BANGKOK, 11 August 2017: Thai travellers will face less paper work when they travel overseas, this October, following a decision to phase out the departure and arrival card known as TM6, but only for its nationals.
Foreigners entering Thailand will still have to complete a brand new TM6 that will incorporate additional questions to aid tourism marketing.
Travellers fill out the form at land, sea and air borders, but it is the main gateway airports that cannot cope with the long queues at immigration counters.
Immigration Bureau officials acknowledge that for Thai citizens the TM6 form is a duplication as all relevant information is on line through ID cards and passports. They also fill out the form when they are leaving the country, in contrast to foreigners who fill it out at the first arrival point in Thailand.
However, airlines and IATA say the duplication occurs for all passengers. There already electronic systems that pick-up data from passports and other sources on all travellers entering and departing airports, mainly for security purposes.
The proposal to abolish the TM6 document for Thais will have no impact on the time spent at the immigration counters, but it will be one less duty to perform, usually undertaken at the last minute in the stressful environment of a crowded airport..
But the TM6 card is hardly to blame for the confidence crisis at Bangkok airports, That is mainly due to overcrowding at immigration counters and in the departure halls security checks. There are just far more passengers than the checkpoint areas were designed to handle. It results in negative Facebook comments posted by travellers who claim they missed flights and were forced to buy new tickets, or travel on the following day.
The Immigration Bureau urgently needs to increase staff manning checkpoints by at least 100 this year and admits it is short of 300 officers nation-wide. But more counters are needed, a fact acknowledged by the Airports of Thailand. It says it now needs to increase the flow capacity from 1,000 passengers per hour to 1,800 at immigration counters.
The most talked about solution is the automated electronic checkpoint that reduces the check time to less than a couple of minutes per passenger. The manual check takes on average five minutes per passenger.
In the long-run there are plans to open more automatic digital checkpoints, first for Singaporeans, possibly by early 2018. Now the facility is reserved just for Thai passport holders.
The new immigration form will replace the existing one, 1 October, following a resolution in January approving a Tourism and Sports Ministry request for changes to the “TM6” form.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in July told the Immigration Bureau to look into the possibility doing away with the TM6 for all travellers. However, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports said keeping the TM6 for foreign visitors would give it access to information that would help the agency analyse and plan tourism marketing strategies.