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Thai Visa Overstay Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Lockdown

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing overstay issues associated with the Coronavirus and the outbreak of this pandemic and how it is impacting the Thai Immigration System. 

We have had a lot of questions since we started talking about this. We are going to try and go ahead and steam through with more videos on Coronavirus specifically and we have kind of put off our general  thread of videos that we usually do to try and stay on top of this COVID-19 issue because it really is having an impact on a lot of the folks that watch this channel; a lot of expats here in Thailand. 

In a recent article from Bangkok Post, that is, titled Tourism Minister Wants to Help Visa Overstayers. Quoting directly: "The Tourism Ministry will seek to reprieve some 500,000 tourists who will end up overstaying their visa now that countries in Europe have started to (I am paraphrasing now) close off folks from returning; certain other countries are sealing up their borders."  It is getting harder and harder for folks to leave Thailand that were already here for example on vacation or perhaps they were here on a longer stay on an Immigrant Visa and they just simply cannot leave due to various restrictions. We are going to make subsequent videos on how all this stuff and we will get to that later. We are specifically in this video talking about the overall issue of overstay; folks that are about to fall into over stay and folks that may begin overstay already and what it looks like we are looking at moving forward with those folks. Quoting further and quoting directly: "He plans to seek a temporary reprieve for those tourists as well as visa extensions for those whose countries have been affected. He will also ask the Authorities to not have overstayers blacklisted."  

So where does that leave things? Well moving forward, I do think we are probably going to see a lot more folks in overstay than we have previously seen in the past couple of years. I think there is going to be a dramatic spike in overstay here in Thailand. What are those folks going to do? Well as a practical matter, not much. They are not going to really be able to leave and when I say not be able to leave, it may be possible to eventually leave but I think in the forthcoming couple of weeks, it is going to be very difficult. Borders are being sealed, effectively sealed, they are open to certain Immigration at certain checkpoints but for the most part, as far as  mass movements of expats moving across borders over here between Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand, that is just not going to be the case, at least for the relatively foreseeable future. By foreseeable future, I think a couple of weeks, not much past that. Again it remains to be seen.  

So the next thing to deal with is you are in Thailand your on overstay, what is going to happen? I do think fines are going to be waived. I think blacklisting is going to be waived. I do think that those who were already in overstay, especially prolonged overstayers, do not expect that this is going to be some sort of amnesty for getting out of that. That being said, there could be some who basically if you are already in Thailand you have been on overstay for a long period of time and you do want to leave and you just haven't wanted to go through the detention process etc., when the smoke clears from this, this might be the time to get out because they may and I suspect will probably be expediting processing of people getting out of the country who have been in overstay. 

So overall, I think the thing to take away from this video is "Do not panic. It is not something that is going to dramatically impact your life if you end up on a few days, a few weeks or even a few months of overstay as a result of this Coronavirus pandemic." 

The other thing to take away from this video is you may be eligible for an extension and it is a good idea to go ahead and do that. Why do I say this? I have talked with other colleagues, I have talked with contacts at Immigration and although I can't get a clear picture of what this is actually going to look like,  what kind of amnesty we are going to see for overstay at the end of this, my gut tells me there will be some kind of time window in which folks who were in overstay or who fell into overstay during a certain window of time, will sort of be reprieved if they get situated before that window then comes up or within a certain time period after that window has expired.

The other thing I think we will probably happen in response to this is certain people may get fined; certain people may not get fined. Again it may be based on sort of a time frame window or something of that nature but if you have the ability to extend your status lawfully here, it would be a good idea to do so because trying to fall wholly on the mercy of Immigration Officers who are going to be dealing with a large backlog of this stuff may not be the best idea. It may not be the most efficient way especially if you want to quickly leave Thailand and get back to your home country or move on with your travel plans, whatever that may is, if you are doing business in the region etc., if you can extend lawful status it is a good idea to do so. Avoid going into overstay if it is possible. If it is not, if for example you came in on a 30-day stamp, lawfully extended before this even became an issue and that extension is running out and they are just simply isn't another option, well I think you may have to fall on the mercy of Thailand's amnesty on this overstay issue and you don't really have any other choices. For those who do have other choices, I think it is a good piece of advice to try to go ahead and lawfully extend rather than try and deal with this after one has been in a prolonged overstay down the road.