ED visas are required by foreigners who want to come into Thailand to study. Subjects that can be studied in Phuket range from teaching of English as a foreign language (TEFL) through to Thai boxing and mixed martial arts.
The rumour was floated yesterday evening in a post on the ThaiVisa web forum, with the poster, “Phronesis”, informing everyone, “There are 42 language schools in Phuket. They are being called to a meeting with immigration on October 17.
“Immigration want to do away with the student visa because of its abuse by Russians and other foreigners working illegally on the island. So … if you are like me … and are currently staying in Phuket on a ED visa … don’t get too comfortable.”
Col Sanchai agreed that a meeting has been set for October 17 – next Thursday – but denied any intention by Immigration to launch a drive to find people misusing ED visas, or to stop issuing them.
He told The Phuket News, “Phuket Immigration will hold the meeting about ED visas [on October 17 at 10am at the Immigration Offices - see map below]. All concerned (including foreigners) are invited to this meeting so that they can understand the rules and follow them in the same way. All details will be explained at the meeting.”
There has been concern that foreigners come to Thailand on ED visas but do not study. Instead, they work illegally. The visa, with a one-year validity, allows them to enter Thailand at any time during that period for 90 days at a time. In effect, it allows them to stay almost 15 months before they must get a new visa.
Trying to work for any length of time while on a tourist visa is much more difficult; the maximum stay is 60 days, and those found entering many times on tourist visas may come under scrutiny from Immigration. They may even be refused a renewal at the border, leaving them stranded in a neighbouring country.
A source who works at a Phuket training school where people can study for TEFL certificates, told The Phuket News this morning on condition of anonymity that he was aware of people coming to Phuket, getting a ED visa, but then taking on a full-time job illegally.
“I wouldn’t say it’s quite common, no, but it certainly happens. Technically, I think, you can work up to 20 hours a month on an education visa. But you still have to get a work permit. Work permits are completely separate from visa issues in Thailand.”
When asked if there was abuse of the education visa in Phuket, he said,
“The short answer is yes.”
He said a former student at the school got “duped” into doing that.
“The owner of a language school was quite forthright, telling her, ‘You’ll never get a job without a degree. You’d better work for me under an ED visa and I’ll protect you.
“She had to put down a B10,000 deposit. She said to me, ‘This sounds a little bit dodgy,’ and I told her not to do it. She was able to get B5,000 returned.
“It certainly happens but there are bigger issues out there that need attention – such as all the teachers on the island who are working for school but who don’t have degrees.” (In Thailand, teachers in the mainstream education system require a degree to teach.)
Schools offering TEFL or Thai language courses usually charge between B25,000 and B35,000 to organise a one-year ED visa for students.