First, let’s be clear that Immigration has no authority over visas. What they are talking about are “permits to stay”. The Phuket News uses the term “visa extensions” and “visa amnesty” as a convenience and for general public understanding. Long-term expats already know how this works, and new expats and tourists have little concept of the difference, especially when Immigration themselves use the term “visa extensions”.
With that bureaucratic idiocy out of the way, let’s get to the point, which focuses directly on the issue of permits to stay.
The announcement on Friday plainly targetted foreigners still in Thailand on tourist visas. Like Immigration was ever going to do with anything else than offer another extension. Kicking tourists out now would give Thailand the world’s worst reputation for welcoming people who came to spend money in this country.
As for the stern warning that any tourist caught staying past Sept 26 without extending their visas will be treated as criminals… well wake up immigration, those are likely to be the criminals anyway. Good people do their best to follow the law. Laws are not made for good people to follow; laws are made to protect good people from the bad. Didn’t they teach that at the Royal Thai Police Academy?
The real issue rests, as always, with what was not said in the announcement. The people they are forgetting are all the foreigners staying in the country on non-immigrant visas – Business, Education, Retirement visas and so on. In short: the entire, massive, expat community in the country.
Those foreigners staying on one-year permits to stay are likely to be unaffected by all this palaver. Yet one key section of the foreign community in Thailand plainly forgotten are all those foreigners staying on business visas who are not paid enough money to satisfy Immigration’s requirements for a one-year permit to stay.
These are foreigners doing jobs that Thais cannot or will not do, and are not even paid enough to be honoured with the security of staying in the country for one full year without having to do a visa run. This includes people who have been issued two-year work permits.
With the information made public so far, the current scenario for these foreigners is that after July 31, they will still technically be forced to do a visa run. That is, simply leave the country and come back again for no other reason than to just satisfy the Immigration Bureau’s rules.
This stupidity must be addressed. We pray that Cabinet on Tuesday will have the sense to see this through – even if just to make sure they avoid the backlash of the more important business foreigners living in the capital.
Another sector of the foreign community entirely obliqued so far has been the expat retirees. All throughout the lockdown, these are people whose incomes have remained unchanged. They live here, they spend here. In times like these, such people are a blessing to Thailand. Let’s hope this is remembered the next time Immigration want to play games with all the reporting and health insurance requirements.