Thailand’s leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has acknowledged that a recent tightening of visa rules put English teachers in a precarious situation and instructed Immigration officials to be flexible with visa runners, according to The Nation. The announcement likely brought relief to foreign travelers and expats who rely on visa runs to stay in Thailand. In some cases, the visa runs allow travelers to extend their sight-seeing time in Thailand. But for those who wish to live in the country and cannot receive legal work permits for one reason or another, the visa run presents one of the few options they have for remaining in Thailand.
Prayuth referenced English teachers and academics specifically in his weekly TV address Friday, according to The Nation. “This is an ongoing problem that needs to be resolved, as it can lead to a shortage of English teachers and guides,” the general said. The military leader said visa runners can register with the Immigration Bureau, and officials will help them find a longer-term option for their situation.
Visa runs refer to the process of leaving Thailand when one’s current visa or exemption stamp expires, visiting a Thai consulate in a nearby country such as Laos or Malaysia, and applying for a new visa (usually a tourist visa in these situations). Immigration announced earlier this year that it would crack down on visa runners who use tourist visas to live and work in Thailand illegally. As the name implies, tourist visas are meant for travel purposes only, and the terms prohibit tourist visa holders from working in the country.
However, people who work online, or who work for Thai employers who cannot or will not help them secure the proper visa and permit, have few other options for staying in Thailand legally. A Chiang Mai Immigration official announced earlier this week that people who work remotely from Thailand or run their businesses online, often referred to as “digital nomads,” can legally work on tourist visas.
Prayuth’s mandate softens the crackdown blow for English teachers who rely on tourist visas and visa runs to stay at their jobs. Some in the academic world had expressed concerns about the quality of English education in Thailand declining if many good teachers were forced out by the tightening of the rules.