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ResourcesVisa & Immigration LawThailand Immigration LawThailand Immigration News: The End Of Border Runs

Thailand Immigration News: The End Of Border Runs

Transcript of the above video:

Today we are going to do a quick video here about “border runs” and what they are, and the recent developments which have caused basically an end to the phenomenon of “Border Running”.

Basically what “border runs” are is it's essentially exactly what it sounds like.  It's running up to a border, crossing said border, being stamped out of the Kingdom of Thailand, being stamped in, Immigration wise, by say Immigration Authorities at say Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Malaysia if you're that far down south; so just hopping over and hopping back. People will do this often to maintain lawful status in the country.  There are certain types of visas, most notably the multi-entry long-term non-immigrant visas which require one to leave every 90 days, basically those types of visas only provide 90 days of lawful status at a given time for those entering the country on those. That's not what we're really talking about here. We're not talking about border running for multi-entry visas. There is a new multi-entry tourist visa which essentially allows for border running. It is fairly new so how it’s being implemented still somewhat remains to be seen.   

What I am really talking about in this video specifically is the old school method of remaining in Thailand on what were called  visa exemptions; sort of ad infinitum. Basically in the past you could come into Thailand, anybody who's ever been to Thailand knows that they come into Thailand, no visa and this is most passports and even those passports that don't allow this system have what's called visa on arrival. There are very few passport types that do not have some sort of either visa on arrival or Visa exemption status when passing into Thailand. But okay let's say virtually, let's call it 90% of all passport holders around the world are going to come into Thailand and get some sort of visa-on-arrival or visa exemption. Let's say 75%, 65% somewhere in there of most people coming into Thailand are going to get what's called a visa exemption.

The Visa exemption is a 30-day stamp. It's issued at the airport or a land border. It's a very different thing from a Visa itself. It provides 30 days of lawful status notwithstanding the fact that the person holding this passport does not have a Visa. The 30 days of lawful status in the past was essentially, up until about 8 years ago roughly, it could have been granted infinitely. You could make sort of infinite “border runs” and I know of people, many people in fact who have lived in Thailand that way. Just every 30 days they will just pop over the border and if you are near a land border in Thailand that's a fairly easy thing to do. Starting about 8 years ago, this sort of started to be coming to a close. The first thing they implemented through essentially Ministerial Regulations within the Department of Interior, the Immigration Police, the first thing they started doing is saying okay you can't spend, the way they look at it is if you are spending more than 6 months in Thailand in exemption status a year you essentially you were trying to live and that's not what those types of stamps are supposed to be used for. So was my experience at the time there were a few people, there were some who lived in Thailand for say half a year on exemption the other half on long-term tourist visas or non-immigrant visas issued for 90 days. This was possible about 8 years ago and that operated for about 3 years as I recall and that was sort of the way that things sort of worked here. You could kind of cobble your status between exemption stamps and other types of visas.

Then about 5 years ago roughly, they sort of did away with that and they essentially came up with a program where they said, “okay at land borders you were only going to get 15 days’ worth of status as opposed to 30 days’ worth of status.” Airports and I believe water ports one could still get a 30-day stamp in exemption status. Now to be clear, these are not visas, these are visa exemption stamps, different thing; these are two different things entirely.  They implemented that. It sort of had some mixed results. Here recently and for most people who are watching this video, this is going to be the most pertinent information; that's just sort of some history. 

Here recently, a new program has been implemented called "good guys in bad guys out" by the Royal Thai Immigration police. Under this program that's being a new regime for blacklisting, you can check out another video on this channel with respect to blacklisting in Thailand, how that can happen for over stayers. Basically "good guys in bad guys out" brought in a whole new system for dealing with overstaying.  In the past I won't even go into that, but check out the other video. For the purposes of this it also had an impact and it's having an impact still on 30-day exemption stamps. Most notably it's been my experience through anecdotal evidence of clients of our firm, of people I've talked to, they will be coming in to Thailand and they will be on their sixth exemption stamp for the year and it won't be necessary all six are right together. Many people who spend a great deal of time in Thailand in a given year are going to be off shore workers. People who have fairly transient lifestyles but there is not necessarily anything untoward about that lifestyle. It's simply the way that they choose to operate; they live and work and move around on a fairly frequent basis. Also long time travelers who come to Thailand. It was my experience about 2 years ago when this "good guys in, bad guys out" first started being rolled out, people were telling me “Oh I was at the airport and they said you've got too many exemptions stamps,  you're going to need to seriously consider getting a proper visa”.  In most cases, people would just go and get a proper tourist visa rather than coming in on exemption stamps and in those cases were it was people just wanting to stay here for periodic short-term durations that worked. The thing that sort of changed, and has changed is 1. People started using tourist visas and the frequency of tourist visas started going up. At certain borders, especially down south near Phuket and even along the Cambodian border, I have heard news, and I heard second hand from people who actually experienced this, being turned away even with a proper tourist visa and being told "you're using this to live here. A tourist visa is for tourism, that's not what this is for". This was sort of the interim situation which brings us to today.

It's my understanding that as of December 31st pursuant to publication in the Royal Thai Gazette, it will no longer be possible to obtain an exemption stamp more than two times at a border in Thailand okay; at a land border in Thailand. So basically the border run as a means of maintaining long-term presence in Thailand is effectively dead. If an individual, tries to get more than two exemption stamps it's just not going to happen and it's important to note that this was through publication in the Royal Thai Gazette which is the publication of record for purposes of making law in Thailand. This is not a regulation that was promulgated internally through the Immigration apparatus in Thailand. This is the equivalent in the US system of it being published in the Federal Register. This is the law now okay? This is going to be implemented in a much less discretionary manner that immigration regulations have been dealt with before. And that's the thing you hear a lot from people out here and it's get it gets frustrating for those who really don’t understand the system. The powers are discretionary. An officer making someone and says “yes I buy it. This looks kosher”, but they may see somebody else and not want to let them in and they are operating under the same powers; again discretionary powers of the officers involved. This is a pretty big Sea change moving forward. Starting January 1, 2017, it's not really going to be possible to utilize exemption stamps for long term presence in Thailand because effectively the “border run” is a thing of the past now as far as using it for exemption purposes.

So other things that have changed, that are sort of an upshot of all these border run policy changes, they have created a 6 month multi-entry tourist visa which depending on who you talk to, and our firm doesn't really handle a lot of those directly, but depending on who you talk to, there are varying degrees of difficulty to get. The other thing that has happened is things like retirement visas are becoming more sought out because it's not so easy to get presence using exemption stamps and the other thing that is notable is the Thai Government has gone ahead and implemented programs in the last couple of years, or re- implemented programs in some cases, and is currently promulgating programs to make longer-term, like large long-term visas a possibility for people here. For example a proposed 10-year retirement Visa; there's another video on this channel which discusses that. And also the Thailand Elite Card which at one time was essentially a VIP scheme that provided long-term Visa status for the holder. At one time one had just a single option which was a large lump sum payment to get into that system. Now they have sort of broken it out into smaller 5-year increments which can be entered into for a lower overall fee.

So they have implemented certain longer term strategies on one side, or longer term options for those who want to stay here and on the other side effectively the method of cobbling together long term presence in Thailand on an ad-hoc basis is basically at an end. The Border run is essentially over, it can be used maybe in a one-off scenario but as far as it goes for the future, this is significant issue and a major sea change as far as immigration regulation in Thailand goes.