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What Do I Do If I Get Stopped by Thai Immigration Police?

Transcript of the above video:

In this video today as the title suggests, we are asking the question “What happens if I get stopped by Thai Immigration?”  Presumably we are going to be discussing this, well actually not presumably there's two ways in which one can get stopped by Thai Immigration. One is in the country and the other is outside the country but trying to enter. It might actually be physically within the confines of Thailand but for purposes of those who have not being lawfully admitted to the Kingdom they are treated as if they are still on foreign soil for a moment and a half that they are leaving the plane and  disembarking, and moving through Immigration.

So first things first with respect to “what do I do if I get stopped by Thai Immigration at a border checkpoint and they start questioning me?” Well the first thing to do is tell the truth, tell them what you are doing. The second question people ask, not everybody asks but I do get a substantial number of questions, “Well I am coming in on a tourist visa but I really have been living here for 2 years using tourist visas, what if they give me trouble about that?”  Well they are the Immigration Authorities; they are entitled to give individuals “trouble” for lack of a better term for not obeying the Immigration laws, the relevant Immigration laws. Tourist visas are not supposed to be used for people who are living in the Kingdom. They are definitely not supposed to be used for people who are working in the Kingdom. Although Immigration does not per se have a mandate to deal with unlawful labor activities like working illegally, if they do think that's an individual is using a visa that is not categorized for work authorization, and is coming to the Kingdom to work without work authorization, they have the discretionary and plenary ability to turn that person away, not admit them to the Kingdom. It is a common misconception that Immigration Officers have to admit somebody if they have a visa. That is not the case at all. A visa is simply, it is sort of a platform to be able to request admission to the Kingdom. So it is not an open-and-shut thing that “oh I have a Visa I can just walk into the country”. No! and in fact, in the beginning in sort of the inception of the program “Good Guys in, Bad Guys Out” that started a few years ago in Thailand, we saw a massive, just almost unprecedented number of people who are being turned away at the border especially the southern border but also the border with Cambodia I heard about as well as the border with Myanmar; I didn't hear about Laos but that doesn't mean it's not possible; it is just some ways away from Bangkok.  Where Immigration Authority was saying “hey this is 5th tourist visa in the last year-and-a-half! What are you doing?”

“Oh I'm staying in Thailand”

“well do you have a hotel room?”. Can you produce any funds that show that you are living there? Or some just pretty much knew that people were working. They didn't have money on them that looked like a tourist situation, they didn't particularly act like a tourist, their circumstances were not such that resembled what a tourist would be operating as and in that situation they simply started turning people away. So the first thing is "yes you need to tell the truth". Another thing, be polite. I don't know how many times I have been going through Thai Immigration and I have seen people just get very upset with Immigration Officers. Look they don't particularly want to be difficult okay, but they do have a mandate, they do have a job and that job is to deal is to scrutinize individuals entering the country, scrutinize them to see if they are coming in for the purposes they say they're coming in for and if they're not, or if they are coming in to do something illegal or if they come in 10 times on a tourist visa and have essentially been living in Thailand, they do have the discretion to say “You know what? You are not in proper status, you need to go away and come back in proper status, find a different visa category, figure something out, but we are not going to readmit you”. That is well within their mandate and I see many, many people that just get very, very irate with Immigration officers. It's not it's not fun, I do understand it is not fun to come off a long flight early to be sort of scrutinized and nitpicked by an officer while you are going through the line in Immigration and on top of it, generally speaking the lines can be rather long, so I do understand that it is sometimes not easy but frankly, one of the best pieces of advice I can give to somebody, especially somebody who's on a borderline situation where  you know it is maybe not something the Immigration Officer really wants to let it is not a case the Immigration Officer really wants to just sort of "let slide" or something, it is not a good idea to become irate especially with the people that have the discretion to turn you away.

On to a different point, what does one do if they have been confronted by Immigration in Thailand? Well this is going to happen fairly infrequently but it can. Most notably if you are dealing with Immigration and you are in a criminal context well there isn't much that can be done. Immigration is just simply going to take note of the fact that one has been accused of a criminal charge and if ultimately convicted of the criminal charge, the individual or individuals in question may have significant and rather not positive immigration implications arise from the conviction of a criminal act in the Kingdom. Not limited to being deported, possibly blacklisted possibly for a short period of time, long period of time, possibly forever. So in a criminal context there may not be much that one can do about anything and so it's almost really a moot point to even discuss it.

With respect to confrontation with an Immigration Officer when one is in the Kingdom, if one is in lawful status there really isn't much that is going to transpire that's going to have a negative impact on an individual interacting with an Immigration Officer in the Kingdom. If one is not in lawful status, that is a problem and as has been noted many, many times with respect to the so-called “Good Guys In, Bad Guys Out" program and the blacklisting rules that have emanated therefrom, if caught in the Kingdom on overstay, and I have gone into this, there's another video discussing blacklisting specifically, but if caught in overstay in the Kingdom, you can get blacklisted for a substantial period of time, substantially longer than those who get to an airport and leave and simply pay that fine. They may still get blacklisted depending on the amount of overstay they have been in but in most cases it will be far less severe punishment than those who have been caught in the Kingdom while on overstay.