Thailand suspends visa on arrival

BANGKOK, 13 March 2019: Thailand opted to suspend its visa-on-arrival privilege for a long list of nationalities, effective 13 March, the Tourism Authority of Thailand reported, after contradictory statements appeared in local media last week.

This report was updated on 14 March to include corrective statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its embassy in Russia.

At one point, official government releases, including those from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, suggested some countries had lost their visa-free stay status. This proved to be incorrect according to statements made by Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On 14 March, the Thai embassy in Moscow issued a statement saying that according to the bilateral agreement, signed 13 December 2005, Russian passport holders can visit Thailand for 30 days without a visa. It said the suspension of the visa-on-arrival for 18 country does not include Russian passport holders.

Over the weekend, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also confirmed that visa-free stays remained valid for citizens of South Korea, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR (declared Disease Infected Zones along with mainland China, Italy* and Iran) due to bilateral agreements signed several years earlier. No bilateral agreement on visa-free stays between Italy and Thailand to prevent unilateral suspension.

The embassy statement illustrates the urgent need for a single voice to provide clarity and reduce the risk of contradictory announcements. There have been calls for the establishment of an emergency communications centre responsible for issuing statements on behalf of the various ministries.

The temporary suspension of the visa-on-arrival privilege came into effect 13 March and extends to 30 September. An official statement released Ministry of Interior confirmed visitors from 18 countries on the VoA list, including Russia, would need to apply for visas. Again this proved to be incorrect. Russia is on a visa-free stay list and that privilege is protected by the bilateral agreement signed between the two countries in December 2005. There are 17 nationalities on the VOA list that need to apply for visas.

They must show a health certificate and evidence of travel insurance when presenting a visa application. The latest visa requirements were introduced to help contain the spread of Covid-19 virus. Thailand has 75 confirmed cases of the virus as of 13 March.

The visa-on-arrival is temporarily suspended for passport holders of the following countries; Bulgaria, Bhutan, China (including Taiwan), Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Vanuatu.

Travellers to Thailand are advised to avoid transiting at an airport in the Disease Infected Zones ( mainland China, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR, South Korea, Italy* and Iran).

The Thai government has put in place a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travellers who visited the six countries, or territories, in the last 14 days. Passengers boarding planes to Thailand must pass through a temperature health scan and present a health certificate to airline staff at the check-in counter to obtain their boarding pass. They will need to show evidence of travel insurance at the immigration checkpoint.

On arrival at an airport in Thailand, they will need to pass a screening process including a thermal scan, complete a mandatory health form distributed by airlines during the flight, and provide necessary travel information to Department of Disease Control officers

*Italians need to apply for a visa to enter Thailand. The visa-free privilege was suspended at the weekend.

(Source: Tourism Authority of Thailand. Additional input quotes Ministry of Foreign Affairs and embassies).