Visa runs now illegal for tourists, say police

Visa runs now illegal for tourists, say police

Cambodian workers at the border crossing located at Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district. THANARAK
Cambodian workers at the border crossing located at Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district. THANARAK KHOONTON

For decades tourists have extended their stay in Thailand by "visa runs" but latest crackdown may change this...or maybe not.


Visa runs now illegal for tourists, say police 

Wassayos Ngamkham

Man on visa run gets passport stamped for another 30 days of living in Thailand.

For decades tourists have extended their stay in Thailand by so-called "visa runs."

One kind of "visa run" is when a tourist exits Thailand at a border checkpoint and then re-enters Thailand without a new visa to stay in Thailand for another 30 days.

When people travel to a nearby country to get a tourist visa to extend their stay for another two to three months, this is also commonly called a "visa run."

Tourists typically travel to border towns such as Aranyapratet on the Cambodian border, Nongkhai on the Lao border, Mae Sai or Mae Sot on the Burma border or to Penang near Malaysia's border do visa runs.

Visa runs can also be a fun excuse for another trip, another party or meeting new friends during the long bus ride to the border

Visa runs may be a unique part (or even tradition) of Thailand's tourism scene.

Just walk down the street in any major tourism center such as Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui or Chiang Mai and one can easily spot signs advertising visa run trips by bus or van.


Another staple of Thai tourism is the visa run crackdown.

Immigration authorities often change their policy on visa runs and rules on who can get what kinds of visas where, such as at the different consulates in Vientienne, Laos or Penang, Malaysia.  

These changes are usually not announced officially and are a surprise to tourists who have to rely on updates at to get reports from other tourists doing visa runs.

Temporary "crackdowns" to get tough and enforce some law or regulation are common, but enforcement usually only happens for only a few weeks or so until the situation slips back to normal.

For example, immediately after the 2014 coup there was a crackdown and ban on visa runs (see here).

In the past, during the occasional border warfare between Thailand and Burma, the Mae Sai border checkpoint in Chiang Rai was closed and tourists had to go to Nong Khai to do a visa run.

Police checking documents at border crossing.


The first suspect charged in the Bangkok bombings, Adem Karadag, allegedly paid 21,000 baht to do his visa runs at the Aranyaprathet border checkpoint.

There has been no explanation why he would have had to pay so much when ordinary people pay a few hundred baht and no one knew he had any connection to the Bangkok bombing at that time.

This has apparently motivated national police chief Police General Somyot Poompunmuang to wage a one-man war against the Immigration Police before he retires on Sept 30, including a crackdown on visa runs for everyone, including ordinary tourists and teachers as well as terrorists.

Former Bangkok Post editor Veera Prateepchaikul questioned these actions:

"Would he have blown the whistle about the alleged widespread abuses in the Immigration Police Bureau if there were no blasts at the Erawan shrine and Sathorn pier which killed 20 Thais and foreign tourists and injured 130 others?

He has known all along what has been going on at the Immigration Police Bureau, from the inside out. Then why the rhetoric now against the bureau when he has just two weeks left in office, and why does he have to seek the hand of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to do the clean-up job for him?" 


This little story of a real-life visa runner English teacher was featured in Bangkok Post's Spectrum magazine in August last year: 

"In the past five years, Jon has travelled in and out of Thailand more than 60 times, using up four passports in the process. His travels have included short trips to neighbouring countries, including Singapore and Cambodia, and some summer breaks at home in the United Kingdom. Most of his trips were merely a walk out and walk in at the border, commonly known as a visa run among the thousands of expats living in Thailand without proper work or residency permits.

"The school that hired Jon to teach English does not provide him with a work permit, meaning he must rely on monthly visa runs to continue his stay in the country he now considers home.

"I have been employed full-time by a private language school, but I have never obtained a work permit," he said. "The school says the cost [of obtaining a permit] is high and it will be an investment risk on their part to provide paperwork for us when there is such a high turnover of English-language teachers in Thailand.”

"Until recently, Jon had no problems making repeated visa runs. With as little as 3,000 baht in his pocket, he could take a van from the On Nut area to the border province of Sa Kaeo. From there, he could cross into Cambodia’s Poi Pet province, spend some time scouring the veritable sea of second-hand goods at Rong Kluea market, before walking back to Thailand and getting an extension of his tourist visa for another 30 days.

"But last week, after a two-week stay in Singapore, Jon’s passport came under close scrutiny. After landing at Don Mueang airport, he, along with 12 other people, were taken aside by immigration officers who were concerned by the number of entry stamps inside their passports.

"In the end, Jon was allowed to enter. But in the future, he is unlikely to be so lucky..."

People waiting to be processed at an immigration checkpoint.

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  • abuse: the use of something in a bad, dishonest, or harmful way - การใช้ในทางที่ผิด
  • advertise: to tell the public about a product or a service, political candidate, etc. in order to encourage people to buy, use or support it - ลงโฆษณา
  • alleged: claimed to be true, even though this has not yet been proved - ที่กล่าวหา
  • allegedly: claimed to have done something wrong, but not yet proven - ที่กล่าวหา
  • announce: to tell people something officially, especially about a decision, plans, etc - ประกาศ, แจ้ง, แจ้งให้ทราบ
  • apparently: based only on what you have heard or think, not on what you are certain is true; seemingly - ตามที่ได้รู้มา
  • authority (noun): a person or government agency who has the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • blast: an explosion - การระเบิด
  • blown the whistle: when wrongdoing or crimes are reported -
  • border: the official line separating two areas, regions or countries - เขตแดน อาณาเขต
  • charge : an official statement accusing someone of committing a crime - ข้อกล่าวหา
  • checkpoint: a place where people are stopped and questioned and vehicles are examined, especially at a border between two countries - ด่านตรวจ
  • concern: a worry - ความกังวล
  • connection: something that connects two facts, ideas, etc. - การเชื่อมต่อ การเชื่อมโยง
  • consider: to regard as; to think of as - ถือว่า
  • consulate: the building where a government official works who is sent to live in another country and look after his/her own country’s citizens and business interests there - สถานกงสุล
  • continue: happening or existing for a period of time without interruption - ซึ่งติดต่อกัน, ซึ่งต่อเนื่องกัน
  • coup: the seizure of power in a country by a group of people, usually members of the armed forces - รัฐประหาร
  • crackdown: strong action that someone in authority takes to stop a particular activity - การใช้กำลังเข้าปราบปรามของเจ้าหน้าที่
  • decades: periods of ten years - เป็นสิบๆปี
  • employ: to have someone work or do a job for you and pay them for it - ว่าจ้าง, จ้าง
  • enforcement: the process of making sure that something happens, especially that people obey a law or rule - การบังคับใช้กฎหมาย
  • expatriate (expat): a person living in a country that is not their own - คนที่อาศัยอยู่ต่างประเทศ (เป็นเวลานาน)
  • explanation (noun): a description of how something happened or happens; giving the reasons why it happened - การอธิบาย, การชี้แจง, การขยายความ, คำอธิบาย
  • extend: to add more time - ยืดออกไป
  • extension: making a period of time longer - การขยายออกไป
  • goods: things that are produced to be sold; possessions that can be moved - สินค้า, สิ่งของ
  • immediately (adv): happening right after something else with no delay; right away - ทันที
  • immigration police: the police agency dealing with people entering and leaving the country - สำนักงานตรวจคนเข้าเมือง
  • in the process: carrying out a series of actions to do or make something - ในกระบวนการ
  • injured (adj): hurt in an accident, natural disaster, attack, etc. - ได้รับบาดเจ็บ
  • investment (noun): the act of investing money in something - การลงทุน
  • major: very large or important - สำคัญมาก
  • motivated: done for a particular reason - มีแรงจูงใจ ถูกโน้มน้าวใจ
  • neighbouring: located or living near or next to a place or person - ติดกัน, ที่อยู่ใกล้เคียง, ที่ตั้งอยู่ใกล้เคียง
  • obtain: to get something that you want or need, especially by going through a process that is difficult - ได้มา, ได้รับ
  • occasional: happening or done sometimes but not often - ซึ่งเป็นครั้งคราว
  • officially: publicly and by somebody who is in a position of authority - อย่างเป็นทางการ
  • ordinary: not unusual or different in any way - ธรรมดา, ปกติ
  • paperwork: all the reports, forms and documents needed to do some task at work or for the government or the bank, etc - งานหนังสือ (ปฏิบัติการสำนักงาน)
  • permit: an official document that gives you permission to do something - ใบอนุญาต
  • policy (noun): a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group - นโยบาย
  • proper: actual or real - จริง (พระราชพิธีพระราชทานเพลิงพระศพจริง)
  • question: to have or express doubts or suspicions about something - สงสัย
  • re-: to do again - อีก
  • real-life (adj): things that "really" happen in people's everyday life - ซึ่งเกิดขึ้นในชีวิตจริง
  • recently (adverb): not long ago - เมื่อไม่นานมานี้, เมื่อเร็วๆ นี้
  • regulation: an official rule that controls the way that things are done - กฎระเบียบ
  • rely on: to need something in order to continue living, existing, or operating - อาศัย, พึ่งพาอาศัย
  • repeat: something that happens again, i.e., which is very similar to a previous happening - การกระทำซ้ำ
  • residency: living in a place, being a resident - ผู้ที่อาศัยในท้องที่
  • retire: to stop working because you have reached the age where you are officially too old to work - เกษียณอายุ
  • rhetoric: a style of speaking or writing that is intended to influence people - การใช้ถ้อยคำชักจูงโน้มน้าว
  • scour: to search a place or document thoroughly for something - ค้นหา, ตรวจหา
  • scrutiny: careful and thorough examination - การตรวจสอบอย่างละเอียด
  • second-hand (adjective): not new; owned by somebody else before - ใช้แล้ว, มือสอง
  • situation: all the circumstances and things that are happening at a particular time and in a particular place - สถานการณ์
  • so-called: used for saying that a particular word is usually used for referring to someone or something - ที่เป็นที่รู้กัน
  • spat: an argument or disagreement, especially over something that seems unimportant - เรื่องทะเลาะเบาะแว้ง ในเรื่องไม่เป็นเรื่อง
  • spot: to see or notice - สังเกตเห็น
  • staple (noun): forming a basic, large or important part of something - ส่วนสำคัญ
  • stay (noun): the act of living and being a place for a period of time, during a trip, for example - การอยู่,การพักอยู่
  • summer break: when school is closed for the summer holiday -
  • suspect: a person who is thought to have committed a crime - ผู้ต้องสงสัย
  • tradition: a very old custom, belief, or story - ประเพณี, ขนบธรรมเนียม
  • turnover (noun): the rate at which employees leave a company and are replaced by other people - อัตราการลาออก
  • typically: usually; normally - อย่างเป็นแบบฉบับ
  • unique: very special, unusual or good - ที่มีลักษณะพิเศษ  เป็นเอกลักษณ์
  • update: the most recent information or news about something - ข้อมูลใหม่ๆ
  • veritable: almost the same as .... -
  • visa: an official document or mark in your passport that allows you to enter or leave a country for a specific purpose or period of time - วีซ่า, เอกสารอนุมัติที่ประทับตราบนหนังสือเดินทาง
  • wage war: to start or continue a war or fight - ต่อสู้กับ, เปิดศึก
  • widespread: happening or existing in many places, or affecting many people - อย่างแพร่หลาย
  • work permit (noun): the official permission for a foreigner to work in a country - ใบอนุญาตทำงาน
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