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For expats who were relying on the countries easy boarder run policy to stay in the country for an extended period of time without a long stay visa, the honeymoon seems to be over.
Many long term residents of Thailand have been taking advantage of one day boarder runs and same day exit and entry to gain an additional 15 – 30 days on arrival, depending on their nationality and the regulations at the time.
This weekend that option came to an end, however as well as the crack down on so called visa runs as of Saturday 10th of May immigration officials at the Mae Sai border will now allow anyone to enter or exit Thailand at the Mae Sai crossing in Chiang Rai province, previously a very popular spot for visa runners wishing to extend their stay as tourists and expats by doing back to back visa runs. Where previously going over the border to renter the county under a visa exemption period of 15 or 30 days, now, those wishing to stay longer must leave the country in order to apply for a visa at consulates and embassies in other countries, something many are complaining is very inconvenient.
Over the weekend many tourists posted on the Thai Visa forum that they had arrived the boarder in Mae Sai only to be turned away after being told that visa exemption stamps were not being issued at that border. Previously only those who had done too many back to back runs were refused however now it seems to apply to all tourists trying to make the land crossing regardless of how many times they had exited and entered the country in that way.
Tourists wishing to extend their stay in Thailand must now need to exit the country and apply for a proper tourist visa or they will need to fly out of the country every thirty days to obtain a new stamp however the ‘fly in – fly out’ option will not last for very long as visa runs by air will be prohibited from August 12th.
The move to stop land crossings at Mae Sai comes only days after stricter enforcement was announced at the Ranong border crossing. Here tourists will be able to do an in-out crossing but only three consecutive times and they must provide details of where they are staying. According to The Phuket News, whether or not they will get more than three extensions depends on whether Immigration has been able to confirm their information, and the decision will be at the immigration officers’ discretion. Tourists may be asked to show proof of income or that they have enough money to support themselves in Thailand. This is also a requirement at some foreign Thai consulates.
These moves have come about to prevent people from simply coming in and out of the country without having to apply, and pay for, the proper visa required to stay in the country. This means that tourists will now have to secure a visa from a consulate outside of Thailand whether that is in their own country before they travel or in nearby countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos or Singapore. The issuing of visas from nearby countries is down to the discretion of the consulate used and the rules regarding the issue of tourist visas change on a monthly basis. Those who have already had several tourist visas may find their application is refused or they may receive a single rather than a double entry visa.
Officials have said that the new rules are aimed to prevent people from working illegally in Thailand and from committing crimes. Though safety is the proclaimed aim, the new rules will surely cause some stress for those who have set themselves up in Thailand using tourist visas and border runs, but not other long-term visas such as the non-immigrant visa. This will certainly disrupt the routines of those who travel frequently in Thailand and work in remote locations, but are not employed by a Thai company. Many are now looking into Education Visas to study Thai or Muay Thai boxing as an alternative to having a non immigrant visa.