Stay too long in Thailand and you go to jail – new rulesBy Garry | September 24th, 2010 | Category: Tourists, Visas | 2 comments
News leaked today indicates the Royal Thai Immigration Police are to usher in a new era of punishment for visitors who overstay their visa or other travel document permitting them to enter the kingdom.
There has long been a standing fine for staying beyond the expiry date of the permission-to-enter stamp in one’s passport – officially set at 500 Baht per day of overstay, with a maximum of 20,000 Baht regardless of duration – now, prison terms may become the norm for those in excess of 3 weeks past their scheduled departure, and are to be guaranteed for those six weeks or more beyond visa expiry date.
The rules state clearly –
Under the Immigration Act 2522 overstay is punishable by a jail term of 2 years and/or a fine of maximum 20,000 baht.
“Section 81 : Any alien who stay in the Kingdom without permission or with
permission expired or revoked shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding
two years or a fine not exceeding 20,000 Baht or both.“
Under the new extension to the rules, summary situations become -
- Overstay 1 – 21 days: Pay a fine 500 Baht/day at Airport/land border
- Overstay 22 – 41 days: Pay a fine 500 Baht/day, possible arrest/detention, deportation, possible blacklisting
- Overstay 42 days or more: Pay a fine up to 20,000 Baht, arrest/detention, deportation, possible blacklisting
An English language copy of the Immigration Act 2522 can be downloaded (pdf format) here.
Dispassionately viewing the new rules indicates they are a double edged sword. For overstayers of less than 22 days, the law is being officially relaxed into a “pay and go” system. For those over 42 days, it is changing to a mandatory jailing. The grey area (and therefore the window for potential corruption) is being narrowed to the 22 to 41 day overstay period.
Expat internet discussion boards are full of posters adamant that Thai Immigration Police will use the 22-41 day windows to draw people out of airport check-in queues, isolate them in offices and inform them they are going to jail. The purpose being to await the inevitable “how do I avoid this?” question, at which point the traveller will be offered the opportunity of paying both the official and unofficial fine to be allowed to depart as intended.
Others are pointing out that the very long term overstayers (measured in years not months) will simply avoid going anywhere near land or other border-points, and continue remaining illegally.
These are the likely targets of the new provisions, which are being ham-fistedly introduced with no carrot of a delayed introduction to allow such targets to gracefully exit, get legal visas, and return. This will simply harden resolve to stay illegal.
Concern has been expressed regarding those who are unavoidably hospitalised shortly before visa expiry. In reality, this should not be a problem provided the patient or a family member requests a written confirmation of hospitalisation from the hospital’s admin staff – this can then be used (before visa expiry) to inform Immigration of the circumstances, and obtain an extension of stay to cover the in-patient (and maybe any “no-flying” convalescence) period. If needing to pursue this route, it’s probably best to ask the hospital to append the anticipated discharge date and any duration where flying is prohibited or ill-advised (e.g. after open-surgery such as for appendicitis).
Prominent expats on the ThaiVisa.com discussion boards, the ones who perform all required actions to stay in Thailand fully in compliance with all business and personal requirements, are welcoming this move. Many have stated it’s about time the muddy overstay rules were given teeth, and that a clear-out of undesirable foreigners is long overdue.
What do you think? Do the new rules make the overstay situation more transparent? Is the 22-41 day “grey” period a corruption opportunity? Should there have been an amnesty period (however brief) to flush the current overstayers out of the woodwork? Should the authorities have given nationwide press attention to this change “to get the message out there”? Will it affect you? Does it change your thinking on coming to, or remaining in, Thailand?
Please leave your comments and opinions below (keep them civil and without profanity please).