Visas and border crossings forum

Major change in Thailand visa rules

  • somtam2000

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    Effective today, foreign visitors to Thailand will only be granted a single entry by any land crossing. What this appears to mean is that if you enter by land on a 15- or 30-day visa free stay you can no longer leave by land and re-enter on the same thing.

    LAND ENTRY IS ONLY PERMITTED ONCE ON A 15- OR 30-DAY VISA FREE STAY.

    This is an extremely important development that will effect many people's travel plans. But there are many "what ifs" that are yet to be answered.

    Thai visa has a translation of the announcement here:
    http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/725053-final-crackdown-for-border-runners-new-strict-immigratioin-regulation-in-force-from-today/

    This is a big deal. Will update when I hear more.

    #1 Posted: 10/5/2014 - 02:43

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  • somtam2000

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    The most obv what if is:
    "What if I enter on 15- or 30- days then leave to Laos for two weeks, do I need to get a tourist visa to be able to reenter thailand? Or can I get another visa free entry?"

    It is not clear from the announcement if it is only people doing same day turnarounds or if what they are saying is that everyone only ever gets one visa free stay. The time between them is what needs to be spelt out.

    #2 Posted: 10/5/2014 - 03:02

  • SBE

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    And what about people who regularly visit Thailand and already have loads of 15 or 30 day stamps in their passports?

    Does this mean they'll have to get a 2 month tourist visa every time they enter Thailand from now on, even if they aren't staying for long and aren't doing back to back visa runs?

    #3 Posted: 10/5/2014 - 03:15

  • somtam2000

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    @SBE -- nobody knows. According to the second half of the Thai statement on Thaivisa, mid august the same rules will hit for fly in fly out.

    This Thaivisa story (I linked to above) seems to paraphrase the actual Immigration Bureau statement here - if someone wants to translate it, please feel free!

    It seems a very short ruling for a very complex situation and I can't help but think this sudden change is tied to the other developments playing out currently in Thailand.

    The Thaivisa thread has a lot of commentary as well - worth a look.

    #4 Posted: 10/5/2014 - 05:33

  • fondo

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    Well, I can see who this is aimed at. I'm guessing that a 'reasonable time' between exit and entry modification will eventually appear. There's not much sympathy on thaivisa for regular border runners but still, it's a leap into the unknown and major pain for bona fide tourists right now.

    #5 Posted: 10/5/2014 - 22:47

  • somtam2000

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    The discussion on Thaivisa supports Fondo's point that there will be some kinda "reasonable time" between exit and entry. But short of clear guidelines this is really left to the fancy of individual immigration officers, which is far far from ideal.

    They need to clarify it be saying something like:

    "15- or 30-day visa free stays via air-or land can only be granted after a stay outside the country of X-days"

    To which I'd say, a fair number for X would be somewhere between five and seven days out of country as that would encompass travellers looking at short trips to say Angkor, 4,000 islands. Gibbon Experience, Penang and so on. If they stretch it to 2 weeks, then for people making a short hop it makes sense to get a multiple tourist visa.

    The people they're really targeting though, are the serial overstayers -- expats who are living and working in Thailand illegally and doing a run every 15/30 days. There are other, far simpler ways they could have knocked that on the head, but haven't, so I'm still thinking the inconvenience created by this is more a sideshow to other bigger things happening in Thailand at the moment.

    But my conspiracy theories are here nor there -- if you're looking at a trip to SEA that involves multiple entries to Thailand, you're going to need to plan a bit more. We'll be writing more on approaches to this later this week.

    #6 Posted: 11/5/2014 - 09:41

  • DLuek

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    Will be interesting to see how this shakes out. My guess is that regular travelers won't be affected unless the immigration officer has a "bad feeling" about them. People who, say, go to Angkor for a couple days then straight back to Thailand will probably have to explain what they're up to, but it would really surprise me if legit travelers are turned away even if they can show an air ticket out of Thailand within the 15/30 days. But nothing but guesses at this point.

    #7 Posted: 11/5/2014 - 10:07

  • DLuek

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    More detailed info here from Bangkok Post: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/asia/409403/thai-immigration-clamps-down-on-visa-runs

    Key lines include:

    "The law permits immigration officers to give such travellers permission to re-enter for 15 to 30 days, or to deny them permission to enter" - and - "Officials at borderpoints will use their discretion on a case-by-case basis."

    So it appears that regular travelers will be okay, though ultimately it's all up to the immigration officer. Would be best to have a plane ticket out of Thailand to be safe.

    #8 Posted: 12/5/2014 - 09:18

  • somtam2000

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    The discretion, case by case basis bit is a real minefield and while by the sounds of it they're not going to be targeting bona fide travellers, it would be pretty easy to get caught up in this if you've been in and out 3-4 times and "fit the profile"

    More concerning though is that when this moves to flights as well in mid-August as if it continues to work on an arbitrary system then I'd expect all airlines to start requiring that all inbound passengers to Thailand have a valid visa. Why? Because if you arrive in Thailand and get refused entry, the airline can be fined for bringing you in the first place. I can't imagine international carriers willing to leave this to guesswork and I'd expect them to require a valid visa.

    Immigration really have not thought this through at all. They'd be better off to cancel the 15- and 30-day visa free arrivals and just revert to requiring everyone to get a visa. It's straightforward, clear and easy to understand.

    #9 Posted: 12/5/2014 - 21:14

  • Captain_Bob

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    Agree, as if it wasn't confusing enough already, now they've made visa policy ridiculously mind-boggling. It's also going to make processing each entry a complete pain in the arse for Immigration officials having to sift through every page of your passport and determine if you can get another exempt entry and/or if you fit some "profile" deemed as worthy of denial, blacklisting, etc. Now travellers will have to plan much more carefully how many times and by what means they will re/enter Thailand. When in doubt, get a tourist visa with the appropriate number of entries (if possible) otherwise know your limits. A shitty move against freedom-loving travel indeed.

    - Coming soon... electronic fingerprinting
    - “Out-In” visa runs are – apart from a few exceptions – a thing of the past
    - 'a tightening-up on passports was inevitable"
    - "Thirty days should be enough for a normal tourist"
    - "If we believe their purpose in coming to Thailand is not what they say it is, then we will order them to leave and they will be blacklisted"
    - etc.

    http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/725773-immigration-boss-confirms-the-out-in-visa-run-is-dead

    #10 Posted: 13/5/2014 - 03:45

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  • charlottex

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    Hi!
    Thanks for all this information. Did the situation have been clarify? I entered Thailand in May by plan and I left by land. I went to Laos and Cambodia (so 2 months) I would like to go back in Thailand and from there catch a flight to Vietnam. So my question is: if I cross the border by land, will I get a 15 or 30 days entries? I have to know if I want to buy my flight ticket to Vietnam before entering Thailand again. Where can I get this information up to date? Thanks a lot!
    Caroline

    #11 Posted: 27/6/2014 - 23:43

  • Captain_Bob

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    If you're travelling on a G7-country passport (U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan) you will get 30 days entering by land. Other passports 15 days by land. The recent "crackdown" was targeted at wanna-be residents /squatters doing multiple repeat visa-exempt border hops to grab another 15/30 days, but since you've been out for a while and have a flight ticket (obvious tourist) they'll stamp you in no worries.

    #12 Posted: 28/6/2014 - 23:43

  • lucrecia

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    Hi Im Italian, now in Phuket, i got given 1 month when i came in by plane, my plan was to travel north doing a visa run in Ranong. But I understand the rules have change...
    Thank for all the information provided, my doubt now is, can i still go in and out by land? If yes how many day I would be given?
    If not, what are my options can i go out by land and come back in by plane?...

    #13 Posted: 14/8/2014 - 06:16

  • DLuek

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    lucrecia -- I wouldn't count on doing an out / in run at all (by that I mean crossing the border and trying to come back into Thailand on the same day or even the next day). Chances are you'd be okay if you left the country for at least a few days and then came back, but this is by no means guaranteed anymore. Being from Italy, you would get 30 days if arriving by land, assuming the immigration officer allows it. You might be better off getting a visa while out of the country.

    When I arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport on August 12 (apparently the first day of the full-scale crackdown), a European in the line next to me was getting a hard time from the immigration officer because his ticket date out of Thailand was after 30 days and he didn't have a visa. The officer was apparently on his way to speak with a supervisor about it as I was going through, so not sure how it turned out for him. Never before have I had immigration ask for proof of onward travel, or even question whether I'd leave within the 30 days (or 60 for a tourist visa). This thread on Thai visa has some first-hand info, with most people saying they haven't had problems... "I didn't fit the profile" seems to be an increasingly common statement.

    #14 Posted: 14/8/2014 - 09:18

  • SBE

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    @ DLuek. It's quite hard wading throughThaiVisa trying to get clear info and that link you posted doesn't seem to work. Can you repost it please?

    @ Lucrecia. Pons Place is a reliable travel agency based in Ranong who've been selling in/out visa run trips for years. Try contacting them to ask what the situation on the Ranong border is like now before heading there. I suspect it's no longer possible to do a run from Ranong to get a free 30 day stamp but they'll know for sure.

    If you don't have to do a visa run straight away another possible option is to extend your 30day stamp at an immigration office within Thailand.

    From Thai Visa:

    BANGKOK: -- The Immigration Bureau has announced that of August 29. 2014 you will be able to extend your visa exemption period whilst you're in Thailand by 30 days, instead of the current 7 days, giving a total visa-exemption stay of 60 days. The fee for extension of stay is 1,900 Baht (unchanged).
    http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/744440-longer-visa-exemption-extensions-begin-august-29-2014/

    I bet that doesn't last long even though in theory it's quite a good idea for the Thai economy. Now Thailand will be getting the 1900B per tourist whereas in the past it was the neighbouring countries who gained most from visa runs through visa fees. But I wonder if the immigration bureau has thought through how it's going to process hundred of thousands of visa extension demands?

    #15 Posted: 14/8/2014 - 11:26

  • lucrecia

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    Thanks so mucho for your replies! Im gonna check in immigrations next week ...to se what happens...
    thanks

    #16 Posted: 15/8/2014 - 08:22

  • lucrecia

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    So I went today to immigration and they are only giving 7 day extesion. The officer said that they may be changing things from the end of the month to 30 day ext but for the moment they would give me max 7 days. I did ask him what where my options, what would happen if I went out by land, how long I had to be outside, he basicaly said it all depends who you find there, some are nice and will let you back inn and some may make you stay more that 15 day out before trying to come in...

    #17 Posted: 18/8/2014 - 04:48

  • SBE

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    Thanks for the update Lucrecia. Sounds more or less what I expected... the immigration officials haven't been told exactly what the new rules are either!

    Will be interesting to see if the new 1900B 30 day extensions actually start being given out on the August 29th. For many tourists that's cheaper than doing a visa run to a neighbouring country so the queues at immigration offices are going to be dire unless they've thought this through properly (which would be very unThai).

    #18 Posted: 19/8/2014 - 13:23

  • MADMAC

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    My son just made a border run to Cambodia and got 30 days. Go figure.

    #19 Posted: 20/8/2014 - 01:12

  • Captain_Bob

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    #20 Posted: 23/8/2014 - 10:42

  • DLuek

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    Some welcome clarification coming from Chiang Mai immigration here.

    Reading between the lines, the general idea seems geared towards making things easier for people who are in the country long-term for what immigration deems as legitimate reasons -- for example they've made things a bit easier for volunteers, missionaries and professional athletes, to name a few. Also interesting that they've once again said that people who work online are allowed to do their work while on tourist visas... So it seems digital nomads should have no problem spending six months in the country every year on a double-entry tourist visa with extensions (though good luck staying longer than that without a Non-Imm visa).

    Unfortunately there's still no real clarification for legit travelers who might re-enter Thailand by land a few times during a long trip... Chances are these people won't have problems, especially if they're out of the country for at least a couple weeks between entries, but no one has guaranteed this so far. It does say that people doing out/in runs may be asked to show an air ticket out of Thailand within the 15 or 30 days.

    Also no further discussion on the many English teachers who work part time for one or more language schools, which generally don't provide work permits for teachers receiving hourly pay. It would be good to see a new, easy-to-obtain visa type specifically for English teachers in this boat, as Thailand really needs native English speakers and some have already left due to the new rules (here's one example from Ajarn.com).

    It's also worth mentioning that what Chiang Mai immigration says doesn't necessarily hold true to the whole country... The rules come from Bangkok, but as we've seen, how the rules are interpreted/enforced can be quite different depending on the specific checkpoint/office/officer.

    #21 Posted: 24/8/2014 - 21:53

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