Do you want to stay in Thailand without leaving the country to obtain a visa ?
Many foreigners have found themselves undergoing uncomfortable interviews at the Immigration offices in Bangkok.
Some agencies in Bangkok and Phuket offers a convenient service: instead of the foreigner leaving the country to get a visa, he would for a price send the applicant's passport out of Thailand, have it stamped for exit and re-entry and provide a visa from the Thai Embassy in the country the passport was sent to.
The advantage to the passport-holder is that he can stay in Thailand during the process and save time and money. A visa run to another country is expensive when the costs in travel and accommodation are totaled and it's clearly attractive, and economical, to leave someone else to do the work while the passport- holder remains in Bangkok.
Typical costs: a tourist visa for 30 days 3200 baht, a non-immigrant for 3 months 7500 baht
The practice of using an agent to get a visa in this way is widespread – one Westerner spoke of having used this method for over 10 years without leaving the country. He said he had never had any problems.
What are the dangers?
- It is illegal to leaving the country is the method prescribed by the Immigration authorities for obtaining new visas
- A passport has to be entrusted to strangers
- The exit and re-entry stamps and/or the visa may be counterfeit
If for any reason the passport holder must visit Immigration, then anomalies may be noticed. This is certain to happen if the visa is not genuine. The consequences are not pleasant
The process relies upon connivance by officials at the border and in visa sections abroad – if anything goes wrong then the passport may be withheld whilst overseas.
The Thai Immigration authorities understandably want to keep tabs on unwelcome visitors to the country. There is no doubt that making monthly exits and re-entries is a method used by foreign criminals using Thailand as their base.
But for the majority of law-abiding foreigners wishing to stay for prolonged periods in Thailand, leaving the country several times a year is an expensive inconvenience. Financially it is a disadvantage to both the foreigner and to Thailand for the money he spends abroad whilst obtaining a visa would be better spent in this country.
To deter criminals, the Thai authorities, mindful of the value of the one-month tourist visa to the wrongdoer, have recently limited to six the number of consecutive tourist visas which can be applied for. After the sixth month, the passport-holder must leave the country for six months before reapplying. This is a great inconvenience to anybody conducting criminal activities in the country but is unfair to bona fide foreigners wanting to spend longer in Thailand.
The situation is unlikely to improve until a better visa issuing system is worked out where bona fide foreigners can renew or obtain visas within this country. At present, a foreign passport-holder in need of a visa can either go on a time-consuming and expensive visa run or risk using the services of an agency to procure a visa for him without his having to leave Thailand. The chances are he will have no trouble with the latter as the method is well established and many people clearly do this with no problems.
But there is always a danger of a crackdown by the authorities or of documents coming back without a bona fide visa if the agency folds or other unfortunate circumstances arise.