Thailand Gives Most Farang the Finger
In a move akin to shooting oneself in the foot, Thailand has recently changed its immigration policy to give travelers the boot after only 15 days.
Thai Immigration changes the rules for all foreigners
04 December 2008 [source]
In order to limit the amount of foreigners using "back-to-back" border runs, Thai Immigration has issued a new regulation regarding the 30-day tourist exemption.
Effective immediately, travellers without visa will get only 15 days of stay if they are arriving via a land border checkpoint from a neighboring country.
Passengers arriving via an international airport will obtain a 30-day stay, and for them there is no change.
For those unfamiliar with the previous iteration of the immigration policy, Americans (such as myself) and most other nationalities were allowed to spend a total of 90 days out of every 180 inside the country. Those days could be distributed over the 6-month period however the traveler saw fit, but any consecutive stay over 30 days required the person to leave the country and return. This is known as a 'border run' or a 'visa run'.
But the 90/180-day rule is officially dead. It's no more. Perhaps aimed at keeping foreigners from living full-time in the country and not paying taxes, this new twist on immigration policy is poised to bring in more cash (and a paper trail) from official tourist visas, and cause serious headaches for both regional travelers and expats alike.
It would appear that both Chile and Peru have bilateral agreements with Thailand that will remain in place, allowing normal passport holders to obtain 90 days at any point of entry without a visa (presumably they could live there permanently, leaving only 4 times a year to refresh their visa exempt entry stamp)! This is great news for my girlfriend and our infant son (who both have passports for Chile and Peru), but shit for me.
From a neighboring country (like Laos or Malaysia) I can secure a proper 60-day tourist visa for the cost of 1,000 baht (≈US$30), with the option of extending it for 30 days from within Thailand for an additional 1,900 baht fee (≈US$55). Without doing such a thing, it's going to be practically impossible for me to spend and tangible time in Thailand in places off the tourist trail.
Perhaps that's also one of the intended goals of the policy: To keep tourists on the tourist trail.
Given the recent airport disruption (that impacted both the Thai economy and its international reputation), I'm simply in awe that the government gave this a green light. I think it's a clear sign that Thailand's getting sick of the ever-present farang (the Thai word for a foreigner of European ancestry—used like gringo in Latin America), and has set in motion another mechanism to keep all but short-term holiday-makers from dumping their cash into the country.
Farang in Thailand are only tolerated, at best. Don't get me wrong, I love Thailand, and keep going back to it. It can truly be a 'land of smiles', but that's just because I believe them to be of a culture that would prefer to smile at your face and stab you in the back. It's hard to get a genuine opinion on what it's like to live in a country with such rampant tourism.
ThaiVisa.com has a thread in their forum that's absolutely saturated with comments on the subject. Some folks are up in arms, whilst others are quite sympathetic.