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New tough penalties for foreigners who overstay their visas came into effect yesterday (March 20th).
Under the new rules anyone who is found to have overstayed their permission to remain in the country can expect to be blacklisted and barred from re-entering Thailand.
The new rules regarding overstay have been well publicised since the plans were first revealed by Thaivisa.com back in 2014.
Previously foreigners were charged a 500 baht penalty for each day they overstayed, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. However, Immigration bureau chief Pol Maj Gen Natthorn Prosunthorn, had previously called the fines “weak”.
It was not uncommon for foreigners with several years overstay to pay a 20,000 baht fine to Immigration officers at Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang airport before returning to Thailand just days, sometimes even hours later.
In case you are not aware of the new rules (where have you been?), from today, overstayers will be divided into two categories: those who hand themselves in and those who are arrested.
An overstay of more than one year will result in a 3 year ban, more than 3 years will be a 5 year ban and overstay of more than 5 years will result in a 10 year ban.
However, if you are arrested and found to be on overstay the penalties are more severe.
Any foreigner who is arrested and found to be on overstay of less than one year will face a 5 year ban from re-entering Thailand.
Those arrested with an overstay of more than one year will face a 10 year ban.
Immigration has said previously that the crackdown on foreigners overstaying their visas is in the interest of national security.
Despite the new rules on overstay not officially coming into effect until today, recent news stories suggest that the crackdown may have already begun in earnest.
On February 19th, the Chiang Mai City News reported how 100 armed police, along with Immigration officers raided the Zoe in Yellow entertainment complex. As well as searching for evidence of substance abuse, City News also reported that officers were looking for evidence of foreigners overstaying their visas.
As part of the crackdown, Immigration has also told hotels, apartments and private landlords who rent accommodation to foreigners that they need to report that a foreigner is staying in their premises to their local immigration office.
Earlier this week, Immigration bosses briefed expats in Pattaya and Bangkok on the rules, while officials in Phuket attached a warning about the new overstay rules to water bottles that are due to be handed out at a meeting with Immigration Commissioner Natthorn Phrosunthorn next week.
On Friday evening, police setup two checkpoints in Bangkok and were inspecting the passports of foreigners ahead of the new overstay rules coming into effect.
A previous estimate from Immigration suggested there could be as many as 100,000 foreigners on overstay in Thailand.
Only time will tell if this new crackdown, which the Bangkok Post recently described as “unprecedented” will result in scores of foreigners in Thailand being deported and blacklisted.
The introduction of new rules regarding overstay follow previous crackdowns on people staying long term in Thailand on tourist visas, those completing multiple ‘Out/In’ border runs and those who were said to be abusing the ED-visa system.
If you have any questions regarding Thailand visas or overstay please visit our Visa Forum.
More information on the new overstay rules can be found on the Immigration Bureau website.