Thai Visa Running

Below is an article about the methods some individuals use to maintain lawful presence in the Kingdom of Thailand.

Thai Immigration regulations are fast becoming more constrictive, multifaceted, and stringent. Compared to the European Union, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, or the United Kingdom Thailand’s immigration rules are relatively liberal. However, compared to countries in Southeastern Asia such as Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Indonesia the Thai Immigration rules are considerably more stringent.

The distribution of Thai visa exemptions is one aspect of Thai Immigration policy that has been dramatically modified over the years. There was a time when non-Thai nationals could remain in the Kingdom for a virtually indefinite period of time so long as they made monthly trips to the border in order to be stamped out and stamped back into the country on a visa exemption. These trips to the border were called “border runs,” or “visa runs,” which explains the etymology of those terms. Around the beginning of this decade, Thailand’s Immigration authorities began giving serious thought to the visa exemption program and many modifications have been made over the past ten years. Most notable is the end of the infinite “visa run,” as now one is only allowed to obtain a 15 day stamp at land borders and multiple “border runs,” are viewed with increasing suspicion. Although this method of visa running is being phased out, there are other methods of maintaining lawful status which may still be beneficial to those wishing to remain in the Kingdom.

The “airport visa run,” has become somewhat popular as flights to cities like Kuala Lumpur, Pnom Phen, and Ho Chi Minh City are fairly cheap. Couple this with the fact that Thai Immigration currently grants thirty day exemption stamps at the airport to many nationalities and this creates a situation in which some opt to use the airport in a manner similar to previous land border usage.

Another method of “visa running,” now being employed is that of running to a nearby Consulate and obtaining a tourist or non-immigrant visa. These travel documents provide at least 60 days lawful status with a possible option to extend the visa domestically at Royal Thai Immigration. However, Consulates and Embassies in Southeast Asia are becoming less cooperative in granting multiple tourist visas.

The Thai visa process is generally easier for those who begin the process from their country of origin or travel back to their country of origin in order to apply for a long term visa. This is due to the fact that many opt to apply for a long term multiple entry visa. This method still requires visa running, but the upside is a lack of hassle because it is not necessary to return to a Consulate. Also, Thai Immigration routinely stamps such visa holders out and back in on the same day thereby providing 90 more days of lawful status in the Kingdom. As this method provides the most lawful presence in Thailand and creates the least amount of consternation, it has become the preferred method for long term travelers staying in Thailand.

Benjamin Hart is an attorney from the United States who acts as Managing Director of Integrity Legal (Thailand) Ltd. Contact Integrity Legal at 1-877-231-7533, +66 (0)2-266-3698, or info@integrity-legal.com. Please see Thailand visa or Thai visa for more information.