Long-term foreign residents of the kingdom have spent the weekend scratching their heads in bewilderment over the baffling requirements of the now notorious TM30 form after a recent forum at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT)
with senior Thai immigration officials present on the panel.
On Thursday evening at the FCCT, foreign expats and guest speakers alike expressed concerns about the lack of clarity and consistency in the application of the TM30 regulation, and the officials said they would do their best to forward the
complaints and queries to Immigration Bureau
Thai Immigration has recently been stepping up the enforcement of an old law whereby the owners of the accommodation used by visitors to Thailand have to report new arrivals to the provincial immigration office within 24 hours. This law has been
in place for a while and underpins hotels registering your passport details when you arrive at reception.
However the Thai authorities have now extended this requirement to all forms of accommodation and has made it the responsibility of the foreign visitor to get the Thai landlord/hotelier/house owner to report to the immigration office. Large
numbers of fines are handed out to visitors who have failed to comply. And even if you don't change your address you still have to report when returning to the same address from a trip to another province, or a trip abroad.
The requirements are massively intrusive and massively inconvenient, especially if the immigration office is 80 km away, or your landlord is simply not around, or you work for a living and cannot spend hours wasted on a trip to the Immigration
Office. Another problem area is where the owner doesn't want to get involved for legal issues, such as not having the official licences to offer accommodation. AirBnB renters are particularly under the cosh from the authorities and may not want
to identify themselves. Similarly it is very difficult for small hotels to get the required licences.
The requirements are interpreted differently in every province so many of the rules may vary. In fact Bangkok only recently required this registration. But it was when Bangkok started enforcing the rules that volume of complaints suddenly went up
Note that authorities have tried to counter some of the complaints by saying that there is an online app for registrations to save a trip to the immigration office. However the app was designed for commercial use by hotels and requires a certain
amount of red tape to get a login. Hoteliers probably already use it, but it will not be available for more informal arrangements.
There is a lot of discussion on Thai forums and one particularly influential post by Isaanlawyers is as follows:
Yesterday, I met officer Longtor at Korat Immigration. He was very nice, very polite and we had a conversation in Thai. I had with me a copy of the petition made by a group of expats and Thai people, a translation, some examples of problems
related to TM30, statistics and an interpreter in case I could not fully understand. The interpreter is also a witness of everything that was said.
I live in Thailand since 2004. I have permanent residency and do not need to make Form TM30, form TM47 or a yearly extension. If I helped this group of expats with the petition, it is because I feel the current system needs to improve. It was
recently reported that numbers of Australians and British coming to Thailand are falling, because of the high value of the baht. It was reported that there has been a 10% fall in the number of Scandinavians living in the land of smiles. The
current system seems a mess, and foreigners don't know what to do. I don't do this for exposure, and spent an incredible amount of time on this project. I manage a law firm in Thailand, and know how things work in Thailand. Often you need
connections, it is important to avoid losing face, and I work on difficult cases each month. I was pretty well placed to try something new via a Facebook group. A closed group. I work with Thai lawyers every day, even if visas are not our
specialty. We are more litigators, making contracts and documents in Thai and English.
Recently, I was told that foreign teachers travelling to other provinces on weekends had to report to immigration Monday morning, so even Thai students were penalised by the strict enforcements of sections 37 and 38 of the immigration act. Like
the Bangkok Post mentioned this week, Thailand is shooting itself in the foot, and expats are furious about these rules that some found draconian.
It is Thai tradition to discuss, negotiate and not to confront people in Thai culture. The petition is a way to show discomfort and open a dialogue with authorities. It is not a perfect document, some complained about the English (I am a French
native speaker -the first version was edited) some complained about it not going far enough (debate about health insurance, or bank deposits required, but we cannot mix everything), some complained about the SSL security of the website (added).
In other words, many pissed me off all week as all I was doing was trying to help others, and I know what I am doing. I am not perfect (nobody is) but nobody else had the guts to do it, and many feared to sign the petition, thinking they might be
deported. In the past, I personally helped change some laws in Canada, so I am not afraid to say what I think. Here I sued immigration twice (never for fun) in the administrative court with success. I felt that our voice needed to be heard. So
with the help of hundreds of people, we made this petition. Yes, hundreds of people helped to correct texts, set up the websites, commented on the website, translated into Thai, and much more. I couldn't see what else could be done? You want to
contest articles 37 and 38 of immigration act based on clause 34 of the constitution? Well, good luck. Talking directly to Bangkok immigration is the next step.... but things in Thailand move slowly. Mediators, arbitrators, negotiations are often
used in court. Starting by talking to local immigration, on the back of few thousand signatures, was the best idea we had.
It became quickly the talk of the town in English medias: Richard Barrow, the front page of Bangkok Post, cartoons by Stephff, The Thaiger, the Thai Examiner, Pattaya News, etc. I was amazed it went so quickly, but I was expecting more
signatures. The website is still there, Reform-Thai-immigration (com) and we hope you sign and share so things go faster.
Here's a summary of yesterday's conversation with immigration:
We were told that tourists are not affected by these rules. They want the same as before. But AirBNB must report foreign guests just like hotels. Immigration understand that expats brings a lot of money to Thailand. But they seem to see two
i) A large proportion of foreign workers are from Cambodia, Laos and Burma. Something like 3 million in the country. Often, they do not respect rules and regulations. That is a major problem for immigration. Rules are enforced largely for them
but as there is only one law, it affects foreigners from Western countries.
ii) it seems that some Indian visitors have abused rules, arriving for example in Phuket, arranging fake marriages with Thai ladies, then disappearing in other provinces. TM 30 started to be more rigorously enforced especially for them, to be
able to trace criminals or people abusing the system. Of course terrorists won't provide their addresses, and I pointed this out. Still, immigration want to be strict on TM30 and TM30, and once registered, it is the responsibility of the Thai
landlord to conform.
However each immigration office can apply its own rules, which I think is a headache and doesn't make sense. But this senior officer explained to us how he wants them to apply in Korat. If you are not a tourist and arrive from abroad, even if
articles 37 and 38 mention 24 hours, they will give you 7 days to register the TM30. Foreigners have to register TM30 only ONCE (and not tourists) and afterwards, it is the responsibility of the Thai landlord. If you leave Thailand for a while
and never registered TM30, you will be fined as a foreigner. I believe it is between 800 to 2,000 baht.
Once you are registered in the system, it is the Thai landlord, and NOT the foreigner - the Thai landlord (or hotel) that will pay the fines.
Now, if you look at clause 37 (4) of the immigration act, a foreigner that goes to another province for 24 hours must report to authorities. This was never previously enforced to my knowledge and in Nakhon Ratchasima, they don't care about it.
They care about TM6, that you made on your arrival in Thailand (airport), the registration of TM30 that you make one time, the 90 days notice (TM47) that you make if you live 90 days in Kingdom, and your yearly extension
Each immigration office can have its own rules, which I think is a headache and a non sense. But this high officer explained us how he wants them apply in Korat. If you are not a tourist and arrive from abroad, even if articles 37 and 38 talk
about 24 hours, they will give you 7 days to register the TM30. Foreigners have to register TM30 only ONCE (and not tourists) and after, it is the duty of the Thai landlord. If you leave in Thailand for a while and never registered TM30, you will
be fine as a foreigner. I believe it is between 800 to 2,000 baht.
Two great pieces of news:
1) There is a committee set up, looking to modify the immigration law already in place. But changing laws take time. The head of immigration in Korat is part of that committee and they know some changes must be made. They want to make it easier
for foreigners. I even talked about the high value of the baht, and they know it causes problems for some retirees.
2) But the best news is a document, an order signed on 5th August 2019, that I saw. They did not permit me to make a copy as it is an internal document. However summing up, it is an order from Bangkok to make an application online for all forms,
to simplify things. That means TM6, TM30, TM47, will all be online, accessible on your phone, and you won't have to go to immigration. You will only have to go once a year to immigration for your extension. The 5th of August is the same day that
the Bangkok Post mentioned our petition on the front page with the title « Furore over TM30 forms ». Quite sincerely, I think the authorities did listen to us, and the petition helped. It is a coincidence?
Other comments were made but again, it can be different depending on the immigration office where you live. In Korat, they told us that if we go to Pattaya on a weekend, we don't have to report. This is clearly against the articles 37 and 38, but
I think immigration understand that they do not want to hurt tourism. But if you do go abroad, yes, your landlord must report via the TM30 on your return.
Other comments were said but again, it can be different depending on the immigration office you live. In Korat, they told us that if we go to Pattaya a weekend, we don't have to report. This is clearly against the articles 37 and 38, but I think
immigration understand that they do not want to hurt tourism. But if you do abroad, yes, your landlord must report tm30 at your return.
If you go and sleep at a friend's house, outside the province, this officer told us not to bother with reporting and paperwork.... that is also against the rules, but if you think about it, who could know if you slept over at your friend's house.
This is different situation from hotels and hotels, or from landlords, who still must report your stay. Again, 37(4) is not enforced according to immigration guidelines. Let's hope this online application works well, and will happen quickly. On
that, we have no guarantees.
The current system is confused. There are too many forms, too many rules and I clearly told them our views. Immigration could explain the rules on their websites and apply them the same way in each office nationally. That would be a great
On 15th August, the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) is planning a panel on TM30 and immigration rules. Foreign journalists will be invited, and the subject might hit the news again. We were told that if the FCC wants an immigration officer
present, they need to write a letter to immigration. I should be there if this event takes place.
No names of anybody who helped, signed, or contributed were made public. You can share this post, copy it and provide the information to whoever you want. If you think something is wrong in the following text, let me know. Thanks.