Thailand’s immigration crackdown continued today with authorities confirming that tough new rules on foreigners overstaying their visa or entry permit have now been put in place.
Anyone overstaying their permitted time in the Kingdom by more than 90 days will be forbidden from re-entering the country for at least one year. However, a proposed lifetime ban for foreigners overstaying for 10 years or more was not included in the new rules.
For overstaying foreigners who present themselves to immigration at international airports or border crossings, the re-entry bans are as follows:
- Overstay more than 90 days forbidden 1 year
- Overstay more than 1 year forbidden 3 years
- Overstay more than 3 years forbidden 5 years
- Overstay more than 5 years forbidden 10 years
The rules are significantly tougher for those who are apprehended before presenting themselves at a departure point:
- Overstay less than 1 year forbidden 5 years
- Overstay more than 1 years forbidden 10 years
Those overstaying less than 90 days who present themselves to immigration are subject to a 500 baht-per-day (US$15.65) fine, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht.
Technically, a genuine tourist overstaying in Thailand by just a couple of days who is apprehended on the street could be banned from the country for five years.
While it is impossible to quantify how many foreigners currently in Thailand would currently fall foul of these rules, anecdotal evidence suggests it could be in the thousands or even in the tens of thousands. This does not include the hundreds of thousands migrant workers returning to Cambodia and Burma.
These latest rules are the latest step in an ongoing crackdown on foreigners staying in Thailand long-term without the proper visas. Last week there were widespread reports of long-stay travellers with tourist visas being turned away at land border crossings.
“If they are genuine tourists that’s fine. But if we believe they are not tourists, they will not be readmitted into Thailand. We can see [from their passport stamps] if a foreigner has stayed in Thailand too long [on tourist visas]. We will not let them in,” said Pol Col Sanchai Chokkayaikij, Superintendent of the Phuket Immigration Office, according to The Phuket News.
While many believe these new rules, and tougher enforcement of existing laws, are a direct consequence of May’s military coup, the immigration crackdown had begun before the junta took over on May 22.
Earlier that month immigration officials at land crossings into Thailand refused to allow any more ‘border runs’, which allowed many foreigners to get another 15-30 days in the Kingdom by exiting and entering the country on the same day.
Reactions to the tougher policies within Thailand’s sizeable expat community have been varied. While many have welcomed the moves, saying long-term foreign residents should have the proper papers, others say the tougher laws will damage Thailand’s economy by deterring tourists and forcing independent ‘digital nomads’ – and their incomes – out of the country.