The breakthrough last weekend allowing foreigners with spouses and residency to enter the kingdom has been followed up after Wednesday’s consultations with clear criteria now being made available by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok. It represents significant progress for foreigners seeking access and the key to this is that foreigners with links to Thailand are being treated separately to tourists as Thai officials scrap over the operation of proposed tourism bubbles which, despite this week’s reigning confusion, could still go into limited effect in July.
Following last weekend’s breakthrough allowing entry to Thailand for spouses of Thai nationals, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now appears to have provided definite criteria to Thai embassies worldwide and the process of submitting applications can begin for tens of thousands of stranded husbands and wives who can at last look forward to being reunited. However, it is clear that it is still going to be a demanding and expensive process.
Following this week’s follow up meeting between officials regarding measures agreed last weekend to facilitate the return of foreigners into Thailand where it was agreed that there would be a twin-track approach, one for specified groups such as spouses of Thai nationals and those with residency permits to be processed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on a case by case basis and the other, through tourism bubbles, there is now further progress.
This week’s breakthrough, agreed on Sunday, was announced on Monday by Deputy Spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, Natapanu Nopakun.
It has been reported extensively in the last few days that problems have arisen over the terms and modus operandi for the alternative tourist bubble arrangements which in the short term are to be aimed at business travellers, medical tourists and those seeking access to teaching jobs in Thailand.
Despite the confusion, it is understood that it may still be possible for limited tourism bubbles with countries such as Japan and specifically for business travellers may proceed as early as July.
Entry for spousal partners goes ahead smoothly
However, in the meantime, it does appear that agreement has been reached on the criteria for entry to be applied to foreign spouses.
On Friday, the Thai Embassy in London forwarded a list of criteria to the spouse of a Thai national seeking access to the country to be reunited with his wife.
The requirements are quite similar to those already being required of work permit holders who are currently being processed and have been entering the kingdom for the past few weeks.
14 days of alternative quarantine is the key requirement and an expensive one for most people
Chief among the requirements is participation in the government’s alternative 14-day quarantine scheme.
This has been the deal-breaker this week for the tourism bubble proponents in government as the powerful Covid 19 administration centre rejected proposals from senior ministry officials to let tourism begin, on a limited plane, even for approved countries without a mandatory 14-day quarantine scheme.
Spouses returning with extra family members
The problem for many foreigners, of course, will be the expense which ranges now from ฿45,000 per person to ฿144,000.
There is also the added complication of foreigners with particular requirements.
For instance, those with Thai family members who will also be required to be quarantined as is the case for all passengers. Of course, Thai nationals are theoretically eligible for state quarantine facilities.
There are also reports that some hotels are allowing families to share a room although the cost implications are not yet being made clear.
Smokers out of luck – quarantine is strictly a no-smoking experience overseen by health professionals
The other issue is for foreigners who are smokers.
This is strictly prohibited at all quarantine centres under the current regulations.
A spokesman for the Movenpick BDM Wellness Resort in Bangkok which is one of the most popular alternative quarantine centres, has confirmed to the Thai Examiner that the hotel is strictly non-smoking and that under the guidelines laid out under the scheme, smoking is strictly prohibited.
‘We are not allowed to have smoking on the hotel premises,’ said the spokesperson.
All hotels in the Alternative Quarantine Scheme are working with a partner hospital and the Ministry
As part of the alternative quarantine scheme, all hotels are working in partnership with hospitals to a standard laid down by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health.
This includes daily health monitoring of those in quarantine and specifically specifies that no hotel can take part in the programme with carpets.
There is also great care being taken to ensure that the food, served in hotels as part of the scheme, helps boost the human immune system to fight against any potential for infection.
Thai marriage certificate must be submitted with a copy of their partner’s Thai passport
The other key requirement, for foreigners with spouses in Thailand, is to submit a marriage certificate to the relevant embassy or consulate along with the passport of the Thai national that the foreigner is married to.
Each case is still considered on a case by case basis by ministry officials in Bangkok and must include proof that the applicant has health insurance in place to cover all eventualities including cover against the Covid 19 disease to a value of $100,000.
Two health certificates and associated tests
The requirements also include a demand for two health certificates.
One to suggest that the applicant is fit to fly within 72 hours of the air flight and the other certifying that the passenger is Covid 19 free.
Given the length of time it may take to approve applications and the uncertainty that still surrounds flights, the embassy warns that tests may have to be conducted again for these two certificates if there is any change in flight plans.
Signed declaration and air flight tickets
Applicants must also submit the flight booking for travelling to Thailand as well as their own passport.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also wants to see a declaration signed by the applicant agreeing to terms of entry into Thailand which will be endorsed by the relevant embassy as well as evidence that an alternative quarantine package has been fully paid for.
Hundreds of thousands of foreigners knocking on Thailand’s door to get in and get on with life
This information represents some further progress for foreigners stranded outside Thailand.
This week, amid the controversy concerning the travel bubble proposal, it became clear from figures released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for those who have already registered to enter the kingdom and figures showing the numbers that have already been processed through the alternative quarantine scheme that demand for entry into Thailand now extends to hundreds of thousands of people.
It highlights again the point made by many observers that the extended foreigner community in Thailand is a strategically important and valuable component of the country’s economy and that the now-closed tourism industry which government leaders have indicated this week will be permanently reformed in the aftermath of this crisis.