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Questioned by Immigration at the Airport on a 30 day entry


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Last Friday, I had an interesting experience at Suvarnabhumi airport, which I thought people at Thaivisa might be interested in. The officer spent a long time looking at my passport. After 2 minutes, I knew something was up. Eventually she took me out of the queue and brought me to talk to one of the officers on the side. She asked me what I was doing in Thailand and I told them (eat good food, relax, massage, get some therapy on my shoulders, etc.) She then asked if I had an onward ticket which I then produced. She went away for a little while and then came back. I was told me to sit down and wait and she went away for a while.

When she came back, she had a big sheet of papers. Apparently it was a print out of all of my recorded interactions with immigration (over 17 years I am a frequent and regular visitor). She said that they didn’t think I was working illegally in Thailand (I certainly am not), but they faulted me for using the 30 day extensions too often. I had done two in the last 6 months, based on the changed policy of allowing people to get 30 day extensions of stay when they arrive on a 30 day visa exempt stamp. She said that this should only be done once or twice ever. It is pretty interesting because at Chaeng Wattana Immigration they never said that when they gave the extensions to me, but then again the airport and Chaeng Wattana have different bosses.

I was told that when someone comes to Thailand (at the airport) and uses the 30 day stamp very often and spends a lot of time in Thailand over a six month period the computer system automatically flags the person for questioning. They recommended that I get a multi-entry tourist visa and told me I needed to plan things better. If I had a tourist visa I would be let in with no questions. Otherwise, I would have to waste a lot of time with the inconvenience of being questioned by immigration. I tried to ask them what the policy was, but they didn’t tell me (not knowing the new rules certainly makes planning things difficult). It seems that they still aren’t sure or don’t want people to know what is going on. It was a little difficult for me to follow things since we were speaking almost entirely in Thai, and my vocabulary wasn’t good enough to completely understand them. The officers were very nice the whole time.

In the end, they gave me my 30 day stamp and sent me on my way. I had to waste around 30 minutes or so beyond the normal time waiting for them to process things (at least I didn’t have to wait for my luggage). I must admit I was surprised that this happened. I wish they had told me more about the new rules for entrance on the 30 day visa exempt stamp. They have to have something very solid in terms of entries and days spent in Thailand for the computer to be flagging people. I was planning on returning to Thailand on June 3rd for around a month, but am concerned that there may be a problem.

I think when I leave again next week on the 13th I will try to talk to an immigration supervisor to get more information. They clearly have some clear guidelines/rules at the airport, but they don’t seem to want to let people know. It also appears that the airport and Change Wattana are not on the same page because main Immigration gave me my extensions without a thought and didn’t say it was anything special at all ( I think that I had asked them if there was a limit to the extensions when I called before getting them and they had said no). I am supposed to come back to BKK on June 3rd, but don’t know if I will without a tourist visa. Certainly it is not a good sign to be pulled out of the queue and have to justify myself. I have been coming to Thailand regularly for 17 years, and this is the 1st time it has ever happened.

I am a 50 year old US citizen and have spent 132 days in Thailand in the last 6 months, with 3 entries on 30 day stamps and two 30 day extensions (and no overstays). I am curious about people’s thoughts on this.

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There was some rule that you could have no more than 3 Visa Exempt entries in any 6 month period - I'm not sure if this is remains so...

Now that you are 50 years old you should be able to get a Retirement Visa (keeping THB 800,000 in your Thai bank account).

I suspect that sometimes the Imm officer gets a little bored and starts to question a random visitor occasionally.

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Nothing really new here. In case of frequent travel to Thailand on visa exempt entries within 6 months time you are automatically flagged for questioning and you are not the first person being told to next time enter on a toruist visa or non-immigrant visa.

Might indeed be better to get a tourist visa for your next trip.

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I'm not sure of the current rules either, OP. But spending nineteen weeks out of the last twenty-six on thirty-day visa exempt stamps and extensions isn't the way to go long term for a short term visa.

I can actually appreciate what the officer is saying, and that a Non O-A is going to cause you less problems in the future.

Good luck.

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As said nothing new

Someone spending more than 18 weeks in Thailand in 6 months using visa exempt entries perhaps should be surprised at being asked what they are doing !

A visa would solve the problem !

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It almost feels like they are informally doing the the 90 days stay out of 180 without a visa like they did the last time the military was in power in 2006.

I had not heard that you were only allowed 3 entries on 30 day stamps within a 6 moth period. That would be good to know if it were true Richard. They weren't bored at the time. The queue was stacked.

Mario, they didn't tell me I had to have a visa the next time I came. They suggested that that it would be better for me and told me it would be more convenient for me. Certainly no stamp to that effect was put in my passport. I do wonder if that suggestion was more a requirement than they said it was.

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The thirty-day visa exempt was never designed for long term stays. An extension was, let's say, for emergencies and not to allow travellers to circumvent the visa requirements. That Immigration has been lax in the past doesn't mean they can't reassert the rules now.

You're fortunate that you are now fifty-years old and can afford to play by the book. Why invite more hassle?

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As others have said, they have never wanted people to visit 3-4 times a year on visa exempt stamps. If you are going to be more than a month, then just get a tourist visa at a consulate before coming. It really isn't a big deal.

They were pretty clear, you don't need one but if you have one, they will stamp you and let you pass without notice. Multiple visa exempt stamps with multiple extensions flag you as someone who is not a tourist. If you are spending more than a month every 6 months in country, just get a proper visa.

There isn't really anything new in this.

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It almost feels like they are informally doing the the 90 days stay out of 180 without a visa like they did the last time the military was in power in 2006.

I had not heard that you were only allowed 3 entries on 30 day stamps within a 6 moth period. That would be good to know if it were true Richard. They weren't bored at the time. The queue was stacked.

Mario, they didn't tell me I had to have a visa the next time I came. They suggested that that it would be better for me and told me it would be more convenient for me. Certainly no stamp to that effect was put in my passport. I do wonder if that suggestion was more a requirement than they said it was.

I suspect it was more a strong advise, there is no such requirement. But they already checked if you had a ticket out and can also ask to see if you have the required sum of cash with you.

They said they didn't think you were working illegally in Thailand and that should be their main concern. But you never know, better safe than sorry. Especially when you think you will extend your stay get a tourist visa. Cheaper than an extension anyway.

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I am aware of the cash requirement as well. I normally have it since this latest change in policy was enacted (since they hadn't checked me for the cash the last 3 times, I didn't have it this time) I am glad I made sure to have my onward ticket.

I thought that with the change in rules, using the 30 day extension was not a problem. Chaeng Wattana was giving them out like hotcakes the last two times I was there. It would be nice if these two important immigrations were sending out a consistent message on this issue (they don't appear to be). I will be more wary about using them in the future.

Thanks for your input Mario :)

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Unfortunately the written rules & the implementation of then by immigration are not matched, if want go down this root they ideally want change rules & clearly state a maximum amount of exempt entries in 12months but that too simple :-/

i had same experience at swampy with TR visa, European friend from Taiwan had same as you with exempt entries at swampy.

Worth picking up a TR visa for next visit or at least keep an eye on the status on entry hassle & plan accordingly.

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