Overseas travel restrictions for Thai passport holders seem to be tightening. Whilst Singapore nationals can travel to 156 countries without a visa, Thais are restricted to about a quarter of that total. As regards travel to European countries and the United States, Thais are now evidently subject to increasingly stringent visa rules.
Indeed, many Thais have commented how difficult it has become to obtain a visit (tourist) visa to the United Kingdom. Of course, British authorities deny there has been any recent change, but Thai applicants say that the documentation now required goes beyond the financial position of the sponsor and good reasons for returning to Thailand at the conclusion of the holiday. The “interview” is no longer as significant as the stack of paperwork required.
Several embassy refusal letters shown to Pattaya Today by disappointed Thais illustrate that the awarding authorities are looking for substantial proof of employment in Thailand or independent income or ownership of land or property. It is apparently no longer good enough to have dependent children living in Thailand or being in receipt of regular, ongoing cash donations from the sponsor. However, even this position is better for the applicant than American embassy practice which dismisses an application without any written explanation at all.
Immigration specialists say that the difficulties for Thai passport holders are linked to the fact that many Thais want to be economic migrants and/or have overstay issues. Even so, applying for a visa in Thailand can be a traumatic experience. Visa fees tend to be high and non-refundable for the popular destinations, confusing questions on the application and demands for more and more documents about financial status. Refused applicants say one of their problems is that working on a family farm, for instance, does not necessarily produce the sort of proof embassies are seeking. Tax returns and business registrations in Thailand can be much more informal than in Europe. The fact that many countries have now out-sourced their visa application procedures is another complicating factor. It can be very difficult or impossible to contact the people making the actual decisions.
These issues are leading some Thai government bureaucrats to talk of ‘visa reciprocity’, or making life more difficult for foreigners wanting visas to stay in Thailand.
One immigration official told Pattaya Today that Thailand needs to pay a lot more attention to the dangers of undocumented aliens entering the country because of the risk of admitting terrorists or criminals. He also pointed out that president Duterte of the Philippines had said recently that there is something wrong about an immigration system which freely allows US citizens to visit the Philippines whilst forcing nationals of his own country to pass through numerous hoops to get to America, even for a short stay.
Some visa specialists believe that the Brexit referendum result in UK and the problem of African and Asian refugees across the European continent have led to a stiffening of the decision-making process for both British and Schengen visas. Although this is impossible to prove as embassies invariably stonewall, there is no doubt that more documentation is now being required, especially relating to the financial status of the applicant. Those Thais wholly dependent on the sponsor’s financial backing and lacking any kind of independent assets, such as ongoing employment or ownership of land or property in the mother country, seem to be most at risk of being refused a tourist visa.