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Thai Retirement Visas: Anecdotal Information on Rule Enforcement

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing Thai Retirement Visas again; a hot topic recently here in Thailand especially with respect to changes in the interpretation and the enforcement of rules pertaining to Retirement Visa issuance and Retirement Visa extension in the Kingdom. 

Throughout the last roughly 6 or 8 weeks, basically since the first of 2019, I have been interacting a lot with folks who are in quandaries and having their minds boggled with respect to little factual issues associated with their Retirement Visa status.  Some of these folks fall short of certain income requirements. Some of them are still trying to use previously issued Income Affidavits from for example the US Embassy here in Bangkok or the US Consulate up in Chiengmai and folks are having varying degrees of problems or successes with respect to Retirement Visa extension and maintenance of retirement visa status here in the Kingdom. So I thought I would make this video to go over some of the things that I have heard and maybe it can provide insight for some folks moving forward. 

One thing that is notable and probably noteworthy only for a little bit longer mostly due to the validity of the things, there are people that did manage to get Income Affidavits from either the UK, US or Australian Embassies before they ceased the practice at the end of 2018 and the question has arisen,  "will they still be accepted?"  Previously, back in January, I read in a couple of different sources that said, "Yes, so long as they were validly issued Income Affidavits they would continue to be accepted but that the Embassies had stopped issuing them so it would be eventually a moot point." which I think by the time we get to about June of this year 2019, yes it will definitely be a moot point because nobody will have one that will even be anywhere near within validity for utilization for a Retirement Visa extension. That being said, it was my understanding that they were considered still good evidence with respect to the fulfilling of the Retirement Visa evidentiary criteria especially with respect to financial obligations. I have heard anecdotally from a couple of different people in two different provinces that they were told "no they are no longer going to be accepted!"  I believe that this is the exercising of discretion of Immigration Officers on the ground so there isn't really much that can be done about that. That being said, it would seem to run counter to official policy but I can't really speak to what administratively is going on with respect to those because frankly it's hard to sort of quantify especially with them becoming moot on the horizon. So something to keep in mind if you are one of the few people watching this video, if you are still looking at utilizing an Income Affidavit, if you got some time left on your visa and it probably won't be much, it might be a good idea to go ahead and just double check to make sure your local office is going to go ahead and accept that or if they are going to cause some problems and they going to want to see some other evidence in order to support the application for the extension  just to go ahead and be on the safe side. My personal opinion.

Another thing that popped up in the Nation,, came up February 19, 2019. So technically speaking, the new rules with respect to Retirement Visas didn't come into effect until March 1,  but again anecdotally I had heard throughout the country, different provinces, different immigration offices had started basically effectively applying the new regs, I heard it as early as early February that they were bringing some of his stuff in.

So this article, I believe it was an editorial or letter to the editor I should say but the title is: Rising Baht Exposes Vulnerability of Expat Retirees. Again, the Nation,  Quoting directly, "I have been living in Thailand for 19 years now but I am now suddenly a criminal because the value of the baht has risen so much that the 800,000 baht bank deposit required for my Retirement Visa came up short by 8,000 baht." Now something we have done a video on with respect to exchange rates and income and bank balances.  Keep in mind Immigration takes a hard line on this one. They are looking at your bank balance or your income in baht terms.  It doesn't matter what amount the amount of money is with respect to one's local currency in their home country etc. The rules stipulate this in baht so it's going to be adjudicated in terms of baht.  Quoting further, "Due to this shortage, I was told that I had to leave the country and start the whole process of getting a Retirement Visa all over again even though I produced documents showing them my pension for the year was 15,000 baht higher than the amount required and I had always respected the 800,000 baht rule. However none of this was accepted by the woman behind the counter." and then to paraphrase some of the stuff, he goes on to say he went down Immigration Headquarters here in Bangkok in order to complain.  Quoting directly now, "However several police inspectors were called to speak to me and they advised me that i speak directly to the Director of my Immigration Office." I don't know exactly where that is but moving forward, quoting directly, "the Director received me with kindness. Maybe someone had called her from the Headquarters. She understood my problem and asked my wife to show our marriage certificate." Let me get to that in a moment as I think that that is an important component to the analysis of this overall article. Quoting further, "Immediately I was given a 60-day visa extension and was told to produce a new bank statement for the extension of my Retirement Visa. I did not need to fly overseas." Now this is not an exhaustive quotation of this article. I urge those who are interested in this article to go and check that out. Again the title is, Rising Baht Exposes the Vulnerability of Expat Retirees

A couple of things going on here. First of all, what it shows me is they are taking the application to these rules, and the new interpretation thereof, very seriously. I think it would be, I won't go so far to say as foolish, but I think it would be rather cavalier to assume that they are not.  Now I suspect that different Immigration Offices are going to have different levels of scrutiny with respect to this overall issue so that will vary province by province, Immigration Office by Immigration Office. 

The other thing that was notable about this article. The gentleman in question had a Thai wife and was legally married to her so it was I think a pretty easy fix if you will, fix is the wrong word, an easy call if you will by the Immigration Officer with jurisdiction over the matter to go ahead and issue that 60-day extension and allow for some leniency.  That being said, to the person that's not married to a Thai, I think you could have a problem if placed in similar circumstances. As I mentioned, this gentleman was married to a Thai National. That means that individual would be eligible for a Thai O Visa should he so desire and the Thai O visa only requires 400,000 baht in a Thai bank account or I believe 40,000 baht in monthly income.  Again those are lower thresholds than the Retirement Visa so I think it was that that allowed the Immigration Officer to go ahead and use some leniency because at the very least that Immigration Officer can fall back on the analysis of "Look, the guy is married anyway to a Thai. If he wanted to just switch over to an O visa he could do it and he would meet the requirements immediately. So what are we talking about here? What is the problem?" Essentially. 

The things to take away from this video is, as I said, most of this is anecdotal evidence but I think it is very, very safe to say that moving forward Immigration Officers are probably going to be quite sticklers on the financial issue for a bunch of different reasons most notably because they have been told and ordered to maintain a very strict stance with respect to financial issues.  Again as you can see from that quoted article, this gentleman had to eventually go to a higher up in order to gain some insight if you will and be given some leniency. Your average line officer, I don't believe is going to want to exercise discretion in favor of someone that does not meet the financial requirements. I just don't see them wanting to make that call on a case-by-case basis.  One, they have got a heck of a backlog in most of the places that are farang heavy; a quiet immigration office might be more willing to sort of dig deeper into the details of the case and the exigent circumstances surrounding someone's inability to meet financial requirements, whereas a heavy case load office is just not going to want to take the time to do that. Again, the next thing that you've got an issue with respect to that is, strictly speaking it doesn't meet the requirements and more and more I think the thing that we're seeing with respect to the respective paradigm shift when it comes to retirement visas is they do this is almost as more a law enforcement function rather than administrative processing function.  

So the thing to take away from this video, moving forward I see glimmers of hope with respect to them trying to work through problems but if you don't meet the requirements and you know you don't meet the requirements,  it is going to be a good idea to plan accordingly rather than hoping for some sort of leniency because especially after 2019 I don't see that happening.