Penalties for overstaying your nonimmigrant visa

Penalties for overstaying your nonimmigrant visaThere really is no excuse for overstaying your nonimmigrant visa in Thailand and it can even lead to being jailed fined & deported from the country.

Overstaying is the act of staying in Thailand exceeding the duration of the permission to stay. The period of stay granted to an individual, by an immigration officer at the port of entry, is in accordance with the type of Thai visa possessed by the individual. The last date of permission to stay is stamped into the individual’s passport. It is the individual’s responsibility to check that the appropriate date has been entered into the passport and, unless an extension to the permission to stay has been obtained, their obligation to exit Thailand on or before their permit of stay expires. Stay beyond that date and overstay fines and penalties come into play.

The Thai Immigration Department has been remarkably relaxed about the enforcement of the penalties for people who overstay. In many countries overstaying can result in mandatory jail time and significant fines. The fine currently levied for an overstay in Thailand is 500 baht per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. For example an overstay of 40 days would generate a fine of 20,000 baht, identical to the fine payable if the overstay was for a duration of 400 days or even 4 years. Who knows when these penalties might actually change.

Should an individual find themselves in an overstay situation they can choose to voluntarily visit an immigration office to pay the fine and regularise their position or pay the fine at the airport on exiting the country. Many choose to overstay rather than to leave the country and or obtain the appropriate visa/permission to stay often in the belief that overstaying is a convenient visa solution with the eventual fine at the airport being a worthwhile cost to remain in Thailand.

An overstay can easily be cleared at the Airport upon exit as long as funds are available to pay the fine. Simply pay the fine and leave the country with no additional repercussions However, if stopped in country and asked by the authorities to show a passport where the visa/permission to stay has expired even by one day then a stay in the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) is a strong possibility for a few days while the case is processed. This is not something to be recommended. Conditions inside the IDC have been described by Amnesty International as ‘cruel and degrading’ and ‘seriously overcrowded’.

While based in the IDC assistance will be required from a friend, family or embassy staff to pay any fine and purchase a one way ticket back to the home country as being ‘in jail’ will make it difficult to undertake these tasks alone.

According to a report in The Nation a total of 70,715 foreigners were charged with overstaying their Thai visas in 2013 and between January and June 2014, the number of visa overstayers reached 30,359. Obviously the Thai authorities felt that the maximum fine of 20,000 baht was not sufficient a deterrent. In mid 2014 a proposal was sent to the Interior Ministry seeking to significantly increase the penalties associated with overstaying. Originally these proposed penalties included the possibility of a lifetime ban from reentering Thailand for those overstaying more than 10 years although this was subsequently changed to a maximum ban of 10 years for those overstaying more than 5 years. This may have been simply an attempt by the authorities to pressure overstayers to regularise their situation but it is understood that some immigration offices around the country are still requiring foreigners to sign an acknowledgment of these rules which have never been the subject of a Police Order nor have they ever been put into practice.

Respect the Immigration rules in Thailand and no issues should arise. Ensure that the appropriate nonimmigrant visa, if necessary, is obtained prior to travel and leave the country before the expiration of the permission to stay stamp. Should the reason for staying in Thailand or the length of stay required change while in country, regularise the situation if and when it arises. Obtain the assistance of a qualified individual or company familiar with immigration law if necessary.

Overstaying is a crime.