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Could There Be a Single ASEAN Visa Scheme?

Transcript of the above video:

In this video, we're going to be discussing the possibility of a single ASEAN visa scheme. Now ASEAN, what is that? The Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It includes basically all the countries that are in what is commonly referred to as Southeast Asia.

In a recent article from, so that's the headline of which is “TTM single entry visa for CL MVT nations coming sooner rather than later” and to quote directly “a single entry visa for five countries in Southeast Asia region is set to happen sooner rather than later” delegates at Thai Travel Mart have been told. In a conversation with representatives from the CLMVT, that’s Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam and Thailand group discussed how better the countries can work together to drive tourism prosperity. Cambodia Minister of Tourism Selia Hul said we are working on it with our best intention. Sooner or later we are going to get it. Talks were first held on whether to have a single entry visa for the region in 2005 but the countries have been quiet on the progress in recent years. Hul said there was a Memorandum of Understanding between Cambodia and Thailand for dual visa system. Delegates heard that the countries are trying to simplify the visa process but are also looking to stop travelers exploiting the 30-day visa rule.

So some insight into what's going on here. First of all, I think pretty well everybody can agree that a single visa system is probably going to be optimal. Now there are going to be certain entrenched interests here that are going to not want it as much as other interests. For example, Laos would benefit greatly by a single visa scheme sort of setup because as it sits right now, you go to go into Laos, you got to get a separate visa to your Thai visa there's a little bit of, for lack of a better word, hassle involved with say going to Laos just from a paperwork standpoint. If it's all part and parcel of one single travel document, Laos is going to benefit from that. Thailand won't necessarily not benefit but it's not going to see any sort of net gain because first of all, Bangkok is already sort of the initial hub for Southeast Asian tourism, although Vietnam is sort of creeping up as a hub of its own. But Bangkok, most folks flying to Bangkok and then go elsewhere from here so places like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar for example, it's easier to access all those markets through Bangkok even if that means simply just coming through the airport and moving on through to Cambodia.

Oftentimes, pretty much all the time, Cambodia Laos or Myanmar. Bangkok is going to act as a hub for all those destinations. So as I said, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia will probably and Vietnam for that matter will probably see significant benefits relative to their current situation. Thailand, on the other hand, probably won't see relatively significant benefits compared to their current situation because as it is, Thailand's already in sort of the catbird seat with respect to tourism.

Now leaving that aside, it was interesting to note in there that they brought up the issue of the 30-day visa, the visa exemption stamps in that article because this is an extreme concern of significant concern it seems to Thailand and Thai immigration authorities. The exemption stamp has been used in the past by those frankly with less than great intention. Essentially, those wishing to live here without a great purpose for doing so and utilizing the 30 day exemption stands to go ahead and do that. So this is a concern for Thailand and I think that until those concerns are really fully vetted are we ever going to see the possibility of a single sort of regional visa up in this area or a greater ASEAN visa for that matter.

But that being said, I think the will is there because overall this is something that could significantly benefit everybody and moreover because Thai immigration authorities have gone to great lengths in the past 24 months. Roughly, they have 36 months to go ahead and get the immigration system streamlined, to get the enforcement mechanism streamlined, to go ahead and just overall basically bring the Thai immigration system up to par with say “developed nation.” I think once they feel comfortable that that has in fact become the case and I think week to week that’s getting closer and closer to an actuality. I think once that has come to pass, I think the possibility or the probability, I should say, of a single regional visa for say these four countries becomes much more likely to actually happen as a practical matter.