Thai Visa Crackdown
"This latest visa news is the scariest and most farang-unfriendly policy in the 25 years I've been here."
The Thais have said enough is enough and on August 12th a major crackdown on foreigners residing in Thailand using short-stay visas back to back will begin. This could cause untold grief for the many thousands of foreigners residing in the country long-term via a loophole where they use a visa designed for short stays. Some foreigners exiting the country and attempting to reenter could find themselves turned away at the border.
Back in May the Immigration department gave notice of the impending crackdown. Long-term foreign residents, some of who may work illegally, some of whom are retired but don't qualify for a retirement visa and many of whom have a Thai wife / partner and support children may be unable to remain in the country legally. And those who thought they would flaunt the rules with the long used method of overstaying and paying a 20,000 baht fine on exiting face a stand-down period in which they cannot return to the country for years.
Immigration signaled that the crackdown would start on August 12th but at some border posts officers seemingly keen to impress their bosses are enforcing the new rules already. Foreigners with pages of Thailand entry and exit stamps in their passport are being told that they are not a genuine tourist and as such cannot enter the country at that border point with that type of visa. They have been told to go to the nearest airport and jump on a plane and try their luck flying in to Bangkok
National newspapers have run reports of the upcoming policy and forums are awash with reports of travellers stuck at the border, as some foreign residents wonder how they will be able to remain in the country.
The visa crackdown was announced in May when the Immigration Department said it would crack down on the use of back to back visa waiver stamps to remain in Thailand – that is the stamp you get in your passport when you enter Thailand if you come from a country not required to apply for a visa in advance. Immigration explained that this type of stamp had been abused and that people were working illegally in Thailand with this type of stamp, which is not allowed.
Immigration has targeted what it classifies as "Out / In" travellers, those who exit Thailand and re-enter immediately to extend their stay, a legal loophole which goes against the spirit of visa-free entry.
This exiting and re-entering the country to extend your permission to stay has long been known as a visa run. Many who have spent time in the country have done a visa run at some point. Some have made a lifestyle of it.
Foreigners resident in Thailand have been going on visa runs since the '80s and back in the day those calling Bangkok home would take the overnight train from to Penang in Malaysia every 90 days, where they would apply at the Thai consulate for a new non-immigrant B visa which would give them another 90 days to stay in Thailand. Some made this lengthy trip every 3 months for more than 10 years.
As the number of Westerners resident in Thailand has soared and more border crossings have opened, there are more visa run options. For those in Bangkok the closest border point is to the east, with Cambodia. Those in Phuket cross in to Myanmar via Ranong province. And for foreigners in the north, it's often a trip to another border crossing with Myanmar, at Mae Sot. Some prefer to actually get out of the country for a few days and fly to a neighbouring country.
As the number of people doing visa runs increased, visa run firms started up. Foreign residents would meet early morning in downtown Bangkok and be taken to the border in a visa run company's own bus or minivan. Visa run company staff would expedite the process at the border making it more than merely a transport service to and from the border. A meal would be provided at the border and the staff could help with any immigration issues like overstay.
Visa runs became big business and for a long time the biggest firm offering visa run services was the now defunct Jack Golf. At its peak Jack Golf ran two full-size buses to the border every day – meaning around 500 people were making a visa run each week with this one visa run company alone.
Making visa run after visa run is against the spirit of the visa waiver scheme and the Immigration Department is doing something about it. But it's not just the visa waiver stamps they are cracking down on – the use of back to back tourist visas to remain in the country is also to be targeted.
The Immigration Department has stated that genuine tourists will be able to enter the country without issue, but those who have a passport full of back to back waiver stamps or back to back tourist stamps may be asked to first prove they are a genuine tourist. If they cannot do that, they may be turned away.
While exact numbers aren't known, it is suspected that tens of thousands of Westerners reside in Thailand using this combination of back to back visa waiver stamps and / or tourist visas. They comprise a diverse bunch with several major sub-groups. There are English teachers whose employer has not or will not provide them with a work permit and 1-year visa. There are digital nomads for whom their work is location independent and for whom South-East Asia's combination of warm weather, friendly people and low cost of living make an ideal base. There are plenty of economic refugees, those who can't afford to have much of a life in the West, or those who choose to live here because they can have a higher standard of living than they could in their homeland. And then there are the early retirees, guys who retired young and who prefer living here to their homeland. Some manage investments online but most simply lead the life of a retiree, albeit at a young age.
What so many of these groups have in common is that they bring economic benefits to Thailand.
English teachers without work permits often work for what would be less than minimum wage at home. More often than not they don't have a work permit because their employer will not go to the trouble and expense of processing it! Not only are they paid miserably, they also have to make frequent visa runs at their own expense. Native-speaking English teachers without a work permit do not take jobs from local Thais and they provide important skills for young Thais. With the writing on the wall, many are looking at other options, namely Korea, China and Vietnam. Their departure will be felt by their students, those kids' parents, the school and ultimately, the country.
Digital nomads work online with customers in their homeland, outside of Thailand. They earn in the West and spend in Thailand. Most earn many times what, say, an English teacher earns and a best guess would be that the average monthly spend for digital nomads is in the $2,000 – $4,000 rage, or 65,000 – 130,000 baht per month. Economically, they are valuable to Thailand. What's wrong with someone selling pension schemes in Holland while being based in Bangkok, or programming for IBM while sitting in his Chiang Mai villa condo, or designing the website for a Scandinavian newspaper from his Phuket condo? Again, just like English teachers, they are not taking jobs from Thais. And better still, they spend money, sometimes a lot of money, in Thailand.
Economic refugees and young retirees don't work so there is no issue of them taking a job from a Thai. And like digital nomads, they bring in money in to the country. The term economic refugee is a misnomer and many actually spend a lot. The average tourist spends 10 days a year in Thailand. If a digital nomad or economic refugee stays in Thailand for a year, their total spend may exceed the equivalent spend of 35 tourists.
And then there are the FIFO (fly in fly out) crowd, often oil industry workers, who earn big and spend up large. Thailand is a favourite base for them. Some have condos here and often earning day rates of $1,000 or more, many spend several months in Thailand and only a few offshore, working. They are not tourists in the pure sense of the word, but they spend plenty in Thailand, don't take jobs from Thais and are economically beneficial for the country, likely contributing more financially than legally employed foreigners and retirees.
Possibly the hardest affected will be retirees staying in Thailand on visa waiver stamps and tourist visas, those who don't meet the modest financial requirements to get a 1-year extension of stay. Some support a Thai partner and kids, perhaps their own kids, perhaps their partner's from a previous relationship. Throughout Pattaya, Isaan and the north thousands, maybe tens of thousands, fit this profile – and they could be shut out.
While non-Thais don't have the right to reside in Thailand, all of these people benefit the country in some way. It would be a shame if they were prevented from staying in the country or felt it had become too difficult to stay and easier to move on.
There are in fact many options to remain in Thailand, but they involve greater expense, greater commitment or a degree of illegality.
The issue escalated this past week after reports from foreigners who had applied for and been issued with a tourist visa at a Thai embassy or consulate abroad who were denied entry at land border crossings in the south if they had a history of entering Thailand with a number of such visas in their passport already. They were refused entry and told they should go to Kuala Lumpur and from there try to fly in to Bangkok.
With various nationalities being barred from exiting the country at certain border points (Russians, Vietnamese, Filipinos and Koreans have not been able to cross at some land border crossings for weeks), visa run companies report business has plummeted. One Bangkok visa run company appears to have shut down.
The problem is one of clarity. Where in the past only being blacklisted prevented you from entering the country, now Thailand is in line with much of the Western world and immigration officers are scrutinizing arrivals, the decision is made at the border whether the traveller can pass, or otherwise.
No-one knows exactly what the new rules are. When is using back to back visas ok and when isn't? How long must one stay outside the country between visits and be welcome to return? Details are hazy and enforcement of the new policy is inconsistent – in place at some border points and not others.
Turning someone away at an airport is a big deal with various ramifications and clarity is needed when it comes to air travel. The airlines will become a key player.
Anyone refused entry to a country at an airport is handed back to the airline they flew in on which is responsible for flying them out of the country. Airlines would want to know why any passenger arriving with a valid visa and a ticket out of the country – which is what the airlines are required to verify when passengers check in – was refused entry. If arriving passengers are turned away, airlines will insist on specific checkable guidelines for passengers. Once they become known people will be able to plan accordingly.
There are many options for those who wish to remain in Thailand legally.
I pick a massive increase in the number of people who sign up to study Thai. Thai language courses run 25,000 baht or so per year and students qualify for an ED visa.
There will likely be an increase in sham marriages as marriage to a Thai national entitles you to a one-year extension of stay – so long as you meet the meagre financial requirements.
I pick that a period in which visa runners are required to spend outside the country before they can re-enter will soon become known, even for those on back to back visas.
But for some people this crackdown is too much and they are looking at moving on. Some are talking about relocating to Cambodia which has the easiest long-stay visa options in the region. Teachers are considering China, Korea and Vietnam; older dudes seem to be looking more at Cambodia and the Philippines.
I don't foresee a glut of condos on the market and a resulting dip in the property market as some have speculated.
I don't see many businesses whose customer base is predominantly foreign to be greatly affected, visa run companies aside.
Visa runs are toast and the term visa runner seems to have unfairly become synonymous with criminal activity. Visa run companies are going to have to diversify or go the way of Clinton Plaza and Mekong Kurt.
There is a danger in refusing entry to those who hold a visa they applied for in advance. If a pattern emerges of people who had applied for a visa in advance being refused entry at the border, they have every right to be upset, especially as Thailand's entry rules have traditionally been relaxed. There will be posts online and it could get picked up by the mainstream media. An article titled, "Tourists turned away at Bangkok Airport" in the travel section of any Western newspaper would worry anyone planning to visit Thailand. Even if such an article were to detail how it concerned visa runners and not your average holidaymaker, the headline alone could turn people off.
The visa crackdown hasn't officially started but already it has created hysteria. Some foreign residents have seen the writing on the wall and are planning to relocate, while others simply don't have the resources to do so and could find themselves in a real bind. Some who have long used Thailand as a base are looking abroad and Cambodia seems to be many people's second choice. Some are planning on doing some questionable things to qualify for a long-stay visa that they are not really eligible for. And there are even regular visitors concerned who are looking at alternative destinations. The total numbers are probably not that significant, but have the potential to snowball.
It's going to get very interesting come August 12th, although we probably won't have a clearer idea of what the specific rules are and how things are playing out until a few weeks later. Expect the visa crackdown to be the major topic of discussion in Thailand expats circles for some time to come!
Where was this photo taken?
Last week's photo was taken From Sukhumvit soi 6 with Conrad Hotel and All Seasons Hotel in the distance. So where is this week's photo?
FROM STICK'S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.) Preference may be given to emails which refer to the previous week's column.
* Please note that it is not my intention to bowdlerise readers' emails and I ask you to respect my firm policy of never including profanity in this column, including the emails from readers. Profanity and other vulgarities are always removed.
EMAIL OF THE WEEK – Farangs and the F words.
One of your contributors who has lived here for over 10 years mentioned the highest priority of Thai women was family. I've been here for over 10 years & I've developed my own list, which I call the 7 F's. In order they are:
2) Faith (Buddhism, naturally).
5) Fone (Smartphone).
7) Fotos (pictures : as you mentioned, food, themselves, etc.)
The omission of another F – Farang – is obvious. Newbies to Thailand – especially if they spend the majority of their time in the bar scene – should learn that if you believe any of what you're told in those venues then you truly are another F, a Fool!
Another 10-year expat's thoughts.
My two cents worth as a 10+ year expat (albeit in the sticks)! Don't change your fundamental principles. Just because you may encounter dishonesty every day, don't become dishonest yourself. Be honest with yourself and others, but don't be naive. Having a successful relationship with a Thai woman requires the patience of a thousand saints with the realisation that success may be somewhat transitory. What may be a success today may be an utter failure tomorrow. Fight the tendency to think logically about things that happen in your relationship. Our logic just doesn't rate in the Thai scheme of things. The famous Thai saying of "You tink too mutt" is useful advice. Don't expect to "win" every disagreement. What you may think is a win is often anything but. Let your ego be deflated from time to time.
Advice from a Thai wife.
Some advice from my wife, but obviously I wrote the English, which I think is good because it's from a Thai female: Use your brain, not your heart. If something doesn't sound quite right, then chances are that it isn't right. Don't give the benefit of doubt more than once. Look at it from an outsider's perspective – what would the outsider believe? Thais generally think farang men are stupid for believing the things Thai women say. Thai men would never believe these things!
Past behaviour / success is the best indicator of future behaviour and success (or otherwise).
I thought 99% of the advice from the experts was spot on. I particularly liked the comment along the lines of, "If you were a success in your home country you can be a success in Thailand; if you were a failure you will be a failure in Bangkok". You often read about the losers in Thailand; I believe it is not because of Thailand but because they were losers before they came here. I know quite a few successful businessmen in Thailand who were successful before they came and built on that success by thinking and preparing, doing their homework, working hard and not expecting overnight success, and going home to their wives and kids and not propping up bars every night.
Familiarity breeds….reduced desire.
There is a lot of sage wisdom in this week's column with decades of accumulated trial and error and wisdom. I wonder how many will actually listen and not just think of their circumstance as different. My first time in Thailand in '93, was an eye opener. I fell in love with Southeast Asia, and Thailand in particular. But that slowly went away as I made all the basic mistakes. I survived and came out of all my perils wiser and smarter, and relatively unscathed. I never had the right skill set or the nerve to pull up stakes and move to Thailand to work, but retirement was a sure thing. As I became more familiar with Thailand I realised that retirement was not happening either. Now I use Bangkok for what it is, an excellent, centrally-located hub to go to other places. This winter it will be 2 months in the region, 20 days in Thailand, and maybe 10 of that in Bangkok. I am no expert but I think I have seen enough that I no longer see Bangkok and Thailand as the panacea for all my problems and desires.
Falling out of love with Farangs.
I think that Thais are jaded with a certain type of white male. They stick out like sore thumbs in Thailand. Many of them probably arrive in Thailand in middle-age with little cultural experience outside their own worlds. They have unrealistic expectations and are likely to struggle to adapt. The Thais are probably aware of this and feel partially aggrieved by it. And I can see their point.
Leaving on a jet plane.
I am soon to leave Thailand for China after nearly 7 years here and I would say the biggest mistake I made was not learning more of the language. I depended on my Thai wife for communications and that was a lazy / bad choice. I really like your final comment about white guys not getting the red carpet treatment any longer. I felt this beginning to change several years ago. This is why I am headed to China. Better pay, better treatment, and I feel the decline in attitude towards the white guy in Thailand will continue where the pace of decline will increase. The deniers will cling to Thailand as long as they can but the inevitable is coming.
The end of visa runs.
Something that's bound to shake things up around here is the ending of the infamous visa run in which foreigners slip across the border and come right back in again in order to extend their tourist visa and effectively live in Thailand for years on end. This has been going on for many years and authorities have mostly turned a blind eye, resulting in thousands of low-end sexpats (to use the not-always-accurate term) living permanently in the shadows on the cheap, many of them teaching English to eke out a subsistence living. The visa run was famous, with blogs dedicated to it. Several enterprising entrepreneurs set up companies transporting visa runners to the nearest border post and back again, using party buses kitted out for the proverbial 'wine, women and song'! I suppose the visa run had become synonymous, often unfairly, with that other infamous Thailand invention: the sexpat. The pros and cons of clamping down on visa runs are debatable but I have met some very colourful characters indeed who depended on the system. It's hard to imagine Thailand without their flavoured stories and hilarious blogs, mostly hinged on Bangkok's prurient nightlife (and day life for many of them). How will they cope back home after years on the trot? A famous era may just have passed.
Girl of the week
Ploy is a 19-year old Bangkok native whose
favourite food is spaghetti and favourite drink is strawberry Tequila!
She is a coyote dancer at Playskool in Nana Plaza.
Gogo bar fans are in for a walk down memory lane with dance contests scheduled for August and September, one in Soi Cowboy and the other in Patpong. And better still, they are to be organised by one of the original organisers of the Nanapong dance contests, held in two of the original Nanapong dance contest venues and may even be promoted under the Nanapong name. More details to come.
The bottom of the low season looks to be behind us as business jumped up in the bar and restaurant areas this past week. From Sukhumvit to Silom to Khao San Road, most venues popular with whitey are doing much, much better than they were. Patpong bars have reported a strong rebound and Nana Plaza was pumping on Friday night with many bars feeling like a busy night in high season.
The landscape at the top of Sukhumvit Soi 4 has been changed forever with the biggest erection the naughty boy soi has ever seen. A massive video screen – and I mean massive; not big, not large, but MASSIVE – has been installed and erected in the car park of the Nana Hotel. It stands tall, facing the traffic that streams down Sukhumvit soi 3 towards the Nana intersection. I can't help but wonder if we are going to see more incidents at the Nana intersection as the combination of intoxicated foreigners crossing the road and drivers looking at the large screen without their eyes on the road collide, literally.
The dancers enticed from Club Electric Blue in Patpong 2 to Lust in Patpong 1 have returned. Having been promised riches, they found Lust to be no busier than it was before it closed a few months back. Since reopening, the beautifully done out bar is doing no better than it was earlier in the year, and is dead.
Speaking of Club Electric Blue, their retro Sundays with '70s and '80s music seem to doing well and the farang DJ made almost 1,000 baht in tips last week from customers!
A second branch of The Game Sports Bar will open in Chiang Mai on August 15 featuring the largest projection TV in Chiang Mai and flat-screen TVs throughout. There will also be several Brunswick pool tables. The location is listed as Chiang Mai-Hod Road, Baanwan, Hangdong, Chiang Mai – don't ask me where in town that is – but it doesn't sound like it's downtown or near the night market. On opening night there will be a free buffet from 5 – 7 PM.
With a bit of luck Sukhumvit's newest restaurant will open before next Sunday's column. Margarita Storm on the corner of soi 13 will be open 24 hours, specialise in Margaritas and has something of a fusion menu with a mix of Mexican and Western dishes. Keep an eye out for it.
The stretch of Sukhumvit from Emporium to Asoke and its side sois has to be the safest place in town as the local coppers take the responsibility of looking after foreigners and making sure that they are enjoying themselves very seriously. More foreigners than ever on this short strip of Sukhumvit Road are being stopped by the coppers who make a point of checking that you have enough finances in your wallet to enjoy your holiday. Peering in to your pockets, presumably to check that you have a cellphone in case of emergency is all part of the service. But best of all, they will also examine your bag, presumably checking to see that you remembered to pack an umbrella. What a splendid service they provide, doing their best to check on all the foreigners in the area. Some readers must be particularly handsome men because they report being greeted by different sets of smiling cops in the same night!
One friend insists that if you spot the Asoke / Emporium stretch coppers at a distance and you have time to take your mobile phone out of your pocket, put it to your ear and make out like you're having a conversation that they will not stop you. Never tried it myself but he insists that it works for him! Also, it should be noted that there is a greater chance of being stopped if you are carrying a bag (of any description) which reinforces the belief that they are looking for foreigners being used by the bad guys to run illegal substances around the area.
A kilometre up the road are men in brown uniforms who resemble coppers but are in fact not. Known locally as the litter cops, they are city officials called Tessakit in Thai. It's confusing because they wear tight brown uniforms similar to the police uniform but they are NOT police at all, and neither do they have anything like the powers of police. But that has not stopped some Tessakit officers patrolling on Sukhumvit Road outside Chuwit Park, between Sukhumvit sois 8 and 10, from wearing vests which say POLICE in English. Naturally most foreigners believe they are police and that is a bit of a concern.
Bar owners have been complaining how bad business is, and in fairness things have been poor for the last several months. Some say customers want hot women and cold beer – and that promotions, parties and events are gimmicky. I think they are missing the point. Many bars simply don't have the hot women part of the equation and need to do something to get punters in the door. Here are some ideas. Lock the doors party – customers pay a small entry fee and the bar doors are locked. Once the doors are locked, there are no limits to what can go on inside. Done well could gain legendary status of the upstairs parties in Midnite of 14 years ago. How about photographers' night? Many customers would love to be able to take photos in a bar so have a night where this is possible, perhaps with a small fee of a couple of hundred baht. Or how about 1999 pricing where all drinks are priced at last century's prices. Bar owners ought to think outside the box and to generate the sort of chatter so punters talk about bars and look forward to upcoming events. And with social media it's so much easier today to get people talking. Events done well pack out bars and the Nanapong dance contests were so successful that people planned their trips to Thailand around them!
Is your Thai girlfriend really in to you? I mean, is she genuinely keen on you? With the language barrier and different priorities, sometimes it's hard to know. Thais can declare their love very quickly – which is always a red flag. They can also treat a guy in ways he may never have been treated before, making him believe the declaration of love, notwithstanding the words were said so fast. If your loved one is of the non-bar variety, one indicator that she genuinely cares for you the way she claims to is whether she has introduced you to and showed you off to her friends and colleagues. If you have met and socialised with those close to her it's an indicator that she is genuine. Don't expect to meet her family immediately, however. That's a big step for many Thais and it can take time to meet the clan. A Thai woman introducing a guy to her family is basically saying that she thinks you're the one.
Baby boomers, generation X and generation Y often have different ideas about life and very different viewpoints. I am told that a number of generation Y residents in Bangkok, particularly young professionals with good jobs, view Thai women in a very different light to older Western residents. Many gen Y guys prefer white women. Oh, they will happily sleep with a Thai woman, but for a serious relationship many prefer a Western woman. The old boys in Thailand who have spoken ill of Western women for decades can't believe how the world is changing. On the topic of Western women, one of the changes for the better in Bangkok has been a marked and noticeable increase in the number of white women relocating here.
If you've ever walked past Barn Rai Gafae at the corner of Ekamai and Sukhumvit Road, just across from the Ekamai Bus Terminal, at 9 AM or so, you could be mistaken for thinking it was downtown Hong Kong on a Sunday with packs of Philipinos standing around gasbagging. They aren't just catching up on gossip, they assembled there as it was the starting point for a Bangkok visa run company which was particularly popular with Bangkok-based Philipinos. Apparently up to 3/4 of the visa runners who used the service were Philipinos. With the recent crackdown on the use of visa waiver stamps to stay long-term in Thailand, the Flips have found themselves to be on the outer as far as visa runs go, and this foreigner-owned visa run company which has operated for a number of years and which had a pretty decent reputation looks like it is history. The company's website went down this week and the phone has gone unanswered. In the absence of any official word, the speculation is that it is the end for them and they are a direct casualty of the tightening up on visa rules.
A reminder about a couple of items mentioned in previous columns for those who wish to remain in Thailand legally but who may not be eligible for one of the easier visa options. First is the Elite card which is available to everyone. This is essentially paying for a 5-year visa (which if used right will give you 6 years in the country) at a cost of 500,000 baht. Once you have the visa, each time you enter and exit the country you get 12 months permission to stay. If you do not exit the country, you can extend for another year at Immigration for 1,900 baht. Admittedly 500K baht is a chunk of change, but for some it may be worth it. And for Australian and New Zealand passport holders who can show that they are doing business or pursuing business opportunities in the Asia Pacific region, you might consider applying for an APEC card. It allows 3 months visa-free entry to most countries in the region as well as China and some other places. It is cheap, but you have to prove that you are a bona fide businessperson and as such is not available to everyone.
The TAT will hold a press conference scheduled this coming Thursday when details of their affordable Thailand travel insurance policies will be made public. With travel insurance policies which cover Thailand hard to come by at this time, many are waiting for this so the sooner, the better.
Quote of the week comes from a reader, "The system is not corrupt – corruption is the system."
Reader's story of the week comes from Mega, "Tales of Saturdays Nights, Curfews and Property Development Girls".
From the mainstream media, The Nation reports that the Thailand visa run crackdown is very real.
2 New Zealand travellers have a harrowing experience changing dollars in Thailand which turn out to be counterfeit.
Gavinmac asks whether the US Embassy in Phnom Penh betrayed a US citizen who was found murdered last week.
Visitor numbers for the first 6 months of this year are down 10% on last year.
Accusations are being made towards someone in authority being involved in Phuket's Jet ski scam.
Ask Sunbelt Asia Legal
Sunbelt Asia's legal department is here to answer your questions relating to legal issues and the law in Thailand. Send any legal questions you may have to me and I will pass them on to Sunbelt Legal and their response will run in a future column. You can contact Sunbelt's legal department directly for all of your legal needs.
Question 1: I will soon marry my long-time Thai girlfriend and then apply for a non-immigrant O visa. I am a little confused about the different types of O visa. I understand that there is one version that allows me to come and go every 3 months and another which can be extended for a year. Can you please tell me how that works? Also, is this something you can help me with as I find all these visa rules confusing.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds:Once you are married you can obtain a non-O visa based on marriage to a Thai national. If you plan on remaining in Thailand full time, or wish to work and obtain a work permit then the best option is to obtain a one-year extension on your visa. This one-year extension is applied for in the country (once you have the non-O from outside the country). You need to show 400,000 baht in a Thai bank for 3 months (2 months for the initial application) or if you have employment, a minimum of 45,000 baht a month in salary from your employer. Once you have this extension then you do not need to leave the country but it's important to note that if you do plan on leaving then you should get a re-entry permit ahead of time and that you will need to report to Immigration every 90 days. Your wife will need to be present upon the submission of your application for the one-year extension.
The second option is what is called a multiple entry non-O visa based on marriage to a Thai national. This requires you to leave the country every 90 days. This is usually obtained in your home country and they may ask to see evidence of sufficient funds before issuing the visa.
You will need to show both your marriage license, and your wife's ID card when you apply for either the single entry or the multiple entry non-O visa.
Sunbelt Asia has extensive experience in assisting our clients in obtaining one-year extensions based on marriage to a Thai national. Please let us know if you need help once you get married.
Question 2: 14 years ago I was arrested for a minor crime in Bangkok, charged and the matter went to court. I pleaded guilty and was fined 2,000 baht. At the time of the arrest I had to post bail of 100,000 baht. At the end of the case I never got the bail money back. I was shell-shocked by everything that happened and was relieved to be able to stay in the country and despite it being a lot of money, retrieving the bail money was the last thing on my mind. Over time I basically forgot about it. In conversation recently it came up that bail is supposed to be returned at the end of a case irrespective of the outcome and when you post bail you have to apply for it to be returned to you. Apparently there is a process. My questions concern this practice. What is this process and how do I go about seeking to have my bail money returned? I trust the fact that I pled guilty and was fined is not an issue – I certainly did not try and flee or anything like that. I do realise that the passing of time may be an issue but I would like to know what would be required to pursue this as I really could do with that money now!
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisers responds: The standard procedure in cases like this is that once the court has made a ruling, you (or your lawyer) need to obtain the court decision and submit your petition to reclaim your bail at a department within the same court you attended. However, most documentation in unclaimed cases after ten years are either filed in storage or could be destroyed. Your best option would be to retain a lawyer, and provide him or her with a copy of your court case so they can help you to reclaim your long lost bail money. Sunbelt Asia has experienced lawyers who may be able to assist you in this issue.
The visa crackdown by the Immigration Department has been a huge talking point in expat circles, dwarfing the political situation and bar industry woes, the previous favourites. Everyone knows people who are likely to be affected and everyone has an opinion. Will they really enforce the rules as per the new policy, or will there be an about turn? Thailand may be known as the land of smiles but it's also the land of crackdowns – and many crackdowns don't last that long before things revert back to how they used to be. Will that be the case this time around?
Your Bangkok commentator,