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Chiang Mai Immigration officials laid out the new regulations regarding overstay, in/out border trips, and extensions as well as cleared up many questions held by foreign residents at a meeting held organized by the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel on Wednesday, August 20, 2014.
Chiang Mai Immigration authorities met with members of the diplomatic corps, media and interested parties and went over, point by point, the new regulations. The event, which was opened by ranking diplomat Japanese Consul General Akihiko Fujii, was held in English and in Thai and clarified the many new changes in effect as well as offered explanations for some of the changes that all foreigners would like to see.
The Superintendent of Chiang Mai Immigration, Pol Col. Rutphong Sanwanangkum was joined by fellow Immigration officers Thawatchai Changoern and Pol.Sen.Sgt.Maj. Suranuch Srilapetch in opening the meeting where they started off by discussing the current changes announced in Act number 327/2557. The first was in regards to teaching personnel. Previously, only teachers with teaching certification could get a one year extension on their visas but now non-teaching education personnel, such as a librarian or technical support person for the school, are also eligible for the one year extension under section 2.6.
Another major change affects the students in non-formal educational institutes such as language or cooking schools, religious studies etc. in that they must renew their extension every 90 days and after one year must leave the country and obtain a new visa. However, this regulation does not apply to private schools, for example Montfort College but only those offering non-formal education.
The dependents of those entering the country on a non-OA (retirement) or non-IA (missionary) visa are now able to get their one year dependent extension in Chiang Mai in one day. The extension will extend to expire on the same day as the visa of their spouse. However, they must show proof of the relationship, such as a marriage certificate. The regulation on dependent children has now been expanded to include age exceptions for handicapped or disabled children. Previously all children under the age of 20 were eligible for a dependent child extension and once they were over the age of 20 would need to get their own visa. However, an exception has now been instituted for handicapped or disabled children over the age of 20; they will still be eligible for the dependent child extension with a letter from a doctor at a government hospital.
After the recent surrogate parent issues the Immigration Office now requires that if the parents of a foreign child born in Thailand wish to take the child out of the country they must have a passport from their home country (obtained in Thailand) and the child must travel with the parents and the parents must show both the birth certificate and passport.
Another issue facing local residents has been the volunteer visa, previously those applying for the extension needed to obtain a letter from the Ministry of Social Development and Welfare as well the organization meeting the normal requirements. The documents would then be sent off to Bangkok and returned within 30 days. Now, those volunteers who have the letter can extend for one year in Chiang Mai and get one year in the same day. However, those with no letter can extend every 90 days for a maximum of one year.
A major change involves those requiring medical extensions as now Immigration requires a letter on the letterhead of a government hospital to obtain the medical extension. The patient does not need to be treated at the government hospital but the letter requesting the medical extension must be on the hospital’s letterhead from a doctor that also practices at that hospital. For those entering the country on a 30 day visa exemption, it is possible to extend the stay for a maximum of 90 days per request.
Professional athletes have now been given their own category and may apply for a one year extension to play sports in Thailand but will need to show a contract with a minimum salary of 40,000 baht a month and a letter from the Sports Authority, the employing company will still need to show 2 million baht in registered capital per person.
The issue of overstay came up and they reiterated that that those who overstay will be restricted from entering the country. An overstay of more than 90 days and they will be forbidden from entering Thailand for 1 year, an overstay of more than a year but less than 3 years will see a 3 year restriction, an overstay of more than 3 years but less than 5 years a 5 year restriction. Those on an overstay of more than 5 years will be forbidden from entering for 10 years and an overstay of more than 10 years will extend the entry ban for life.
They then addressed the issues of what to do when your visa status changes, for instance the spouse that holds a dependent extension on a foreigner in Thailand on an OA visa will see their visa cancelled immediately if the person holding the non-IMM OA visa dies. However, if the person is in Thailand on a married to a Thai person extension, either husband or wife, and the Thai spouse dies then the foreign partner’s extension will remain valid until it expires but they will not be able to obtain a new extension and must find another kind of visa.
If the person is in Thailand on a non-B associated with their work they no longer have to leave the country if they change employers, however, they must cancel their current visa and go to Immigration with the new employment contract and they will be issued a new visa based on the new employer at Immigration in Chiang Mai, according to K. Thawatchai.
The officers then discussed the issue of in/out stamps, noting that the 30 days on arrival at the airport, or 30 days at a land border for citizens of G7 countries, is for tourists only. Those who do border runs for visas will be restricted and the Immigration officer at the border can ask to see a confirmed onward flight ticket. K. Thawatchai emphasized that it must be confirmed, it cannot be an open ended ticket. He urged tourists who plan on staying in Thailand longer to get a tourist visa, either in their home countries or in neighboring countries such as Laos, Cambodia or Malaysia. But again he noted, this is for tourists and that those wishing to stay long term must get a long term visa.
He added that for offshore workers who work outside the country for several months and then return regularly, but also leave and stay out for a period of time, will have no issue leaving and re-entering the country. However, he said that if they want to stay longer than a month they can get a tourist visa or they can extend their stay by 7 days in the country. This also applies to those who travel to Thailand regularly but also go home regularly. He did confirm that those entering Thailand on a 30 day visa exempt entry can only extend for 7 days in Thailand; a tourist visa can extend for 30 days.
He noted that online work for overseas companies that pay overseas is not prohibited but that the person will need to get a visa to stay longer, currently there is no new visa for these kinds of people.
K. Thawatchai stressed, “We try to balance service and enforcement but we must follow regulations. We have pressure from serving so many foreigners each day but we try to do our best.” He noted that some officers end up working to 8 p.m. to finish up their paperwork every day. He added that the last ten years has seen a huge growth in the number of foreigners, last year alone the number of foreigners serviced in Chiang Mai grew 4 times but the number of officers and the budget did not grow so much. They have worked to ease things by moving the offices dealing with migrant workers to the offices opposite Promenada but noted that the Residence Letter must be obtained there.
He added that for those foreign citizens who need to obtain a letter confirming proof of life for their home country governments to obtain their pension that their office cannot provide this and they must go to their Consulate or Embassy, he added that some countries may allow a notarized letter.
Pol Col. Rutphong Sanwanangkum told the Chiang Mai Mail that he has submitted the request for approval of the budget to build a new building on the site of the current one near the Airport, noting he has signed the application and that they have the plans in place and are ready to go but need budget approval. He added that if the budget for next year is approved for the construction they hope to have a new building within two years. There will be a temporary office nearby that will open for Immigration but once the building is done it will have an underground car park and will be able to accommodate the increased numbers more comfortably.
K. Thawatchai is hoping to streamline the 90 day check in process but must have approval of the new system, he added that he would like to issue each person with a long term extension with a card which they could just swipe at the Immigration office but again, approval must come from Bangkok. Currently you can report in person 15 days before or 7 days after, by mail or by giving someone the power of attorney to report for you. He added that the reason they stopped using the bar code system was that they had changed computer systems and all information must be inputted in the new system. He is hoping that the bar code system can be re-started once the new system is up and running. He added that this is different than the notification made by your landlord and that the notification by the landlord does not replace the 90 day report.
The officers were very patient in taking the many questions covering these issues of concern and noted that they would love to streamline the 90 day report process too but must follow regulations coming from Bangkok.
British Honorary Consul Ben Svasti Thomson concluded the meeting by thanking Finnish Honorary Consul and member of the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce Narong Kongprasert and the Chamber for organizing the event adding that he hoped it would become a more regular occurrence.
“I can see this type of meeting is very much needed and I hope that we see this type of informal meeting happening again. As we go into the AEC next year and we become a more international city these meetings will become even more important,” Ben Svasti Thomason said. He concluded, “Thank you again to Immigration and the Chiang Mai Chamber for organizing this meeting and I hope we can see each other again.”