Foreign chambers push for TM30 review
Reporting requirement has heavy impact on many foreigners; broader immigration reforms also needed
The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT) has proposed a significant review of the Immigration Bureau's TM30 reporting requirement for foreign students, retirees and expatriates due to its negative impacts, and has urged deeper regulatory reform over the medium to long term.
While the majority of foreigners who enter Thailand as tourists are exempt, most of those who are in possession of longer-stay visas have to report any changes of address within 24 hours. This applies even if they visit other provinces on short breaks or are returning to Thailand from holidays or business trips abroad.
"The immigration form TM30, or 24-hour reporting, places an onus on property owners and lessors [Thais as well as foreigners] to report the movements of foreigners using such properties," said Stanley Kang, the JFCCT chairman. "As can be seen in the press, there is much unhappiness with the current TM30 requirement, both from foreigners and Thai citizens, which has caused some unfortunately negative views about Thailand both as an investment and 'doing business' location, and as a tourism destination. This need not be so."
The TM30 requirement has been on the books since 1979 but was rarely enforced. But since March 25 this year, immigration authorities began enforcing it with renewed vigour, including to the point where a correctly completed TM30 is a precondition for getting long-term visas renewed. This has angered many foreign long-stayers.
Even though the TM30 form should be submitted to immigration by the landlord or property owner, foreigners tend to shoulder the burden as in practice they are the ones who actually pay the fines, which range from 800 to 2,000 baht per offence.
The regulation, which was imposed in the 1979 Immigration Act, is ostensibly to boost national security. Given the increasing risk from terrorism, the bureau says it has also come across numerous cases of foreign criminals making extended stays in-country; hence the crackdown.
On this note, Mr Kang said: "Ease of doing business is a hallmark of any nation's attractiveness for trade, investment and tourism. We commend the government for positive steps in 'ease of doing business'. Currently TM30 is undoing those good achievements. Our neighbours do not have this continuous tracking requirement."
Mr Kang also stated: "While no-one would wish to remove tools which can effectively prevent harmful criminal behaviour, this particular form does not seem to be the best way to do this as it relies on self-disclosure. Also many cases [for example those with work permits and business visas are already well covered. Finally there is overlap with another part of the Immigration Act about inter-provincial travel. Thus, we have made specific recommendations about review and changes to reduce scope and make it user-friendly."
Mr Kang also noted "In the medium to long term, we urge regulatory reform. We understand that the Guillotine Unit [Simple and Smart Licence project] has recommended the removal of TM30 in the interests of the Thai economy and ease of doing business. JFCCT supports this."