Expat controversy over new Thailand visa rules now includes rising baht

Expat controversy over new Thailand visa rules now includes rising baht

Expat controversy over new Thailand visa rules now includes rising baht

Unforeseen issues with Thai immigration’s new retirement visa rules now include currency fluctuations during deposits and monthly transfers.

As if the new retirement visa rulings and their interpretation by immigration officers aren’t unclear enough, a new problem has arisen for those who choose the financial option of a transfer from an overseas account holding regular pension payments. The annual extension of the so-called ‘retirement visa’ can be had by proving a regular monthly payment of a pension amounting to 65,000 baht is being transferred to the retiree’s Thai bank account. However, it now seems possible that currency fluctuations during the actual transfer time could result in less than the required amount being deposited, thus invalidating the visa renewal. Transfers from Western banks to expat-held Thai accounts traditionally take a few days and are now causing concern amongst Thailand’s retired expat community.

The experience of one long-stay Western retiree would suggest the option of holding 800,000 baht in a Thai bank for three months before an extension is due and three months after it’s been granted may also fall foul of currency fluctuation. Posting on the ‘have your say’ page of a major English language newspaper, one unfortunate expat who first arrived in the country 19 years ago described how, for the first time, his visa extension came to be refused by his local immigration office. The value of his 800,000 baht bank deposit had shrunk by 8,000 baht due to the increasing strength of the Thai currency, resulting in his potentially having to leave Thailand and apply for a new retirement visa elsewhere. This, in spite of his showing pension receipts totalling more than the required 65,000 baht per month required from those not using the 80,000 baht bank deposit method.

The retired expat decided to query the immigration officer’s decision by filing a complaint at the regional immigration headquarters, where he spoke with several senior officials who recommended he contacted the director of his local immigration office. He was received with kindness, with the director understanding his problem and asking his wife to present her marriage certificate. Immediately, he received a 60-day extension to his visa and was advised to re-present his retirement visa extension along with a new bank letter. Subsequently, he had no need to travel overseas to get a new visa. Although the expat was relieved, he feels the entire incident has proved that, even if a retiree is in a stable relationship, has always respected the rules and has looked after his wife and her family to the best of his ability as well as investing heavily in the country, none of this matters at all to the immigration authority.

The same expat is now concerned about the possibility of being forced to take out Thailand-sourced private healthcare insurance. For a man of his age, the minimum would be around 30,000 baht per year, a sum which he can easily afford but is reluctant to do so as he feels the requirement would simply make Thai insurance companies richer. He told the media many other expats would not be able to afford the charges, adding he feels many good people will be forced to leave if the scheme is brought in.

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