“Good guys in, bad guys out”, says Thai Immigration chief.
Unprecedented crackdown on foreigners who overstay starts March 20th.
Overstayers face being banned from Thailand.
BANGKOK:-- New tough penalties for foreigners who overstay their visas come into effect today (March 20th).
Under the new rules anyone who is found to have overstayed their permission to remain in the country can expect to be blacklisted and barred from re-entering Thailand.
Previously foreigners were charged a 500 baht penalty for each day they overstayed, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. However, Immigration bureau chief Pol Maj Gen Natthorn Prosunthorn, had previously called the fines “weak”.
It was not uncommon for foreigners with several years overstay to pay a 20,000 baht fine to Immigration officers at Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang airport before returning to Thailand just days, sometimes even hours later.
In case you are not aware of the new rules (where have you been?), from today, overstayers will be divided into two categories: those who hand themselves in and those who are arrested.
If you surrender yourself to police with more than 90 days overstay, you will be banned from re-entering Thailand for more than one year.
An overstay of more than one year will result in a 3 year ban, more than 3 years will be a 5 year ban and overstay of more than 5 years will result in a 10 year ban.
However, if you are arrested and found to be on overstay the penalties are more severe.
Any foreigner who is arrested and found to be on overstay of less than one year will face a 5 year ban from re-entering Thailand.
Those arrested with an overstay of more than one year will face a 10 year ban.
Immigration has said previously that the crackdown on foreigners overstaying their visas is in the interest of national security.
Despite the new rules on overstay not officially coming into effect until today, recent news stories suggest that the crackdown may have already begun in earnest.
On February 19th, the Chiang Mai City News reported how 100 armed police, along with Immigration officers raided the Zoe in Yellow entertainment complex. As well as searching for evidence of substance abuse, City News also reported that officers were looking for evidence of foreigners overstaying their visas.
As part of the crackdown, Immigration has also told hotels, apartments and private landlords who rent accommodation to foreigners that they need to report that a foreigner is staying in their premises to their local immigration office.
Earlier this week, Immigration bosses briefed expats in Pattaya and Bangkok on the rules, while officials in Phuket attached a warning about the new overstay rules to water bottles that are due to be handed out at a meeting with Immigration Commissioner Natthorn Phrosunthorn next week.
On Friday evening, police setup two checkpoints in Bangkok and were inspecting the passports of foreigners ahead of the new overstay rules coming into effect.
A previous estimate from Immigration suggested there could be as many as 100,000 foreigners on overstay in Thailand.
Only time will tell if this new crackdown, which the Bangkok Post recently described as “unprecedented” will result in scores of foreigners in Thailand being deported and blacklisted.
The introduction of new rules regarding overstay follow previous crackdowns on people staying long term in Thailand on tourist visas, those completing multiple ‘Out/In’ border runs and those who were said to be abusing the ED-visa system.
More information on the new overstay rules can be found on the Immigration Bureau website.
More than 450 Pattaya businesses were told to be vigilant in reporting foreigners who overstay their visas as new, stricter penalties – including blacklisting for up to 10 years – takes effect Sunday.
Pol. Lt. Gen Natorn Prausuntorn, commander of Immigration Police, briefed the 460 hotel owners, tour guides, schools, hospitals, and private businesses on the new rules March 10 at the Discovery Beach Hotel on Soi 6.
New rules take effect March 20 that will, for the first time, put real teeth into Thailand’s immigration policies, banning overstayers from re-entering the country for one to 10 years, depending on the length of their overstay and whether they turned themselves in voluntarily or not.
For those who surrender, foreigners overstaying up to one year will be banned for a year from coming back to Thailand. Three-year bans await overstayers of 1-3 years while those who have lived here without a visa for 3-5 years will be banned for five years. Overstayers of more than five years will be banned for 10 years.
For those whose overstay is found upon arrest, the bans begin at five years for up to a year of overstay. Those here longer will be blacklisted for 10 years.
More than 100,000 foreigners staying illegally in Thailand
According to a report in the Bangkok Post, discussions between officials from the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, and the Royal Thai Police, who had all agreed on the idea, want to use the 500 Baht fee scheme to help attract ‘quality’ tourists to Thailand and tackle the problem of foreigners staying in the country illegally.
After speaking to reporters about the scheme, the Minister for Public Health Mr Pradit Sintavanarong said "Now is the time for us to have quality tourists. It's not as if inbound tour operators won't organise tours for foreign tourists to come to the country because of the entry fees."
The money will also be used to provide additional funding for the government departments responsible for foreign affairs, health and tourism, and the Thai Immigration Bureau.
As well as boosting government funding, the money raised from the scheme will contribute to new measures that will ensure foreign visitors who enter Thailand will be unable to outstay their visa.
According to the Thai government, ‘illegal overtstaying’ poses genuine and significant problems for the authorities, who estimate that more than 100,000 foreigners are staying in the Land of Smiles on expired visas.
Following the announcement of the plans to introduce an entry fee to Thailand, the tourism industry hasn’t exactly responded favorably to the new ideas.
Sitdiwat Cheevarattanaporn, chairman of the Thai Travel Agents said the move could be harmful to what is a very lucrative holiday market.
Tourism has boomed in Thailand since the country first became a haven for backpackers in the 1970’s. According to the government, visitor figures for 2013 are set to be highest on record, with the number of current arrivals suggesting that tourism is already up more than 20% from 2012.
As for the people currently staying in Thailand after their visa has expired, if they are caught by the authorities they are immediately charged a penalty of 500 Baht per day up to a maximum of 20,000 Baht for staying the country illegally. More severe but not uncommon punishments can also include a jail sentence, deportation and possible blacklisting from ever being able to enter Thailand again.