Thailand extends grace period for stranded foreigners

Thailand extends grace period for stranded foreigners

A few Western tourists are seen on a beach which is usually full of Chinese tourists, amid fear of coronavirus in Phuket on March 10. (Reuters photo)
A few Western tourists are seen on a beach which is usually full of Chinese tourists, amid fear of coronavirus in Phuket on March 10. (Reuters photo)

Thailand on Monday extended a grace period for visa renewals for foreigners stranded in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic until the end of October, as travel restrictions remain in place and new infections climb globally.

The extension will allow foreigners to remain in Thailand until Oct 31, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government's coronavirus taskforce, told Reuters.

The matter is subject to cabinet approval on Tuesday.

Thailand halted commercial flights in April and banned foreign visitors in an effort to keep the coronavirus at bay, with repatriation flights the only means of leaving the country.

In July, authorities granted automatic visa extensions from late March to Sept 26 to all foreigners.

After October, a new immigration regulation will allow foreigners to apply for 60-day extensions to remain in the country if they are unable to leave due to limited flights or other issues, Pornchai Kuntee, deputy commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, told Reuters.

Previously, extensions required documentation from their respective embassies and were limited to 30 days.

Authorities on Monday also extended an emergency decree until the end of October.

Thailand has kept the number of confirmed coronavirus cases at a low 3,545 with 59 fatalities.

The government this month approved visas of up to 270 days for long-stay tourists and is preparing to reopen to some foreign visitors from next month, although the move could be delayed.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects foreign tourist numbers to plunge to 6.7 million this year from 39.8 million in 2019 before recovering to 20.5 million next year.

This compares with the central bank’s estimate for 9 million tourists in 2021. 


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