29 Oct 07
Visa changes at Thai Penang consulate
News for visa runners & married men
The Royal Thai consulate general in Penang, Malaysia, has indicated that officers there will now limit applications
from foreigners applying to visit Thailand as tourists to just three 60 day visas. A travel agent in Penang, who handles
applications on a daily basis, said The consulate is now counting the number of times they have issued a single entry
60 day visa to an individual. The new limit is three and there will likely be a note in the applicants passport from now
on. This is not the first time there has been such a crackdown on repeat applications for tourist visas. The logic seems
to be that visit visas are not designed for foreigners seeking residency. It is argued that bona fide retirees with money
in the bank or pension income, foreigners working legally in the kingdom and those with Thai wives and dependants
can apply for one year visas at Thai immigration offices provided they have the requisite documentation and cash back
-up. The current squeeze seems to be aimed at long stay foreigners in Thailand who don't otherwise qualify for long
stay visas, typically men on limited incomes who rely on renewing their visa time and again at Cambodian border posts
or Thai consulates in nearby countries. Penang has recently grown in popularity as a visa haven and the town has a
growing number of bars catering for visa runners. This trend is now under threat after the recent ruling. Other Thai
consulates and embassies in the region are unlikely to offer more generous visa extensions than Penang. Those in
Cambodia, the Philippines, Laos and Singapore to name but four are known to be just as restrictive if not more so.
An official source said, There seems to be a progressive squeeze against foreign men with very limited resources
trying to live in Thailand. If they don't qualify for one year visas in Thailand, their options of going repeatedly to a
Cambodian border post (30 days on arrival) or getting numerous prior visas in Penang (60 days) are disappearing.
He added that he advised people in this situation to return to their home countries, usually in Europe, to obtain
multiple entry non immigrant visas which are valid for a year at a time. But we all know, he explained, that many can't
afford the trip or are reluctant to fly home in case they come to official attention at the airport.
Another consequence of visa squeezes is that some foreigners go into overstay in Thailand as they can't find a way
to renew cheaply. The number of arrests for visa overstayers in Pattaya is rising, but there are no published figures.
But there is better news from Penang for foreign men married to a Thai woman. They can now obtain a multiple entry
non immigrant "O" visa, valid for a year, provided they take 1. Their original passport (copy of ID page) and two passport
photos; 2. Signed copy of wife's Thai ID card; 3. Signed copy of marriage certificate signed by both parties
(original needs to be shown too); 4. Copy of personal Thai bank book showing at least 400,000 baht
(original also needs to be produced); 5. Confirmatory letter from bank, not more than one week old.
Contributor's note: The Pattayatoday is a bit of a tabloid. The generalizations, the
haughty, offensive tone throughout. Quoting official sources who are never named.
Let's face it, Bangkok Post it's not. October 1st is the 1 year anniversary of the
changes so I guess the next few weeks will tell if this is just more bad news.