BANGKOK – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok has informed embassies and consulates in Thailand and the Royal Thai embassies and consulates, worldwide, it will crackdown on travelers who cross the border and return immediately to extend visa-free stays in the Thailand.
Thaivisa.com reported, earlier today, that the ministry had issued a letter to all embassies although the news service acknowledged it had not received a copy.
But the letter would confirm for the first time that the ministry will crackdown on border runs as stated earlier by Thailand’s Immigration Bureau.
Travelers who enter Thailand on visa-free conditions can cross the border with neighboring countries to repeatedly extend their visa-free stays.
The so-called “Yo-Yo” trips at overland checkpoints allow foreigners to remain in Thailand without the need to apply for a long-stay visa. Many of them work in Thailand without bothering to apply for work permits.
Although it is often called a visa crackdown, the campaign is actually targeting travelers who have visa-free privileges. Rather than apply for a 60 or 90-day visa ( tourist or non-immigrant, they cross an overland border checkpoint and get a new stamp in their passports to extend their stay under a 15-day visa free privilege.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the crackdown is aimed to prevent border runners who abuse the visa exemption scheme and are working illegally in Thailand.
In the letter The Foreign Ministry confirmed, earlier information that border runners will be prohibited from re-entering Thailand at overland checkpoints as of 12 August, once their original visa-free stay expires. It apparently does not impact on airline travelers who visit a neighbor country and then return to Thailand.
However, it is very likely that travelers applying for tourist visas at Thai embassies in Asia, could face scrutiny or even be told to return to their home countries to apply for a new visa. The situation is not clear and this is reflected in the comments posted by readers of Thaivisa.com.
Long stay visa applicants are advised to acquire appropriate (Non-Immigrant) visas at Thai embassies or consulates prior to their arrival, rather than rely on the visa-free privilege if they intend to stay longer than 15 days.
The crackdown does not target retiree, education, business and dependent visas that allow a stay of up to one year.
Previously, the Immigration Bureau announced a crackdown for border runners. The Ministry’s letter may also be a strong indication that embassies and consulates may be more restrictive in issuing multiple back-to-back tourist visas.
Such a move could turn into a setback for tourism that needs to rebuild confidence in overseas markets. Tourism executives would not welcome a move that could make it more difficult to visit the country at this time.
Easy visas procedures encourage travelers and multiple entry gives travelers an opportunity to use Thailand as a holiday base to tour neighboring countries. This fits with ASEAN’s tourism agenda that encourages member countries to work together to promote multi-destination travel within the 10-country bloc.