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Update on rumoured extension of Thailand’s visa amnesty

UPDATE: There has been no confirmation of the rumour that was circulating earlier today. Some publications even said it was a “done thin” but that is not true. The latest developments…

Speaking to khaosodenglish.com, Col. Phakkhaphong Saiubon told them that an extension should be officially announced this week and that “those who failed to renew their stay after the September 26 deadline will not be prosecuted”.

But an Immigration spokesman, Chengron Rimpadee, has told Coconuts Bangkok that “only foreign nationals unable to fly home because their home borders remain closed or there are no flights, can be in the kingdom legally”. Those that remain in Thailand “must have acquired letters from their embassy”.

Bottom-line on all this, assume that the visa amnesty finished on Saturday, as previously confirmed, until something else is confirmed about an extension. For now, without a valid visa, you are officially on overstay.

Meanwhile, the Thai government has confirmed that it will extend the country’s state of emergency until at least October 31 and approve the much-hyped special tourist visas starting in October. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has today approved the extension of the emergency decree and the approval of the new special tourist visas for foreign tourists. The meeting was chaired by the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Earlier today…

Thai Immigration offices have been flooded with foreigners trying to find a last minute solution to stay in the country and figure their situation out before the end of the visa amnesty… September 26, last Saturday. The end of the amnesty, allowing visitors with lapsed visas to remain in the country, put many in a difficult situation, especially after a warning from the government the people could face fines and jail time for overstaying. But foreigners could have 1 more month to figure it out.

The news will come as a massive annoyance to those who went through the hoops last week to meet the deadline, although many thousands simply failed to get an appointment or satisfy the extension requirements, or simply had no flights to leave the country. In other cases, some embassies either refused to provide a letter supporting their extension or were slow in doing so. Many thousands, granted an extension, found themselves with a 14 day conditional extension, pending checks from Immigration.

Now there’s an “unofficial” letter, on official Thai government letterhead, floating around claiming that the visa amnesty will be extended until October 31. It’s said the letter is waiting to be signed by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha which would then be published in the Royal Gazette. The letter title translates loosely as “extension for foreigners staying in Thailand”.

The government estimated around 150,000 foreigners were living in the country on amnesty. With hundreds seeking an extension, immigration offices have been booked with appointments and packed with foreigners. On Friday, the Chaeng Wattana immigration office in Bangkok was so packed with foreigners, that many of them had to sit on the floor with long queues. There were also many disappointed and confused foreigners leaving immigration offices, being told they didn’t have all the required documentation.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce Chairperson Kali Sarasin told the Bangkok Herald that the government’s “uncompromising” stance toward foreigners in the makes no sense, especially since the coronavirus is still spreading, and flights back to their home country are still hard to book. Flights that are available are still very expensive.

Some foreigners are still scrambling to get a letter from their embassy and apply for a 30 day extension, and some are applying for expensive education visas and classes just to stay in Thailand for a long period (a common solution by visa agents). Others may have a job and just need to transfer their visa, but the immigration has yet to come up with a way for foreigners to basically restart their visa without leaving the country.

While foreigners staying in Thailand have been jumping through hoops to keep living in the country, the government has been crafting plans to get a new batch of foreigners in. The CCSA will today approve a new long stay tourist visa for those entering the country. The Special Tourist Visa is good for 90 days and can be renewed twice, adding up to around 9 months. But the visa still requires extensive paperwork as well as a 14 day quarantine in a government-approved hotel.

Plans to open doors to foreign tourists is aimed at boosting the tourism dependant economy, but the current solutions will provide a small handful of new tourists, a few percent of the previous arrivals. The industry was crippled by the halt of international travel and some tourism businesses that marketed specifically to foreign tourists say they can’t make a profit until Thailand re-opens the doors to foreign tourists.

SOURCES: Facebook: Richard Barrow in Thailand 

Catch up with the latest daily “Thailand News Today” here on The Thaiger.

This post was last modified on September 28, 2020 3:56 pm

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Caitlin Ashworth

Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

View Comments

  • What is the point of rushing people to leave who want to stay, whilst urging people to come and visit who may not be able to go?

  • It does seem a tad illogical. 150,000 already here being forced to leave, while the new STV to "encourage" others to come is unlikely to attract even a tenth of that figure at best. ...

    ... particularly if some of the 150,000 are already spending / wasting considerable amounts with visa agents.

    One can only wonder who benefits .....

  • All of this effort to keep people out will eventually collapse and Thailand's borders will open to everyone. Just like will happen in every other country currently attempting to stop people traveling.

    It is not possible to prevent a virus from spreading and so, after over 6 months of foolish governments around the world doing nothing but destroying their economies with draconian restrictions, everything will eventually reopen and go back to normal.

    There is no choice as the result of collapsing economies will be far, far worse than anything covid can create.

  • As I understand it the amnesty only applies to people originally a tourist style short term visa. The Thai authorities have offered to option of extending their permission to stay at Immigration in Thailand and, for those still wanting the amnesty extended, this offer appears to have been declined. If this amnesty extension is approved, it will only be for one month. Then they will be required to leave anyway. The amnesty already gave them a 'free' extended stay in Thailand, then they were given a full two months' notice to leave? Why are they so desperate to stay one more month? What will they do then?

    • The “ good guys in bad guys out” policy is on its head. It seems as though the good guys left to obey the law, they’re out, but the bad guys who disregarded the amnesty end date received an extension.....they’re in?

  • I dont understand how all these so called tourists can stll be trapped in Thailand after 6 months.Dont they have jobs, homes and lives to get back to in there home countries?

    • Well Robert, times have changed. Most people that are still there, like myself, work remotely. We have built a digital lifestyle that allows us to work from anywhere in the world. What has happened has completely up-ended our lifestyle. I am from the U.S., do I wan't to go back there in it's current state of affairs? You can gladly take my place in that option. I also have no home to go to there, the cost of living is exponentially greater, and my lifestyle revolves around my two suitcases. We aren't broke backpackers staying in $5 hostels and eating street meat every day. We have apartments, use grocery stores, visit restaurants, rent motorbikes, use taxi's, and enjoy getaways around Thailand. The only reason I am "trapped" here, is because I can't go to another country such as Vietnam or Indonesia.

    • No, we don't have jobs, homes, etc. because it's fun to travel and we can rent anywhere without worry about property and possessions. And we were spending decent money in Thailand. And retirement visa is a bunch of nonsense, requiring check ins, etc.

    • Why is that any of your business? ..... have you no concept of what it’s like to live in a European country right now ? And the Farang here are all welcome by small business trying to live and feed their families .... so grow some empathy

    • Robert, Times have changed. People "retire" earlier, in our case 45 yrs old. No home except our boat. No desire to return to our passport country. We didn't come from there so why use flights to there as a criteria for our need to stay here. We came from Malaysia but there sea ports are closed to at lwast 31 Dec. We have traveled the world for more than 20yrs and we have much more money than when we started. Many other people and especially yachties are in similar situations. Give up the house, the car, the suits and all the other expensive trappings of living on land and it's surprising how far your money goes.
      At our age with the current virus situation we would not consider getting on an airplane or going into an airport.
      We appreciate how well Thailand has dealt with the COVID-19 virus. We feel safe here and have plenty of money to spend. We only wish immigration would stop this month to month extensions as it's time again to haul the boat out for its annual maintenance. The uncertainty does not make this possible.

    • Some have a life, home and (remote) job here; in other words, your comment is one possible essence of demagogue

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