There has recently been news of a visa 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 the purpose of bypassing Thai immigration law. The crackdown has started at land border crossing and will be extended to international airports on August 12, 2014.
A visa run is for nationals of countries who do not require a visa to enter Thailand. Thailand allows citizens of multiple countries around the world to enter the country without a visa for a fixed period of time. The fixed period ranges from 15 to 90 days. If the foreigner wants to remain in Thailand beyond the granted period, they can go to the immigration office and apply for a tourist extension.
Some foreigners do not want to go through the bureaucratic process or fear that an extension may not be granted. These people go on a visa run where they crossed over a local border checkpoint and re-entered Thailand to get a new period of stay. For some, the visa run option is no longer viable.
The Thai government has decided to stop visa runs for people who use the automatic extensions to live in Thailand for an indefinite period. Tourist who come to Thailand who visit border countries will not be prevented from re-entering Thailand as long as they have proof of their short term stay including their itinerary. However, if the immigration officer believes that the foreigner has stayed in Thailand too long on a tourist visa, the officer may bar the foreigner from entering Thailand and the foreigner might be blacklisted.
For foreigners who want to stay in Thailand for the long term, what are their options?
The foreigner can invest in Thailand and start a business. Foreigners entering on a Non-Immigrant B visa will initially be granted a period of stay in Thailand for up to 90 days. The business visa has documentary requirements to prove that the foreigner is entering Thailand for business or investment purposes. The period of stay can be extended for additional one year periods depending on the discretion of the officer. Through the Non-immigrant B visa, the foreigner may be able to obtain a work permit.
If the foreigner is over 50 years old, does not want to work, and has 800,000 baht or a monthly income (pension) of 65,000 baht or more, the foreigner may be able to obtain a retirement visa. The retirement visa or the Non-Immigrant O-A visa provides the foreigner a one year period of stay which may be extended annually for one year periods depending on the discretion of the officer.
If the foreigner is married to a Thai national, they can apply for an accompanying spouse visa. The foreign national must submit evidence of being married to a Thai national including the original marriage certificate, the spouse’s Thai ID, and household registration. The original visa will entitle the foreigner to enter Thailand on a three month visa. For an extension, the foreigner will have to show proof of 400,000 baht in a Thai bank account or joint income of a minimum of 40,000 baht per month.
The foreigner can enroll in a Thai education institution and apply for a 12-15 month education visa. There is a quarterly requirement to make a trip to the immigration office to submit evidence of continued enrollment. The education visa can be renewed up to five years. There are a number of quality educational institutions with international programs in Thailand. Other qualified educational programs include Thai language school or even Thai boxing. The educational institution must be certified and recognized by the Thai department.
All of the above options are complex for individuals who do not have experience dealing with the Thai bureaucracy or individuals who cannot read or understand Thai. It is recommended that those who apply for the above visas seek the assistance of an experienced professional.
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.