BANGKOK — Long lines continued to form at the Immigration Bureau in spite of the agency’s decision to open another venue for extending foreigners’ stay in Thailand for 30 days.
Immigration Bureau spokesman Phakkhaphong Saiubonsaid said the new facility is now open at the Central Investigation Bureau headquarters in Muang Thong Thani. Yet a large queue is still seen at the new facility even at the same time the government is promoting the measure of social distancing.
“We have opened the new facility in Muang Thong Thani to cope with massive queues at our Chaengwattana office,” Col. Phakkhaphong said. “The new office has more space, so social distancing can be fully implemented.”
However, in a photo posted today by well-known blogger and longtime British expat Richard Barrow showed that people are still flocking to the new office to extend their stays.
“We are really hoping that a visa amnesty will be announced today after the weekly cabinet meeting,” he wrote in a caption. “Many other countries have done this already as it’s crazy and dangerous to queue up like this during a pandemic.”
Phakkhaphong said the bureau has done its best to manage the overcrowding problem. He also added that the visa amnesty, as well fine exemption for overstays, are still being discussed in the Cabinet.
“What you have seen is from the early morning, when people would scramble to get their visas extended. I ask visitors to come later on the day to avoid congestion,” Phakkhaphong said. “We also have to wait for the Cabinet to decide on visa amnesty and fine exemptions. What we can do now is to follow the protocols.”
On some days, as many as 3,000 people queued up at the Immigration’s main office in the Chaeng Wattana Government Complex to extend their stays, file 90-day reports, or get other visa-related matters processed, despite the news that one of the officials working at the complex has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The new facility – located a few kilometers up in the north from the bureau’s main office – is taking applications for 90-day reports, alien’s residing reports, and 30-day tourist visa extensions, the spokesman said. All other matters still have to be processed at the main office.
But the 30-day visa extension itself is also met with confusion.
In an email to Khaosod English, a group of Russian tourists on Koh Samui said they were charged 2,000 baht to get their visas extended at the island’s immigration office, which they were only granted a 15-day extension of their stays.
Phakkhaphong, the immigration spokesman, said the fee is actually 1,900 baht, and called the incident “a misunderstanding.”
He also said the 15-day extension is in accordance with the regulations because not all foreigners will be granted the full 30-day extension.
“It’s the power of immigration officers to decide how many days they will get,” Phakkhaphong said. “Although we typically give everyone the full length, we have to consider it on a case by case basis.”