Up to 150,000 foreigners in Thailand face jail for overstaying visas as govt ends Covid-19 grace period

Tens of thousands of foreign nationals in Thailand risk fines and even prison for failing to renew their visas. Bangkok has been lenient about expired visas due to the coronavirus crisis but announced it will start cracking down.

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Foreigners in the country will have until September 26 to make sure their visas are up-to-date, a spokesperson for Thailand’s Immigration Bureau said. Overstaying a tourist visa in the country could result in jail time and a fine. Offenders are also deported back to their home countries. There are currently more than 150,000 foreigners staying in Thailand on tourist visas, the bureau said.

Countless foreign travelers were stranded in Thailand when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. As the health crisis halted international flights and sealed borders, Bangkok said it would not take action against individuals with expired visas. But with things opening back up, the government has decided to resume normal enforcement of immigration laws. Those with expired visas will incur a daily fine for not coming forward, as authorities use registration databases to track down unwanted guests in the country. 

The crackdown comes as Thailand moves to re-open its tourist industry. Last week the country’s cabinet approved visas of up to 270 days for long-stay tourists. The government hopes to attract visitors starting in October, but only people from countries that have contained the coronavirus outbreak will be welcome. Travelers will also be encouraged to fly directly to Thailand and will be required to undergo a two-week quarantine upon arrival. 

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