Visa Runs / Border Runs
The majority of western foreigners arriving in Thailand will either already have a tourist visa or will receive a Visa Exemption stamp upon arrival.
Those looking to extend their stay in the Kingdom have options to do so. We will give a simple explanation of what a visa or border run is and then explain how they can be used to a person’s advantage.
What is a visa or border run?
A visa or border run is the journey from Thailand to a neighbouring country. This journey enables the person concerned to apply for a new visa which will allow them to return and stay legally in Thailand.
Time allowed in Thailand – Single entry tourist visa:
The tourist visa allows a 60-day stay in the country with an option to extend for a further 30 days giving a total of 90 days in the country. This extension can be applied for at a Thai immigration office and currently costs 1,900 Baht.
Time allowed in Thailand – Multiple entry tourist visa (METV):
In theory, the METV allows a 6-month stay in the Kingdom. It includes as many exits and re-entries as desired, but a border run must be made every 60-days. The visa and border run requirements are explained in further detail below.
Time allowed in Thailand – Visa-Exemption on arrival:
The Visa Exemption stamp received upon arrival in Thailand allows for a 30 day stay in the country. Those wishing to stay longer have, in the past used Visa or Border runs to leave the country and then return the same day in order to receive a ‘new’ Visa Exemption stay giving them an additional 30 days in the country. However, in recent years there has been a crack-down on this method of gaining an extended stay in the country.
This type of border or visa run is known as a ‘back-to-back’ or an ‘out/in border run’. Anyone trying to cross overland at ANY border more than once over the course of a full year period should understand there is a possibility that they will be refused, although some border checkpoints are far more lax than others in this concern.
Those doing an out/in border run by air may not be subject to such a severe crackdown, but are likely to encounter problems if they repeatedly fly out and then straight back in to the country.
Important rule introduced in late 2016:
Late 2016 saw the introduction of a rule by Thai authorities that forbids foreigners on a visa-exempt stamp from making an overland visa run more than twice in one calendar year. If enforced to the letter this means in principle that regular travellers looking for extended stays in Thailand could try entering the country for a third time by air, but would be better off acquiring either a single-entry tourist visa which will give them 90 days stay (this includes applying for the 30-day extension), then leaving the country on a border run and returning on a visa-exempt stamp for a further 30 days.
Visa/Border runs – Back-to-back tourist visas
Those looking to stay a full 6-months in the Kingdom could, in principle obtain back-to-back, consecutive tourist visa’s that would include two extensions of the visa and one border run to obtain a new visa. Some embassies will still issues a double or triple entry tourist visa depending on circumstances.
There is no official rule stating this procedure is not allowed, but Thai immigration officials are becoming increasingly more aware and vigilant of the practice. This means that as a person re-entering the Kingdom after a border run to obtain their ‘new’ tourist visa may receive a red stamp in their passport which states that no additional tourist visas are allowed for 1 calendar year. If using this visa run method to extend a stay in Thailand it is recommended that you spend a minimum of one or two weeks in another country before re-entering on your 2nd or 3rd tourist visa.
Proof may be required:
One other thing to bear in mind; if attempting to use a border run for back-to-back tourist visas additional proof may be required. Upon application for a consecutive tourist visa it is possible that you will be asked to provide proof of your intentions in terms of:
- Adequate funds to support yourself during this extended stay
- Hotel reservations confirmation
- Confirmation of onward transport upon expiry of this new visa – This stipulation is particularly enforced for those applying immediately for a new tourist visa.
These requirements vary from Embassy to Embassy and vary from strict to quite relaxed.
Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV):
Obtaining a METV is one method of achieving a 6-month stay in the country. This would include border runs every 60 days.
METV regulations state that you spend no longer than 60-days at a time in Thailand, but are allowed as many re-entries as you wish over the 6-month period. This means every 60-days you could do a same-day ‘out and back in’ border run that will enable you to spend the maximum amount of time in Thailand.
It is important to note that the METV can only be issued in your home country and that it is valid for six months from the date of issue, not when you arrive in the country. This means that as soon as the METV is issued the clock starts ticking.
Exact requirements to obtain an METV vary from country to country but it is common to be asked for documented proof of such things as employment details and a bank balance that exceeds US$ 7,000 on application.
Visa/Border runs – A valid way to extend a stay:
There is little doubt that taking advantage of a border or visa run is a valid way of extending a stay in Thailand. If this is planned with thought and care it should achieve what a person is looking for.