Frequently Asked Questions: Thai Visas
The point of the doingbusinessthailand.com blog is not only to provide potential investors with a comprehensive and up to date source of information on how to do business in Thailand but is also, as much as possible, to try to answer to readers immediate concerns.
One of the benefits of search engines is that they made it possible to keep track of the researches that are made by those among you who are interested by Thailand. Therefore from now on I will not only continue to provide substantive information but I will also from time to time discuss some of the queries that are made every weeks.
Today two topics have caught my attention.
(i) May Thai Immigration arrest a person?
(ii) How Thai immigration does know that you overstayed?
May Thai Immigration arrest a person?
The duties and powers of Immigration Officers are stated in Section 18, 19 and 20 of the Immigration Act B.E 2522.
The first power of the immigration officer will be “the power to inspect persons entering into or leaving the Kingdom.” Whenever a foreign visitor is forbidden from entering into Thailand the immigration officer will have 3 options as follows:
(i) To allow the foreign visitor to enter Thailand to stay at a determined place with the promise that said foreign visitor will present himself to the competent official when required to do so
(ii) Same (i) but in addition the officer may also request the foreign visitor to provide a bond or a security or to provide both bond and security
(iii) To detain said foreign visitor.
The competent officer who decides to detain a foreign visitor under Section 19 of the Immigration Act may do so for as long as necessary but no more than 48 hours. The 48 hours period starts at the time the foreign visitor arrived at the office of the competent officer.
In case of necessity the competent official may extend the detention period up to seven days but to do so he/she will have to record the ground for such extension.
If further detention is deemed necessary, the competent officer shall apply for the Court permission to do so. Court ordered extension period may not exceed 12 days period per application.
The power of immigration officers to arrest and detain a person are not only limited to person entering or leaving Thailand but also to those that are to be deported.
May be deported from Thailand any foreign visitors who entered Thailand:
- without permission, or
- with permission but said permission was given mistakenly, or
- whose permission was revoked, or
- whose permission expires
Now, any foreign visitor that is the object of a deportation investigation or which is to be deported may be arrested and detained by immigrations officials.
How immigration does know that I overstayed?
Any person entering Thailand will have upon entering Thailand an arrival visa stamped on his/her passport. Prior to apply the stamp the officer will calculate the duration of your period of stay depending of your type of visa and write within the arrival stamp frame the date until which you are allowed to stay.
Therefore the answer to this question is quite obvious. At the time of your departure or at the time of any control (by the immigration officer or a police officer at a check point) it suffices to look at your latest arrival stamp to know whether you overstayed or not.
The reason I answered this question anyway is that it gave me the opportunity to mention that Thai immigration records are computerized. Any arrival or departures are recorded into the immigration computers and all the information’s are centralized at the Central Immigration Bureau and permanently updated. Keeping records are one of the domains where Thai administration excels. Immigration officials use computer reading devices to check whether passports are genuine or to detect any alterations.
Warning: As I already mentioned in my “what you need to know about Thai visas” post, never attempt to alter in anyway your arrival stamp. If the officer of immigration miscalculated the duration of your period of stay or if the writing in unreadable do not attempt to correct it yourself. By doing so you would face serious criminal charges and end up in jail. While both are criminal activities the fact is that Thai authorities react always more strongly and punished more severely attempt that are made to alter or falsify Thai official documents than to attempt that are made to falsify or forge foreign documents.
It also give me the opportunity to remind foreign visitors that while it is possible to clear an overstay by paying a fine at the immigration office or at the immigration point of departure, overstay is not something to take lightly.
Staying in Thailand beyond the time of your maximum departure date means that your permission to enter Thailand has expired. In other words the minute you are overstaying your presence in Thailand has become illegal. The immediate consequence being that if instead to voluntarily clear your overstay you are arrested or controlled you may find yourself detained and eventually deported.
Note: This post is an excerpt of Rene Philippe Dubout next book: “How to Invest Safely Into Thailand” to be published in January 2010
About the Author:
The author Rene-Philippe DUBOUT is a lawyer since 1990 when he was admitted to Geneva bar (Switzerland). He practiced as a litigator there for 10 years until he moved to Thailand in 1999. In 2002 he founded with a group of Thai lawyers Rene Philippe & Partners Ltd a local law firm that specialized in Cross Borders Investments and Real Estate. He has been lecturing in several Thai Universities and a speaker to numerous conferences and seminars. He is the author of a must read book:”How to Purchase Real Estate Offshore Safely: The Case of Thailand”.
© Copyrights 2009 – Rene Philippe Dubout – This article may be reprinted if information about the author, the websites, and the URLs remain intact
Originally posted 2009-08-07 11:59:46.