Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

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Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

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Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31

By Barry Kenyon

July 8, 2020

Thai immigration authorities are still going head-to-head with other government agencies about the best way forward to deal with the tens of thousands of foreigners who took advantage of the decision last April to allow all short-term visa and extension holders to remain in the country until the end of July. They did not need to pay any fee, fill in any forms nor attend an immigration police office.

It was hoped last spring that the international travel situation would have eased by now, but that’s only true marginally. Many countries are still banning all or most foreign nationals from entering by air, land or sea. Flights are taking off daily from Bangkok airports to foreign destinations but it’s a far cry from back to normal. Meanwhile, Thai borders with Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia remain closed to all aliens unless they are permanent residents or receive special permission from the respective government.

This situation is unlikely to change dramatically before July 31. There has been some talk of travel bubbles, a vague phrase which suggests special exemption for specified groups of individuals. But as recently as July 8, the Thai civil aviation authority’s director-general, Chula Sukmanop, poured cold water on the idea for now as there has been a spike in coronavirus infections in some Asian countries. Foreigners, stranded in Thailand, are unlikely to be allowed to cross to neighboring countries on a border run (hop over the border and back the same day) or a visa run (to obtain a new permission from a Thai embassy typically based in the capital city) any time soon.

The problems for the Thai authorities in deciding what to mandate after July 31 are as complex as the many headed Hydra of Greek mythology which grew a new bonce if one was cut off. But they are essentially concerned with how to avoid chaos at Thai immigration offices on Monday August 2 and thereafter, and to acknowledge that security concerns require some kind of formal monitoring. For many years, Thai immigration procedures have been preoccupied with the need for visitors and expats to “do” something every 90 days, for example report address, obtain an extension, leave the country.

For these reasons it’s unlikely that the amnesty would automatically shut down on July 31. Chaos would be guaranteed. Another unlikely candidate is that the entire amnesty will be extended another three months. But the Thai security agencies would surely never agree to a total of six months plus in which foreigners have been untrackable by all the traditional devices in place for decades. History always has a strong grip on bureaucracies.

A compromise could be a further extension of the blanket amnesty for all until August 31 on the premise that the international travel situation might be clearer by then. Everyone would immediately start speculating whether another might be given for September. The August amnesty could in theory be accompanied by a demand to pay 1,900 baht online, although the recent history of computerized bureaucracy in immigration-related matters is not encouraging and crashed sites could well be a major problem.

Another candidate for adoption could be a free 30 days amnesty extension to August 31 with a binding, bleak statement that there won’t be another. In other words, visitors exiting by air must leave before that final cut-off whether to their home country or anywhere else that would accept them. There may be fewer of these remainers than commonly supposed as many have already left Thailand on available flights. More would do so quickly if they knew the amnesty was indeed time-limited.

As regards land crossings, there would be time before the end of August for Thai authorities to establish temporary visa-issuing consular offices actually at the border post adjacent to a neighboring country, but still on Thai territory. This would avoid seeking the permission of those countries to admit foreign nationals, or risking their wrath if an individual was refused a visa and forced to remain on the wrong side of the fence.

Whatever solution is finally introduced, it is becoming increasingly clear that Thai immigration policy in the future will need to shift gear to a more hi-tech orientation with less dependence on showing up in person, especially for mundane matters, and more use of the latest computerized technology by visa-issuing embassies abroad. Covid-19 is the first pandemic to create chaos in the world’s travel industry. It might not be the last.

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Re: Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

Post by Gaybutton »

Barry Kenyon wrote:
Wed Jul 08, 2020 5:56 pm
it is becoming increasingly clear that Thai immigration policy in the future will need to shift gear to a more hi-tech orientation with less dependence on showing up in person, especially for mundane matters
I hope the retirement visa will become one of those "mundane matters." It seems absurd to me that retirees have to go through the renewal process every year and have to show up personally to be approved. Why?

It would make much more sense to me that once a retiree has lived in Thailand for a number of years, has obeyed the laws, and has caused no problems, then 5 or even 10 year visas ought to be issued - for a fee, of course. I see no valid reason why all of this can't be accomplished online, as has finally been done with the 90-day address reports.

I also see no valid reason why a retiree who has lived in Thailand for a certain number of years can't be granted some sort of permanent residence status instead of having to jump through the hoops every year. If that is not possible, then why not?

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Re: Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

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Whilst it doesn't affect me at present, I agree entirely with Gaybutton's comments.
Even if they need all this visa renewal nonsense, then surely it could be done on line, perhaps even with a machine that takes your fingerprints and a photo every couple of years, if they really need physical verification.
Furthermore, I'd be very interested to know what percentage of crimes are committed by over 50 year old retirees from developed countries. I presume it's negligible.

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Re: Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

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Many unanswered questions about projected end to Thai visa amnesty after July 31

By Barry Kenyon

July 11, 2020

The reported remark of a senior immigration spokesman in Bangkok that the visa amnesty is “unlikely” to be extended beyond the scheduled date at the end of this month is a case of light the blue touch paper and withdraw. Of course, there could be a clarification or even a denial any time. There is so much we don’t know at press time.

Taken at face value, it appears that any short-stay or temporary foreigner will be on overstay and subject to fines if he or she has not sorted out a valid visa or extension of stay by July 31. The categories most likely to be affected are those with an out-of-date 15 days visa on arrival (notably China and India) or border pass (given out at land immigration checkpoints), 30 days visa exemptions (notably tourists from Europe, USA and Australia) and a variety of 60 day tourist and 90 day non-immigrant visas issued by Thai embassies abroad. Non immigrant visas (types “O”, “Ed”, “B” etc.) in particular are complex permissions which commonly require activation by leaving Thailand and returning to activate a double or multiple entry.

To have qualified for the amnesty, the above visas or the extensions of stay associated with them must have expired not earlier than March 26, the starting date in the original visa amnesty statement three months ago. Depending on the specific visa and the number of entries permitted, some affected foreigners will be able to extend their permission fairly easily. But not all. One can only assume at this stage that a foreigner who has benefitted from the amnesty, but has now run out of options for extension, will be entitled to a 7 days’ notice to leave the country on payment of the usual extension fee of 1,900 baht at an immigration office. If that is right, overstay penalties would not come into play before August 7 (a week after July 31).

It is discouraging that the first words from the immigration bureau about the fate of the amnesty should contain a couple of doubtful remarks. It is frankly untrue that Thailand has been uniquely generous in its treatment of stranded foreigners. Thus all Thailand’s neighbors have made a policy decision, including both Cambodia and Malaysia which have agreed that aliens in that position can stay without cost or penalty until “they are able to leave”. Myanmar is still in lockdown with airports and border crossings closed to foreigners. Separately, it is surely untrue that the pandemic worldwide is at last winding down as implied in the reported immigration press statement. The World Health Organization wouldn’t agree.

The strangest omission from the immigration report concerns the land borders. Parts of the immigration system are dependent on some visitors temporarily leaving the country (a border run) and even presenting themselves at Thai embassies (a visa run), typically situated in capital cities abroad, to obtain new permissions to stay in Thailand. These embassies are often very busy, including the one in Vientiane in Laos which, even before the pandemic, became so overcrowded that limited numbers and advance bookings by email were required. But all land and border options are currently impossible as most foreigners can neither visit a neighboring country nor qualify to get back into Thailand.

Short of further clarification being issued within the next few days, it’s best for all foreigners who have expired visas and permissions of stay to visit their local immigration office and present their passport and their dilemma before the end of the month. Some may be allowed to activate a multiple entry visa to Thailand without the need to travel abroad, others may be eligible for a 30 days extension of stay anyway, whilst still others may find they are given a final date to leave, presumably seven days after the amnesty is over.

Whilst many amnesty-foreigners still remaining here will likely now book a flight home rather than risk a very muddy August, an unknown number of thousands will still be here, especially those who cannot yet fly to their home country destination or who crossed into Thailand by land. If the immigration’s answer for the still-stranded ones is to obtain a (very difficult) letter from their (most reluctant) embassy in Thailand highlighting why they cannot yet quit the country, one can only pray for divine intervention. If the Thai government authorities value the future of tourism, they must insist that the visa amnesty arrangements are brought to an orderly and clear conclusion. Not a guillotine chop.

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Re: Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

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Foreigners can apply for visa extensions after July 31

Applications considered on case-by-case basis until Sept 26

by Wassayos Ngamkham

17 Jul 2020

Foreign visitors still stranded in the kingdom by the Covid-19 pandemic will be allowed to apply for an extended short stay after their visas expire on July 31, the Immigration Bureau chief said on Friday.

Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang said foreign tourists who were unable to leave Thailand would be able to apply to stay during a specified period, or they would face legal action and be blacklisted.

The application period has been tentatively scheduled for Aug 1 to Sept 26, he said, and foreign tourists should contact the bureau as soon as possible to avoid crowding as the Sept 26 deadline approached.

Foreign visitors must specify their reasons and submit necessary documents when seeking to renew short-term visas, which will be granted for 30 days, he said.

"If they are unable to return because there are no flights or due to lockdown measures in their countries, they must submit proof. The granting of a short-stay visa will be made on a case-by-case basis," Pol Lt Gen Sompong during a visit to Phuket, a province with a high number of stranded foreigners.

He said the bureau had asked the Council of State about the proposed short stay and it had advised that the Interior Ministry should issue an announcement.

He said the Interior Ministry's visa relief measures for foreign visitors would be submitted to the cabinet for approval next Tuesday. The bureau would later issue guidelines on how to apply for a visa extension.

He said those who planned to return to their home countries did not need to contact the IB but also had to leave Thailand by Sept 26.

He estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 foreigners were stranded in the kingdom due to the lockdown.

The government earlier auto-extended their visas until July 31, but they must still inform authorities where they are staying.

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Re: Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

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Second-guessing the Thai immigration visa amnesty decision after July 31 is a game anyone can play

By Barry Kenyon

July 18, 2020

It is a long time since the social media farang bloggers in Thailand had such a whale of a time anticipating the will-they or won’t-they outcome of the fate awaiting some visitors on temporary visas from August onwards. So let’s spin the casino wheel whilst we wait for the real news.

There are basically three categories of experts. The first will tell you he or she actually does know the answer, but can’t say as it’s a secret until the prime minister has nodded appropriately. These gurus often have a close friend or relative in the immigration bureau, sometimes a high-up officer, who has sworn them to absolute secrecy until the final text appears in the Royal Gazette. Also in this group are the keyboard warriors who don’t claim to possess inside information, but luckily overheard two immigration officers or senior politicians talking in a pub howbeit with raised voices as they had their masks on at the time. Presumably these farang commentators are fluently bi-lingual as Thais never discuss anything of interest in a foreign language.

The second group conjectures that the visa amnesty will be cleanly guillotined by July 31 and hang the consequences. They argue that it’s high time these temporary tourists on extended holidays should leave now as they have already overstayed their welcome in theory if not yet in practice. One Bangkok-based immigration source did lend weight to this approach last week when he apparently stated that security concerns meant that a further extension was “unlikely”. That means still possible. He also urged those with multiple entry visas which were, or might be, still eligible for extension to contact local immigration before the end of the month. Good advice.

The third group has come to the conclusion that the amnesty will be extended by either one month (most votes for that on Thaivisa.com for example) or even two months (occasionally suggested by media you have never previously heard of). The main argument in favour of one month more is that time is pressing and an official announcement would have been made by now if there was to be no reprieve for the luckless stranded. The present writer, who has not had the privilege of secret conversations or midnight phone calls, throws in his lot with this group. For what it’s worth.

The argument for extension is essentially that the issues are complex. Certainly there are tourists in Thailand who would have been back in their home countries by now if the amnesty had never occurred. But there are many other groups on 60 day passes or 90 non-immigrant visas who have legitimate reasons for staying here, such as those with Thai spouses or families or with applications for work permits or student status pending. Not everyone is a beach bum after all. Not to mention the fact that some embassies have already proclaimed they will not issue any agony aunt letters of consular support, with the British and the American embassy cavalry leading the “you are on you own mate” charge as usual. Yet they are apparently still giving them out in Laos and Cambodia, presumably because the scale of the operation is much smaller over there.

A critical point is that while Thai airports are open for departing international flights, the schedules are still sketchy and cancellations regular. But even more crucial is the fact that all Thai borders with neighboring countries are closed to non-nationals. Yet millions of people every year cross those borders for vacations, to visit relatives and to work both legally and illegally. Ordering all those diverse groups (who are mostly not rich guys and gals) just to catch a plane now or risk fines and jail time is an undeliverable strategy to be sure. Real life is not that simplistic. One size seldom fits all.

When the visa amnesty was introduced in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Thai official sources stated that a key reason was to avoid lengthy and unhealthy queues at immigration offices. An unknown number of stranded folk have already gone. But there are tens of thousands of foreign passport holders, all with individual life stories and situations, waiting to hear the outcome of a Thai government decision due any day now. It’s time to stop spinning that roulette wheel.

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Re: Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

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If you have to leave post-amnesty Thailand by September 26, a few countries will still welcome you

By Barry Kenyon

July 18, 2020

Subject to Cabinet approval, the top brass in the foreign affairs and immigration bureaux have now given us an insight into the future of visa amnesty from August onwards. No problems for current amnesty beneficiaries as long as they leave Thailand by September 26. There is no need to extend your visa, visit an immigration office or pay any money.

Why September 26 which is a Saturday anyway? That’s because the original amnesty was backdated to March 26 which means that the total period of grace and indulgence will have been exactly six months. Those who intend to stay in Thailand beyond September 26 and currently possess only 60 day passes or 90 day non-immigrant visas should apply for new visas at their local immigration office before the final amnesty date. Bring a bundle of papers though.

Decisions, we are told, will be handled on a case by case basis. Those most likely to obtain new visas will be foreigners married to Thais and/or with a Thai family, work permit applicants and holders, potential or actual students and possibly the long-term sick. They will need to present voluminous documentation to justify their gaining a new visa, but that’s nothing new. So there is no need to rush to the immigration on the morning of Monday August 2.

The foreigners who will need to leave the kingdom by September 26 are mostly 15 day visa holders (including Indians and Chinese visitors), 30 day visa exempt travellers (from USA, UK, most of Europe and Australia) and 60 day tourist visa holders from anywhere (who have obtained that visa at a Thai embassy or consulate abroad). Will there be any exceptions?

Recent comments from the immigration commissioner hinted that they will need special reasons and be considered case by case. For example, there are some destinations in the world where even nationals may have difficulty returning. For example, the former Yugoslavia and several Caribbean countries might be hard to reach, whilst the Australian embassy in Bangkok has already confirmed that it will issue letters where necessary to request Thai immigration to grant dispensation to some Australian nationals who can’t just hop on a plane and fly back.

There are also many European and American etc. expats who live in neighboring countries, often based on one year visas there. They may have visited Thailand through a land border last spring and can’t return that way as all frontier posts are still closed to non-nationals. And they can’t even travel back by air as ordinary flights are not operating into Laos, Malaysia or Myanmar. Cambodia is not quite so restrictive but permission has to be given by the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok and there are hurdles such as a US$50,000 comprehensive insurance bond. Of course, the land borders might be open again by late September which is doubtless what many are praying for.

If a foreigner in Thailand is forced to leave and doesn’t wish to return to his or her home base, a few countries are still ready to welcome strangers. Belarus and the Lebanon will let you in with a Covid-free certificate but you are advised to avoid sensitive sites including government oil installations and Palestinian refugee camps. Afghanistan is still a possibility but, once in Kabul, you are asked to hurry to the EXZ or Enhanced Security Zone. Of course, how you get to these spots from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is up to you.

In Haiti, you are welcome with only a passport as long as you undergo a Covid test at Port au Prince airport. However, you have to pay for two rooms at a quarantine hotel of your choice, the second one being for the well-built dude in the dark glasses who will ensure you stay put in your accommodation for 14 days. So, after all, it might be the best bet simply to go home. As Miss Dorothy Gale explained in the movie The Wizard of Oz as she clicked those ruby slippers, “There’s no place like home”. And you don’t need a visa.

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Re: Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

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Elite card visa web site: https://www.thailandelite.com/
__________________________________________________

The elite card visa could bring you back to Thailand faster

By Barry Kenyon

July 20, 2020

There are currently few foreigners being allowed back to Thailand. The potentially-favoured groups are mainly permanent residents (with a police red book), diplomats, workers with official documentation and significant medical tourists. But now the Thai government is considering whether to extend the list to those holding the Thai elite privilege card which can be applied for from anywhere in the world.

The elite card offers a 5-20 years, multiple-entry visa in exchange for an initial cash payment of between 500,000 and two million baht plus. It can be for one card holder or can include family members. There are also fast-track privileges at airports to assist prompt entry and departure and various discounts for specified hotels, sports venues, restaurants and retail outlets. However, elite members are not exempt from the 90-day address reporting at an immigration office.

Application clearance can take from two weeks to three months. If the applicant is currently outside Thailand, he or she will collect the visa when arriving at a Thai airport by special arrangement. There are currently about 9,000 elite visa holders worldwide and the number is growing steadily. However, the visa does not allow foreigners to work formally in Thailand for which they would need to apply for a non-immigrant “B” (business) visa and then a work permit issued by the Department of Labour.

A spokesperson for Thailand Privilege Card said, “We are very pleased that current elite visa holders may be given preference as Thailand begins to allow foreigners back.” However, they will still be subject to pre and post coronavirus tests and certification, compulsory 14-days quarantine in a government facility and comprehensive medical insurance worth at least US$100,000.

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Re: Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

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Half a million to two million baht, $US100,000 for health insurance and STILL required to front up to Immigration every 90 days. You'd think an exemption could be made for so much money to once a year. Luckily I'm too poor to afford it and as for a 20 year visa, I should live so long. I'd rather spend my two million on having a good time before I go.

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Re: Tough decisions ahead for Thai visa amnesty ending July 31 - Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

The elite scheme clearly isn't very elite, if the Thai government suspends it when a pandemic crops up and makes the holders still jump over all those pointless hurdles.
This also does not seem like good value for money.

If the Thai government had honoured the deal and kept open entry rights for holders, I could see it making sense for those with a few million £ spare in the bank. It's less attractive when they can & have reneged on their side of the deal.

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