Visa Shuffle: Foreigners without visas face 90-day limit
As part of a reported attempt to crackdown on foreigners working illegally (without a work visa) in Thailand, the Immigration Bureau will impose a 3-time limit of on-arrival visas (also known as the visa-waiver programme).
Previously, most foreigners could stay in Thailand indefinitely by reapplying for an on-arrival visa at any immigration point every 30 days (hence, the “visa-run” or “visa hop”).
Staring 1 October, tourists from visa-waiver countries can enter Thailand without a visa and stay for up to 30 days, but re-entry will only be renewed twice. This will effectively limit the number of days to 90 that a foreigner can stay inside Thailand without a formal visa (45 in the case of countries where the visa waiver programme only allows for a 15-day on arrival visa as opposed to a 30-day one).
Once the 3-time limit has been reached, the person will reportedly be banned from Thailand for 6 weeks.
This seems to be contradictory to Thailand’s effort to become the regional transit hub once Suvarnabhumi opens: tourists who wish to use Bangkok as an East Asia transit point will only be allowed to pass through the country three times unless they apply for a formal visa. Aside from casting out undesireables and those avoiding taxes, it will cause problems with many others, including those who work for employers who typically do not issue work visas. It is unclear whether application processes for 3-month tourist visas will become more stringent.
Furthermore, the announcement seems to have come hastily (just 3 weeks before implementation) and before information was actually available; most immigration officials, many of whom are new and untrained, are unable to answer queries. However, a nationwide meeting of officials at Bangkok Immigration Headquarters on 15 September should help clear things up.