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Update & Clarification on Automatic Thai Visa Extension due to COVID-19

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are doing an update and I am going to view this as kind of the roundup for matters involving the automatic tourist visa extension associated with COVID-19 or Coronavirus

For those of you who are unaware, this has been quite an issue of importance for the expat community here in Thailand. It has also been an issue for which I have taken a lot of flak, especially in last roughly 8 hours since the prior posting we did on this topic. I will get into that more toward the end of this video but let's go ahead and deal with where things stand as of the time of this video. 

I am going to go ahead and throw this first one up on the screen. Immigration Bureau Announcement:  Quoting directly: Announcing the latest Visa Relief Measures on April 7th, 2020. I am here to say I did not see this as of April 7th, 2020. We were aware of the promulgated Cabinet Resolution that we have yet to see the fully implemented regulations but moving forward, “The person whose visa has expired from 26th March, 2020 will be automatically extended to 30th, April 2020. There is no need to apply for visa extension at the Immigration Office for this period and will not be fined Bt500 per day for this case. Aliens who are due for 90-day reports between 26th of March 2020 and 30th of April 2020 are temporarily exempted from reporting this period until further notice. Aliens who are holding border passes will be allowed to stay in Thailand for now. However, aliens with border passes must depart Thailand within 7 Days of the Border crossing points opening date. Aliens are advised to follow announcements regarding Immigration measures closely for updates. Currently measures announced until April 30th, 2020 or further updates”.

So here is where we stand. As previously discussed, it appears that there is an exemption that is being offered basically for lack of better term, a sort of amnesty if you will, for those who are here in Thailand and have had their visas expire or they have had to deal with an extension that is occurring after the 26th of March. As I will get into in more detail in another video, it looks as though regulatory this does not necessarily apply to Non-immigrant visas although in theory it could. I am going to get into that a specific video. For this video I am talking to tourists right no; automatic tourist visa extension. If you are in Thailand and your Visa expires between the 26th, March and the 30th, April, the expiration will be waived for lack of better term and there will be no overstay and no fine accrued between the window 26th March and April 30th. Again, I think this applies to visas-on-arrival, visa exemption stamps, and Tourist Visas specifically. I do not believe that this currently applies to Non-immigrant Visas or if it does it only does so in a limited manner insofar as for example a multiple entry non-immigrant visa has expired between now and April 30th or between I should say March 26th and April 30th, I think from these regulations you could argue "yes that person would not be considered in overstay during that period but they would have to immediately get out.” If you are looking to deal with your extension during this period, I think you need to go ahead and deal with that.  I am going to get into all of that in another video in much more detail but if you want to extend it looks to me like it is possible to extend. 

The other thing to take away from this video and we have spoken directly to Thai Immigration, multiple officers, and it is our understanding that notwithstanding the fact that this extension is sort of an “ad hoc” extension. Immigration does not want to see people who are covered by this. For example, let's say your Visa is going to expire on April 15 and you want to get a 30-day extension for example, it might be an exemption stamp and you want to get a 30-day extension to May 15 and it falls within the March 26th - April 30th, the policy reason for this new initiative is they do not want people down there for fear the Coronavirus could spread. So they do not want to see people down there to do an extension that might take him out past April 30th. If you have an exemption stamp, visa-on-arrival or tourist visa that would expire in this window, don't go down there. There is an affirmative discouragement of people going down there; they don't want you down there. That is what we have been told. We have talked to them directly and I will get into my detractors here in a minute. Yes we do talk to Immigration. No we do not talk to them constantly so let me get into this further. 

There was another notification. I am going to go ahead and throw this out here too. This is on the Immigration website,  Quoting directly: “Notification of the Ministry of Interior dated 7th April, 2020 grants permission to foreigners of all nationalities residing in Thailand an automatic visa extension for all Visa types including visa on arrival, P30, PP14, PP30, PP90, which have not expired prior to March 26th, 2020.” So you will be able to reside in Thailand until April 30th, 2020 without having to apply for an extension. As we will get into another video shortly to be released after this one, those who are in non-immigrant status and would otherwise be seeking their extensions, I think it is a good idea to go ahead and continue doing that. This really should not be viewed as applying to you.

Folks who in my opinion are somewhat “on the fence” with respect to this, are the Non-immigrant Visa categories and specifically the multi-entry nonimmigrant Visas; the one-year visas issued that provide 90-day status upon entry. My staff looked at this announcement and they went ahead and we were talking about the Thai version vs. the English version, in their opinion this does not apply to Non- immigrant categories. It only applies to visas-on-arrival, tourist visas and the P30, PP14, PP30, and PP90; those are exemptions stamps. It does not directly apply to those who hold Non-immigrant visas, for example the Non-immigrant B visa, the Non-immigrant O visa, the Non-immigrant ED visa. Those folks may have to deal with things as the otherwise would have had to deal with things. That being said, there is a lot of vagueness in this regulation with respect to that particular issue. I think you could argue perhaps those folks do go all the way to April 30 if they expire within the window. That being said I think we are going to see how that plays out as a practical matter as time goes on. 

What I would take away from this video and I will get into it more detail in another video, if you can extend in Non-immigrant status it is probably a good idea to do so if you want to stay. If however you are in Non-immigrant status and you want to leave as soon as that you know they lift the restrictions and becoming possible to travel outside of Thailand well it may not be your cup of tea, it may not be the right thing for you. So that is basically what we are dealing with right now and to be clear folks do not have to go to Thai Immigration. This created a bunch of consternation for me all day today. In fact people calling me, yelling at me and I will get into that more in a minute, about this whole thing. When we were first looking at this, the head of the Immigration Bureau was quoted by Bangkok Post to saying you need to extend and then the extension would roll over. What I usually do is the morning videos are usually set on an automatic timer to go up and I may be revisiting whether or not I do that in the future, but most of the time it really hasn't proven to be a problem because not much changes in the overnight. We had done a video prior to seeing the new announcement promulgated where we talked about the prior article from the Bangkok Post that was quoting directly from the Thai immigration Chief and in that it appeared that this was going to be a situation where “yes you had to file for an extension initially and then they would roll you over on a case-by-case basis as it was needed if this lockdown needed to continue”. Apparently that is not the case. As you can see the announcement that has been promulgated states “no you do not have to go in and this is going to be just an automatic extension out to April 30th.” That being said, at the time I was doing the last video and at the time I reviewed the announcement pretty late at night yesterday evening, there wasn't anything that I saw that caused me to contradict putting up that video because I felt that the logic was sound at the time we put it up. Now I do apologize if that caused consternation throughout the day for folks. I have been accused multiple times today of being here trying to panic people or something. That is not my function; that is not my purpose in doing this. Frankly I am kind of doing this for lack of better term as a community service to the expat community to try and provide at least some clarity and insight with respect to where things stand with respective to visas amidst this Coronavirus thing. 

Meanwhile my position was, I was looking at it last night and even my own head I said, this could end up being a situation where people don't have to go. After reading the announcement it was so vague. My Thai attorneys here in the office, my Thai staff here in the office that deal with immigration all the time, myself, we were all looking at the new announcement and it seemed based on the prior quotations regarding this whole issue that were made earlier in the week from the Head of Immigration and I am not trying to point him out, I am just saying in the totality of the circumstances it seemed like the best thing to presume basically at the time I went to bed last night and set the timer up for that video to go online this morning, we felt the best thing to presume was “yeah you probably will have to go in person into Immigration. It turned out Immigration came out and categorically denied that. They said "no, you do not have to go to in person to immigration to get this extension to April 30th. That is great we are all happy about that again I am sorry if it caused consternation throughout the day to folks who thought that they needed to go to Immigration but I would rather have said you need to go and you didn't need to go than have said you did not need to go and it could have resulted in something even worse than the situation for an individual that we are currently in, which is Coronavirus, the lockdown, inability to travel and then on top of that you are in overstay. My job for my clients tends to be looking at worst case scenarios.  I tried to do a balancing act last night before basically I retired for the evening and was looking at that announcement and we have yet to see the specific regulations promulgated. We just saw sort of saw the catch-all announcement and it was vague and you know we did the best we could. That is all we can do in this world is the best that we can. I am not excusing myself. Again if I did cause people to become upset about this, I do apologize to you.  I came by it honestly. I am not doing this out of some desire to cause people to be upset. We set it to automatically go up this morning. That was my best analysis as of this morning. I stood by even as of the moment it went up but we were later sort of refuted and again sorry about that but you know we are doing the best that we can. A quote from one of the commenters I thought was very apt for this video; quoting directly:  "thank you again Benjamin. To say it was vaguely worded is very diplomatic. I think it requires a complete rewrite which is proof read by a native English speaker prior to it being published. It is about as clear as mud. I have gone over it and over it and still don't know if I am required to show up in person or not. My Visa lawyer is confused. She is herself waiting to hear back directly from Immigration. It appears that they are also confused. I have my own Immigration insider who has not written back to me yet."  So I am not bringing this stuff up to point fingers at Thai Immigration, to point fingers at anyone in the Immigration apparatus or to excuse myself or anything. This situation is unprecedented. This situation is chaotic. This situation has put people into positions that the Immigration system has not had to deal with before on this basis at all. Everybody is doing the best that they can to deal with this as best they can. Yes I understand the Thai Immigration bureaucracy is not by any stretch of the imagination perfect but neither is any single human either as evidenced from the fact that I didn't call this correctly at the beginning of the day. That being said, I stand by it because I would have rather said people need to go to Immigration and be wrong about that, in the sense that saying people didn't need to go and it turns out yes you did need to go because as I said that could compound one problem with another. You could end up with the problem of both dealing with this COVID-19 issue and the lockdown associated therewith as well as being on overstay on top of everything else. We do have clients that have overstay problems amidst all of this and it is not pleasant.

As I said, I have taken a lot of flak today. Folks have sent me emails being really difficult with me about it. Again I came by it honestly. I apologize to folks who were upset about it. If you were upset; I am sorry. I was even called today by somebody who just proceeded to yell at me for 2 or 3 minutes before I just hung up on them. Frankly I would ask viewers if you have a problem with what I am doing here, write a comment whatever.  I sometimes will remove comments that are basically unproductive but if you do have a problem you know make a comment, send me an email, down vote the videos if you don't like them; you certainly have that ability. I would really like it if you didn't call me and yell at me for trying to provide information to the community as best I can in order to keep people informed and provide as much information about a really difficult situation as I possibly can.