In September, the Kingdom had decided to enforce stricter rules regarding foreigners who enter or re-enter Thailand through the borders that it shares with four countries in its vicinity. Because of these, some foreigners have come across difficulties in re-entering Thailand through the borders with Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos in order to activate an entry in their multiple-entry visas.
The new rules have sown confusion, initially, with tourists and long-term immigrants who are trying to satisfy the rules of their multiple-entry visas. Fortunately, the Thai Immigration Bureau has released official information that has clarified what the rules are, and who they are meant to affect.
According to the statement at the Thai Immigration Bureau, the September crackdowns were meant to minimize or even eliminate the incidences of border runs. Border runs are popular amongst tourists who carry a double or triple-entry visa to Thailand, but tourists who enter Thailand through the visa exemption scheme are also known to subscribe to this method to extend their stay to the country after the 30-day limit of the Visa on Arrival scheme expires.
The new rules now, for starters, shorten the days that a tourist can enter Thailand without a visa if they enter via the land borders. Now, instead of being stamped with a Visa on Arrival that allows them to stay for 30 days before exiting or applying for an extension, they are now given Visas on Arrival that are valid only for 15 days.
The Bureau had been very specific on who will be affected by the new rules. For instance, tourists who come in by air will not be affected by the new rules. The 30-Day Visa on Arrival scheme continues to be valid for that group. In addition, Malaysian nationals are exempt from the new rules as well. As long as they travel with their official passports, they can be granted 30 days’ stay without a visa instead of the new 15 days.
As Thailand is working to abolish or minimize the incidences of border runs, the Thai Immigration Bureau is encouraging tourists to seek the requisite visas if they want to extend their stay in Thailand beyond the 30-day or 15-day limit imposed by the current rules for visa exempt visitors.
You can still hop out of Thailand through the land borders to keep up with the requirements, but you have to make sure that you have a valid immigrant visa when you return.
To further encourage visa applications and renewals, the Thai Immigration Bureau has also eliminated the 90-day limit within 6 months imposed on extended stays by tourists in Thailand. This means that, as long as you have a valid multiple-entry visa, you can visit Thailand as often as you like without forcing yourself to schedule your stays by counting the days to keep up with the previous 90-day limit within a six-month period.
These new rules may sound restrictive, but it actually eases up on tourists who work to get the proper documentation instead of doing illegal border runs just to extend their stay in Thailand without the requisite visas.
Photo credit: Harsha K R