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Mandatory health insurance for retirees falls flat as ‘Non-Imm O’ visa loophole exposed

Mandatory health insurance for retirees falls flat as ‘Non-Imm O’ visa loophole exposed

PHUKET: Phuket Immigration this week finally confirmed that the mandatory health insurance requirement for people staying in the country on permits to stay under “Non-Immigrant O-A” visa status do not apply to those staying under the general “Non-Immigrant O” visa.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 27 October 2019, 09:00AM

An officer at holds up an application for an extension stay at the Phuket Immigration Office earlier this year. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

An officer at holds up an application for an extension stay at the Phuket Immigration Office earlier this year. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

The admission renders enforcing the mandatory health insurance requirement pointless as Phuket Immigration this week also confirmed that foreigners can change the visa conditions under which they are applying for a one-year permit to stay.

Hence, any foreigners staying on a “Non-Immigrant O-A” visa can change their permit-to-stay status to “Non-Immigrant O” and avoid the mandatory health insurance requirement.

The loophole is expected to greatly affect expat retirees staying in Thailand on such so-called “retirement” visas.

The mandatory health insurance requirement is to come into effect next Thursday (Oct 31).

Under the new regulation, all foreigners applying for a one-year permit to stay on an O-A visa must have health insurance coverage for up to B40,000 for outpatient services and up to B400,000 for inpatient services.

The Immigration Bureau posted on its website an announcement on Oct 8, stating that the change in the Immigration regulations follows the Cabinet resolution made on April 2 this year.

The order, issued by Royal Thai Police Commissioner-General Chakthip Chaijinda on Sept 27, specifically states that the new rule is to come into effect on Oct 31. (See story here.)

However, Phuket Immigration Chief Lt Col Kathathorn Kumthieng confirmed to The Phuket News this week, “People applying under the Non-Immigrant O visa do not need health insurance, but people applying for permits to stay under different visas will get the different benefits of the visa they are applying under.

“For example, a foreigner who has Non- Immigrant O-A visa will get a one-year year extension,” he said.

Yet Col Kathathorn would not confirm that one-year permits to stay would no longer be approved for those applying under “Non-Immigrant O’ visa status. Under immigration regulations, that option is still available.

The Phuket News understands that Phuket Immigration is likely to be under considerable pressure to abide by and uphold the new health insurance rule instituted by officials in Bangkok, but yet cannot deny applicants the right to change their visa status as already permitted under Immigration regulations.

To that end, Col Kathathorn this week also denied a rumour that Phuket Immigration had submitted an official request to postpone the health insurance requirement until the rules had been “made more clear”.

The claim was presented to The Phuket News from a reliable source and cited a high-ranking officer at Phuket Immigration claiming that in total eight major Immigration offices in the country – Chiang Mai, Ubon Ratchathani, Nong Khai, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Petchburi, Chonburi, Rayong and Phuket – had all submitted such requests.

Regardless, when asked about the rumor, Col Kathathorn said, “It is not true. The health insurance requirement for Non-Immigrant O-A visas will start on Oct 31. Nothing has changed. If we receive any updates, we will share that information.”

Regarding foreigners exercising the option to change their visa status, Col Kathathorn said, “I don’t want to point out which one is good for any particular foreigners. It is their choice whether they apply under a Non-Immigrant O-A visa or a Non-Immigrant O visa – those are the options. Foreigners can choose which to apply for to stay in the Kingdom of Thailand.”

Col Kathathorn declined to answer any further questions on the issue, and instead referred other officers to give further explanations.

Lt Col Worapol Panpetch, who holds the position of Inspector at Phuket Immigration, also confirmed, “It is correct. Non-Immigrant O visa holders do not require health insurance. Phuket Immigration officers will not ask for it.”

Lt Col Worapol also confirmed the option for foreigners to change their visa status from within Thailand.

“For example a foreigner on a tourist visa can applying to be under a Non-Immigrant visa, such as a Non-Imm O, Non-Imm B (Business), Non-Imm Ed (education), or other. They can come to apply for the visas type that the foreigner is qualified for.”

However, like Phuket Immigration Chief Col Kathathorn, Lt Col Worapol also avoided expressly confirming that foreigners can change their visa status from Non-Immigrant O-A to Non-Immigrant O.

The confusion over the options open to retirees to be granted one-year permits to stay – along with the Non-Immigrant O visa loophole – comes amid much oblique and confusing explanations of visa requirements available through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

The main MFA website in Thailand makes no mention of any health insurance required for foreigners to be issued a Non-Immigrant O-A visa, which will allow the foreigner to be permitted to stay in Thailand for one year from the date of first entry – but it does state that the mandatory health insurance is required in order for Non-Immigrant O-A visa holders to be granted an extension to stay in the country. (See here.)

Oddly, the website also no longer lists the requirements for a Non-Immigrant O visa. Selecting “Non-Immigrant Visa” on the “Issuance of Visa” webpage has for at least weeks brought up a “404 – Page Not Found” error. (See here.)

Meanwhile, directly contradicting the main MFA website, the website for Royal Thai Embassy in London plainly states that the health insurance is required in order to be issued a Non-Immgrant O-A visa. (See here.)

The Royal Thai Embassy in London also promotes the Non-Immigrant O visa as appropriate for “retirement” for foreigners on a state pension looking to stay less than 90 days. To stay longer would require a permit to stay to be approved by Immigration once the foreigner has arrived in the country.

Phuket Immigration Inspector Lt Col Worapol declined to comment on the information provided by the Ministry of Foreigner Affairs.

“Please check the Immigration website (click here), that is better for foreigners who have a Non-Immigrant O-A visa, or other type of visa,” he said.


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KRH | 24 January 2020 - 00:41:28

What is equally confusing is that different Royal Thai Embassies overseas appear to have different rules for Non Imm O visas. For example, the Royal Thai Embassy The Hague, Netherlands, indicates a Non Imm O is an otion for 'retirement of the elderly' Whereas the Royal Thai Embassy in London does not offer this option?   

Kurt | 01 November 2019 - 12:10:42

@ Sir Burr. You are right. Thx for correcting me. I know that 'O' goes via thai embassy own country, and 'O-A' through any thai embassy. But why needs a 'O-A' needs a health insurance, and a 'O' not ? Both Visa concerns foreign retirees. Regardless marriage or support of family member ( child).

Kurt | 31 October 2019 - 16:26:28

@  Sir Burr, about wrong describing by me, you continue explanation by writing yourself about the difference between 'A' and 'A-O'.  As you wrote, both can be used for Retirement extension. Ok. But it is not clear to me why one needs a health insurance and the other not. Specially when one with Non-Imm B visa from thai embassy own country also get a Retirement extension without ins...

Kurt | 31 October 2019 - 16:13:32

By the day the confusion grows about a non imm 'O' or 'O-A' retirement Visa.. And the avoiding/not explaining/ declining to provide clarity by high Immigration Officials is not helping either. Why is that? And: Even with a magnify glass one can not discover on the half passport page taking Immigration Retirement stamp or it is a 'O' or a 'O-A' Retirement extension.

Sir Burr | 31 October 2019 - 08:31:50

You are still describing the visa as A and A-O which is wrong
The difference between them is that an O-A is specifically for retirement and must be applied for at the Thai embassy within your own country with proof of funds from your own country.
An O visa can be applied for at any Thai embassy. This visa can be had for retirement, marriage or support of a family member (child).

GerryT81 | 30 October 2019 - 17:35:19

K,somehow you are a very rare type of slow thinking.Again: There is no "Non immigrant A Visa"only "Non Immigrant O" or" Non Immigrant O-A" Visa.And if you are not capable of googling the difference,you probably won't get an answer here,at least not from me.

Kurt | 30 October 2019 - 14:01:18

GT, writing only about 'A' or A-O' visa, of course about non immigration visa. Are there other kind of A or A-O visa in this discussion? Of course others understand what it is about.  And again,  I still don't know the differents between 'A' and A-O', in the sense why for one need a health insurance, and not for the other.

John Paul Jones | 30 October 2019 - 07:12:38

Been here for years on a Retirement Non O-A which expired on my last visit to states. I also had a stroke which impairs my ability to process. On return, obtained 30 day tourist visa at aitport. Two days before it expired I paid 1900 bht to get a 30 day extension then went downstairs with proof of 800,000 bht in bank(stamped and certified), a hand drawn map of residence, copies of all past Non O-A

chao ck | 29 October 2019 - 23:22:17

perhaps it is better simply require expats to pay forefront a substantial deposit before they are admitted as in-patient to government hospitals. Mandatory health insurance could substantially increase the cost of living here if insurance company requires high premium for high health risk individuals or simply age increase. Worst case is unable to find insurance coverage.

GerryT81 | 29 October 2019 - 15:35:44

" I still cannot discover the essential..."That doesn't surprises me ,as you seem like being very confused.In fact there is no such thing as an "A" Visa. Either it's a "Non Immigrant O-A" or a "Non -Immigrant O"visa .

Christy Sweet | 29 October 2019 - 10:15:40

The tropical mind cannot fathom the future, it never had to. That's the reason Thai thinking is so ...

CaptainJack69 | 28 October 2019 - 12:00:15

What a bunch of Thai "professionals".

Kurt | 28 October 2019 - 10:58:53

I still can not discover the essential difference between a A-Visa and a A-O Visa for retirees.
One can also enter Thailand with a non-imm B Visa ( initially intending to work/do business). But after arrival in Thailand change mind and if 50+ apply within 3 months for retirement visa/extension.

Shwe | 27 October 2019 - 14:48:16

now this is stupid.  Last week my wife went to Bangkok for a few days, on her return her 90 report was due, so having not been at her registered address for a few days, she submitted, TM47, TM28, and as our landlord lives in Belgium and gave us his power of attorney, a TM30, 3 forms and all the paper worked needed that all state the same thing. The address she has lived at for the past 5 years.

Shwe | 27 October 2019 - 14:45:19

So it took the idiots in immigration several week to realize what most expats on "O" visas already knew. Say a lot about the lack of intelligence of the people who dream up these dumb rules.

Christy Sweet | 27 October 2019 - 10:56:05

Classic "When You Don't Know, Baffle 'Em With BS" response. How anyone  respects this Ministry with  its continuous blabble is certainly  a study in human adaptation processes.


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