Confusion over tourist visas on arrival

BANGKOK: Pol Col Chalermpong Vadhanasukha, the Deputy Superintendent of Immigration Division 3, has verified that foreigners may receive more than three consecutive tourist visas on arrival. Col Chalermpong clarified the issue after it was raised by a Gazette reader who was concerned that such a regulation was about to be enforced. The reader told the Gazette that he had learned of the regulation through a Thai Immigration Office website. The reader said he understood that the regulation officially came into effect in 1997 but had seldom been used. It stipulated, he said, that foreigners could not be issued more than three consecutive tourist visas on arrival, and that after the third visa expired, the foreigner had to leave Thailand and would not be allowed to return for 180 days. Col Chalermpong said, “I have never heard of this regulation. There were no changes to immigration law or regulations in that year [1997].” However, Col Chalermpong explained that under a rule issued in 1999, people applying for visas on arrival should expect close scrutiny. “Recently, we have been discussing how to stop illegal immigrants from entering Thailand,” he said. “Real tourists are welcome anytime, but officers at immigration checkpoints will usually consider foreigners holding many consecutive tourist [60-day stay] or transit [30-day stay] visas gained on arrival as suspicious.” He explained that people applying for tourist visas on arrival must prove that they have at least 20,000 baht per person, or 40,000 baht per family, as spending money – each time they enter Thailand. People applying for transit visas must prove that they have 10,000 baht per person or 20,000 baht per family. “That has been a Ministry of Interior regulation since 1999,” he said. Col Chalermpong criticized “unofficial” websites for answering foreigners’ questions with unreliable information. “For example, , posted by the Nongkhai Provincial Immigration Office, did not answer the foreigner’s question [about tourist visas on arrival] with the facts, but instead with misleading information and humor,” he said. “I don’t have the authority to shut down that website. But anyone who finds [non-immigration officers doing] something like this is welcome to let us know, and if we discover they are doing something wrong, we will shut them down.” “The Immigration Division 3 website is the official website where foreigners can find out information and post questions about immigration” he added. The Division 3 website is at . Oddly, there is a link from it to the offending website. On Friday, meanwhile, the moderator on the website (which is registered to Pol Col Sorrapol Payoongveeranoi, Superintendent of Nong Khai Immigration), posted a backgrounder on the current confusion: He wrote, “Nong Khai Immigration [has] got two different sets of instructions from Headquarters in Bangkok on how the new financial rules are to be executed/interpreted . “They got one from Division 3 stating that the new rule goes for everybody [with multiple tourist/transit on-arrival visas]. “They also got one from Division 1, in the form of a letter addressed to a member of this forum, saying that the new financial rule applies only to new applicants, [i.e.] people who [apply] for extension [for the] first time after 9th July 2004, which means that there is a ‘Grandfathering rule’ for former applicants. “Superintendent Pol Col Sorrapol has done a [great deal of] work trying to find out which instruction is to be followed, but so far without any luck. All the people at HQ in Bangkok say, ‘We don’t know.’. “That has given us a kind of delicate situation … So to keep it simple, let’s just say they are both right.”

Phuket News

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