The news comes only after the issue was brought to the attention of The Phuket News, whereby foreigners legally living and working on the island are no longer earning the same income as before the outbreak, and now face having their usual application for a one-year permit to stay being refused.
The ‘visa amnesty’ issued by Cabinet approval allows such foreigners to stay until Sept 26, yet the Immigration Bureau has urged foreigners to start filing their usual applications early to avoid a crush in the run-up to the amnesty expiring.
That point now seems moot as many foreigners can no longer satisfy the minimum income requirement for one-year permits-to-stay, leaving them exposed to being granted only 90 days’ stay, or worse, being asked to leave the country immediately after Sept 26.
Only in July did Phuket Immigration Deputy Chief Col Nareuwat Putthawiro confirm that foreigners with multiple employers listed on their work permits need to satisfy the minimum income from the major employer only in order to qualify for a one-year extension to a permit to stay.
However, the minimum income requirements in order to be issued a one-year permit-to-stay remained unchanged.
The minimum income required for foreigners from any western European countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States of America is B50,000 per month.
For applicants from South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the income required is B45,000 per month.
For foreigners from any other countries in Asia [except Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam], as well as foreigners from Eastern Europe, Russia, South Africa, any country in South America or Central America, or Mexico, the income required is B35,000 per month.
The minimum income required for nationals from any country in Africa (other than South Africa), or from Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, the minimum income required to be issued a one-year permit to stay is B25,000 per month.
Yet, with international tourism shut down, many businesses on the island remain closed or running at minimal cost, including salaries. Many employees on the island, both Thai and foreign, have accepted greatly reduced hours and salaries while the crisis continues just to maintain some form of income.
Phuket Immigration Office Deputy Chief Lt Col Udom Thongchin told The Phuket News today (Sept 1) that his office has no choice in the matter.
“We can accept the applications, but they cannot be approved. We do not approve them here [in Phuket]. The applications are sent to [the regional immigration headquarters in] Songkhla, but they cannot approve them as the conditions have not been met,” he said.
“We understand the situation has affected the income of businesses that hire foreigners. It has affected everyone’s monthly income. The income is not enough for foreigners’ applications. This affects foreigners in Phuket, and in other provinces, but there have been no changes or updates to the regulations concerning extensions [to permits-to-stay],” he explained.
However, Lt Col Udom said that officers in Bangkok were considering the problem and might provide some form of reprieve, and he asked foreigners caught out by the income requirement to delay filing their applications.
“Please wait for an announcement after Sept 15, because Immigration officials in Bangkok are talking about this issue to figure out the problem,” he said.
“I think they will have some solution before Sept 26, which is the final date to apply for an extension. This is my understanding,” Lt Col Udom added.
“Updates will be issued as soon as possible. We want to help but we have to follow the ‘visa extension’ [sic] regulations. Please wait for an update from Bangkok,” he repeated.
Meanwhile, Lt Col Worapol Panpetch, Inspector at Phuket Immigration, confirmed that the amnesty for filing 90-day reports expired yesterday (Aug 31).
“People can report themselves as usual, but any foreigners who are now late for submitting a 90-day report will be fined B2,000. We must follow the regulations, they are the law,” he said.