Overstaying your visa...
minor fine or major nightmare?
February 24, 2006
One of the many inconsistencies in the application of law in Thailand has to do with exceeding one's permitted length of stay. While in actuality the penalties for overstaying are severe, in most cases the reality is not. A minor fine is paid at the border, a form is filled out, names are signed, passport stamps are applied and off you go. No big deal, 200 baht a day to a maximum of 20,000 (set to increase to 500 baht a day effective March 15) which if only for a couple of days is cheaper and easier than getting a visa extension. Even the immigration checkpoints are set up to handle overstays as a simple bureaucratic procedure supplemented with the exchange of (usually) relatively small amounts of cash.
But while for most people that is the reality, the law in fact states that if one is found anywhere in Thailand beyond the length of time allowed in their passport they are to be shipped off to the Immigration Detention Centre, a facility Amnesty International has been criticizing for years, and held there until that time arrangements can be made by you and for you (they won't lift a finger to help) to get yourself flown out of the country. If it takes a few months, then at IDC you'll rot. And does this ever happen to people? You bet it does and more often than you may realize.
Because while immigration will settle this at the border, you've obviously stated your intentions to leave the country anyway, being found anywhere else but the border (or airport) and you're not a tourist on the way out, but an illegal immigrant hanging around and that's how you'll be treated no matter how many extenuating circumstances you can think up in your defense. It's not pleasant.
The decision is whether the risk of incarceration for up to a few months in an absolute hellhole is worth avoiding the time and expense of moseying down to Soi Suanphlu and keeping yourself legal. I think it's an easy decision but apparently quite a few out there don't agree.
Try this line of thinking...
Carrying ID in Thailand:
Overstaying your visa
I always wear a helmet.
So here's my advice of the month:
Additional stories and information on visa overstays in Thailand:
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