updated 3:05 PM CEST, Sep 18, 2019

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‘Thousands’ of expats in petition to Thai gov’t to scrap immigration reporting regs

A petition being promoted by expatriates living in Thailand that calls on the country’s Immigration Bureau to scrap a controversial reporting requirement for foreigners living there has secured the support of more than 4,000 people in less than two weeks.

The petition, which was launched on July 28, concerns something called the “TM30 reporting requirement,” which isn’t new, but which wasn’t generally enforced in the past – but now is, according to the Bangkok Post and other publications.

The TM30 is a notification form thatThai landlords who provide accommodation to foreigners are required to use to report these foreigners' presence to the authorities within 24 hours, and every time the foreigner returns.

Also known as Article 37, the regulation in question also requires any foreigner who stays in Thailand to report to immigration whenever they stay at a different address for more than 24 hours – "their nightly whereabouts," one publication put it – and then keep the authorities posted if and when they moved around the country.

Foreigners who have permanent residence in Thailand are said to be unaffected.

Originally introduced in 1979, TM30 became an issue earlier this year, when "an abrupt decision by the powers-that-be at the Immigration Bureau," citing heightened terrorism concerns, brought it into force, the Bangkok Post noted, in an editorial in which it likened the action to a "shot in the foot" by the government that would damage Thailand's tourism industry. 

"At a time when the tourism industry needs a shot in the arm, perhaps the last thing the Immigration Bureau should do is resuscitate an outdated rule to make the lives of foreigners and Thais more difficult – but that's what the bureau has done with the dreaded TM30 form," the publication said. 

The petition, which has been launched by a group of expats based, according to press reports, in the Isaan (northeast) section of Thailand, can be found at https://reform-thai-immigration.com/.

According to ThaiVisa.com, a news website, The petition’s organizers are hoping to get 10,000 people to sign it. At that point they intend to send a letter announcing this fact to Thailand’s prime minister as well as the heads of its Immigration and Foreign Affairs departments.

The petition itself says it is aiming for 5,000 signatures, which means that it's fewer than 1,000 signatures from that goal.

'Stories vary according
to who you talk to' 

One expat businessman who lives and works in Bangkok, who didn't wish to be identified, told the American Expat Financial News Journal that he had heard that "some of the foreign chambers of commerce are being pressured by some [of their] members to lobby the immigration authorities about this," but added that he thought that the fact that foreigners are able to notify the immigration service of their movements online might have made it less of a problem than some of the articles have been suggesting it is.

"The stories that I’m hearing vary according to who you talk to and which province they live in," he added.

"In Bangkok, where there are more foreigners and therefore the process might be more efficient, and where the take-up of on line reporting sometimes happens more quickly, it might be less of an issue than [it is] ‘up country’.

"Purely from a personal perspective, it hasn’t caused any inconvenience at all, but I can imagine that if you’re an elderly foreign retiree in one of the more remote provinces, then this could be more unsettling.

"In the past there’s been criticism that practices have changed without clear guidance or notice, but in this instance the Bangkok immigration authorities have been helpful and clear and that enabled [us] to publish an advisory for our clients a couple of months back, which I understand has enabled them to navigate Article 37 without any problems.

"So from my perspective, Article 37 isn’t a serious issue but I realize that for some that’s not the case." 

The Thailand offices of PKF, the international accountancy firm, posted a bulletin for clients on its website in June which detailed the then-recently-announced reporting requirements, noting that the Immigration Bureau at Chaengwattana had "first announced the new enforcement regime for these long-standing regulations...on 28th March 2019," and that the enforcement of these rules had been causing "widespread confusion and frustrations among foreigners and landlords alike" ever since.

The PKF bulletin noted that the focus of the Thai Immigration Bureau’s enforcement of  the TM30 rules appeared to be "centered around visa renewals" – an ongoing issue for most foreigners resident in Thailand at any time – and added: "Therefore, when foreigners are due to renew their visa (e.g., at the time of work permit renewal), then they are strongly advised to ensure that their property owner/landlord has complied with TM30 reporting in order to avoid unwanted delays or problems in renewing their relevant visas."

Foreigners wishing to register online in order to make reporting their movements easier have been told to go to https://extranet.immigration.go.th/fn24online/.

The text of the petition, which is also available in a Thai-language version, is below.

_______________________________________________________

                 We just started signatures today on 28 July 2019. Some people are scared… There is nothing illegal to express your opinion. Information on website is encrypted and protected. SIGN TO HELP OTHER EXPATS AND THEIR FAMILIES. Thanks.

 —–

A representative group of expats from across Thailand wishes to respectfully petition the Thai government on the question of immigration law and enforcement practices. Together we constitute a very large foreign community, the great majority of whom live peacefully and in a law-abiding manner in the country that we love. Many of us have Thai spouses, Thai partners and Thai children. We contribute to Thailand’s future and its economy, either working, in retirement, or by supporting local and national voluntary organisations and other charitable causes.

We would like to open a dialogue with the authorities, to see whether it is possible for alternative, more practical and less time-consuming ways of applying the 1979 Law on immigration to be found. We hope to put forward suggestions that would benefit both those expats struggling to comply with the multiple and confusing regulations, and the country itself by cutting down on red tape, and improving understanding between Thailand and its foreign residents. We believe in this wonderful country, a thriving, positive association with all Thais and would like to contribute in any way that we can to achieve this goal.

To:

The Royal Thai Government and the Royal Thai Police Immigration Bureau

We are a representative group of foreign and Thai people living in Thailand with Thai spouses or partners and Thai children. We work here, contribute to the community and the economy of the country. We love Thailand and do our best to stay compliant with local laws.

Recently, the new rules applied at immigration are causing huge problems for the foreign community and some who who have lived here and have caused no problems at all for the Thai authorities.

Under Article 37, any foreigner residing in Thailand who visits another province for more than 24 hours must report to immigration.

There are 76 provinces in Thailand. This means if a foreign teacher lives in Buriram and decides to spend a weekend in Surin, on Monday morning, he cannot teach. He must report to immigration. Even if he stays with his wife and children, and the landlord (his wife) must also report to immigration with a form TM30. Immigration already has records of all foreigner’s addresses. Any foreigner must provide his/her address via the form TM47 when he stays in Thailand for more than 90 days.

We completely understand the reason behind the form TM47 and many have welcomed the online reporting. This is the case in most western countries. We must also apply for a one-year visa extension.

Up until 2018 the use of form TM30 has never been strictly enforced. But now foreigners and Thai people are being fined for not having filed the form TM30 on returning to their home address following a weekend in another province. This reporting also applies to tourists but it is the duty of the hotels to report these foreigners to immigration. What happens to people residing in AirBNB accommodation? Or living in houses with Thai landlords or even their Thai family as landlords? Many tourists are becoming increasingly frustrated with the new TM30 rules being applied.

Collectively the group of people signing this petition would like to see a change in the law which would lead to the form TM30 being abolished altogether.

This Immigration law has been in place since 1979. Laws can change and evolve to stay in line with today’s technology. We strongly believe that the form TM30 is outdated and causes far too many problems which would did not exist in the past. Tourists and expats arriving in Thailand are also screened at airports or immigration points. Technology has become better and better, reporting addresses on paper, in person, is not efficient and counterproductive.

The use of the Form TM 30 does nothing to help or minimize terrorism, and it presents an obligation to Thai landlords because it is them who must report their foreign guests. As the form TM28, it is also inefficient as most police station don’t even know what it is is and often won’t accept it even though it plainly says it can be submitted to a local police station (See clause 37 (4) of the Immigration Act). So there are many modifications that could be done to clauses 37 and 38 of the Immigration Act of Thailand.

Respectfully, we appeal to the Thai government to modify the Immigration Act.

We, as a group, believe that strict enforcement of the form TM30 will only serve to create more problems and ultimately show a massive downturn in tourism, foreign investment and the existence Thai families living with foreigners. We request this in the interests of Thailand.

This is our solemn plea on behalf of every signatory residing in or travelling around our beloved Thailand. Please accept this letter as a suggestion and as a means to resolve one issue, which we believe could only serve to add more pressure upon and eventually become a negative influence on the Thai economy.

Yours respectfully.

Long live the King.

[Your name]