New and tougher penalties for visa overstays have been approved by the Interior Ministry and will now be considered by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Immigration chief Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn Prousoontorn revealed the latest development with the stronger measures at a press briefing on Sunday to report on the progress of the bureau's “Good guys in, bad guys out” operation aimed at catching foreigners who overstay their visas.
The nationwide operation, which was launched on Monday and ended Sunday, rounded up 9,265 foreigners. Of the total, 9,038 people were charged with violating the Immigration Act by overstaying their visas, 18 were charged with committing criminal offences and 209 others had committed petty offences.
Most of those found to have overstayed their permitted period were from African countries, India and Bangladesh, Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn said.
He said overstaying a visa was the most common offence because the penalty was weak. An offender is currently fined 500 baht per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht before being deported but could still be allowed to return to Thailand as long as the person is not barred by immigration officials.
For those who have no money to pay the fine, he said, their time in jail is considered equal to 200 baht a day.
Under the tougher regulations now being considered by Gen Prayut, offenders who turn themselves in would be barred from re-entering Thailand for one year if their overstay period exceeds 90 days.
The ban extends to three years if the overstay is more than one year. Violators exceeding three years will be banned from re-entering for five years, while those who overstay more than five years will be prohibited from returning to the kingdom for 10 years, starting from the day they leave Thailand.
Offenders arrested for overstaying less than one year will be barred from re-entry for five years and those overstaying more than one year cannot come back for 10 years.
The immigration bureau chief earlier said Interpol had agreed to allow the Royal Thai Police to use the agency's database of international arrest warrants and a memorandum of understanding will be signed by the two sides soon.
The information link would help prevent foreigners on the run from entering Thailand and going into hiding in the country, he added.