The government of Thailand has decided in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the visa amnesty concerning foreign visitors will be extended until September 26, 2020.
There has been lots of speculation about what will happen to the amnesty which so far granted right of stay for foreigners in Thailand until July 31st even if their visa or entry permit had already expired since April when the Amnesty was first announced.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Thailand had a very generous visa amnesty for foreigners in place that saw themselves unable to return to their home countries due to lack of flight options or deterioration COVID situations back home.
Since mid July Thai Immigration as well as the embassies in Bangkok have been telling foreigners it’s time to prepare for their departure or avail themselves to a visa extension if eligible although it was always talked about that ending the amnesty on July 31st as planned might create administrative chaos and isn’t practical.
As The Nation reports today, the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by the Prime Minister yesterday decided to confirm a solution that has the amnesty extended until September 26, 2020.
Government spokesperson Traisuree Taisaranakul announced that the Cabinet resolved on Tuesday (July 21) to extend visa amnesty for foreigners stranded in Thailand to September 26.
Foreigners were initially allowed to stay until July 31 without having to apply for a visa extension. The resolution will be published in the Royal Gazette soon.
In order for this to become law it must be published in the Royal Gazette first. So far embassies who were quick to remind their citizens of the impending end of the original visa amnesty have not commented on their official channels and neither did the Thai Immigration Department.
South East Asia is very popular with visitors from all over the world and when the Covid-19 hit it’s peak in March/April many countries including Indonesia and Thailand eventually decided for a general visa amnesty that allowed foreign visitors on tourist visas to stay in the country for a given period.
At the moment it is rumored that there are roughly 50,000 tourists left in Thailand that are affected by this resolution. Thailand isn’t allowing any tourists into the country anymore since early April so pretty much anyone still in the country right now who previously entered on a tourist visa is affected by this regulation.
What’s often not talked about is that there are plenty of other visa holders that aren’t tourists who face administrative hurdles when it comes to renewing or updating their visa status, including those on family and work visas.
Thailand has now also announced a path forward for foreigners of a variety of categories to get back to the country including those holding spouse, Thailand Elite, residency and certain education visas. The state quarantine facilities are currently at capacity and the government is working on a solution to enlist more hotels throughout the country to serve as quarantine facilities.
I wouldn’t have expected this new extension but it’s both generous and also a practical solution to the issue of revenue shortage due to the lack of inbound tourists. Somehow these 50,000 people still in the country need to spend money for lodging, f&b and other expenses of daily life including travel. I’d imagine most if not all of the people benefiting from this visa amnesty have access to funds allowing them to spend freely in Thailand otherwise they wouldn’t have lasted that long. This brings at least some money into the till.
This morning I wrote about Thai Airways putting on three flights to the UK in August that would make it possible to British nationals to return home. I put out the thought that it’s possible the government asked Thai Airways to run these flights so that by September less people have an excuse to still be in Thailand. Other countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands already have regular flights ex BKK by Air France, KLM and Lufthansa. The fact that Thai Airways has been grounded for months (as well as being in bankruptcy) and isn’t refunding or rebooking passengers tickets has also presented a problem for the government to move out people who held valid TG tickets but were cancelled upon.