The days of freewheeling foreigners staying in Thailand without proper visas are over. Those without proper long-stay visas have for some time been able to take advantage of the border run system, exiting the country at an official border point and re-entering the same day. This would usually give them another 15 or 30 days in the country, depending on their nationality.
From 12th August 2014, Thailand immigration officials have announced that foreigners will be banned from these visa runs visas. Even foreigners on valid tourist visas may now be denied entry if border officials suspect they are spending too long in the country or working illegally.
The visa runs have spawned businesses that facilitate cross-border trips by foreigners, some of whom are known to have been using the loophole for more than 10 years. A crackdown is also under way to enforce existing laws stating that all foreigners, including tourists, carry their passports or photographic proof of their identities at all times. Police must also be informed within 24 hours when foreigners change address, with violators fined for non-compliance.
Immigration officials have also announced a crackdown on foreigners who overstay. Those who overstay more than 90 days and surrender themselves to immigration officials will be prohibited from returning for one year. Those who overstay for more than five years will be prohibited from re-entering for 10 years. Penalties are even harsher for those who do not surrender and are caught for overstaying.
So what is next? Well, Thailand will likely remain an attractive destination because of the low costs for things like rent, quality food, nightlife, entertainment, and travel. However it’s not the only place that offers those perks, Malaysia is another top destination and our next article will highlight some key cities in the country that will be suitable for setting up for a few months at a time.