Recently, there has been news of an immigration crackdown in Thailand as Thai border officials are closing off the ability for non-Thais from entry into Thailand if they have had multiple entries in the recent past. This is an attempt at stopping visa runs for foreigners who attempt to stay in Thailand without going through the traditional long term visa process.
With the visa runs being closed off as an alternative for bypassing the Thai immigration system, many foreigners have been moving toward obtaining a Non-Immigrant Education (ED) visa so that they can remain in Thailand. The ED visa allows foreigners to stay in Thailand while they are attending school.
The non-Thai that is enrolled in a Thai educational institution, a foreigner can enroll in a Thai education institution and apply for a 12 month education visa. Currently, the definition of an educational institution is amorphous. The type of educational institutions range from international university degree courses, Muay Thai boxing schools, Thai language schools, cooking schools and even meditation courses. The only requirement is that the educational institution be certified and recognized by the Thai education ministry.
The benefits of an ED non-immigrant visa is attractive to many non-Thais who would like to stay long term in Thailand but do not fit in the other visa categories. With any attractive option, there are some foreigners and faux educational institutions who abuse the ED non-immigrant visa. Some ED visa holders might sign up for a yearlong Thai language course but never attend classes. And there have been some “educational institutions” who don’t conduct any classes but are essentially ED visa mills.
Thai authorities understand how some ED visa holders and faux educational institutions abuse the system. There have been recent steps in cracking down on visa abusers. Authorities will have a random check of schools to ensure that ED visa holders are attending classes or even if there are actual classes. Some ED visa holders will be given impromptu Thai language tests if they have been in a Thai language program for multiple years. Thai authorities have also looked into instituting minimum course requirements to ensure the integrity of the program.
New regulations will be introduced in the fall of 2014. The new regulations proposed that an ED visa will only be good for one year if they are studying the same course or subject. For example, if someone has been studying a Thai language course for multiple years. Under the previous regulations, the ED visa can be used for up to five years as long as the student extended their stay every 90 days at the local immigration office. The new regulations will require the ED visa holder to leave Thailand and obtain a new ED visa at a Thai consulate at a foreign country to reenter Thailand. In addition, the new ED visa will require proof of income to ensure that the non-Thai ED visa holder has the financial means to support themselves while in Thailand.
Thai visa regulations is constantly in flux. Prior to applying for a non-immigrant visa or a long stay visa in Thailand, please contact a Thai immigration specialist.
See other types of Thai visa you can apply for for a longer term stay.
Mr. Robert R. Virasin serves as legal manager of Siam Legal’s Immigration Division. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor Degree in Political Science, Mr. Virasin completed his Juris Doctorate at the University of Houston and a Masters of Laws (Business) from Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. Mr. Virasin is a member of the State Bar of Texas and is a licensed U.S. attorney with over 15 years of legal experience. Robert is a regular contributor and author of a number of immigration related articles.