Foreigners who paid 1,900 baht for 30-day visa extensions will get a month’s credit while future extensions will double to 60 days, according to details of the latest visa amnesty released Tuesday.
If comments on the Bangkok Herald’s Facebook page were anything to go by, huge numbers of stranded tourists and expats were furious that they spent money and time to extend their visas – after being threatened with fines and arrest – only to see the Immigration Bureau extend amnesty once the supposed Sept. 26 deadline had passed.
“And those who left? Those who paid to make other visa types? What about all the threats to get out or be arrested since 100 percent there won’t be further extensions to the amnesty?” wrote Luc Luciano. “Oh, i forgot. We are in Thailand. The land of smiles. Now smile please!”
Although personally not affected, famed Thailand-based fiction writer Jake Needham expressed his annoyance on Twitter.
Not oblivious to the blowback, Immigration Bureau Deputy Commissioner Pol. Maj. Gen. Pornchai Kuntee said at a Tuesday news conference after the Cabinet officially approved the new amnesty that Luciano and others who did make the effort to obtain letters from embassies and paid their fees didn’t waste their money. They will get an automatic extension to Nov. 30.
However, to get that extension, visa holders must return to their local immigration office and get an updated Nov. 30 stamp.
In addition, Pornchai indicated Thailand would be taking a softer touch with foreigners still in the country, saying that, going forward, paid extensions would valid for 60 days, not 30 as they were before Sept. 26.
In addition, the paperwork hurdle to get those extensions may be lowered, Pornchai said. He promised there would be “less paperwork” and that applicants may not have to obtain letters from their embassies certifying they cannot travel home.
Part of the reason for that is that foreign embassies had begun to complain to the Foreign Affairs Ministry about the apparent shifting of responsibility to them. Letters cut in the past week took a subtle tone of annoyance with Immigration.
“My embassy letter basically reads like: ‘Stop making us do work. we treat your citizens well so do the same for us. They don’t need our permission to apply,’” Twitter user @01DOGG01 tweeted Saturday.
Immigration clearly is taking steps to reduce crowds and last-minute havoc. As such, it is requiring anyone on amnesty wishing to remain in Thailand beyond Halloween must file their application by Oct. 31.
Note that a typo by the Thailand Public Relations Department had the media (including us) reporting that those extensions had to be applied for by Oct. 3. The PR Department website still has the error, but it was showsn as OCt. 31 in a this social media post.
That provision, however, may have escaped many of those on amnesty, but obviously was enacted by immigration officials to ensure that those on amnesty don’t wait until the last minute again.