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Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Border Runs on Thai Multiple Entry Visas

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing Non-immigrant multiple entry Visas here in Thailand.

Generally speaking, we are seeing Non-immigrant multiple entry visas issued for B visas, that is Business Visas, or O Visas. Sometimes you see those where they are just sort of the miscellaneous O visa and sometimes you see them as O marriage visas or O visas issued to the foreign parent of a Thai child. So O visas, we can see this in multiple contexts; Business Visas generally there is only one type of multiple entry Business Visas.  The topic of this video is Border Running in association with these. 

Multiple entry visas were created, in my opinion, to provide some flexibility for the Visa holder and basically the way they work is the sticker itself, the actual Visa sticker, is issued with a one-year validity so it can be used throughout a one-year period. Concurrently when that Visa holder is stamped into Thailand, they are granted a 90-day Immigration Stamp which gives them 90 days of lawful status in the Kingdom. Now for those who travel a lot, this provides a lot of flexibility but sometimes folks need to stay in Thailand for longer than that and if that is the case there are two ways of dealing with that. One is through a visa extension and for those who have a multiple entry Visa, a visa extension may not be, when doing a cost and benefit analysis, it may not be the best option because it requires a great deal of paperwork, it requires a great deal of evidence, it requires a lot of waiting and that may not be conducive especially to Business Visa holders who need to travel frequently for business meetings for example especially regionally. So a visa extension may not be the best course of action for those folks and many of them opt to do a border run. This may be a land border, this may be an air border, may be over water but they just opt to leave Thailand turn right around and come back in. Generally speaking and in more routine times if you will, the holder of these visas this wouldn’t be a big deal. They just leave and so long as they don't leave with an overstay and so long as they leave within the 90 days of their lawful status they can turn right around generally speaking and come right back in with a new 90-day stamp. They have an issued visa and in the case of B Visas and in certain cases some O Visa holders, they may have a Work Permit or they should especially with a B Visa, have a work permit and then they are just coming back to do what they were supposed to be doing and that has sort of been the general rule.

Now there have been a lot of things happening especially within the past week or ten days with respect to policy emanating from the Coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19, and the thing to take away from this video is Non-immigrant multiple entry Visa holders should not be impacted by a recent announcement that visas-on-arrival and Visa exemption stamps are going to be suspended for certain nationalities. Even if you are one of the Nationals whom that announcement would directly apply to, if you already have a Non-immigrant Visa you have a Visa. That is different from needing a visa-on-arrival or needing a Visa exemption stamp. So if you already have a Non-immigrant multiple-entry one-year Visa I don't think there is need to be overly concerned about this.

At the same you are also seeing announcements like this one from the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang. Quoting directly: "Starting from 9 March 2020, passport holders of the following countries need to provide a medical certificate together with a visa application form and then they list the countries: French Republic, Federal Republic of Germany, Italian Republic, Kingdom of Spain, Islamic Republic of Iran, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Republic of Korea and Republic of Singapore". 

So those folks in order to get a new Visa need to show a Medical Certificate at that Consulate. Now I think that this will probably go more broad and in fact I have heard all ready to Medical Certificates especially from certain Foreign nationals are going to be required at most Consulates and Embassies although I have yet to see broader implementation of that policy but I think it is probably coming. Again, these are for people getting a Visa. If you already have a Non-immigrant multiple entry visa this should not apply to you. That being stated, if you have to do a border run I would get my ducks in a row so to speak in maybe having somebody who is a friend of mine or something in the country to call if I can't get back into the country because a Border guard won't let me back in because I am a Foreign National from one of these listed countries that they are requiring a medical certificate from. I really don't think that's going to happen but when you see policy and when you see regulation promulgated quickly especially in the face of a hesitate to call this a crisis but certainly an urgent situation, it is possible that you are going to see line officers, folks on the ground, having to make a call and sort of in the flurry of everything maybe not making the correct call. So be prepared to explain oneself especially with respect to those who have Non-immigrant visas who have a nationality that may otherwise have been required to get a medical certificate in order to obtain a new Visa.  I think you need to be ready to explain “look I have been living in Thailand, I am just crossing in and out “, and an Immigration Officer is going to be able to see one’s prior entry stamp and see the one is coming back in very shortly after having been abroad. I don't think this is going to be major issue with respect to land borders. That being stated, with respect to air borders, I think it is probably a really good idea to take a look at where you are going to and be very careful that you don't go to a country for an airport border run that may have some sort of travel restrictions on it for coming back to Thailand. This is something personally I think that is going to have to be kind of a touch-and-go thing. You are going to have to watch this and keep up with it as the situation evolves because it can probably change very quickly. 

So the thing to take away from this video, Non-immigrant Visa holders, one-year Visa holders you need to do a 90-day border run I still think it is not going to be a big issue but be prepared to explain your situation to the relevant Immigration officer so that you can re-enter the country.