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Thailand: Blacklist for Foreigners Who Overstay Visas

(Apr. 6, 2016) On March 20, 2016, as part of tightened security measures, new immigration rules entered into force banning the re-entry into Thailand of foreigners who unlawfully overstay their visas by more than 90 days. (Banned: New Rule Comes into Force Prohibiting Visa Overstayers from Re-Entering Thailand, COCONUTS BANGKOK (Feb. 18, 2016).) The rules were issued as Order No. 21/2558 (2015) of the Minister of Interior on November 27, 2015.  (Order of Minister of Interior No. 1/2558 (Order), Tourism Authority of Thailand website (published Feb. 16, 2016).)

Reportedly, in order to keep closer tabs on visa overstayers, “[i]mmigration officials will ask hotels, apartments, hostels and landlords renting homes or rooms to foreigners to report the stay of foreigners.” (Blacklist for Thailand Visa Overstays Starts in March, THAI LAW FORUM (Feb. 24, 2016).) The reports are to be made “to the nearest immigration offices through the internet.” (Overstaying Foreigners Will Face Ban from Re-Entering Thailand, THAI PBS (Feb. 18, 2016).)

 Periods of Bans on Re-Entry

According to the Order, foreigners are divided into two groups: overstayers who voluntarily surrender to the authorities and overstayers who are caught, arrested, and prosecuted. (Id.; Blacklist for Thailand Visa Overstays Starts in March, supra.)  Beginning from the date of their departure from Thailand, foreigners who turn themselves in will face the following bans on re-entry into the country: one year for a 90-day overstay beyond the permitted date of departure; three years for an overstay of more than one year; five years for an overstay of more than three years; and ten years for an overstay of more than five years.  (Order, item 1.)

In the case of foreigners who are arrested and prosecuted for overstays, those caught overstaying their visas for up to or exactly one year beyond the permitted departure date will be banned from re-entering the country for five years, starting from that departure date, while a ten-year ban will be imposed on those caught overstaying more than one year beyond the permitted departure date. (Id., item 2; Thailand Visa Advice, IMMIGRATION BUREAU (last visited Mar. 31, 2016); see also Warning of Overstay, THAI IMMIGRATION BUREAU (last visited Mar. 31, 2016).)

Exemption from the New Rules

The Order is not applicable to foreigners who depart Thailand before reaching the age of 18 or to those who leave the country before the Order’s entry into force on March 20. (Order, item 3.)

Foreigners who had overstayed their permitted date of departure before March 20 could surrender to the authorities at immigration checkpoints at the land borders, seaports, or airports. They were required to pay a fine of 500 baht (about US$14) but not exceeding 20,000 bhat (about US$571) before being permitted to exit the country.  (Thailand Visa Advice, supra.)

Reasons for Adoption of the New Order

In announcing the new rules earlier this year, Chief of the Chonburi Immigration Office, Police Lieutenant General Natorn Prohsuntorn, took note of the refugee crisis in the Middle East and some African nations and stated that some of these refugees “manage to make it to Thailand and make the country their home after arriving on a tourist visa,” while other foreigners come to Thailand “to commit crimes, fraud, form a new location for their gangs.” (Boonlua Chatree, New Visa-Overstay Blacklisting Begins March 20, 24:4 PATTAYA MAIL (Jan. 22, 2016).)

Natorn also gave as examples of overstayers men involved in marriage scams, who con women they meet via the Internet out of money to pay “fines” for them after they arrive in Thailand, and drug smugglers who move narcotics through Thailand. Natorn stated, “[w]e are not always aware of how many of them are left running around since it’s too easy to enter this country, … .  So my intentions are to tackle this matter by re-enforcing this new policy for the security and for the sake of this country.”  (Id.)