Foreign visitors still stranded in the kingdom by the Covid-19 pandemic will be allowed to apply for an extended short stay after their visas expire on July 31, the Immigration Bureau chief said on Friday.
Foreign tourists who are unable to leave Thailand would be given a grace period from Aug 1 to Sept 26 to apply to stay for a specified period, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang, the bureau commissioner. However, if they do not obtain extensions and are still in the country after Sept 26, they would face legal action and be blacklisted.
He urged foreigners to contact the bureau as soon as possible to prepare for their next steps in order to avoid crowding as the Sept 26 deadline approached.
Foreign visitors must specify their reasons and submit necessary documents when seeking to renew short-term visas, which will be granted for 30 days, he said.
"If they are unable to return because there are no flights or due to lockdown measures in their countries, they must submit proof. The granting of a short-stay visa will be made on a case-by-case basis," Pol Lt Gen Sompong said during a visit to Phuket, a province with a high number of stranded foreigners.
He said the bureau had asked the Council of State about the proposed short stay and it had advised that the Interior Ministry could issue an announcement.
He said the Interior Ministry's visa relief measures for foreign visitors would be submitted to the cabinet for approval next Tuesday. The bureau would later issue guidelines on how to apply for a visa extension.
He said those who planned to return to their home countries did not need to contact the bureau but also had to leave Thailand by Sept 26.
He estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 foreigners were stranded in the kingdom due to the lockdown.
The government earlier automatically extended their visas until July 31, but they must still inform authorities where they are staying.
Foreign nationals queue up in front of the Immigration Bureau temporary office at the Central Investigation Bureau Building in Muang Thong Thani last week. (Immigration Bureau photo)