In an effort to modernize the Thai Immigration system, officials in Thailand have promulgated rules which have precluded some foreigners from remaining in the Kingdom for long periods of time.
In recent months there have been many changes in Thailand’s Immigration and Visa regulations. Most notable among these changes has been the virtual destruction of the infinite visa exemptions once granted by Royal Thai Immigration authorities at border checkpoints. At one point, it was possible for a foreign national to obtain three Thai thirty day visa exemptions before being forced to depart the Kingdom, obtain a visa, and reenter in lawful status. At this time, this scheme is no longer the way Thai Immigration deals with those entering on visa exemptions.
At this moment, Royal Thai Immigration officers are allowing multiple visa exemption stamps. However, these stamps are only valid for 15 days. Instead, they currently allow entrants to gain admission to the Kingdom, but only for 15 days at land borders and 30 days at airports.
The result of this state of affairs was an increasing number of prospective visitors applied for tourist visas outside of Thailand. Consulates and Embassies in the ASEAN countries have seen a dramatic rise in Tourist visa applications as well as approvals. The most interesting aspect of this situation was the fact that this upsurge in Tourist visa applications also coincided with a program instituted by the Thai government to give away free tourist visas. As a result, Consular posts outside of Thailand were taking processing a larger number of cases and being paid less money. Although a Consulate is not a strictly “for profit” enterprise, the lack of funding and heavier workload may explain why Consulates began scrutinizing Tourist visa applications more closely. This problem became particularly acute at notorious “visa run” posts. The Thai Consulate-General in Penang, Malaysia has made stringent rules restricting the issuance of multiple tourist visas as the post believed that there were some foreigners abusing the system.
This leaves the prospective traveler asking themselves: What do I do to get a long term Thai visa? The best advice: plan ahead. It is often easiest to obtain a long term Thai visa from a post in the applicant’s home country. Even though there exceptions to any rule, a prospective long term tourist generally has the best luck in obtaining a visa from his or her home country. However, there are some types of visas that can be easily obtained and some types that cannot be easily acquired. The 3 year multiple entry business visa is an example of the type of visa that is not generally granted. A Thai business visa with a validity of 1 year is more easily acquired by prospective travelers, but even this type of visa requires sponsorship by a company in Thailand and some companies are reluctant to act as sponsors.
Those interested in relocating to the Kingdom of Thailand should explore all avenues and research the issues very carefully.