(Story update inserted 30 November.)
CHIANG RAI, 29 November 2018: The jury is out on Thailand’s recently introduced e-VOA visa with critics focusing on alleged system glitches and an apparent lack of customer value.
Operated by Samart Corporation a public-listed company in Thailand, the official site www.evisathailand.com faces criticism that some features are not functioning.
A TTR Weekly check pointed to some of the system bugs. The chat bot queues site visitors without any progress, visa and service fees are not posted on the homepage and the contact message form for feedback is inoperable. It does not allow the site visitor to type in a message. Email enquiries are also ignored.
Back to original report
There is considerable hype and promises on what the service can accomplish, but there’s not a single mention of visa-on-arrival costs, or administration fees on the home page. Costs are usually itemised on the homepage to alert potential customers before they file an application.
A popular travel and blog site Thai.lt (IP: Lithuania) claimed its site checks showed the process was only active for 15 out of the 21 nationalities eligible for a visa-on-arrival.
The website claims: “Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania are still not eligible for e-Visa Thailand.”
Even more damning for officials promoting this so-called innovative new service, Thai.lt claimed the “system is not working properly during the time of our testing (26 November 2018), so be careful as you might not only waste your time, but also lose your payment because of technical issues on the website.”
Thai.lt also noted that it was not mandatory to use the e-VOA service. Travellers can still file an application manually at the airport and queue for visa approval if they are not comfortable with the e-visa process.Comments on TripAdvisor also suggest that people are unsure about the e-VOA process. One comment confirmed they had applied 24 November for the e-VOA online, but had “heard nothing back by the close of 27 November.”
Other comments confirmed the application required a credit card payment of THB525 as the final step in the online process.
Other steps during the online process include uploading a copy of the passport cover and information page, as well as copies of the roundtrip airline ticket and accommodation booking confirmation. The latter two uploads are restricted to 2 MB each.
The big advantage, once you have the email confirmation with an approval code, is being able to fast track the process at the four designated airports and avoid long queues. You go straight to the e-VOA counters where the final stamp of approval takes a claimed one-minute.
The four designated e-VOA airports are Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, Phuket and Chiang Mai.
Introduced in mid-November by Thailand’s Immigration Bureau, the service claims to streamline the visa-on-arrival procedure through an online pre-approved application.
Thailand has also waived the THB2,000 visa on arrival fee for citizens of 20 countries and one territory from mid November to the end of January 2019.
Although you will not find any mention of extra fees on the official website, the e-VOA does require applicants to pay a THB525 service fee even during the waiver period.
Once the waiver on the visa fee expires applicants using the e-service will pay THB2,525 deduced from a credit card and non-refundable whatever the outcome of the application.
Applicants can pay the fee through Visa, Mastercard, JCB, UnionPay, Alipay and Webchat Pay.
The e-VOA is valid for a stay of up to 15 days for leisure purposes only. Travellers still have to show to immigration officers that they have THB10,000 in cash,while the eVOA approval code is based on uploading documents to show they have a valid passport, roundtrip airline ticket and an accommodation booking receipt.
Eligible for e-VOA
Publicity claims the service is available for citizens of 20 countries and one territory. However, according to Thai. Lt, the option was operable only for following countries (27 November):
Papua New Guinea
The e-Visa on Arrival granted is valid only on the arrival date stated in the application form.
The passport must be valid for over 30 days and have at least one page available for visa stamp.
The purpose of visit is for short stay /travel in Thailand for no more than 15 days.
The applicant must have a confirmed ticket for the return trip within 15 days.
Accommodation receipt and address in Thailand needs to be verified.
The traveller must have sufficient funds (minimum THB10,000 per person, THB20,000 per family).
The visa fee is subject to the Immigration Bureau of Thailand’s policy. The applicant is required to pay for a non-refundable online visa processing fee, including VAT 7%.
The fee must be paid in Thai currency only.
Immigration Bureau link to VOA online advance form
Website of E-Visa Thailand
Background and appraisal by Thai.lt