After the recent political unrest in Thailand it seems that the expat community could be next to feel the squeeze. Long known for its relaxed attitude toward expats, some authorities now place Thailand’s immigrant and expat community at over 3 million, all of whom may be affected by new rules being introduced. Among those affected may be Britain’s estimated 55,000 expats living in the tropical paradise, who could soon find themselves on increasingly shaky ground when applying for visa renewals, thanks to new policies announced recently by the Thai immigration office.
Strictly speaking, up until now visitors to Thailand have typically been granted either a 15 or 30 day visa on entry, depending on their mode of transport into the country with those arriving by air typically receiving longer visas than those entering by road. The goal of these restricted visas has been to facilitate tight controls over immigration and travel, ensuring that foreign nationals do not overstay their welcome.
However the reality is that with a little insider knowledge has generally been possible to extend your stay past this deadline (some might argue indefinitely). Rather than struggling with the bureaucracy of visa extensions, many expats have instead opted to (legally) utilize a simple system for obtaining a new visa as and when their current paperwork expires.
In essence, many long-term residents have successfully extended their stay by simply leaving the country for a period of time – sometimes totalling just a matter of hours – before re-entering Thailand and claiming a new visa on re-entry. A short bus ride across the border and back again every few weeks can be enough to stay in Thailand almost indefinitely.
However now all this seems fit to change with the Thai government toughening up on such procedures and a worrying number of expats in Thailand finding that their visa requests are being declined on a regular basis, forcing them to rethink their expat lifestyle. Some have become stranded outside the country, despite having built themselves a life in Thailand with partners and homes left frustratingly out of reach.
Rules are promised to be even tougher for those who decline to leave when their visa has expired, with the promise that those overstaying their welcome will be banned from visiting Thailand in the future for a specific period of time based on just how outdated their current visa is.
It is therefore recommended that all Thai expats and travellers heading to South East Asia who are considering the well-known ‘visa trip’ to carefully consider their plans. If in doubt, carefully check the very latest visa rules and strictly adhere to them unless you want to potentially land yourself in hot water.