Foreign embassies will provide the required letters but only where appropriate according to the UK mission as certain financial facilities are being offered to both American and British nationals who cannot afford to purchase a flight home. The new 30 day extension must be applied for on each occasion supported by documentation on the grounds of either ill health or that the foreign national is unable to return home.

A senior immigration police officer in Phuket has asked those with long term visas in Thailand dependent on income requirements, to consider holding off filing for renewals until after the middle of September suggesting that there may be a dispensation coming down the line because of the exigencies created by the Covid 19 crisis.

On Thursday, the Deputy Commissioner of the Immigration Bureau touched also on the plight of long term visa holders behind the kingdom’s border as he announced that the visa amnesty will end on September 26th but that 30 day extensions can be applied for on certain criteria supported either by a medical certificate or embassy letter.

The key announcements on the confirmed ending of the visa amnesty on September 26th came last Thursday from Deputy Commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, Major General Porchjai Kantee (left) in Bangkok. He also provided guidance for long-stay visa holders as had Lieutenant Colonel Udom Thongchin in Phuket who indicated that there may be further news before September 15th next.

The Immigration Bureau, this week, indicated that foreigners still in Thailand when the visa amnesty expires may apply for a 30-day extension on a case by case basis.

The announcement was made at a press conference on Thursday at Immigration Bureau headquarters in Sathon in Bangkok. Details were given by the Deputy Commissioner Major General Porchjai Kantee.

New 30 day extensions already approved by the cabinet but must be applied for on each occasion

This new extension has already been approved by the Thai cabinet. It means that anyone who is ill or physically unable to fly can apply for an extension provided that they have a valid medical certificate.

In addition, Major General Kanatee also made it clear that foreigners who have been living in Thailand on tourist visas since the Covid 19 crisis, may also present as grounds for an extension their inability to find a flight home.

However, such an application must be accompanied by a letter from the appropriate embassy or consulate. 

Western embassies are providing these letters to their nationals but only on valid grounds 

In recent weeks, all the main embassies for western visitors in Thailand have indicated that such letters will now be available. This reverses an earlier position for some. An application for them can be made to the US, UK and Australian embassies, among others, online.

However, such a letter must be on the basis that the applicant cannot procure a flight home or cannot return home on demonstrably genuine grounds.

Otherwise, such visitors must prepare to leave Thailand by September 26th.

Inability to pay for a plane fare is not a valid ground to stay in Thailand but assistance is available

Grounds to apply for a 30-day visa extension does not encompass where an applicant simply cannot afford the plane fare home. 

Many embassies such as the UK and American missions in Bangkok, are offering special financial measures to their nationals once they contact the embassy seeking help.

The UK Embassy makes it specifically clear that if a UK national can return to the United Kingdom, then there is no reason to issue a visa extension letter.

However, attention is drawn to medical circumstances as a key ground which is a matter for the applicant, the local immigration office and a medical expert who can provide certification.

Embassy letters are essential except for medicals cases which require the appropriate certification

On Thursday, in Bangkok, Major General Porchai said that official letters were essential for an application to be made. Visa extensions will not be granted automatically. The purpose of the press conference was to emphasise that the visa amnesty expires finally on the 26th September and will not be extended.

The senior immigration officer did confirm that such extensions can be granted on a repeated basis for foreigners who have the appropriate letters and whose circumstances warrant it.

Each application will be vetted by a local immigration officer. He appeared to indicate, also, that each application will require renewed documentation as to the applicant’s circumstances.

Long stay visa holders with expired visa must begin immediately to regularise their position

The Deputy Commissioner also had news for foreigners in Thailand with long-stay visas who, for whatever reason, saw their visas expire after March 26th when the state of emergency came into effect.

The immigration bureau official was light on his information in respect of this group and would only say that an application to regularise their position should be made as soon as possible up to September 26th 2020.

This appears to suggest that the amnesty for his group, de facto had also applied and their position will now be reviewed.

‘All long-term visa holders whose permits to stay expired after March 26 also must submit an application for an extension to stay from now until September 26, 2020,’ he said.

He urged such foreigners to hasten their applications to regularise their visa status.

‘Please contact a local immigration office as soon as possible, in order to avoid congestion in the last few days,’ he said

Ongoing visa worries among foreigners living long term in Thailand whose lives have been disrupted by the Covid 19 virus emergency

The plight of long-stay visa holders has, since the announcement that the visa amnesty would end on September 26th next and because of Thailand’s closed borders, raised anxiety levels among hundreds of thousands of foreigners living within the kingdom.

A key segment of this group is multi-entry Non-Immigrant B visa holders who up to the end of March last, regularly left Thailand for business or travel purposes and returned with a 90-day extension.

This has not been possible since then and indeed will not be possible after September 26th in all likelihood as Thailand’s borders remain essentially closed except under approved entry and strict quarantine procedures.

A feature of these is the alternative quarantine scheme which can cost from ฿32,000 to ฿140,000 for a 14 days stay. This is de rigueur now for any foreigner fortunate enough to be approved to enter. 

Even before entry, in a rigorous application process, each foreigner must test negative in a Covid 19 test before departure and arrange travel insurance.

Senior Phuket immigration official says some news is in the pipeline for long-stay visa foreigners after September 15th from Bangkok

Earlier last week, a top immigration officer in Phuket, Lieutenant Colonel Udom Thongchin, who is the deputy commander on the island, indicated that some news for long-stay foreigners within Thailand is in the offing.

The normally prescient official told the Phuket News newspaper in Phuket that he expects some news from Bangkok prior to September 15th next.

One key concern for many foreigners with Thai wives or who live and work from the kingdom is that because of the Covid 19 crisis, they have been unable to leave the country and both their incomes and savings have been depleted.

This means that many may not be able to satisfy the strict income and deposit requirements which in recent years have been tightened.

Lieutenant Colonel Udom advised such people to hold off on submitting their visa applications to authorities until after September 15th as he expects that there will be some guidance on this from headquarters in Bangkok.

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Further reading:

American and Thai wife arrested for operating an illegal visa business in Bangkok using fake official stamps

Broken-hearted Swede fears history will repeat itself as shock parting left him stranded in Laos for 4 months

Two Immigration Bureau officers in Nonthaburi suspended after video appears to show bribe request

Stranded foreigners must get embassy letter, new visa or leave Thailand to avoid arrest by police

US Embassy in Bangkok – guidance on the visa amnesty expiry

UK Embassy in Bangkok – letters for visa extensions

PM signs order granting visa extensions to all valid visa holders until April 30th to cull queues

Officials find a visa solution for up to 500,000 foreigners riding out the coronavirus crisis here in Thailand

Smart cars highlighted by the Immigration Bureau as it seeks out foreigners hiding from the law

Immigration boss warns that a new crackdown on foreigners flouting Thai laws has begun

It’s a hard station for Thai police and foreigners should understand better the job they do to keep order