February 24, 2021

Thailand extends visa renewal grace period for foreigners stranded due to COVID-19

BANGKOK: Thailand on Monday (Sep 28) said it will extend a grace period for visa renewals for foreigners stranded in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic until the end of October, as travel restrictions remain in place and new infections climb globally.

The extension will allow foreigners to remain in Thailand until Oct 31, a spokesman for the government’s coronavirus taskforce Taweesin Wisanuyothin told Reuters.

The matter is subject to cabinet approval on Tuesday.

Thailand halted commercial flights in April and banned foreign visitors in an effort to keep COVID-19 at bay, with repatriation flights the only means of leaving the country.

In July, authorities granted automatic visa extensions to Sep 26 for all foreigners.

READ: Thailand to offer grace period for foreigners’ visa extensions

After October, a new immigration regulation will allow foreigners to apply for 60-day extensions to remain in the country if they are unable to leave due to limited flights or other issues, Pornchai Kuntee, deputy commissioner of the Immigration Bureau, told Reuters.

Previously, extensions required documentation from their respective embassies and were limited to 30 days.

Authorities on Monday also extended an emergency decree until the end of October.

Thailand has recorded 3,545 COVID-19 cases, with 59 fatalities.

READ: With travel limited, plane cafes take off in Thailand

The government this month approved visas of up to 270 days for long-stay tourists and is preparing to reopen to some foreign visitors from next month, although the move could be delayed.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects foreign tourist numbers to plunge to 6.7 million this year from 39.8 million in 2019 before recovering to 20.5 million next year.

This compares with the central bank’s estimate for 9 million tourists in 2021.

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