Thailand’s strict new overstay rules that may see visa overstayers banned from re-entering the kingdom for up to 10 years have been in the news for a while now, so if you happen to have overstayed your visa you can’t say you didn’t know when you suddenly find yourself on an immigration blacklist, can you?
But just in case you’ve missed all the much-publicized warnings, here’s a final call for all you overstayers to leave the country a.s.a.p. and clear your overstay without facing any further consequences while you still can.
Under the current rules, tourists and expats who overstay their visa simply have to pay a fine of 500 Baht a day – up to a maximum of 20,000 Baht – but are not banned from returning to Thailand immediately if they wish to. In fact, until March 20 this year, there is no blacklisting for overstayers but all you have to do is pay your fine at the border (there will be no red stamp or whatever trace in your passport) and you can come back to Thailand straight away.
This will change in just three weeks from now when the rigorous new overstay rules finally take effect. Here are, once again, all the details. (And no, it’s not rocket science; all it takes is your cooperation.)
Starting from March 20 – depending on the length of their overstay and whether they turn themselves in or not – offenders may be put on an immigration blacklist, effectively banning them from re-entering the kingdom for a period of 1-10 years. This leaves you three weeks from now to clear your overstay.
After March 20, the penalty for overstayers will depend on a) whether they make it to an airport or other 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 visa overstay is less than 90 days and you leave Thailand voluntarily via an immigration checkpoint, as previously, you’ll get away with just paying the regular fine even after March 20. So unless immigration catch you in Thailand, an overstay of not exceeding 90 days will also be okay in the future.
If the length of your overstay is however more than 90 days (but not exceeding 365 days) you’ll get banned from re-entering the kingdom for one year. If the length of your overstay is more than one year (but less than three years) your name will be put on an immigration blacklist for three years. If your overstay is between three and five years you will be barred from visiting Thailand for five years. If the overstay length is more than five years you face a 10-year re-entry ban. That’s all if you make it to a border checkpoint and leave the country by choice.
If you get arrested with an expired visa while staying inside the country, the penalties may be much more severe and it basically makes no difference whether the length of your overstay is one year or just a few 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) may result in your name being put on a blacklist for a whopping five years. If the length of your overstay is more than one year you will be hit by a 10-year re-entry ban.
(It remains somewhat unclear to us whether these penalties only apply to foreigners who get arrested in criminal cases and just happen to have also overstayed their visa, or to foreigners in general who get apprehended with an expired visa in their passport and prosecuted on overstay charges. We would assume however that the latter, more rigorous interpretation is applicable.)
The following announcement published on the Thai immigration website explains the penalties more graphically:
If this shouldn’t be sufficiently clear, creative minds at the immigration bureau have also produced a music video, fully detailing the penalties for overstayers:
So if you happen to be on an overstay right now, head straight for Suvarnabhumi Airport or any other border checkpoint and clear your overstay by just paying the regular fine while you still can. It’s only 500 Baht per day but 20,000 Baht at most, so act now and get your overstay sorted rather today than tomorrow.
Book a visa run to Cambodia (spend a couple of days in Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville), go on a trip to Laos or Penang, have a holiday in Vietnam or (if you can’t do without the Pattaya vibes) Angeles City – wherever! Come back to Thailand in just a few days, where possible, with a fresh tourist visa or whatever visa you qualify for.
After March 20, if your visa should be about to expire, do no take any more risks but head straight for your local immigration office – in Pattaya, that’s on Soi 5 in Jomtien – and apply for an extension if you can.
Otherwise do leave the country no later than the date indicated in the entry or extension stamp in your passport (“admitted until”) and apply for a new visa at a Thai consulate abroad. If you don’t want to leave the SEA region a visa run to Vientiane or Savannakhet in Laos will most likely do the job. Don’t laze away and become illegal – an overstay is simply unnecessary and, in light of the tough new rules, not worth taking the risk. You wouldn’t want foreigners in your home country to ignore your immigration rules either, would you?