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Immigration officers who demand ‘extra fees’ from foreigners in order to process visa/extensions of stay applications can expect to be disciplined and face criminal charges, Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn Prousoontorn, head of Thailand’s Immigration Bureau has warned.
According the the Bangkok Post, Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn has told his immigration officials that “if officers demand ‘extra fees’, they will be subject to both disciplinary and criminal punishments”, with disciplinary action also being extended to officers’ commanders.
The move to get tough on corrupt immigration officials comes as the Immigration Bureau has started to crackdown on bogus marriages used by foreign criminals in order to stay in Thailand long term.
It is due an increasing number of these sham marriages that Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn has been forced to look internally at the practices of immigration officials nationwide to see if any have colluded with foreigners in order to issue sham marriage extensions.
The Bangkok Post also reports that out of the 7,770 foreigners who were granted a marriage extension in Bangkok and surrounding provinces, 819 applications were flagged as having irregularities.
As a result of this, Thaivisa understands that Immigration officers nationwide are being told to be more stringent when it comes to processing marriage extensions.
Hua Hin immigration for example has recently announced that any foreigner applying for or wishing to renew their marriage extension will be visited at home by immigration officers in order to confirm the marriage is legitimate.
While this requirement has been in practice at some immigration offices in Thailand for many years, it has not always been enforced or has been at the discretion of immigration officials.
The crackdown on corrupt immigration officers and those involved in sham marriages is the latest in the Bureau’s efforts to rid Thailand of foreign criminals and those it believes are involved in transnational crime.
As part of its Good Guys in Bad Guys Out, the Immigration Bureau has introduced tough new rules for anyone who overstays their permission to stay in the kingdom.
As of the 20th March 2016, anyone who overstays in Thailand can expect to be blacklisted and barred from re-entering Thailand.
Immigration has said previously that the crackdown on foreigners overstaying their visas is in the interest of national security.
The Good Guys in Bad Guys Out campaign has also resulted in foreigners who wish to stay in Thailand long term being placed under more scrutiny than ever before by Immigration officials.
In April, the controversial ‘Foreign National Information Form’ started being given to foreigners at the One-Stop Service Center at Chamchuri Square in Bangkok.
The form requests such details as bank account numbers, the addresses of social media accounts and information of places foreigners visit frequently, is given to all foreigners who extend their visas or complete a 90 day report.
Due to be rolled out nationwide in the coming months, the Foreign National Information Form is already in use in a number of immigration offices across Thailand including Chaeng Wattana, Lad Prao, Jomtien, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phang Na, Phuket, Samut Prakan and Nan.
Anyone who feels they are a victim of corruption in Thailand can contact the National Anti Corruption Commission by calling 1205.