The new overstay rules set to take effect in just over a week from today have been all over the news for months now and widely publicized by Thai immigration. Under the slogan “Good guys in, bad guys out”, authorities even went as far as publishing a cartoon music clip on YouTube to inform the public of the strict new rules. Last but not least, we’ve written several posts and updates concerning the new overstay rules ourselves, for example, here, here and, most recently, here. Our earliest report actually goes back to July 2014.
The reason why we keep on repeating ourselves (and possibly boring our readers to death) is simple: The new rules that will allow for blacklisting foreigners for 1-10 years will concern (tens of) thousands of expats across the kingdom. In actual fact, we know half a dozen Farangs ourselves who “suddenly” (sic) see themselves forced to do last-minute visa runs and clear their overstay before March 20. (If it’s escaped you that’s next Sunday already and time is running out.)
So how do they fare in the current “overstay crackdown” situation? Do they face any notable problems at the airport and, most importantly, is it easy to come back to Thailand straight away?
We actually know two long-time expats ourselves, both British nationals, who successfully cleared their overstay this week and returned to the country a day or two later equipped with a brand-new visa. Yes, they had to pay the regular fine (in one case of an 841-day overstay that was the maximum fine of 20,000 Baht), but aside from having to answer some inquisitive questions pertaining to why they were staying in Thailand without a visa for so long, whether they had family or wives in Thailand etc. they faced no problems whatsoever.
(No wait, do not miss your flight. One of our two friends actually had a puncture on the way to the airport and missed his flight. He was temporarily detained by immigration at Suvarnabhumi Airport after a spiteful airline staffer – who else – obviously alerted his immigration buddies and he had his passport checked while waiting for the next flight and before clearing immigration. It cost him a bit more than the regular fine to get out of this, and his excuse that he was going to leave the country anyway didn’t help much.)
So keep calm and do not panic, yet! We’re sure their experience (we mean the positive end result) reflects that of thousands of other expat overstayers who finally had to get their act together and clear their overstay in the past weeks. The Thai immigration boys may not be fun to deal with but if you abide by the rules they’re surely less painful than a visit to the dentist.
(By the way, Pattaya Daily News quote immigration as saying there are “around 40,000” foreigners living in and around Pattaya permanently, that’s obviously excluding long-stay tourists effectively living here too. According to immigration stats, 26,682 of Pattaya’s expat community members are retirees; 5,212 legally work in the area, while another 5,212 stay here with their Thai families. So yes, you may rest assured that a considerable portion of them have also run into overstay situations and you’re certainly not alone in that boat.)
The deadline for the new rules to go into effect is Sunday, March 20, so if you leave the country and clear your overstay before that date you will be on the safe side and face no other consequences than paying the regular fine of 500 Baht per day. Overstayers who leave the kingdom before March 20, preferably via an international airport checkpoint, not a land border, will not be blacklisted and can return to the country immediately.
Anyway, just in case some tourists and expats in Pattaya didn’t get the well publicized message yet, Chonburi immigration have now held a special meeting at the Pattaya Discovery Beach Hotel to inform/remind the public and relevant organizations of the tightened new overstay rules.
The event on Thursday afternoon reportedly saw the hotel’s conference room packed with more than 300 Thais and foreigners, including representatives of the tourism industry and related sectors, so we take it that the risk someone missed out on the news by chance should have been considerably reduced by now. In fact, to give credit where credit is due, this was likely the biggest and most clear-cut publicity campaign Thai immigration have ever run. As the deadline draws nearer and time is running out, there are also several news reports in the local media this weekend warning of the upcoming tightening of the rules. So to say Oops, I didn’t know would be a very lame excuse if you simply ignored the looming deadline and they caught you one day with an expired visa.
Pattaya One have a brief report on Thursday’s meeting in Pattaya and quote immigration police as saying:
Foreigners who overstay over a certain length of time will now be banned from the country. Not only will violators be fined, the ban ranges from 1 to 10 years.
That sums it up pretty well.
Granted, if your overstay should be less than 90 days but you make it to a border checkpoint and report yourself to immigration you will get away with overstaying your visa even under the new rules. But given an increased number of police checkpoints and raids around town in recent months (and even foreign night owls on Walking Street more frequently asked to produce their passports), would you bet on that? We wouldn’t.
Also, if your overstay period exceeds 90 days – regardless of whether you “surrender” yourself at an immigration checkpoint or you get detained while staying in Thailand – you will face a re-entry ban of at least one year. Ask yourself whether it’s worth taking that chance. Here are, once again, the details of the new rules:
UPDATE (April 11) – The Bangkok Post has some interesting numbers re: overstayers who have left the country or were deported before the March 20 deadline and those who still stay in Thailand.
The Immigration Bureau chief is quoted as saying that a total of 486,947 overstayers had been “deported” in the last six months before the new rules took effect. While this alone is certainly a massive number we are actually more surprised by the alleged “323,575 foreigners who overstayed their visas [and who still] remain at large.”