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Unmuddying the Visa Waters

Citylife asks the experts at Thai Visa Assist for the latest in visa news and updates. They kindly sent us this:

As way of a brief introduction, we have been working in Chiang Mai for the last 10 years, primarily focused on visa issues. Having processed thousands of visas for expats in Chiang Mai, we have a great understanding of the visa systems and regulations. One thing to note however, is the officers have a large amount of discretion, which is why there are often two or more answers to the same question!

Currently visas in Chiang Mai are processed at the Immigration office just before Chiang Mai International Airport.

The current concerns that most people have are as follows;

  • TM30s
  • Health insurance linked to visas
  • Changing regulations related to visas
  • Boarder runs and Tourist Visas (entry requirements)

Although these concerns are warranted, once understood they aren’t problematic.

So let’s start with TM30, which is the requirement for all home owners to report any foreigners staying on their property to authorities within 24 hours of the stay. This has been enforced in Chiang Mai for almost two years, however only recently has it been done in Bangkok and this is where a lot of complaints are coming from. Due to the backlash the TM30 can now be done online and the Immigration Department is soon to roll out an app for further convenience. Failing this, you can go to update in person at the immigration offices.

Health insurance linked to visas is a huge concern to many expats. The main reason being that people who already have health insurance may no longer qualify, people without it may not be able to be insured and finally if they are able to be insured, they may not be able to afford it. Whilst we always recommend all of our clients to take insurance coverage, we understand it’s not always possible. For the moment the requirement to have insurance doesn’t look like its being brought in just yet. So like most things with Thai immigration, our suggestion is to not worry until the regulations are passed and enforced.

If you have lived in Thailand for longer than a few months you will be very familiar with the changing rules of immigration. Luckily we are at the immigration office every day so we see the changes as they are being brought in. Many people however only deal with immigration once a year, and so the changes which occur can be a large shock. We still receive emails from clients who only just found out that their embassies will no longer issue income statements, even though this has been the case since January! The rules do change and the best way forward is to be proactive with your visa. Seek advice and if you are unsure go and talk to an expert. The online forums tend to do more harm than good, as stated above there can often be two or three different answers to the same questions and they may all be correct. Every visa case is judged on the individual application, and the officer can always request more information.

Finally we get a lot of questions about the 30 day visa on arrivals Tourist Visas, and people being turned away at the airport. An easy fix for these situations is as follows;

If you intend to stay in Thailand then simply get on the right visa. There are many options and if you are unsure, contact an agency to help. If you are only coming in on a visa exemption, make sure you have funds available (20,000 baht) a return ticket and a hotel reservation or an address where you are staying.

Where possible, you should always try to enter Thailand with a visa, this will limit any problems you may have.

We are always happy to answer any questions and if you have any visa concerns feel free to contact [email protected].