Trick for visa to Thailand
Thailand has changed the rules for people entering the country via land borders. If you are planning a trip to Southeast Asia, or are on the road now, then read this and prepare to either alter your plans or get better acquainted with your local Thai consulate.
So what's the deal?
While the official English translation of the order has yet to be published (and is unlikely to appear before next week due to today's holiday for the King's birthday), a combination of an unofficial translation and reports from various borders suggest the speculation is accurate. The headline change is that anyone crossing into Thailand by land, who doesn't already have a visa from a Thai embassy or consulate, will be ALLOWED TO STAY ONLY 15 DAYS, not the previous 30.
This does not apply to people flying into Thailand, who can still get 'stamped in' - or in official parlance enter under the 'tourist visa exemption scheme' - for 30 days (or 90 days if you're from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru or S Korea). Or to anyone who already holds a current Thai visa.
Just in case you still don't get it: if you fly in, you get 30 days without a visa, if you come overland, you get 15.
Note that the list of nationalities eligible for this visa exemption scheme has not changed - see this table from the Thai ministry of foreign affairs to see if you're eligible.
For those in the region for a while, it's been suggested (but not confirmed yet) that the much-talked-about 90-days in six months rule might now have been dropped. If so, then it seems there will be no limit to the amount of time you can spend in Thailand without a proper visa, so long as you leave every 15 days. I emphasise, though, this has not been confirmed, so don't go putting a deposit on a beach house.
Why the change?
The Immigration Bureau hasn't made any official announcement about why, but it seems to be yet another effort to crack down on people living and working in Thailand without a non-resident visa (ie, the legal right to live and work in Thailand). Thais sometimes refer to these farangs as 'undesirable elements' and point to Pattaya and Patong beach.
I'm not going to get into a debate about the merits of this decision - readers with a taste for tedium can find long, looooong threads on this elsewhere. Though I will say that, at first glance, the logic is a little difficult to appreciate and the timing unfortunate. It's not, however, some conspiracy to help struggling airlines or enrich corrupt border police, as the order was signed prior to the whole airports debacle kicking off.
Whatever the reasons, the changes are likely to be around for a few months, at least, so you'll have to plan around them. If it makes you feel better, Thailand's visa situation is still better than many other parts of the world, where you need a visa before entering each new country, each time you enter. Talk about tedious...
What are your options?
If you're only going to be in Thailand less than two weeks, this won't affect you. If you're flying in and are going to be here less than a month, it won't affect you either.
The people it will affect are those on slow trips through Thailand, and those overlanding around southeast Asia.
If you're overlanding, it's time you found the address of your nearest Thai diplomatic mission (or find an agency that can deal with it). What you need is a tourist visa, which usually take two days to process. Costs vary depending on where you are, but it's usually about 1000 baht or equivalent. For web links to Thai missions around the world, see here .
*A Tourist Visa is valid for 30 or 60 days, depending on nationality. Most western countries get 60 days.* Tourist visas can be extended by 30 days for 1900 baht, to a maximum of 90 days. For the requirements, including a list of nationalities that get 60 days, see this link . Note that it HAS NOT BEEN UPDATED, so the visa exemption still says 30 days, WHICH IS WRONG.
Some missions issue multiple entry tourist visas. If you're planning on entering Thailand more than twice, ask about the multiple entry option. It might cost a little more, but it will likely save you loads of time screwing about with Thai embassies.
If you're on the road and decide you need a tourist visa before coming/returning to Thailand, the following cities have Thai embassies or consulates.
Laos: Vientiane and Savannakhet
Cambodia: Phnom Penh
Vietnam: Hanoi and HCMC
Malaysia: KL, Penang, Kota Bharu
India: New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai
China: HK, Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, Guangzhao, Chengdu
And knowing how SE Asia operates, I'd dare to suggest that as I type small travel agencies in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Pakse, Don Det, Siem Reap, Lakeside Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Hue and Hoi An are writing up advertisements for THAI TOURIST VISA, charging the visa cost plus a few dollars. So you won't even need to go to the city's with consulates.
Information based from lonelyplanet.com for more correct and confirmation please contact
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand.