Thailand’s Immigration Chief is seeking cabinet approval for new measures to help foreigners in Thailand affected by the Covid-19 crisis. The proposal will be submitted to the cabinet for approval this week, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang.
The proposal was drafted in line with an order by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Prime Minister Prayut expressed his concerns last week about foreigners who have been left stranded in Thailand. Many foreigners have been stranded after airlines stopped operating and countries also imposed lockdowns, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.
The foreigners will now divided into three groups:
Foreigners with resident visas who normally reside in Thailand but cannot return to Thailand due to the Covid-19 crisis; foreign tourists who are unable to depart Thailand due to the crisis; and visitors from neighbouring countries who hold a temporary border pass and got stuck in Thailand after the borders were shut, he said.
Foreigners in the first group are normally required to return to Thailand within a year of their departure. However since they might not be able to re-enter the country in time, Immigration will propose extending their compulsory return deadline until after the pandemic subsides.
The extension of the return period would not affect any immigration rights and benefits they usually receive when strictly following the one-year return period requirement. However, they are advised to return to Thailand as soon as they can after the pandemic subsides.
For foreign tourists in the second group
Those who reported to immigration authorities for a 30-day extension after their visas expired on March 26 or thereafter; their visas will be automatically renewed every 30 days until the pandemic subsides.
Under the government’s social distancing policy, these tourists will no longer have to visit the immigration bureau. Eliminating the risk contracting the virus in a crowd, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.
This proposed measure, however, won’t apply to those foreigners who are working and/or have a family in Thailand. They will still be required to report to immigration authorities regularly.
For visitors from neighbouring countries in the third group
They will be allowed to stay in Thailand until the borders are re-opened. Furthermore they will be required to leave Thailand within seven days after the borders reopen. The authority to re-open any border lies with the relevant provincial governors.
Other foreigners who are now in Thailand and affected by the Covid-19 crisis, but aren’t covered in the above three categories are advised to adhere to the usual laws.
Earlier last month, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said there were some 500,000 tourists who would end up overstaying their visas. Especially since countries in Europe have started sealing their borders to deal with Covid-19. Thus preventing entry to their own citizens.
Most of the remaining tourists are long-stay elderly travellers who spend their winters here, said the minister.
They came to Thailand before the virus hit their hometowns and decided not to return home. Above all fearing they would not receive sufficient healthcare in their countries during these trying times. They are now left with few options, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong.