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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Foreigners cheated with visa extension in Phuket


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More than 60 foreigners in Phuket have fallen victim to “visa helpers,” Thailand’s immigration service is investigating visa renewal fraud

Several dozen foreigners in Phuket have been stranded after contacting a visa services company, the Phuket News reports. The company received money from the foreigners but failed to provide the promised visa extension service.

Some of the affected foreigners have been waiting for visa extensions for more than three months, said Kim Shanti, who helped the foreigners with their applications to the police as “coordinator.” Many defrauded foreigners have already filed complaints with the Phuket police. However, some, fearing for their immigration status, do not want to report their problems to immigration officials, Shanti explained.

Shanti, who has lived in Phuket for decades, explained that many foreigners were initially stuck in Phuket because of the pandemic and therefore enlisted the help of a visa company to get another visa extension. However, those affected have now been left without immigration stamps confirming that they can continue to stay in the country. Some still have not had their passports returned.

“Those who reported it to the police were unaware that the officer had only registered their application in the daily logbook,” explained Shanti, who helps foreigners sort through the local legal processes. As for the police, a formal complaint has not yet been accepted, she added.

Shanti appealed to the media to draw attention to the problem because formal complaints have been filed, but no action has yet been taken against the visa agency. “Thailand is open and tourists are ready to go to Thailand. But there are people who do such bad things. I don’t think it’s normal,” Shanti stated.

Phuket police chief Col. Sarawut Chuprasit told the publication that the police were aware of the incident and that he had contacted Phuket immigration about the visa agency. “We did a preliminary check and coordinated the case with Phuket’s immigration chief. We negotiated with the relevant departments and supervisors and came to the conclusion that tourists should go to the immigration office in person for visa extensions,” the police chief said.

“Making sure your visa is current and valid is an obligation every tourist should know. In the event that a visa or extension expires, you must go to the immigration office to apply for an extension of stay,” Colonel Sarawut added.

“In the event that a tourist claims to have been cheated, the police will investigate. If the tourist has been cheated, we will hold the agency responsible and make sure that the tourist gets all the money paid back,” the Phuket police chief said. “However, I would like to stress that tourists should know how long they are allowed to stay in Thailand, and when their visa expires, they should personally go to the immigration office and apply for a visa extension,” the colonel reiterated.

On the evening of June 27, the Phuket Immigration Service issued a notice urging all foreigners affected by a visa broker or visa renewal agency to contact the Immigration Service. If the agency has taken your passports and money but has failed to extend your visa, you should contact the Phuket Immigration Assistance Center at 086-4077763 or 076-221905 (ext. 10).

The notice asks foreigners to prepare the following documents before contacting the Help Center:

Passport or copy of passport

Proof of company/agent action regarding visa

Proof of litigation, if any

Other related information

Foreigners can file a formal complaint through the hotline or make an appointment for assistance.

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