Thailand Plans to Launch New Multiple-Entry “Tourist Visa”

Standard 30-day visa exemption stampTo sum it up in a single sentence: Thailand plans to introduce a “six-month” multiple-entry visa that nationals of any country can apply for and will cost 5,000 Baht. Huh?
Granted, details of the new “tourist visa” scheme are still very sketchy – so these news could be either mere window dressing or the long-awaited remedy for “long-stayers” who wish to visit the country for longer than just a month or two but struggle to find an adequate visa.
But at least a few details have transpired now – and it looks like a step in the right direction.
The Nation reports today (and we quote literally):

Thailand is moving to grant multiple-entry visas to all visitors from any country in a bid to boost tourism and drive the economy.
Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said yesterday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has given the green light to the proposal, which is expected to go into effect within 60 days after receiving Cabinet approval.
Currently, citizens of 30-40 countries can enter the Kingdom without a visa, but some other nationals are required pay about Bt1,000 to get a single-entry, 30-day visa.
Kobkarn said the new visa would allow holders to come into the country more than once, which is similar to what is applied by many other countries. The government plans to charge Bt5,000 for the six-month visa.

Well, this obviously leaves many questions unanswered, for example:
Will this be a completely new visa category or just some kind of alternative, “new and improved” tourist visa?
For how long will holders of this visa be allowed to stay in Thailand at a time?
Does “six-month visa” imply that tourists can stay six months at a time (we doubt it), or simply that the visa will be valid for six months and all entries into the kingdom must be made within six months (more likely)?
If the permitted duration of stay at a time is not six months – will it be 30, 60 or 90 days?
Will visa runs be required, or can the visa be extended locally at an immigration office?
While this new “multiple-entry” visa appears to address the notorious problems regarding out/in visa runs, and target primarily would-be visitors who don’t qualify for the “visa exemption” scheme, it will chiefly depend on the above questions whether this new 5,000-Baht visa will actually be any more useful than a standard double-entry tourist visa – which costs only 2,000 Baht.
For example, if the permitted duration of stay should not exceed 60 days at a time and visa runs would be required, it’s hard to see how this “new” visa should be any more efficient than a standard double-entry tourist visa?
While this plan looks like a step in the right direction (so credit where credit is due!) it seems like all we can do at this time is wait for further and more detailed updates.

UPDATE – There’s a forum discussion about this proposed new visa over at ThaiVisa. Aside from much speculation, it looks like none of the self-proclaimed “Thailand gurus” there (sic) have more precise details either though.

UPDATE – While it’s still uncertain what the permitted duration of stay will be per entry, Khaosod English reports that the new kind of tourist visa will “allow travelers to enter and leave the kingdom at will for six months”. They also quote the president of Association of Thai Travel Agents as saying:

It will encourage more trips, especially among those tourists that travel regularly (…) Even though [the visas] will only be valid for six months, it is a good beginning for this kind of stimulating measure.

So all we know for a fact is that the permitted duration of stay per entry will not be six months, but just the visa will be valid for six months and all entries have to be made within six months (we guess that’s 180 days) from the date of issuance of the visa. Now there are basically three options:
– If the permitted duration of stay should be 30 days, it would effectively only make out/in border runs completely “legal” again and facilitate businesspeople and other frequent travellers, especially those who do not qualify for the “visa exemption” scheme.
– If the permitted duration of stay should be 60 days (which could perhaps be extended for another 30 days at a local immigration office), this “new” visa would be nothing more and nothing less than a multiple-entry tourist visa – or are we missing something?
Currently, multiple-entry tourist visas are available in just a few number of countries; this new visa would be available to visitors of all nationalities and at Thai consulates worldwide it seems. As most long-stay tourists would probably stay in the kingdom for the entire permitted duration of stay it wouldn’t be any more efficient though than a standard double-entry tourist visa (which costs only 2,000 Baht).
– If the permitted duration of stay should be 90 days (taking into account that each 30-day extensions at a local immigration office costs 1,900 Baht) it would be slightly more efficient – and cheaper – than a standard double-entry tourist visa.

By the way, Khaosod English also notes that the “amended rules” have already been “passed Tuesday” (this wasn’t clear from the article in The Nation) and will “come into effect in early October”. So we should very soon know all the details.

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