be found most conveniently in the dedicated visa section of our website.
- Starting from August 2014, out/in visa runs, e.g., to the Cambodian or Lao border, including out/in “visa runs by air”, are basically a thing of the past. The Nation reported on July 15: “From August 13, people [who have not obtained a visa prior to their visit to Thailand] will not be able to re-enter the country, regardless of their choice of transport”. In other words: If you haven’t obtained a visa prior to your visit to Thailand but wish to stay longer than just for a holiday, then “visa runs” are no longer a viable option to extend your stay in the kingdom, but you’re advised to apply for a tourist visa at your local Thai embassy or consulate in advance. A single-entry tourist visa is good for a 60-day stay in Thailand and can now be extended locally for another 30 days. If you wish to wish to stay in Thailand more or less “permanently”, you should obtain an appropriate (Non-immigrant) visa prior to entering the country.
- In summer 2014, it was reported that tourists and expats who overstay their visa for more than 90 days might get blacklisted in the future, i.e. banned from returning to Thailand for 1-10 years. Until now, tourists who overstayed their visa were usually simply fined 500 Baht per day up to a maximum fine of 20,000 Baht; only when an “overstayer” was caught within the kingdom, he/she faced arrest and deportation; overstayers were not blacklisted.
According to the new proposed rules, foreigners who overstay their visa for 90+ days would automatically get blacklisted for a period of 1-10 years, depending on the length of their overstay. The new rules were reported to take effect late August 2014, however, have not been approved as yet, and the whole hurly-burly might have been false alarm only.
- New stricter requirements for ED visa extensions have gone into effect on August 29, 2014. Until then, the same ED visa could be used to study the same subject, e.g. Thai language, for up to five years; the student did not have to leave Thailand but could simply extend his visa at the local immigration office every 90 days. Under the new rules, an ED visa is valid for a maximum of one year only, provided that the student studies the required amount of hours per week (otherwise an extension may be rejected and the visa cancelled). After one year you will have to leave the country and apply for a new ED visa.
In addition, Thai language students will now also have to attend classes 4 days a week, for two hours per class, in order to extend an ED visa, effectively doubling the hours of study. If students don’t study the required amount of hours per week, their visa will not be extended. Also, when extending their visa for 90 days, ED visa holders will initially be given only a 15-day extension, during which time immigration officials may check whether students regularly attend classes or not. At the end of this “evaluation period” they must go back to Immigration and will be granted another 75-day extension. This post and this thread at ThaiVisa.com discuss the new rule in more detail.
- It remains uncertain whether the crackdown on out/in visa runners also targets foreign visitors holding valid tourist visas. AsianCorrespondent.com reported in July 2014: “Even those on valid tourist visas may be denied entry if immigration officials suspect feel they are spending too long in the country or working illegally.” Ajarn.com even anticipated that “from [August 12th], apparently no one will be allowed to use back-to-back 60-day tourist visas to enter Thailand.” This interpretation was obviously exaggerated.
As an immigration official in Chiang Mai confirmed on August 20, 2014, “there is no limit to the number of tourist visas you can apply for, nor is there a minimum time limit between each one.” He also confirmed that a multiple-entry tourist visa will “allow you to exit and enter Thailand however many times you have been granted.” In any case, tourist visa applicants should always be prepared to prove they are in fact tourists and, if required, be able to produce a confirmed airline ticket, hotel booking etc. Some Thai consulates may also be more lenient than others; for example, it’s currently the easiest to obtain a double-entry tourist visa at the consulates in Vientiane or Savannakhet in Laos.
- Last but not least, there are also some good news. Reportedly effective from August 29, 2014, tourists can now extend their 30-day visa-exempt stay in Thailand by a further 30 days, not just seven days as previously. All you need to do is visit your local immigration office after your first 30 days have expired and apply for a 30-day extension at a fee of 1,900 Baht; effectively giving you 60 days of stay without having to apply for a visa. Just expect that you’ll be asked to produce a confirmed air ticket out of the country within the 30 days of extension, hotel booking confirmation, and possibly proof of sufficient funds. If you cannot produce an air ticket out of Thailand within 30 days, you will most likely be given only a 7-day extension as previously and have to leave the country within a week.
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