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Expats caught up in Phuket visa scams face being forced to leave the country

Expats caught up in Phuket visa scams face being forced to leave the country

PHUKET: Victims of visa scams whose permits to stay have expired more than 90 days will be asked to leave the country, according to one of the people who attended a meeting at Phuket Immigration last Friday (July 1).

immigrationcrimepolice
By The Phuket News

Tuesday 5 July 2022, 04:54PM


The Phuket Immigration Office has so far remained silent on the extent of the visa scams, which amount to B3 million and are resulting in foreigners facing expulsion from the country. Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub

The Phuket Immigration Office has so far remained silent on the extent of the visa scams, which amount to B3 million and are resulting in foreigners facing expulsion from the country. Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub

More than 100 foreigners have been caught out by the scams, with two companies in Phuket having formal complaints filed against them by victims: Phuket Siam Corporation Company in Koh Kaew and Asia Titan Group on Thepanusorn Rd in Wichit.

A group of the victims were called to a meeting at the main Phuket Immigration Office in Phuket Town so officers could “hear their problems” and explain solutions, one of the attendees told The Phuket News.

“If the victim is under 90 days overstay and they have had their passport returned [from the relevant visa company], they must first file a police report. If the payment was made to Siam Corp, then the police report must be filed in Phuket Town. If the payment was made to the Titan Group, then the report must be filed with Wichit Police,” the group representative explained.

“Then they must take the police report to Phuket Immigration and pay the B500 per day fine, up to the maximum B20,000 for overstay,” she continued.

“They will be given a two-month COVID visa according to their last stamp. This can only be done before July 25 as COVID visa extensions will no longer be issued thereafter,” she added.

“They will not have to travel to cross a border. They will not have any problems with their status when they renew their visa next time.”

However, victims who have not had their passport returned by the visa company will not have the same conditions applied.

“We were told that if you do not have your passport, they cannot put your status on hold even though you have made the reports to both police and immigration,” the representative said.

The explanation given was that without a passport in hand, immigration officers had no passport into which they could enter a stamp.

Foreigners stuck without a passport because the visa company had failed to return them must apply for a new passport, immmigration officers advised.

Foreigners who have applied for a new passport ‒ and have already filed a police report ‒ will not be arrested while on the streets, the representative said the group was told.

Any victims without their passport returned who do not have enough time to apply and be issued a new passport will have to leave the country. Immigration officers advised the foreigners to obtain an Emergency Travel Document from their embassy in order to leave the country.

“They will fall into the 90-day overstay and face the current reality [law] that their names will be entered into the immigration system that they have overstayed and face a one-year blacklist of entering back into Thailand,” the representative said.

Even those who have had their passport returned, without the visa extension as promised by the visa companies, and have overstayed by 90 or more days will also see no mercy.

“Everyone who has overstayed 90 or more days will have to pay the B20,000 fine and will need to leave Thailand,” the representative said.

“They will be blacklisted for one year. If they want to join the lawsuit against the company they must first make the police report, then find someone to represent them in court and be prepared to leave Thailand.

“No time frame has been given before they have to leave Thailand. I assume that according to Thai law they need to leave the same day you pay your overstay,” she added.

Phuket Property

PUBLIC SILENCE

At time of press, Phuket Immigration and its superintendent Col Thanet Sukchai had yet to give any public statements or give any advice or explanations to victims about what penalties they may face.

The move to enforce the expulsion from Thailand and blacklist penalties for 90-day overstay is the first time they have been reintroduced since they were suspended during the COVID pandemic, when travel out of Thailand was nigh impossible.

The meeting at the main Phuket Immigration Office in Phuket Town last Friday came after Phuket Immigration issued its sole public notice recognising the situation.

The notice urged any foreigners affected by a visa broker or visa renewal agency, by taking their passports, and their money, but failing to have their visa stays extended on their behalf to contact the Phuket Immigration Help Center at 086-4077763 or 076-221905 ext 10.

The notice asked foreigners to have the following documents prepared before contacting the Help Center:

  • Passport or copy of passport
  • Evidence of action against the company/agent about the visa
  • Evidence of legal proceedings such as documents, reports etc (if any)
  • Other related information

“Foreigners may file a formal complaint through the hotline or make an appointment to receive assistance,” the notice read.

While the scale of the problem has been largely ignored while being played out on social media channels in English, the news of the widespread scam has made its way into mainstream Thai-language news.

Of note, ThaiPBS in their report marked that money defrauded from foreigners by the visa companies by not providing the solicited service amounted to as much as B3 million.

STALLING

Phuket City Police Chief Col Sarawut Chuprasit last week vowed to prosecute visa agents who have deceived tourists.

However, as of last Friday (July 1), representatives from the Siam Corp visa company had yet to present themselves at Phuket City Police Station.

Victims were told last Friday that police had to first request the company representatives to present themselves. If the request were ignored, police could then issue a summons for representatives to present themselves. If the summons were ignored, police could then move to have arrest warrants issued.

The delay in action is contributing to the problem, the group representative told The Phuket News.

“Many of the victims are still under 90 days’ overstay. They should be able to sort their problems out and become legal again. But without their passports… [that cannot be done],” she said.

“Despite that over 100 people have filed police reports, the process has not been expedited, so many people who have not had their passports returned have no way of getting them back,” she said.

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Kurt | 10 July 2022 - 13:22:32

@Sir Burr, i didn't question the 'legality'. Just asked what could be the 'legality', you mentioned,  of a special 'reason' as he never met the applicant in person. The Head has to explain himself as a government servant in upholding his lawful duties if things are as you wrote. Seems you just said something you can't underbuild? Let us know the law article regardin...

Sir Burr | 10 July 2022 - 10:51:25

Yes, it's legal and I don't think the head of Phuket Immigration will feel the need to explain himself.
Of course........you could ask him yourself?

Kurt | 10 July 2022 - 08:19:55

Sir Burr, if true what you wrote: 'It is at discretion of Chief Immigration', than what are special reasons to exampt the applicant of 'bank quarantee' of 800K. Specially as the Chief never have seen the applicant. ( use of agent). His pocket?

Sir Burr | 09 July 2022 - 19:46:43

Immigration issuing retirement extensions without the 800k is technically legal.
It's at the discretion of the chief immigration officer to drop the monetary requirement, or not.
The letter of the law is being followed. The spirit of the law is not.

Kurt | 08 July 2022 - 22:05:47

@Kamala Pete. Interesting news you wrote. If true than that proves the criminal corruption of Phuket Immigration. That explains why Immigration tries to maneuver the concerning foreigners to the exit with the 'deportation tool'. Time that Phuket corrupt Immigration nest gets cleaned. It's another shame for already bad Phuket image and cartel's reputation!

Kamala Pete | 08 July 2022 - 12:34:21

I've spoken to a number of expats who use these agents to renew retirement visas because it allows them to illegally get renewed without the required 800K baht in the bank.  I have little sympathy for them as they are knowingly part of a corrupt process.

Pooliekev | 07 July 2022 - 17:48:59

Poor Kurt, always a victim. Always scammed. 

Kurt | 07 July 2022 - 09:49:57

That many Expats now get in problems with their visa is due to inyentional unlawful handling of RTP, Immigration and 'visa agents'.  RTP/Immigration are law enforcing bodies. But their doings in this case is not exactly law enforcing. It's pure scam all together.

Kurt | 07 July 2022 - 09:36:13

Time Thai Ministry of Justice start investigating RTP station commanders who ignored more than 100 filed  police reports about the Expats passports, and did nothing! What is going on in land of scam? Things getting worse.

Kurt | 07 July 2022 - 09:03:57

It's time PM Prayut, foreign minister Don and Embassies take the helm in this scamming and seedy partnership of Phuket Immigration and 2 law violating 'visa agents'. They have to order the visa agents to return immidiately the passports to the respective holders! The idea that Expats must ask Embassy for a Emergency Travel Document while the pasports lay on shelfs of 'agents'. ...

Phuketski | 06 July 2022 - 23:53:27

Best to get the embassies involved. Spread the word about this scam, which most likely is a "joined effort" of the agencies and some people from the RTP. Make sure it hits the international media, and Thailand will lose face again.  Only then the officials will take action.
What an absolute disgrace.

Fascinated | 06 July 2022 - 22:29:28

Will this affect 'Chinese Investors?

CaptainJack69 | 06 July 2022 - 16:12:17

This highlights a obvious flaw in the current system, what happens if you lose your passport. Emergency travel documents are only intended to get you home but Phuket targets long-term 'residents'. Getting a new passport can take months right now so what are people supposed to do? Thai immigration should have a system for this.

Kurt | 06 July 2022 - 12:15:38

" No mercy for Expats" is the sett up of Immigration and their Agents friends. Their aim is to cover up as much as possible, safe themselve. But this will go beyond Phuket Immigration level. Thai ministery Foreign Affairs ( Khun Don) should take over and clear all misunderstandings in direction Foreigners to avoid a large International scandal.

Kurt | 06 July 2022 - 12:03:57

Expats caught in visa scam of 2 Agents and Phuket Immigration being forced to leave the country, even without their passports? Where is officialdom to make Expats get back immidiately their passports instead of that nonsense advice to obtain a Emergency travel document from Embassy to leave Thailand? Their passports are on Phuket! Illegal hold by Thai organisations!

Nasa12 | 06 July 2022 - 11:31:46

And off course the NACC Phuket Chief Suksan Prasara-ae are silent. 

christysweet | 06 July 2022 - 10:42:25

This is a  criminal violation and in no way under the jurisdiction of  Immigration. Use of an agent is  legal for B and O extensions- they even are licensed.   What should happen is those  who  are affected get new passports from their embassy  and are granted a visa amnesty for   6 months-seems a fair accommodation,  and the  defrauding agents are prosecuted.

Nasa12 | 06 July 2022 - 08:56:02

Think you have right about that Kurt. 

Kurt | 06 July 2022 - 04:57:37

It looks like RTP and Immigration started a
passport delay in return game for purpose to kickout many of these foreigners, to silence them, as possible to cover up their own hand in hand with agencies corruption dealing. What a clever way to silence the foreign victims. Deport them, and ban them. Case closed. Disguisting.

Nasa12 | 06 July 2022 - 04:55:37

Well this are only 2 visa offices, what about the 50++ another visa office on Phuket. Maybe we talking about many 1000 people some paying under table for 1 year visa. 

Kurt | 06 July 2022 - 04:42:43

Many of the problems of foreigners are immidiately solved when the 2 agencies are ordered to hand over all passports to holders. Than Immigration can provide visa. Why is it: "No way they of getting them back"( passports) . Hey, passports are property of Governments, not by holder.

Capricornball | 05 July 2022 - 21:17:37

Complete freeking nightmare. Nice to see the RTP and Immigration being so understanding (insert rolling eyes emoticon).  I hope this sends a chilling shockwave throughout the visa agent / Immigration corruption scam that has been a steady corrupt scam for a long long time. Put an end to the dirty under-the-table Immigration machine.

Fascinated | 05 July 2022 - 19:00:52

Simple- ban ALL agents. Its a rip-off for the gullible. Bring back Big Joke who tried to address this.

 

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