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Phuket Immigration clarifies new visa rules

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PHUKET CITY: At a press conference held late yesterday, Phuket Immigration confirmed that foreigners arriving without visas at any of Thailand’s non-airport immigration checkpoints will be granted permits-to-stay of only 15 days, half the former number.

The conference was led by Phuket Immigration Superintendent Chanatpol Yongbunjerd, who also confirmed that the former rule limiting foreigners entering on “visa exemptions” from staying more than 90 days over a 180-day period was no longer in effect.

As a result, foreigners from any of the 40 countries eligible for “visa exemptions” can now legally reside in Thailand year-round, provided they don’t mind making a “visa run” every 15 days (30 days if by air) and abide by all other laws and regulations.

The new 15-day rule is now in effect at all 54 land border checkpoints, including the seaport checkpoint at Ranong, popular with Phuket-based foreigners doing visa runs to Burma.

The new order, issued on November 25, is intended as a way of stopping foreigners from working illegally in the country in industries such as real estate, Col Chanatpol said.

Col Chadpol said he was working closely with Thai Dive Association (TDA) President Ronnachai Chindapol to find ways to improve the diving industry’s compliance with Thai immigration and labor laws, recognizing the role that foreign dive instructors play in the industry.

On the issue of migrant workers from neighboring countries such as Burma, Col Chanatpol said he personally thought their number might be in the range of 70,000 to 80,000. Of these, as many as 50,000 might be unregistered, he estimated.

Col Chanatpol said he was in favor of raising the quota on such workers, as doing so would have many advantages. These would include stemming the spread of dangerous diseases such as dengue fever through mandatory health checks, and increasing government revenue through collection of work permit fees.

However, the previous Cabinet’s plan to raise quotas early in 2009 will now have to be put on hold until a new Cabinet is formed and decides on the issue, he said.

Col Chanatpol also used the meeting to introduce two new Immigration Inspectors recently assigned to his office: Lt Col Kanya “Taen” Petchpairoj, who will be in charge of visa issues and administrative matters, and Lt Col Suparerk Pankosol, who recently transferred from Samut Prakan and will be in charge of investigations.

During the press conference, Pol Capt Napat Noosen released figures for permit-to-stay extension applications received by Phuket Immigration in 2007. The list revealed the United Kingdom as the single greatest source of applicants, with 2,560 (1,207 on tourist visas, 1,353 for non-immigrant visas).

Rounding out the top ten were: 2. Sweden (total 1,411); 3. Germany (1,196); 4. France (1,174); 5. US (1,136); 6. Italy (1,135); 7. Switzerland (745); 8. Philippines (715); 9. Australia (671) and Burma (609).

Capt Napat implored people with non-immigrant visas planning to apply for permit-to-stay extensions to submit their applications no fewer than two weeks before their current permit is set to expire.

 

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