The Thai Cabinet has agreed on Tuesday to extend the free tourist visa scheme for visitors from all countries for another six months until the end of August 2017.
The free visa promotion was initially launched on December 1 in order to increase the number of foreign visitors during the peak season and specifically aimed at countering a sharp drop in arrival numbers from China.
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.