Overstaying Your Thailand Visa

Overstaying a Thailand visa is something thousands of people do each year (my guess). Does Thai immigration really consider overstays a big deal? The fine is 20,000 THB max. Pay that, and you’ll likely get through, just like the other expats that stayed and did visa runs continually during the same time period. Keep in mind, the rules are always said to be changing – but they very rarely change regarding this issue – pay the fine and you can likely leave without a problem.

Recently I exited Thailand through the Bangkok Airport immigration and paid the 20K THB fine for overstaying my Thailand Non Immigrant visa for some years. I had read of people overstaying for over 20 years and there was no problem for them – pay the overstay amount and they were good to go, even returning with a tourist visa the next day if they wanted.

If you don’t have the money to pay the fine, which is about $600 USD – you’ll end up in the Bangkok IDC – Immigration Detention Center. On a positive note you’ll be fined a lot less. On a negative note, you might be blacklisted from coming back into Thailand. I think the bad outweighs the good.

The law says it’s 500 THB fine for every day you overstay, up to 40 days. It also states that the overstayer could get 2 years jail time in addition to the fine. There are a few hundred overstayers per day at the airports and the land border crossings. Most Thailand overstays are a result of miscounting days or circumstances beyond one’s control. Mine was the latter, but I’ll not go into it.

Something I’m having a hard time understanding is about expats reactions to those overstaying their Thailand visas. Some expats get upset that others make the choice to ignore the Thailand visa runs for a period of time and go past their visa expiration date. Some expats think the fine should be 500 THB per day indefinitely.

If that was the case I think too many expats would never clear up their overstay, and just hide out. The chance of paying a few hundred thousand baht overstay fine would be slim. I’d opt for going to the IDC in that case, paying whatever court fine was assessed, and going back to the USA. Thailand immigration would have to build a massive immigration detention center to house all the overstayers that couldn’t pay their fines. Something tells me – that’s not what they want, MORE foreigners in their jails.

Some expats choose to overstay regularly, coming clean with immigration every few years as they need to go outside the country, and then doing it all over again. Some expats always stay up to date with their visas and consider those that don’t – criminals that need more punishment than what Thailand law states, or, more than what actually occurs.

Who are these international expat wannabe police that would hang their brethren?

Well, as far as I can figure, these are guys that don’t get life very well.

First I’m going to call the majority, and I mean the VAST majority of them, hypocrites.

How many of them never speed?

Did they never drink when they were under 21?

Did they never go through a red light at 3am when there were no cars around?

Did they never partake of prostitution while in Thailand?

Did they never smoke a joint in a country where it was illegal?

I’m going to guess (it’s all I can do) that maybe 1% of all of them get through those 5 questions.

There are people like this – people that, for them, the rules are never ever to be broken in the slightest way. They will sit there at 3am and wait 3 minutes for a light to change before driving through it. Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development calls these people the lowest level thinkers of humanity’s masses. They do what they are told, without asking themselves whether it makes sense in the situation they are presented with. They are the pawns of society and they are frequently at odds with a hell of a lot going on because, as many of you know – there are many different types of people in the world – and they don’t all sit at a light at 3am when there are no cars in sight. I sure don’t.

Thailand immigration has to balance the fines they levy with the number of people they can (or want) to process through Thailand’s jails and courts. Do you really think Thailand wants to process each foreigner that overstays through the courts? Hell no. Why involve more people’s time and frustration? And, the average court fine is less than 3,000 THB. Do they want to do a lot more work and get about 1/7th the cash for it? Nahh. The better alternative is to process people through for 20,000 THB and send them on their way – and hope they do it again so they can get another 20K THB.

I’ll guess that across all airports and land crossings, there are 300 overstays processed per day. Let’s say the average overstay is 10,000 THB. That’s 3 million Thai Baht per day. That’s 100,000 USD per day.

Even if I’m off by half, that is NOT bad money to take in on a daily basis – is it? Easy to make that go around the group a little bit and have some happy employees every month – right?

Here are some tips for getting through your immigration departure if you’ve overstayed and want to return to Thailand after your brief trip out:

1. Don’t show up drunk, high, tired, ready for a fight, or otherwise belligerent. The immigration officers I interacted with at the airport – four of them, were all courteous, low key, well spoken and weren’t interested in why I overstayed. Treat them with the respect that they deserve.

2. Speak Thai politely, if you can speak Thai. Though the main guy I was talking to spoke English I answered him in polite Thai. If you overstayed for a couple of years and can’t speak Thai, that says something about you. It probably says you just don’t give a shit. Why should they give one about you?

3. Wear decent clothes. Though I haven’t worn jeans or any dress pants for almost 4 years now, I did have a nice pair of warm up sweat pants. LOL. My wife bought them a couple years back and they look like decent dark blue pants if you don’t look too closely. Of course they had buttons down the sides – aka Vanilla Ice style, but nobody was looking below the waist (that I noticed…).

4. If you were a teacher and received a non-immigrant b visa at some point, open your passport to that page when you hand it to the main staff sitting at the overstay desk. I didn’t, but he found my previous few non-immigrant b visa stamps and asked ‘bpen kruel?’. Chai krup. Sawn pasa ungrit yoo Ubon Ratchathani, law gaw, Surat Thani na krup. Apparently being a teacher counts for something.

5. Be quiet and let the interviewer ask you questions. He didn’t ask me much at all. As I said, he didn’t ask – why did you overstay so long? Don’t start telling your story unless someone asks. Probably best to just sit there and look humble.

Recently there was a post on ThaiVisa.com about Thailand immigration getting tough on people overstaying visas. The article stated that mandatory jail time is in effect for all visa overstayers past 42 days. Some of the forum veterans made some calls and had some interviews with Thailand immigration folks directly – and called “BS”.

Now the group that posted it – PattayaONE, is still insisting the information is true.

I don’t know, things may change in the very near future – with the new immigration head. Or, they might just continue on as usual. All I know is that at least 1 expat that overstayed was ecstatic to be processed through the Suvarnabhumi airport and was able to get back into Thailand on a tourist visa. I don’t anticipate having to overstay again – but then I guess most of us don’t.

Your experience of overstaying your Thailand visa may vary – of course.

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

2 thoughts on “Overstaying Your Thailand Visa”

  1. Why do so many ex-pats get so serious about other people overstaying why are they so angry about this, yes I understand that many people are here in Thailand on overstay for illegal reasons but I don’t get it. If it doesn’t bother you personally why get like this. I have read the forums and these people have quirky names and give sarcastic comments. What is their problem, why do you care? They will probably search the words I have written to tell me that if I can’t spell or use the correct grammar then I deserve what I get. However these people are the same people who live here in Thailand and moan about everything they don’t like. I want to know why, what made those people so angry, I have my own theories but to put them here would anger them even more. Many people here in Thailand have problems due to their overstay difficulties, maybe those negative people should give positive information or should refrain from writing negative comments in little forums which seem to show their true nature.

    I have a wife and a daughter in Thailand and work in advertising but due to circumstances beyond my control I am now overstay for a long period.

    I can see it now………..a forum poster will say, that’s no excuse I have my visa why don’t you!

    I have trawled the websites looking for an answer before I contact a lawyer. I wanted to find like-minded people such as myself to exchange information but all I find are jaded ex-pats hoping ALL overstayers will get what they deserve.

    I hope one day that these negative people will find themselves in the same situation because I will not post negative comments or post pithy comments,

    I will just put it down to KARMA!

    1. Great comment. Apparently, people that bend over to follow rules, hate to see someone else not bending over. What they fail to realize is – it’s a choice we all make. People HATE to see someone “getting away with something”. Because, they wish they had the guts to try it themselves and escape scott free.

      Thing is – with visa rules in Thailand, you have a choice. The choice to keep straight on your visa stamps and stay legal in the country is up to you. Thais have put a price on compliance – it’s 20,000 THB. To most of us – that’s a pittance. Why? Because if we don’t play the ridiculous visa game Thailand created, then we pay $600 some bucks – one time, and we’re done. Over five years of making visa runs outside the country is an insane amount of running around for what amounts to – the penalty of $600+ USD.

      Some people don’t care about what their passport looks like to immigration. Some don’t care if they ever come back to Thailand – so they say “screw it”. Some cannot help the situation they find themselves in, and choose staying illegally and trying to work it out in the long-term over returning to their own country and straightening out whatever issues there are.

      In Thailand, as I mentioned in the article – there are very, very few expats that can sling shit about the visa stamp issue – that are not partaking of other illegal activities in the country.

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