The “border run” rules and the “visa exemption” scheme, which allows nationals of more than 40 countries to temporarily visit Thailand without a visa, have recently been substantially clarified and standardized.
On one hand, they’ve become considerably stricter. A few weeks ago only, we reported that foreigners who enter Thailand without a visa via a land border crossing can now do so only twice per calendar year. Entries through international airports are not affected by this new regulation, only so-called border runs.
Those who seek to enter Thailand without a visa via a land border checkpoint for a third time in a calendar year may be denied entry and asked to apply for a regular visa first.
But there were also some good news.
Thai immigration have been kind of clamping down on “visa runners”/”border hoppers” for a while now. An English friend of your webmaster was actually stuck behind the Cambodian border for a couple of days this year as he had “too many” visa-exempt entry stamps in his passport and immigration wouldn’t let him back in. In the end he had to get a tourist visa from the embassy in Phnom Penh before immigration let him cross the border back into Thailand.
But how many is “too many”? It has always remained somewhat obscure how many back-to-back visa-exempt entries, or visa-exempt entries per calendar year, you can actually get at Thai land border crossings, for example, if you go on a “visa run” to the nearby Cambodian border and re-enter Thailand without a visa.
Immigration have a kind of computer alert system that triggers a warning after “too many” border runs and they might not let you back in again or advise you to apply for a proper visa and maybe fly into Thailand. But the details of how this alert system works always remained very sketchy and there never appeared to be any clear rules regarding the number of visa-exempt entries that are okay at land border checkpoints.
This appears to have changed now.
There have been several reports over the past few months where foreigners were fined by immigration for not staying at their registered address in Thailand, e.g. here and here. Likewise, guesthouse and condo owners have been fined for failing to register their guests with the local immigration office within 24 hours of arrival as is apparently required by law.
Thai immigration police want to know where all the tourists and expats are staying, and if a foreigner moves from one place to another he/she, or the new landlord respectively, will have to notify immigration of these movements within 24 hours of the foreigner’s arrival at the new place. Likewise, if you extend your visa you will now have to provide some proof of address; otherwise your application may get rejected.
Also, when you apply for a new visa many embassies and consulates will now require the applicant to indicate an actual street address in Thailand where he/she plans to stay. An address must also be clearly indicated on the arrival/departure form you have to fill when entering the country.