Most Bhutanese people travelling to Thailand travel on the tourist visa, which as per the Thai Consulate issued visa shows a validity of three months.
However, unknown to most Bhutanese, the actual validity of the visa is only for two months after which a fine of 500 Bhat per day is applied for overstaying. There are also now strict immigration laws that can result in arrest and prosecution as well.
A frequent traveler to Bangkok who did not want to be named said, “The Thai consulate in Bhutan gives a three month visa for Thailand and we pay about 2500 for the visa. But the actual truth is that the Thai immigration does not accept the three months visa and apparently we are supposed to renew the visa after two months of stay. Most Bhutanese do not know that and so we end up paying fine for the one month extra they have stayed.”
Even a close look at the Thai Consulate issued visa mentions nothing about a renewal needed after two months. Many Bhutanese that the paper talked said that they were also not briefed on the issue.
As a result Bhutanese travelers going to Bangkok and overstaying even a day beyond the two months not only end up paying fines but also break the law unwittingly.
Meanwhile on 27th November 2015, the Thai immigration bureau, issued a new order regarding classes of aliens ineligible for admission to the kingdom of Thailand. The new order was enforced from 20th March 2016.
In terms of an alien being arrested and prosecuted, an alien who is caught overstaying less than one year will be banned from re-entering the country for five years, starting from the departure date. An alien who is caught overstaying more than one year will be banned from re-entering the country for 10 years, starting from the departure date.
For alien surrendered to authorities, an alien who overstays more than 90 days will be banned from re-entering the country for one year, starting from the departure date. An alien who overstays more than one year will be banned from re-entering the country for three years, starting from the departure date.
An alien who overstays more than three years will be banned from re-entering the country for five years, starting from the departure date and an alien who overstays more than five years will be banned from re-entering the country for 10 years, starting from the departure date.
When this paper approached the Thai Consulate, the staff there took a very defensive line on the whole issue and instead blamed the Bhutanese people who applied for the visas.
Kinzang Dema, Councilor officer of Royal Thai Consulate claimed that the consulate does not issue any type of visa without giving proper information or without briefing the applicant. They said that they brief every individual coming for the visa and they make sure that the candidate understands well.
Kinzang Dema, claimed that knowing that people might suffer with certain issues when they are in Bangkok, the office briefs them on visa extension or anything that needs to be done with visa but there are very few who follow the procedure.
She claimed that even after the briefing some Bhutanese end up paying fines for overstaying, while some face problems in visa extension and some work for a longer duration by hiding. “If they overstay, may be they are doing it on purpose or may be with some other reason, it is not that they are not aware of the procedure,” she alleged.
However, most Bhutanese travelers seem to be completely unaware of the two month rule. Many also claimed that they received no such briefing from the consulate nor do they know when and where to go for the visa extensions.
Kinzang said that it may be a lack of communication when people say that they are not aware of the visa validity rules, because they do not come in person to collect the visa. “Bhutanese are used to spoon-feeding,” she said.
Kinzang Dema claimed that they explain the time that they can stay in Bangkok, from where they have to go and get the stamp or do the extension and when.
“After giving so much of briefing, they land up saying many things. Some might be doing on purpose or some with different intentions”, she added.
She also said that, apart from briefing they see every detail including the purpose of their visit to Bangkok on the tourist visa. On the tourist visa, one category of document they see is air ticket. They see if the applicant has both ways flight tickets and the retuning ticket should be within two months of time.
She said that, they do not issue the visa if they are going to stay for three months or if their air ticket is an open ticket ( with no returning date) because they are not allowed to stay more than two months in Bangkok with a tourist visa. However, this at the same time does not factor in travelers who can extend their stays in Bangkok by changing the air ticket dates in Bangkok.
There are different types of entry. In single entry, the person can enter only once within three months and stay for two months.
“Some think that since they have visa validity for three months, they can come back and go again within three months of time, which they can’t as the visa validity will be over once they are out of Bangkok,” she said.
Second is double entry where a person can do the entry twice within the validity of the visa. Than thirdly, there is multiple entries visa whereby they can enter several times with the same visa but within the visa validity period.
In some cases, if they are to stay for more than two months or for a longer duration, than they need to apply for a different visa, which is called Non-Immigrant visa.
However, she said that, “After saying so, most of the student do not make re-entry visa giving ‘silly’ reasons. Once they are here, they come and again make a Non-Immigrant visa paying Nu 4000 for the second time and after reaching Bangkok, they again have to go through the same process (re-entry visa)”, she said.
She also said that, they do not provide re-entry visa or do the extension here in Bhutan, as it is all done in Thailand.
“Normally, when we are issuing a Non-Immigrant visa, we ask the particular individual to come and get the visa themselves because we need to brief them so that they do not come across any issues, but most of them refuse to come”, she claimed.