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Abolish Certificates of Entry for Thailand?

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing Certificates of Entry. I haven't discussed this much in the last few months; quite frankly things were just ticking along. We were assisting folks and we were seeing things move along fairly smoothly with respect to Immigration into Thailand. Then in the past few weeks, we have been receiving correspondence from clients as well as from folks who are not our clients, folks that watch this channel, folks that just contact us about Certificates of Entry most notably about quite frankly how for lack of a better term, how inefficient and how obtuse they are; there is really no other word for it. 

For those who are unaware, prior to March of 2020, these Certificates of Entry did not exist. They came about and were promulgated in the aftermath of the Emergency Decree in March, I think 26th 2020 with respect to the lockdown and everything associated with Coronavirus at the time. At first they didn't even come online yet. There was like a month that went by where we didn't really know what was going on and then in the extension, they extended the Decree by another month, at that time we started seeing information about these Certificates of Entry. Long story short, it is essentially an extra document and it really can only be described as redundant in a very real sense. You could alter the system and I think I wouldn't necessarily agree with it but I can understand the argument about maybe using Certificates of Entry moving forward for Visa exemptions, Thai Visa exemption stamps. I will get into my thoughts on that in a minute but just let's talk Certificates of Entry with visas. So we are talking, you have got a Thai visa, you are looking to come to Thailand, now you have got to deal with this Certificate of Entry. Look I am usually not real prone to discussing my own opinions on this stuff but sometimes things just get to the point where you can't, I hate using a double negative, but I can't continue to not talk about it basically. So if you have for example a Retirement Visa, you go ahead and get your O-A Retirement Visa from abroad, and then you are looking to come to Thailand, you have still got to deal with the Certificate of Entry on top of the visa. The Certificate of Entry made a lot more sense when they were doing "fit to fly" documentation. Again, you can make the argument it currently makes sense because they want to prove you have vaccination documentation but that can pretty easily be done by Thailand just mandating rules regarding vaccination documentation and the airlines would comply with it because if you didn't have your vaccination documentation then you would be turned away at Thai Immigration and then the airline would have to foot that bill to get you back home or get you somewhere else or get you wherever. They are not going to want to do that and so they will essentially impose their own policy where they say "look if you are going to Thailand and you don't have vaccination documentation or documentation related to not having this disease, then we are just not going to let you on the plane." They could do that pretty easily. So it calls into question, especially in light of having a visa, if you have a visa, I think there is a good argument to be made that the COE is kind of unnecessary; beyond kind of, is unnecessary at this point. It really doesn't serve any really good function at this point if you have got a Visa. Now if you have a Visa exemption, I can see where maybe a COE makes some sense. I think it is probably bad overall for tourism policy long-term to keep this COE scheme going because I think because I think it is going to put off a lot of potential tourists to Thailand, that is just one man's opinion, it remains to be seen. With respect to the COE, when we first started doing videos on the COE, on the Certificate of Entry, I compared it to the ESTA program, that is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization to the United States. It is similar but again ESTA is used for folks that have Visa waiver programs, people that are not using a visa to go to America. If you have a visa to go to the United States you don't use ESTA. It would be redundant; there would be no purpose to that. Well, good argument could be made with respect to the Thai system that yeah people have already got a Visa, what is the point of going through the COE system. On top of that, and getting back to what we have been hearing and feedback and frankly what we have been dealing with our own clients, this COE system, it ain't great. There really isn't any other word for it. We have had clients that have booked up flights, they booked up accommodation, they have had their visas issued and the COE doesn't come back. We try to contact folks and we try to get in touch with Ministry of Foreign Affairs, try to get in touch with the Embassies and not a lot of real good feedback is given. It is just "oh well we are on it." Well can you move along a little more quickly because we booked these flights based on the policies of Thai Immigration and based on a detrimental reliance on the fact that a Visa was issued which would presume a Certificate of Entry would be issued and then to have to backtrack and make changes to travel plans based on COE non-issuance, that can result in cost and it can result in frustration on the part of folks who just throw up their hands and say "look, I am just not going to come to Thailand. It is just not worth it." 

Long story short, I think there are significant reasons to really question why we need this COE system and the way that it is working right now, it is really becoming problematic. If it continues like this I mean who is going to want to come to a country that you have to go through a Visa process and then you might not be able to get an Entry Certificate even after you have made all your reservations and all your plans. To compare again back to the American Immigration system, when you are dealing with getting a visa to the United States, they tell you in email irrevocable correspondence, "don't make any irrevocable travel arrangement until you have Visa in hand” because until that time, it is not a foregone conclusion you are going to get in and they don't want to have to deal with the blowback, for lack of a better term, from the public if they made a bunch of travel accommodations and a Visa doesn't come through. Well you can make the same argument for COE's. It is not good policy to let foreign people who are trying to come to your country, come to our country, come to Thailand and spend some money and have a good time and vacation here and have gone out of their way to go through the process of getting a visa and dealing with the Certificate of Entry only to then have to change up their plans essentially because of Government inefficiency on the part of whoever is reviewing and dealing with these COEs, because that is what is happening. Now, I am not saying it is happening to everyone but it is happening to a percentage of folks who are dealing with this system. It is bad, it is not good policy especially in the cases where you are seeing folks who have gone through the Visa process, who have gotten their documentation in order and who have paid for accommodations and travel to Thailand only to not get their Certificate of Entry issued on time and therefore caused their plans to be scuttled.