For US citizens who need to leave Thailand by July 31st and cannot afford a flight, the embassy is offering a ‘repatriation loan’ facility to its citizens. It comes as senior Immigration Bureau officer, Colonel Phakkhaphong Saiubon, again this week, insisted that despite rumours and speculation, the prospect of a last-minute extension of visas through an amnesty is ‘unlikely’ and claimed that Thailand has done its best to help foreigners in need and has ‘shown enough leniency’.
The screw is tightening for stranded foreigners as the July 31st deadline for expiry approaches barring no further extension. This week, foreign embassies indicated that they would not be in a position to grant letters to citizens stranded in the kingdom while one report suggests that immigration officers may not even grant a normal tourist visa extension and instead will offer a 7-day one with a firm instruction to applying foreigners to leave the country by then. There has been some speculation of an extension being granted at the last minute but this would take a decision at cabinet level in the next week if it is to happen before the deadline expires. The official government position and advice from all embassies is that stranded foreigners without a visa should prepare to leave the country at once.
There is continued speculation and heightened anxiety among the remaining stranded foreigners in Thailand after a senior Immigration Bureau spokesman reaffirmed his comments last week that it was highly unlikely that an extension to a visa amnesty, in place up until July 31st next, will be extended by the government.
Currently, the official position is that the amnesty will expire on that date.
On July 3rd last, a deputy spokesman for Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Natapanu Nopakun, suggested that an extension to the amnesty was being considered by Thai authorities at that point.
However, there has been no further announcement on the issue before Colonel Phakkhaphong Saiubon last Tuesday described such a development as ‘unlikely’.
Immigration officer is still adamant in his assessment – an extension to the amnesty is ‘unlikely’
Colonel Phakkhaphong again, this Tuesday, repeated his assertion that any extension of the amnesty is unlikely.
‘Thailand has shown enough leniency for foreigners,’ Colonel Phakkhaphong explained. ‘It’s been nearly four months already. If you have a letter, you’re good to stay, but if you can’t get one, then there’s not much we can do.’
Ancillary immigration office opened on Monday
This came after the reopening of the ancillary visa processing centre in Muang Thong Thani this Monday to process increased numbers which will become necessary as large numbers of foreigners attempt to have their tourist visas extended beyond the July 31st automatic expiry date.
This week, US and UK embassies said that they will not issue extension letters for citizens
Last week, when Colonel Phakkhaphong appeared to pour cold water on the prospect of an extension of the visa amnesty, he did explain that foreigners could apply for an extension on a normal basis, based on a letter from their embassy or make preparations to leave the country to avoid facing punitive fines and the strong possibility of arrest and detention by immigration authorities.
‘Either return to the United States or their country of permanent residence or to obtain the appropriate visa type’ – US Embassy in Bangkok
On Tuesday, both the US and UK embassies indicated firmly that such letters were no longer being issued by them. Currently, the US embassy (see link below) is advising that ‘further extensions are not guaranteed’ regarding the visa amnesty.
It is also advising US citizens that the ‘US Embassy will no longer provide extension of stay requests. US Citizens in Thailand temporarily have between now and July 31, 2020, to either return to the United States or their country of permanent residence or to obtain the appropriate visa type for your long-term stay in Thailand.’
Conflicting reports and speculation adds to the anguish for foreigners living in hope of an extension
There have been conflicting reports from various immigration offices around the country as to the status of foreigners seeking an extension of their visa. The situation is one of heightened anxiety for thousands still stranded in Thailand.
Much of the speculation centres on the prospect of a last-minute decision that could be made by the Thai cabinet to extend the amnesty to the end of September next.
However, time is running out.
If this is to happen, we would expect news to come within the next week or even days, in order for the measure to be approved and Immigration Bureau officers prepared and furnished with the appropriate protocols.
Amnesty visa holders may be given 7 days to depart if there is no last-minute visa extension
In the meantime, there are signs that the situation may be even toughening further.
A report, this week, from the Canadian Embassy quoted a source at the Chiang Mai Immigration Office who suggested that even a normal 30 day extension of visas for foreign visitors may not now be possible if the amnesty ends.
It also suggests that a letter from the relevant embassy will no longer be taken into account.
The report suggests that immigration officers will be authorised to grant only a 7-day extension allowing foreign applicants to prepare to leave Thailand.
Immigration officer says Thailand has done its best to help those caught up in the virus emergency
This week, commenting on the reluctance of foreign embassies to grant a letter to stranded foreigners in Thailand, Colonel Phakkhaphong said the kingdom has done what it could to assist foreigners who were left stranded after the state of emergency was declared on March 26th.
‘It’s up to them and Thailand has nothing to do with it. If a foreign embassy refused to provide the service to its citizens, no one else can. We have done our best to help foreigners,’ he explained.
US Embassy advises citizens that flights are leaving Bangkok and of a ‘repatriation loan’ offer
Meanwhile, the US embassy is making it clear that flights are available to Americans seeking to leave Thailand. The US embassy details 6 airlines flying from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport with connecting flights to the United States.
Indeed, many foreigners, including Europeans, are reporting bargain prices on flights leaving Bangkok and returning to western cities and capitals this week.
The US mission points out that many flights leaving for the states are flying there through a connection in Japan. Passengers are urged to check the situation in that country before booking.
The embassy also outlined a scheme whereby its citizens can avail of a ‘repatriation loan’ to purchase a flight ticket which must be used for that purpose and invited its citizens to apply, if necessary, via the embassy website.
At the outset of this crisis, UK Ambassador to Thailand, Brian Davidson, also invited UK nationals, without the resources necessary to fund a flight home, to contact the embassy to explore their options.