Thai Immigration seek visa relief for stranded foreigners

Foreigners queue in long lines at the Immigration Bureau's office in Chaeng Watthana Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb

Thailand’s Immigration Chief Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang, 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, he said.

Cabinet meets each Tuesday.

The proposals follow a difficult week for foreigners and immigration officials coping with long queues of panicking visitors trying to sort out their visas in a very non-social distancing environment. Long queues and frustrated tourists have been the norm at immigration offices around Thailand is recent weeks.

The measures will focus on three groups of foreigners…

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  • Foreigners with resident visas who normally reside in Thailand but cannot return due to the Covid-19 crisis
  • Foreign tourists who are unable to depart Thailand due to the crisis
  • Visitors from neighbouring countries who hold a temporary border pass and got stuck in Thailand after the borders were shut

Foreigners in the first group are typically required to return to Thailand within a year of their departure, however since they can not fly at this time, immigration will propose extending their compulsory 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 though they are advised to return to Thailand as soon as possible after the crisis concludes.

Foreigners who have been unable to leave and have 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 if the policy is adopted, which would eliminate the risk of contracting the virus in a crowd, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.

This proposed measure, however, does not apply to those foreigners who are working and or have family in Thailand. They will still be required to report to immigration authorities regularly.

Foreigners from neighbouring countries will be allowed to stay in Thailand until the borders are re-opened. They will be required to leave Thailand within seven days after the borders reopen.

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.

SOURCE: Chang Rai Times

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