BANGKOK — Days after new rules changed how visas are processed for foreign retirees, immigration officials are already pushing back against them, according to sources inside the bureau.
Starting March 1, foreign retirees must either show a monthly income of at least 65,000 baht or hold a minimum of 800,000 baht in Thai banks. They must maintain that amount for three months after a visa or extension is granted, after which they can only take out half. The new rules also make unclear how long applicants must wait to learn whether their visas or extensions have been approved.
“We are discussing with the legal department what these new policies mean,” an immigration official involved in approving such applications said in an interview. “Right now we are all scrambling to find out what the procedures are.”
The source also said some operatives who oversee visa affairs will file memos to their commanders declaring that they are no longer sure how to process requests under the new regulations published Monday.
“We will ask them to reconsider,” said the official, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Another official at the Immigration Bureau said the changes were ordered from the top after four embassies in Thailand – Britain, the United States, Denmark and Australia – stopped issuing affidavits certifying the monthly incomes of applicants from their respective countries.
“Therefore, the Immigration Bureau has to come up with its own methods of verifying the applicants’ financial status,” the source said on the same condition of anonymity.
Col. Nitipan Kanokvejyan, the officer who signed the new regulations, could not be reached for comment as of publication time.
Under the new rules, applicants for retirement visas must be 50 and up. They must either show evidence of monthly salaries of at least 65,000 baht transferred to a Thai bank account or balances of at least 800,000 baht in their Thai bank accounts.
The accounts have to bear the same names as the applicants. Spouses’ bank accounts are not eligible.
And the minimum amount of 800,000 baht must have been deposited two months before any visa application is filed, making that the mandatory balance for at least five months, plus application processing time.
The applicants (“aliens”) must continue to maintain at least 400,000 baht at all times, and the visa must be renewed yearly.
The change departed from previous rules which only required either an affidavits declaring a 65,000 baht salary or a one-time deposit of 800,000 baht at the time of application.
Reactions on Thaivisa, a webforum frequented by expats in Thailand, was overwhelmingly negative, with many commentators saying the regulations undercut claims from Thai officials that the deposit is to ensure they have sufficient resources to get by.
“Then why keep up the charade that this money is to cover living expenses if it can only be used six months out of the year,” user Connda wrote. “So…what’s next? What’s the next hammer to drop?”
“And I thought the 800,000 baht was for living expenses, not as an interest earner for the Thai banks!” user Madmitch vented.