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Phuket Immigration jammed with foreigners, expats on non-immigrant visas forced to leave the country

Phuket Immigration jammed with foreigners, expats on non-immigrant visas forced to leave the country

PHUKET: Expats living and working in Phuket for years, even more than a decade, are being forced to leave the country because of the Immigration Bureau’s requirement for non-tourist foreigners staying in Thailand to obtain a letter from their embassies requesting the foreigner’s permit-to-stay be extended.

By The Phuket News

Monday 23 March 2020, 01:03PM

A marquee was set up in front of Phuket Immigration so foreigners could sit outside while waiting for officials to even receive their request to stay in Thailand longer instead of risking contracting the disease by having to leave the country. Photo: Supplied

A marquee was set up in front of Phuket Immigration so foreigners could sit outside while waiting for officials to even receive their request to stay in Thailand longer instead of risking contracting the disease by having to leave the country. Photo: Supplied

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.

CIBS 2020 - The 25th China (Shanghai) International Boat Show

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.

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Fascinated | 24 March 2020 - 11:38:37

As always very useful and constructive comment from Insp K.

Christy Sweet | 24 March 2020 - 09:29:42

Dear Expat Health Cover advertiser- how about some attractive male torsos that completely sexualize the gender and minimize the person? The soft porn ads are inappropriate in any context on a public news site. 

Kurt | 24 March 2020 - 09:22:30

Phuket Immigration office and garden is a great place for spreading the Covid-19 virus.

Island Man | 24 March 2020 - 08:26:05

So which article on this pare are correct, the Monday 23 March 2020, 07:27PM or this article  Monday 23 March 2020, 01:03PM?

Sir Burr | 24 March 2020 - 07:08:47

Yearly extensions are not affected.

Rorri_2 | 24 March 2020 - 06:28:37

Fascinated, just think about the "customers" who could be getting infected by an IO.

Christy Sweet | 23 March 2020 - 21:52:22

I would hope they would canvass a neighborhood of confirmed cases, but who knows?  

Christy Sweet | 23 March 2020 - 21:37:53

Bucket. Gasoline. Match. Please close the offices now. Forcing people into close proximity when every single health authority on the planet is saying DO NOT DO THAT.   Just ignore immigration, they will grandfather everyone in. They'll have to 

Fascinated | 23 March 2020 - 19:07:36

Whilst you are criticising them spare a thought for the IOs  in Phuket Town who are having to deal with a massive influx of 'customers', some of whom may be infected. Don't take your anger out at them- they are just the coal face and not the ones making the decisions. 

Fascinated | 23 March 2020 - 19:05:05

Can someone confiscate Insp' K's Sangsom bottle- he's clearly in la-la land again and it was only early afternoon! I thing there needs to be clarification from this article between tourists extending, 'other kinds of fisas and those on retirement permits. One would asume the current system of extensions will not be affected by the current actions of Immigration.  Article is mislead...

Stickler1234 | 23 March 2020 - 17:57:20

I think it was probably a marquee - marquises are hard to find in Thailand

Pascale | 23 March 2020 - 17:10:52

I think some official clarification is needed. The article raises more questions than giving answers.

friend | 23 March 2020 - 16:52:27

I suggest to the local Authority to simplify the procedure for the visa extention, due to the corona visus as follow,the tourist submit the application  and pay 1000 bath for each month of extention, 3 months 3000 bath , for the all year 2020

mattysiam2 | 23 March 2020 - 16:32:38

After living working in Thailand for18 years, I’d expect nothing less than this from the Thai Immigration dept. 

Just issue the visas like a normal country would, and stop forcing people to gather in large groups, or travel, which will ultimately cost both foreign and Thai lives as COVID-19 spreads! 

Amazing Thailand - Yes, amazingly nationalist, amazingly greedy, amazingly unremarkable.

Kurt | 23 March 2020 - 14:32:30

Is this whole thing just a low level thai paper tiger immigration matter about a idiot stupid not meaning anything paper?  Unbelievable.Wake up. Get real. Don't put the face mask in front of the eyes.

Sir Burr | 23 March 2020 - 14:17:27

I take it that the extension of Non-Imm O for retirement is still OK?

Kurt | 23 March 2020 - 14:11:27

What is going on? Did the Phuket Immigration Dept lost her mind? The whole matter totally unbelievable wrong handled. No focus at all on how global wise things at this time happen? Is there no contact between Thai Ministry Foreign Affairs and foreign Embassies to handle this properly? It is outrageous.

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