The Thai embassy in Vientiane, Laos is no longer issuing 60 day tourist visas to applicants who have 3 previous visa stickers already on their passport. Tourists returned from Vientiane said that the embassy had taken a stern stance towards tourists who have been using tourist visas to stay indefinitely in Thailand.
An embassy spokesperson said that tourist visas are meant for visitors who are genuine vacationers and not for people choosing permanent haven in Thailand. He added that there is substantial suspicion that many such tourists securing Thailand tourist visas are working the country illegally.
The 60 day tourist visas are free for the time being, at least till the end of March. However, a 30 day extension is allowed by Thai immigration for Bt 1,900.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs sources confirmed that Thai embassies around the world can refuse issuance of 60-day visas if they fear misuse or manipulation of visas.
The ministry of foreign affairs sources went on to say that instead of repeatedly applying for tourist visas, foreigners looking to permanently stay in Thailand can apply for other types of visas suited for long term residence. Business visas, education visas, one year retirement visas for individuals 50 and above and a one year marriage visa for foreigners who have Thai spouses are all options for long term tourists.
Other Thai embassies in South East Asia however have no such policy and are issuing visas as usual. Applicants have reported no problems when securing visas through the Phnom Penh and Vietnam embassies. Tourist accounts although have confirmed that the Singapore embassy is issuing second time tourist visas after a gap of 6 weeks since the first visit.
“The Vientiane embassy is the biggest issuing authority of Thai visas in the region”, claim several tourism agents. “The current tightening of immigration laws maybe to limit the number of visas being issued through them and encouraging other Thai embassies in Asia”, tourism agents say.
Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry is although doing the right thing by tightening immigration laws and keeping illegal workers out of their economy, at the same time they are killing their tourism industry. Unstable government, airport closure, the economic crises and now these harsh visa laws are deserting the Thai tourist attractions.