Thailand Visa Overstay
There is no such thing as an open-ended visa, that is not unless you have permanent residency or the Holy Grail, citizenship, neither of which I have provided information for on this page as both involve a long and convoluted process. All other visas are valid for a maximum of one year.
Should you remain in Thailand beyond the date for which your visa gives you permission to stay, you are overstaying. This is an offence under Thai law.
The Thai Immigration Department is remarkably relaxed about the enforcement of the penalties for people who overstay. Those overstaying the expiry date of the visa are fined 500 baht per day for every day they overstay, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. So if you overstay for 40 days, the fine would be 20,000 baht, just as if you overstayed for 4 years, the fine would also be no more than 20,000 baht. There is usually a grace period of one day, so if you leave the day after your visa expires, there is usually no fine.
It used to be that so long as you had the funds to pay the overstay at the border point, you paid and you were allowed to leave. No further action was taken. I believe this is still the case at Bangkok’s international airport. If you have the funds to pay and a ticket out, you pay, get a receipt and are stamped out of the country by the friendly Immigration staff who may not so much as even ask you why you had overstayed. If you are unlucky, you may get a stamp in your passport saying that you overstayed and frankly, that is not a good look and is something which should be avoided at all costs. This would be the United States retail equivalent of having your picture posted at the front of the store in picture frames next to shady characters and shoplifters. It’s not a company you’ll want to be a part of.
But it is not always this easy. Some border points are under instruction from the main Immigration HQ in Bangkok that anyone exiting the country with an overstay of 40 days or more is to be arrested and sent to Bangkok for questioning, at which point they will be processed and placed in the Immigration Detention Centre before they are able to make their way out of the country – and while based in the IDC, as it is known, they will actually need assistance from a friend, family or embassy staff to arrange tickets etc.
It has to be said that the IDC is supposed to be hell on earth, something which really should be avoided. Many have been broken in days there. One friend spent 4 days there and insists they are absolutely the worst 4 days of his life.
I am of the opinion that there really is no excuse for overstaying. The only plausible excuse I can imagine is if one should fall sick in Thailand and be physically unable to leave. That is the only time it is acceptable.
What needs to be understood is that if you are in Thailand on an expired visa, you are illegal. It will be hard to do many things. For example, when you check into a hotel you are required to provide your passport (although often they will accept other forms of ID such as a drivers licence or other local Thailand ID). Should you be involved in any altercation, traffic accident or be approached by police or any authorities, you may be asked to provide your passport and simply not having it on your person can create a problem. If you wish to avail yourself of a new phone line, high speed internet, cable TV or even apply for a job, all of these may require the vendor viewing and even making a photocopy of pages from your passport. Even some simple banking transactions such as sending money abroad or receiving a money transfer through a service such as Western Union require you to show your passport – and if you are on overstay, you have a problem. Western Union branches, for example, were instructed a few years back to retain any passport which had an expired visa and call the police immediately!
If you are picked up in country anywhere, at any time, on an expired visa, you will be arrested and taken to the Immigration department’s detention centre in Bangkok.
It should be noted that overstaying is a serious offence. In some of Thailand’s neighbouring countries the mandatory punishment is 14 days jail and in many Western countries, overstaying your visa may see you subject to a ban from returning to that country for a period of 5 years! Please don’t think that the 20,000 baht maximum fine is a friendly invitation to overstay as long as you wish, like some sort of convenient, long-term visa solution. It isn’t. Overstaying is a crime! Don’t forget that!