Many foreigners caught unaware of stricter Covid-19 visa rules

FILE PHOTO: Getting a visa stamp for Covid-19 is much harder now.

Confusion and dismay are hitting long-staying foreign travellers in Thailand, as many were relieved to see the Covid-19 visa exemption extended, but missed the strict revisions in the fine print. While the decree was extended from the January 25 deadline at the last minute to March 25, the people who are allowed to take advantage of the easy-to-extend visa exemption were limited.

The glory days of sidestepping pesky border bounces during the pandemic have come to a close for foreigners staying long-term in Thailand. The newly revised Covid-19 extension stamp is now available only for those who previously had a tourist visa or a free tourist exemption stamp before getting the Covid-19 extension. Those who are on any form of non-immigrant visa or those who’ve received a visa on arrival are no longer eligible to extend their stay in Thailand indefinitely using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse.

Frustrated people have reported going to immigration expecting another 30-day extension and being given instead a stamp rejecting their request and giving them 7 days to leave Thailand. Frantic commenters online and on social media have shared horror stories of scrambling to get their affairs in order and find a place to go within a week. Many are looking for the easiest place to bounce for a few days before returning back to Thailand.

The extension of stay visa or exemption due to Covid-19 that tourists can obtain at immigration offices around the country, though the amount of paperwork and hoops to jump through varies among different locations, was originally intended for people trapped during the pandemic and unable to get to their home country. But as the pandemic wore on, the stamp was made available to almost anyone in the Kingdom during Covid-19 who wanted to extend their stay.

Whether or not you receive an extension stamp has always been at the discretion of the immigration agents in the office you submit your documents. Many places have been rubber-stamping the extension for anyone who applies for it indefinitely, but an official announcement by the Immigration Bureau stated that’s changing.

Incoming tourists will be allowed a 30-day extension in most cases and then be able to apply for a Covid-19 visa stamp. People who have been here for months or years may be rejected the next time they attempt to extend. Nothing will guarantee you get an extension stamp 100%, but many are advising people to be polite and on their best behaviour, dress appropriately (no more beachwear at the immigration office), mask up and follow the Covid-19 safety laws.

The Immigration Bureau’s official statement:

The Immigration Bureau has approved an extension of time for visa extensions for COVID-19 reasons until 25th March 2022, under the following conditions:

  1. Persons entering the Kingdom with VISA ON ARRIVAL (VOA) cannot extend their visa for this reason
  2. Persons entering the Kingdom with a TOURIST VISA can extend a tourist visa for an additional 30 days and then they can submit a reason to stay for COVID-19.
  3. Persons entering the Kingdom as a temporary person, NON-IMMIGRANT VISA, cannot be extended for COVID-19

In the case of tourists already in the country. At the end of the 60-day period for permission to stay in the Kingdom, this time they must leave the country. Or if there is a necessity to stay, there are able to submit an application to stay in accordance with the laws, regulations, and rules set forth.

SOURCE: Royal Thai Police Immigration Bureau

Visa Information

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.