One of the reasons that Thailand’s government is currently cracking down on overstaying aliens and is being strict about returning foreigners (called falang in the local language) is the so-called “visa run.” At this point, the government is now ready to impose blacklisting on foreigners that have illegally stayed in Thailand beyond what they were allowed in their initial visa application.
Because Thailand requires tourists to exit the country first and apply for a visa extension afterwards in a neighboring country, tourists, for decades, have been able to exploit a loophole in the legal language and enabled themselves to stay beyond what their visa stipulates without having to actually apply for an extension. All they need to do is just take a trip to Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and other neighboring countries, spend some time there, and return to the Kingdom after a while to get a free 30-day extension.
A visa run is possible because of Thailand’s lax regulations towards tourists. Entering Thailand as a tourist automatically gives you a free 30 days of stay in the Kingdom, after which you will – theoretically – be required to report to immigration and get an extension to your visa as laws require.
For some reason, certain parties have seen an opportunity in having to exit Thailand and apply for an extension in a consulate outside the Kingdom to get a free, no-frills-involved extension to their tourist visas. This presents plenty of problems for immigration officers.
One of these problems is overstaying. Over the decades, several foreigners have exploited the visa exemptions for people seemingly entering as tourists in order to obtain illegal employment in the Kingdom. They find work as expatriates in Thailand, stay for an initial 30 days as allowed by the visa exemptions, and then leave the country to satisfy the exit requirement of the visa exemption. They then return and continue working illegally.
Doing so actually exposes them to danger and exploitation. As illegal foreign employees, they do not enjoy the legal protection that is afforded those who go through the process to obtain a proper work permit from the Kingdom’s government.
These foreigners stay for as long as possible until they are found out by immigration officers. Even then, they are only required to pay a fine (which others have probably saved up for) and they can continue staying in the country. With the new rules in place, however, that is bound to change.
If you’re planning to work in Thailand, investing in the legal process to obtain a proper visa or work permit is the best action that you can take in this matter. If found without a proper visa or work permit, you could find yourself deported and banned from entering the Kingdom again for a specific number of years. The longer you have overstayed, the longer your ban is so, if you don’t want to be kept away from entering the beautiful country of Thailand, then you must do things in the legal way.
The new rules and penalties are set to come into effect in March.
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Photo credit : Evan HB