The new “Special Tourist Visa”, now in short being called the “STV”, was approved by Cabinet yesterday, and confirmed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after the Cabinet meeting.
Under the new visas, tourists who agree to 14-day quarantine and stay for at least 90 days will be allowed to enter the country.
The 90-day special tourist visa could be extended twice, for 90 days each time, allowing such tourists to stay in the country an uninterrupted 270 days.
Long-stay visitors could begin arriving next month, Deputy government spokeswoman Traisulee Traisaranakul later explained to the press.
However, tourists still staying in Thailand who are unable to or not wanting to return home must still obtain a letter from their embassy requesting that the foreigner be allowed to stay in the country, allowing them to be granted only an extra 30 days’ stay in the country, Phuket Immigration Deputy Chief Col Nareuwat Putthawiro told The Phuket News today.
Asked whether tourists who are currently in Phuket can be permitted to stay under the new Special Tourist Visa conditions, Col Nareuwat said clearly, “No, they cannot. The visa is only for new tourists coming.”
“The tourists staying in Phuket before the Cabinet’s yesterday announcement will get a 30-day visa extension when they get embassy letters and file documents for the extension by themselves to Phuket Immigration,” he added.
However, Immigration Bureau Deputy Commander Maj Gen Pornchai Khuntee earlier this month confirmed at a press conference in Bangkok that such tourists still staying in the country will be able to apply for repeated extensions to stay, without any limit on the number of extensions granted.
Meanwhile, with just 10 days to go before the ‘visa amnesty’ expires, Phuket Immigration has received no instructions from Bangkok to provide any reprieve for foreigners staying on non-immigrant visas who cannot prove they have the income level required by immigration in order to be issued a one-year permit to stay.
Many such foreigners have lived in Thailand for years, and have started businesses, and families, during their years in the country – but without the required monthly income set by the Immigration Bureau, are unable to be issued a one-year permit-to-stay as usual.
Phuket Immigration Office Deputy Chief Lt Col Udom Thongchin told The Phuket News on Sept 1 that his office has no choice in the matter. “We can accept the applications, but they cannot be approved. We do not approve them here [in Phuket]. The applications are sent to [the regional immigration headquarters in] Songkhla, but they cannot approve them as the conditions have not been met,” he said.
However, he did advise such foreigners to delay filing their application for one-year permits-to-stay pending a “possible” temporary reprieve being granted by Immigration superiors in Bangkok.
That temporary reprieve has not come.
“I understand the situation of the long-stay visa holders, but there have not been any new measures issued for them. We also are waiting for an order from headquarters in Bangkok,” Col Nareuwat told The Phuket News today.
Col Nareuwat now suggests such long-stay foreigners on non-immigrant visas exploit a loophole in order to be granted at least short temporary stays in the country.
“My advice, there is only one way for people in this situation, foreigners who are all long-term visa holders with non-imm visas and other types of visa… The foreigners do not have to mention the income level required when they come to the Immigration office [to file their applications], but they must have a letter issued by their embassy or consulate about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If the letter states that the foreigner is unable to return home as there are no flights available or there is a high risk of being infected [with COVID-19] in their home country, we will accept the embassy letters.
“We will accept such letters from embassies whether they are emails [printed out] or an actual document. It is just as easy for Immigration officers to check that the embassy letter is genuine, not a fake,” Col Nareuwat said.
“This way they can request for a temporary stay. Each approval can be granted no longer than 30 days without the need to go out of the country,” he added.
“Without any new orders to extend the periods of stay for such foreigners, we have to wait until a new immigration policy is announced,” Col Nareuwat concluded.