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On arrival in Bangkok airport, a Thai immigration officer instructed me that I have many previous visa exempt entries in Thailand, and will need a visa for the next time. However, I could not find any official information.

Is there any regulation limiting the number of visa exempt entries, their total duration, or anything of that kind? (I am a German citizen if that is of any importance.)

  • Maybe this. Tourist arriving via an international airport will be given a 30 day visa exempt stamp, however people using OUT/IN method to extend their stay might be questioned after 6 visa exempt entries. There is no specific period given and there is no rule on how many visa exempt will be issued for one person. An old rule “90 days in a 180 days period” has been cancelled many years ago. As of 31st December 2016 Thailand limit visa exempt entries at land border to TWO per calendar year. – user 56513 Feb 26 '17 at 9:49
  • @SheikPaul Thanks. Apparently it is a warning generated by their computer system, not an official rule as suggested here: thaivisa.com/forum/topic/… – Dmitri Zaitsev Feb 26 '17 at 10:00
  • Are you staying in Thailand for a whole month each time or are those short visits? – JonathanReez Feb 26 '17 at 10:00
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    @DmitriZaitsev On the contrary that automatic warning is apparently programmed into the computers exactly for the reason I provided. The airport is the wrong place to try to assert your rights to an immigration official who believes he is right and will likely have support from other immigration officials who believe the same rule, even if they are factually mistaken about the law. – user 56513 Feb 26 '17 at 10:08
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    Immgration officials have the right to refuse entry irregardless of specific rules. And if immigrations feels you are trying live in Thailand under the Visa Exemption rules, they can deny entry. – user13044 Feb 26 '17 at 14:57
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Starting Dec 31st, 2016, Tourist Visa Exempt Entries via land borders are limited to 2 per calendar year. Visitors arriving via air (int'l airports) are not affected by this rule; neither are Visa Exempts for countries with a Bilateral Agreement or any Malaysian citizen. This seems to be the final step towards ending abuse of VE entries for illegal workers and long-stay tourists. Here is some more context:

Since May, 2014 Thailand has been employing hard or soft limits to Visa Exempt entries. At the time of that crackdown, the term Out-In was officially coined to refer to foreigners who go Out of Thailand at a border and return In the same day (usually within hours). Prior to this, foreigners were either doing unlimited Visa Exempt entries or even long overstays (> 6 months) to stay in the Kingdom. There were no negative consequences at the time. Visa run [border run] companies were turning a healthy profit. Since there is a 20k THB maximum fine for overstays, you just showed up early at airport with int'l flight booked and 20k baht when you passed through immigration; all was forgiven and you could even return the same or next day. All seemed well, but like any good loophole.......

It started with hard limits at some land borders of 1-3 consecutive VE entries, in which you would have to switch to another border or 'reset' it with a tourist visa [TV]. Some borders like Ranong refused to let people out without ME visa, because they wouldn't be allowed back in (too many VEs); they did this to prevent the person from being stranded in no-mans-land. Some borders like Sadao required an overnight stay in neighboring country before being re-admitted. Note that those with Multiple Entry [ME] Visas (Double/Triple Entry Tourist, ME Non Immigrant, and Elite/Privilege Entry Visas) were not affected.

Combine this with the new Overstay Blacklisting (>90 days overstay), replacing Double/Triple Entry TV with METV, Honorary Thai Consulates worldwide not publicly issuing any more ME visas, neighboring Thai Embassies/Official Consulates limiting the # of consecutive SETVs and requesting more documentation, et. al, and it became increasingly clear that Thailand:

  • wants visitors to either:
    1. refrain from abusing the VE system for those who are visiting for a short duration, particularly via land borders, or
    2. obtain the "correct" category visa if you intend to stay longer
  • is [temporarily?] limiting issuing long stay visas unless you have a long stay reason that can constructively tie you to Thailand (e.g. visiting Thai immediate family, retirement, legit working/business, legit educational attendance, etc).
  • wants visitors avoid overstaying or [visibly] working illegally.

In the OP's case, he is arriving by air. There were a few recent reports of people getting talked to briefly by immigration to get visa prior to being allowed in. One person merely showed proof that he was not working in Thailand, others show 20k baht. If they still give you a hard time, you can ask to speak to a supervisor.

You cannot randomly get denied entry in Thailand without a specific reason from section 12 of the immigration act and it will be stamped in your passport. The immigration computer may have an automatic flag if 6 or so VEs are done within a 12 month period. It is not an automatic denial, just an alert. They may then request to see additional proof that you are a genuine tourist, such as 20k THB and/or proof you are working outside Thailand.

As a side comment, I cannot imagine how some people really thought that unlimited consecutive VEs and/or back-to-back tourist visas would last forever, unchallenged. They were lax for a while, and it was convenient for a lot of people to casually hop the border Out-In for free re-entry and stay legally. Every developed country in the world has policies in place to protect their own borders and national interests. How easy would it be for a Thai national to just casually hop Out-In without a visa in your home country?

Additional comment: Thailand still has fairly easy straightforward entry/re-entry options for either tourists or expats, and is offering free SETVs until August 2017. The free SETVs from 01 March to 31 August 2017 are only for certain nationals (mainly those under the Visa on Arrival scheme). VoAs for those nationals listed are also 50% discount.

Andorra | Lithuania
Bhutan | Maldives
Bulgaria | Malta
China (including Taiwan) | Mauritius
Cyprus | Papua New Guinea
Ethiopia | Romania
Fiji | San Marino
India | Saudi Arabia
Kazakhstan | Ukraine
Latvia | Uzbekistan

So those nationals of the Visa Exempt/Bilateral agreements (everyone else not on the list) don't qualify.


Update 28 Oct 2018: additional comments....

95% of visitors to Thailand have little to worry about. According to some 2016 official statistics (xlsx), the avg longest stay for Oceania, European, and North American G20 nations was appx 16 days. Other countries avg stay was a whopping 7-11 days!! Those that stay longer than the average are usually covered by 1-3 VE, 1-2 SETVs, 1-2 VoAs, 30 day extension of VE/SETV, or a combination of these options. 32.6 million visitors/365 days a year = >89k daily visitors. This does not include those entering as non-immigrant to the best of my knowledge; but that is of little consequence.

Again, no need to panic.

There is still nothing official that prevents Visa Exempt air entries above 6 per calendar year. But unofficially, airport immigration have sometimes been asking some entrants who come often (as "little" as 3-4 VE entries) what they are doing in Thailand. Entrants may be asked to show 10k or 20k THB equivalent in cash or traveler's cheques and/or an outbound flight in the case of VE entry. If they suspect the entrant is working illegally or having insufficient funds, their entry may be denied. It's a rare occurrence, but it is possible.

There are several factors that can contribute to a border entry denial, such as:

  • country of passport
  • how many free pages and when it expires (is there at least 6 months validity?)
  • history of previous Thai entries over the previous 12-24 months, particularly non ME [tourist/non-immigrant] visa entries and any overstays. (e.g. type of entry, which entry, which [air]port/border crossing was attempted, etc)
  • location of the border attempted (regional policies).
  • new boss at that immigration post.

Without these specifics, it is difficult to accurately know why the person was denied entry other than the official reason which they stamp into the passport (usually in Thai language). IMHO I have demonstrated that being denied entry is an exceptional case, not a general rule, if you have the correct visa for the purpose of your stay. Even if the immigration officer is being rude, try to hold a smile and politely make your case.

Furthermore, the context that proved the 5 year trend that Thai immigration (with official policy or regional border and embassy policies) has been slowly reducing loopholes related to unlimited stay with only VE/SETVs was spot on.


And I felt a disclaimer is appropriate for this post:
The information presented here is a combination of official rules/regs from a Thai gov't dept announcement, news announcements, blog announcements specific to thai visa, talking with visa run companies/agents, talking with expats/tourist that have done border runs (air and land), and personal observations over 8+ years. It is believed to be accurate at the time it is written, but policies (written or de-facto) can and do change, especially among different border immigration offices. Furthermore, this is not intended to account for every possible scenario for those wishing to visit the Land of Smiles.

For those who want to discuss a specific visa scenario, they can consult with so-called visa agents (example 1), expat groups/blogs specific to Thai visa discussion (example 1, example 2), lawyers, employers, contact me privately, etc. Especially if you value a personal evaluation. The comment section of these StackExchange posts are not the place for this.

  • 7
    I have noted you have contributed a lot of high-quality answers recently on Thailand questions and it is great to have you. So even though you have been on the site for > 1year, welcome to Travel SE! If you wish say hi in our chat some time and cast a vote in our election which ends soon. – mts Feb 26 '17 at 22:58
  • @PrimeException VonA is a completely different program from VE. What does overstay stamp have to do with this? Supervisor is usually consulted anyway prior to denial of entry, especially at an air border. I've updated my post with some more context and to address some of your prior comments. – Jon Grah Oct 28 '18 at 16:50
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I experienced this for the first time in BKK, officer said you can’t have more than 6 VE’s in 12 months. Even when it was obvious from my passport that I’ve never stayed longer than two weeks and I’ve spent at least a month in the US and other countries in between the visits. After admonishing me to get a marriage visa (my wife is Thai and lives in the US with me) she stamped my passport and let me in. Could be that I just got unlucky with this officer.

Update 1/25/19
Re-entered after two weeks of vacation in Vietnam and the immigration officer didn’t even speak as he stamped my passport. Seems just luck of the draw at this point which officers will hassle you for the number of VE’s through BKK in a 12 month period.

-1

The limit is two per year via land and six per year via air.

The year starts the day of your first entry.

You can be denied with zero previous entries and be allowed with 20 in the same year, it depends on the officer and which port you're entering.

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    And your sources are...? – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Oct 27 '18 at 5:20
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    The other answer is well cited and contains links to additional resources to prove their points. Your answer just states a thing, claims it to be true, and offers no evidence. "I have done this" does not mean it's a rule. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Oct 27 '18 at 5:27
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas and PrimeException, I have deleted most of the comments on this answer, as they did run into calling out and came close to insulting and being useless to other readers. If I deleted something you feel is missed by the rest of the comments, please contain it into one comment or an edit to the answer and keep the tone nice. (This comment will be deleted when you have had time to read it.) – Willeke Oct 28 '18 at 9:31
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Most of the citations of the other answer are not authoritative and a couple do not even relate to the answer text, such as "you cannot get randomly denied entry" which is not only false, but the citation does not say anything like that. I only answer questions which I know contain false information. You can see my comment on the other answer, but I'm not addressing most of the issues in my answer because they are out-of-scope for the question. – PrimeException Oct 28 '18 at 11:52
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas personal experience can count if you can justify it in a larger context of the OP Is it one off instance? A rare occurrence? Or is it a signal of a longer trend? PrimeException Can you update your answer to provide one or more case studies (with complete passport nationality and entry history) showing the entrant was randomly denied without a reason stamped in their passport? – Jon Grah Oct 28 '18 at 17:33

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