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Immigration Bureau pursues visa relief for foreigners

Immigration Bureau pursues visa relief for foreigners

THAILAND: The Immigration Bureau (IB) plans to seek cabinet approval for a new raft of measures for three different categories of foreigners in Thailand affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

By Bangkok Post

Monday 6 April 2020, 08:59AM

Foreigners queue in long lines at the Immigration Bureau’s office in Chaeng Watthana. Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb

Foreigners queue in long lines at the Immigration Bureau’s office in Chaeng Watthana. Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb

The proposal will be submitted to the cabinet for approval in the coming week, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang, chief of the IB.

The proposal was drafted in line with an order by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has expressed concerns about foreigners who have been left stranded in Thailand after many airlines stopped operating and countries imposed lockdowns, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong.

The foreigners are now divided into three groups: Foreigners with resident visas who normally reside in Thailand but cannot return to Thailand due to the COVID-19 crisis; foreign tourists who are unable to depart Thailand due to the crisis; and visitors from neighbouring countries who hold a temporary border pass and got stuck in Thailand after the borders were shut, he said.

Foreigners in the first group are normally required to return to Thailand within a year of their departure and since they might not be able to re-enter the country in time, the IB will propose extending their compulsory return deadline until after the pandemic subsides, he said.

The extension of the return period would not affect any immigration rights and benefits they usually receive when strictly following the one-year return period requirement, he added.

However, they are advised to return to Thailand as soon as they can after the pandemic subsides.

For foreign tourists in the second group who reported to immigration authorities for a 30-day extension after their visas expired on March 26 or thereafter, their visas will be automatically renewed every 30 days until the pandemic subsides, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong.

“Under the government’s social distancing policy, these tourists will no longer have to visit the immigration bureau and risk contracting the virus in a crowd,” he said.

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This proposed measure, however, won’t apply to those foreigners who are working and/or have a family in Thailand. They will still be required to report to immigration authorities regularly, he said.

For visitors from neighbouring countries in the third group, they will be allowed to stay in Thailand until the borders are re-opened, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong, adding they will be required to leave Thailand within seven days after the borders reopen.

The authority to re-open any border lies with the relevant provincial governor, he said.

Other foreigners who are now in Thailand and affected by the COVID-19 crisis, but aren’t covered in the above three categories are advised to adhere to the usual laws, he said.

Earlier last month, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said there were some 500,000 tourists who would end up overstaying their visas now that countries in Europe have started sealing their borders to deal with COVID-19, preventing entry to their own citizens.

Most of the remaining tourists are long-stay elderly travellers from Germany, Italy and Russia who spend their winters here, said the minister.

They came to Thailand before the virus hit their hometowns and decided not to return home, fearing they would not receive sufficient healthcare in their countries during these trying times but are now left with few options, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong.

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Kurt | 08 April 2020 - 08:34:20

Wonder how far the Immigration Bureau is with the 'planning' of starting the new raft of visa measures for 3 categories foreigner. Why things are going so slow and are they not 'racing'?  To implement it fast is essential as part to prevent Corona virus spreading at Immigration Bureaus.

Kurt | 07 April 2020 - 10:08:25

@ Mr Foot. Forget about the prime minister, he is not extending your retirement visa, that is the Immigration bureau, and they don't do house visits. About face mask, that is a precaution that you not unintentionally infect other people. ( wearing the 'common' face mask is to protect others, not yourself). We all more safe when we all wearing a face mask.

Christy Sweet | 07 April 2020 - 09:17:35

 Immigration's continuous, and now deadly  hassle of retirees is worthy of a class action lawsuit. 
  I mailed my 90-day in registered, with a stamped return envelope. As usual, I keep the receipt in my passport because the  notification slip never returns.  I also record tracking that shows it was delivered.  

Foot | 06 April 2020 - 18:00:13

I'm in the over 70 at risk group.
Prime Minister says I can be arrested for leaving residence.
Immigration says I must leave residence.
Face masks do nothing to protect the wearer.
Time to die, I guess.

Pascale | 06 April 2020 - 15:23:28

@Foot. No !  No changes for Non-O retirement visas !

charles | 06 April 2020 - 14:30:29

I have a business visa that requires  an exit & return at 90 days What is happening with those 

Kurt | 06 April 2020 - 11:59:22

@Foot.  No, Immigration Dept notified that 1 year retirement extensions continue as usual. Were face mask when showing up.

Foot | 06 April 2020 - 11:38:53

Does any of this apply to O Visa retirement extensions?

Kurt | 06 April 2020 - 10:32:01

Nice to read that Immigration Dept came to 'practical senses', and adjust visa ruling for the time being for several categories in a workable way for themselves and visa holders. Perhaps the beginning of   modernisation process 2020?


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