Immigration Authorities Get Tough on Visa Runs

 | Wed 16 Jul 2014 18:19 ICT

Foreigners who make regular visa runs to extend their stay in the country will no longer be able to do so from next month, as immigration authorities launch a crackdown that will affect thousands of people living in Chiang Mai and surrounding areas.

The Mae Sae border crossing in Chiang Rai province is popular with visa runners.

The Immigration Bureau has instructed border officials to deny entry to those they suspect are not genuine tourists. Some foreigners are already being turned away even if they have tourist visas, according to reports.

“If tourists can’t provide us with details about their trip to Thailand, we will refuse them entry,” an officer at the Sadao checkpoint on the Malaysia border told the Phuket News.

“We are being very strict about this because some foreigners are using a tourist visa to enter the country and work – this is the wrong type of visa for this. Foreigners who are using many tourist visas to enter Thailand multiple times for nearly a year or more are very suspicious.”

Many foreigners stay in Thailand for long periods by rewewing tourist visas, or exploit the 30-day visa exemption rule by making regular “visa runs” to neighbouring countries, getting a stamp in their passport then re-entering Thailand immediately.

This type of “Out-In” visa run will soon be disallowed. Those let back into the country will now have “O-I” marked next to the entry stamp, and from August 13 anyone whose passport contains this will be refused entry unless they have a proper visa, according to reports.

A notice on the Immigration Bureau’s website says: “Leniency will be granted until August 12, but only for passengers arriving by air. Foreigners who come to Thailand must seek a proper visa in line with the purpose of their intended stay here.”

Many foreigners making visa runs are employed by language schools, restaurants and other small businesses that are reluctant to spend time and money applying for proper employment visas. Others are self-employed, and many have families in Thailand.

As CityNews reported last week, foreigners who overstay their visas for more than 90 days could soon be blacklisted and banned from re-entering the country.

The crackdown follows the news that two foreigners who acquired stolen passports in Pattaya were on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.