Samui Wining & Dining
STAYING STRETCHED

We all love Samui, but for those who love it just too much,

here are the ins-and-outs of extending your stay.


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Is this your first time? Are you on holiday here? Are you travelling or on a gap year? Well, if you’ve been here before then you’ll have a fair idea of what’s-what when it comes to visas. But if it’s your first time, then you might need some detailed info about all this. Actually, you don’t even need a visa to stay in Thailand – you’ll be given a 30-day ‘Visa on Arrival’ (VOA) upon entering the country. But the entire business of stays and visas is something of a minefield, and the regulations seem to get changed as often as a chef’s apron.

        Also it depends very much on what nationality you are, too: it seems that the Thai authorities aren’t too keen on making it easy for the citizens of what they consider to be some of the ‘poorer countries’, just in case they do a runner and want to stay here! One way or another it’s quite a complex subject. So let’s make it simpler by dividing it into different categories and stages.

        Firstly it has to be said that a visitor’s visa is strictly for tourism purpose only. And so, if you are coming here for a holiday break of between 15 and 30 days, there is no need to apply for a full tourist visa beforehand.

You can get a VOA upon arrival – 30 days if arriving on a flight, and 15 or 30 days if coming in by road, depending on your nationality. However, you’ll have to be prepared in advance. You’ll need to show a return ticket, have an address to stay or a hotel booking, and proof that you have money – currently this seems to be either the equivalent of 10,000 or 20,000 baht – expert opinions vary on this!

         If you are from . . . . shall we hesitantly call it a ‘first world’ nation, such as America, Australia and most European countries – it will be straightforward. But do avoid the immigration-desk queue where there are a lot of people in line all wearing the same clothes with name-tags on their chest. This is an indication of one of the Asian countries, possibly China, and the document checking will be lengthy and comprehensive. Russia and the associated federated nations are now off the closescrutiny list and such citizens will have no problems with a 30-day tourist VOA.

          So much for just bouncing in and then bouncing out again. The second category involves those of you who have a Thai Tourist Visa which you obtained in your own country before coming here. And if this is your first time in Thailand on a visa like this – be careful. People have pointed out that there is an unfair little twist. Your tourist visa will be for a maximum duration of 90 days. However, upon arrival, your passport will be stamped by Thai Immigration and will undoubtedly have a datestamp which is 30 days less than your visa. This is the date by which you have to leave the country or extend your visa. So, having already paid for a three-month visa, after two months you then have to go in person to the nearest immigration office and pay another fee for the remaining 30 days. Sneaky.

          There are quite a few categories of visa available, ranging from those relating to business, resident’s visas, retirement visas, tourist visas and so on. At the time of writing this some countries will only issue a ‘single’ tourist visa – meaning one stay of 90 days. Thai embassies located in other nations will give their citizens a ‘double entry’ visa of twice this length: you’ll need to do some homework and check before you come. But now we’re into the arena of the ‘long stay’.

          This is where people who have seasonal jobs come into the picture (such as in the construction industry) or those who love the climate and the laid-back way of life in Thailand (not to mention the lower cost of living) and want to remain here for longer periods. Twenty years ago you could come here on a double entry tourist visa and then go to Malaysia or Burma and get another one. (I know someone who lived here for six-and-a-half years in this way.) But not any more. Now you can only stay for what amounts to six months out of every year if you come on a tourist visa.

          The Thai authorities are strict on what they call ‘overstay’. If you stay in Thailand just one day longer than your visa entitles you, there is a 500 baht per-day fine in operation. A lot of people shrug this off and regard it as some kind of extra fee for staying a bit longer. But be warned – if you do this too many times (and it’s very much at the whim of whatever officials you come into contact with) you could get a red hand-written note on your passport which effectively restricts all your future visits to Thailand, or even puts you on a blacklist. It’s much wiser to take the trouble to go to your local Immigration Office and pay the (currently) 1,900 baht fee to officially extend your stay for up to a week. And here it’s worth mentioning that the only way to do this if you are here with a 30-day VOA is if you’re sick or injured. And then you’ll need official documentation to support your case.

          But what the heck! Thailand is so laid back that it’s almost horizontal. There’s always a muddle with official paperwork. Who is going to bother if you keep on staying here? Who’s going to know? You could stay for a couple of years then just pay the overstay when you want to leave (particularly as there’s a limit to this: the maximum is 20,000 baht). Well, if you’re this thoughtless and naïve then you’re going to mess everything up, not only for yourself, but for lots of other people too.

          It’s one of the reasons why the Thai authorities have clamped down on the conditions of entry and the visa regulations in general. For a start, being here for two years also means that you’ve been working illegally, and that’s just not on. And, then you’re flaunting your disrespect in the face of authority. You’ll be fined, then have a lifelong ban on being granted any more visas or visits to Thailand. It’s just not worth it. If you want to stay here longer, then simply stretch your visa officially – it’s better to stay here ‘stretched’ than never to return at all!

          

 Rob De Wet


 


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