Here’s a stern reminder that overstaying your visa for Thailand for any longer than 90 days is no longer just a peccadillo but may land you in jail, see you deported and banned from returning to the kingdom for at least five years.
Granted, several Farangs have been arrested, deported and blacklisted since the new overstay rules took effect at the end of March this year. But most of these “illegal aliens” (that’s what you are effectively once your visa has expired) had overstays of several years and some were even wanted in their home countries.
Now a 32-year-old Briton faces deportation and five-year blacklisting after immigration police on Walking Street asked him to produce his passport and discovered that he had overstayed his 30-day visa-exemption stamp by more than the legally “okay” 90 days. The exact length his overstay was not two, five or seven years, however; it were a mere 106 days, just a bit over three months.
Mr Matthew Joseph Love was recently stopped by immigration officers on Walking Street and had his passport checked after he reportedly behaved “oddly.” A quick look at his passport then revealed that Mr Love had entered the country under the 30-day visa exemption scheme some four-and-a-half months ago and since overstayed his permission of stay by 106 days.
In line with paragraphs of Thai immigration law that have been in place for decades now, Mr Love was arrested and is now awaiting deportation back to the UK. But while overstaying your visa was basically a trivial offense in the past and deported foreigners could immediately return to Thailand, Mr Love – under the tightened new rules – will now also be barred from re-entering the kingdom for a whopping five years.
Think that’s tough? It obviously is. But the writing has been on the wall for a while now. So for all those who didn’t get the message yet, here’s another brief summary of the new overstay rules that took effect less than three months ago:
Starting from March 20 this year – depending on the length of their overstay and whether they turn themselves in or not – offenders may be put on an immigration blacklist, banning them from re-entering the kingdom for a period of 1-10 years.
The exact penalty will depend on a) whether overstayers make it to a border checkpoint and report themselves to immigration or they get apprehended while staying in the country, and b) the length of their overstay.
If your overstay is less than 90 days and you leave Thailand voluntarily via an immigration checkpoint, you’ll still be okay even under the new rules and get away with just paying the regular fine as previously. So unless immigration catch you in Thailand, an overstay of not exceeding 90 days is still acceptable.
On the other hand, if you get arrested with an expired visa while staying inside the country (as Mr Love did), the penalties are much more severe and it basically makes no difference whether the length of your overstay is a year or two or just a couple of days.
Under the tightened rules, if you don’t turn yourself in at an immigration checkpoint but get apprehended while you’re inside the country, an overstay of less than one year (so this could be just a week or so) might result in your name being put on a blacklist for a total of five years. If the length of your overstay is more than a year you may even be blacklisted for a whopping 10 years..
The bottom line is: With a 106-day overstay and running into a passport check on Walking Street (be it random or because he behaved somewhat “oddly”), a five-year re-entry ban is unfortunately just the penalty Mr Love has qualified for.
So to cut a long story short: Better be safe and don’t overstay your visa even for a single day. With an increasing number of road checkpoints around Pattaya, the relative convenience of an overstay is simply not worth taking the risk anymore. That’s if you plan on visiting Pattaya again in the near future.