On-arrival visas: 90 days and you’re out!
PHUKET: -- Phuket’s Immigration Chief has confirmed that Thailand will crack down on foreigners working illegally in the country by ending its policy of issuing an unlimited number of consecutive “visas on arrival” – tourist visas that allow the holder to stay a maximum of 15 or 30 days.
The crackdown is intended to stop foreigners – typically bar owners and other small businessmen without work permits – from using the visas to stay in the country indefinitely while working illegally.
Pol Col Bunphot Kongkrachan, Acting Superintendent of Phuket Immigration Office, told the Gazette that, from October 1, onward Immigration checkpoints around the country will limit to three the number of consecutive visas on arrival they will grant a single visitor.
After the third consecutive visa on arrival has expired, the passport holder must leave the country and wait 90 days before being allowed back into Thailand on the same type of visa.
The move effectively limits the length of stay for those entering the country using this visa class to 45 or 90 days.
The 41 countries whose citizens qualify for visas on arrival include Thailand’s top sources of tourists, including almost all Western European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore and many more.
Col Bunphot said that all Immigration chiefs nationwide have been ordered to attend a meeting at Immigration headquarters on September 15, during which the new stricter regulations will be explained in detail.
“I will make a more detailed statement about the new situation within a week of returning from the meeting,” he said.
Suwalai Pinpradab, Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand’s South Region 4 Office in Phuket, downplayed the potential impact of the new rule on Phuket’s all-important tourism industry.
“ I don’t think it will affect tourism revenue in Phuket very much because foreign businessman holding work permits will still be able to work. The only ones who will be affected will be people who are working illegally and prolonging their stays by making visa run after visa run,” she said.
“My concern is about the coming high season. I sympathize with Immigration, which has too few officers. I am afraid that they will be swamped with work and that there will be a slowdown in service [at Immigration checkpoints],” she said.
Executive Visa Run conducts visa runs to Ranong and recently started a service to Penang in Malaysia. A representative there, who requested anonymity, told the Gazette that word of the new regulations had created a great deal of confusion.
“Immigration here in Phuket doesn’t know what going on because they’ve not received any guidelines yet from Bangkok … Yesterday when we made inquiries, nobody there could tell us anything,” he said.
When asked if there were a lot of people making “visa hops” to get new visas on arrival, he said, “Oh, there’s a lot. Really. It’s unbelievable, the amount.”
He added, “I think it will have a huge impact. You listen to all this about how they only want the rich people to stay here. There are a lot of people who stay here on low incomes – and they cause no problems, they just get on with their lives,” he said.
--Phuket Gazette 2006-09-12
"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future."
-- George Orwell