Over the past few weeks, a number of changes to the visa system for Thailand have been announced. Pattaya Today, with the help of visa specialist Jessataporn “Chang” Sriboo, offers a summary of how farang are likely to be affected throughout the year.
The most noticeable development is the new multiple-entry, six months’ validity, 60-day tourist visa which has replaced the old multiple-entry visa for vacationers. This new visa is available only in the applicant’s home country and requires a great deal of paperwork, including proof of income and of residence. Thus it is not available for Thai visa runners who in the past have visited Thai consulates in neighbouring countries to obtain a long-stay facility. Effective now, such visa runners may be able to obtain only a single-entry tourist visa and even that is likely to be refused if the official believes the applicant is “living” in Thailand on visas not designed for that purpose.
“Visitors who want to vacation in Thailand for several months,” said Mr Chang, “are well advised to obtain their six months’ validity tourist visa in their home country in advance of their planned holiday.” He added that foreigners in Thailand with a 15- or 30-day stamp on arrival cannot any more obtain a new stamp by simply crossing a land frontier. Those requiring a further 15 or 30 days – depending on the applicant’s nationality – should return to Thailand by air and not a border crossing. It is, however, not a problem for visitors already holding a 60- or 90-day visa, with more than one entry, to renew their visa at a land border.
The issuing of non-immigrant visas in Thai consulates is not affected by the new regulations, but they are not always easy to obtain. Indeed, some smaller consulates actually display notices to the effect that non-immigrant visas are unavailable. At present, many foreigners in Thailand requiring a non-immigrant visa are taking a trip to the Thai embassy in Vientiane, Laos. But voluminous paperwork is required for a non-immigrant “B” visa (a first step in the application for a Thai work permit), a non-immigrant “Ed” visa (for students of the Thai language) or a non-immigrant “O” visa (often associated with being responsible for Thai spouses or dependants). “These days,” explained Mr Chang, “it really is important to seek informed help before making the journey to a Thai consulate as the ground rules are constantly changing.”
Foreigners wanting to live in Thailand on a variety of one-year visas should also be aware of recent regulations. For example, a foreigner applying for a retirement visa, or a renewal, must now provide clear proof of his or her residence through a house book, a chanoot or a rental contract. The old days when a water bill or similar would suffice are gone. “Since the bomb attacks in Bangkok earlier this year,” said Mr Chang, “immigration authorities have been instructed to tighten up their policy on residence.” Another retirement visa change is that an applicant needing a non-immigrant visa to start the procedure can no longer receive it in a local immigration office. Only the immigration head office in Bangkok can issue the non-immigrant visa necessary to update to the one-year status.
Other one-year visas include the education visa to study Thai where the rules have also been tightened. Checks may now be made on the student to ensure that he or she is actually attending classes and making progress in the language. Additionally, approval is now being given for a three months’ study, which is extendable, rather than the old one-year-at-a-time facility. As regards the one-year marriage visa, for foreigners with Thai spouses, the application now requires even more paperwork than in the past.
There is another route for a long visa which is associated with the Thai elite card which has had a chequered history but is still operational. If a foreigner pays up front 2 million baht – and submits the approved paperwork – he or she is guaranteed a five-year visa extendable several times to a maximum of 20 years. In a variant, an applicant can pay 500,000 baht to receive a five-year visa, issued on an annual basis. “Anyone interested in the elite card and its visa advantages should take professional advice to ensure they have all the details,” said Chang, managing director of the Pattaya-based company Visa2Britain.