Hundreds of foreigners arrived at the Phuket Immigration Office in Phuket Town this morning (Mar 23) in the hope of extending their stay in the country instead risking contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus by having to travel home or anywhere else to comply with the Thai immigration regulation issued late last week.
On Friday, Phuket Immigration confirmed to The Phuket News that by order from Bangkok all tourists can extend their stay by simply presenting themselves at the Immigration office, filing an application and paying B1,900.
However, all foreigners staying on any other kind of visa, which includes Non-Immigrant O visas issued to foreigners married to a Thai and supporting a Thai family as well as Business visas, must obtain a letter from their respective embassy in order to be granted an extension to stay. (See story here.)
Expats in Phuket have since reported to The Phuket News that their respective embassies, including the British, American and Australian* embassies, are not issuing such letters.
The Phuket News understands that the reluctance to issue such letters arises from the current situation that many people can still get flights to their home countries, though not necessarily to the city the foreigner might want to arrive at.
However, for many foreigners no direct flights home are available under the current travel lockdown.
The consular officials The Phuket News spoke to stressed for tourists to just get the extension available.
They also stressed such tourists to consider seriously where they would prefer to be if the situation continues in the long term while they face possible infection with the virus.
Regarding the letters for long-term expats on non-immigrant visas, The Phuket News has been told that the embassies are working urgently on the problem.
Of serious concern is that there has been no confirmation by immigration officials whether or not foreigners are being charged the maximum B500 a day fine for overstay for circumstances beyond their control.
All calls by The Phuket News to Phuket Immigration this morning went unanswered.
Meanwhile, one foreigner who has been living and working in Thailand for more than a decade told The Phuket News this morning that he has been told that he has until April 3 to leave the country to comply with Thai Immigration’s requirement for him to leave the country every 90 days.
“As I am on a Non-immigrant, multiple-entry business visa. I am able to travel to and work in Thailand for a maximum of 90 days at a time. This is not usually a problem as I return home regularly every six to eight weeks.
“However as my home is under siege of the coronavirus, I have stayed here for the full 90 days. Now I must leave as there are no extensions available for business visas.
“When I go home I will have to go into 14-day quarantine then I must get a COVID-19 medical clearance before trying to get back into Thailand to continue the business.
“There is great risk Thailand will close its borders and not let me return.
The sensible choice is for me to send the Thai staff home. Stop paying rent, tax and wages in Thailand and move all my assets out of Thailand. That is not good for me and not good for Thailand.
“Now I am waiting outside, sitting under a tree. It would be better for everyone if they could extend the same as tourists,” he said.