Phuket Immigration has so far made no announcements about how they are dealing with the problem other than calling the foreigners in to discuss their situation and, maybe, come up with a solution. After all, private negotiations is how they roll.
Phuket City Police Chief Col Sarawut Chuprasit has vowed to prosecute visa agents who have deceived tourists. “However, I would like to emphasise that tourists must be aware of how long they are allowed to stay in Thailand, and when their visa is about to expire they have to go to Immigration in person and apply to have their visa extended,” Col Sarawut repeated in response to formal complaints against visa agents being filed at Phuket City Police Station.
That is true, but mainly only for tourists. That statement ‒ remember, coming from regular police, not Phuket Immigration Chief Col Thanet Sukchai ‒ does not account for any officers found involved in the “problem”, as if that is not possible.
Where Phuket Immigration comes unstuck is the 90-day reporting, with many of the foreigners involved long exceeding their 90-day reporting deadline. One foreigner involved, very reluctant to come forward for fear of being deported for breaching the 90-day reporting requirement, was more than a year late in reporting their whereabouts. (Note: See end of this article.**)
Either Phuket Immigration knew of the longstanding breach, and the expiration of the permit to stay, and did nothing about it, or the 90-day reporting requirement is pointless and achieves nothing.
Shifting the focus to tourists only also does not account for all the long-term expats, some with Thai families, others with businesses, and others more living and working here with their children enrolled in local schools.
According to the Immigration Bureau’s main website, the “Application must be made in person” requirement applies only two main categories of foreigners applying for an extension to stay:
- Visa Extension - In the case of business necessity, for example, the applicant must stay to carry out work for a company or partnership
- Visa Extension - In the case of tourism purposes
The following is the list of visa extension types where the requirements listed do not state that the “Application must be made in person”:
- Visa Extension - In the case of a teacher, professor, or expert in a government educational institution
- Visa Extension - In the case of a teacher, professor, or expert in a private educational institution
- Visa Extension - In the case of study in a private educational institution
- Visa Extension - In the case of being a family member of an alien who has been permitted a temporary stay in the Kingdom for study in an educational institution (according to Clauses 2.8 or 2.9 hereof)
- Visa Extension - In the case of being a family member of a Thai national
- Visa Extension - In the case of being a family member of a Thai resident
- Visa Extension - In the case of retirement
(See full list here.)
Phuket Immigration, and now with the assistance of Phuket City Police, pretending that they had no idea that so many foreigners had been rendered illegal by any visa agent that works so closely with local immigration officers beggars belief.
The whole situation smacks of a breakdown in the “relationship”, financial or otherwise, between the visa agents involved and the immigration officers those agents usually work with. Something has changed, while holding many foreigners to ransom without their passports.
Right now it seems Phuket Immigration is making efforts to make the problem go away as quickly and quietly as possible. After all, no one needs a closer look at the relationship between Phuket Immigration officers and visa agents, do they?
** The most recent notice posted by Phuket Immigration explaining the penalties for failure to comply with the 90-day reporting requirement was posted on Feb 14 this year. The notice made no mention of deportation. The notice, in English, in full read:
Notification of staying in the Kingdom over 90 days
- The notification must be made within 15 days before or after 7 days the period of 90 days expires
- If a foreigner staying in the kingdom over 90 days without notifying the Immigration Bureau or notifying the Immigration Bureau later than the set period, a fine of 2,000 Baht will be collected.
- If a foreigner who did not make the notification of staying over 90 days is arrested, he will be fined 4,000 Baht.