The question “What will happen if you are on overstay in Thailand, get caught and cannot afford a flight home?” comes up occasionally in the circle of non-Thais I know.
After all, at one time or another, some foreigners in Thailand are on overstay, so want to know what happens if they are unlucky enough to get caught.
A few years ago, this used to be an easy question to answer as, if you were on overstay and could afford the 20,000 baht fine when you left the country, pretty much nothing happened.
In fact, you could leave Thailand one day after having been on overstay for 10 years, pay the fine and come back tomorrow. That is how lax Thai immigration used to be.
Not anymore, of course.
That is because since the current Thai military junta came to power in 2014, things have changed a lot where Thai immigration is concerned.
So much so, if you are on overstay in Thailand, get caught and cannot afford a flight home, you could be in some serious trouble.
The current rules for overstays in Thailand in 2018
As of early March, 2016, things got pretty serious pretty fast when it came to doing overstays in Thailand.
That means, where it was once a fine at the airport or border when you left, and maybe a few days in immigration jail if you were caught before you left the country, nowadays there is a lot more involved.
That includes a hefty fine, and a ban from entering the country for a certain period of time if you have been on overstay for longer than 90 days and you leave Thailand of your own volition.
If you are caught, however, consequences include a hefty fine, an unlimited period of time in the Thai immigration detention center, and a ban on being able to return to Thailand for between 1-10 years.
The unlimited time in Thai immigration comes in if you cannot afford to pay for a plane ticket home. Thai immigration will simply keep you there until your family, friends or anyone else you know pays for your plane ticket.
They will then escort you to the airport and put you on your plane.
Meanwhile, these are the current laws regarding overstays in Thailand:
Foreigner giving themselves up at the airport :
Overstay more than 90 Days – 1 year ban from Thailand
Overstay more than 1 Year – 3 year ban from Thailand
Overstay more than 3 Years – 5 year ban from Thailand
Overstay more than 5 Years – 10 year ban from Thailand
Foreigner arrested while on overstay:
Overstay less than 1 Year – 5 year ban from Thailand
Overstay more than 1 Year – 10 year ban from Thailand
What should you do if you are currently on overstay in Thailand?
If you are currently on overstay in Thailand, it all depends on how long you have been in the country illegally.
If you have been staying illegally for less than 90 days, fly out of the country as soon as you can and definitely before the 90 days are up. *(Fly, do not use a land border, as immigration at Thai borders often do not follow the rules and do whatever they feel like doing — including banning people for 5 years for just a few days of overstay).
If you do, you will just be fined 500 baht per day up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. You will then be allowed to return to Thailand when you want to.
If you have been staying in Thailand illegally for more than 90 days, however, you are facing at least a one-year ban. That is why it will pay you to get your affairs in order, leave the country as soon as you can, go home and make plans to come back after a year. The legal way.
Illegal for more than a year, however, and you are facing a three to 10 year ban, and honestly there is not much you can do about it.
**Be very aware of this, however — IF you are on overstay for even one day, and you are caught by Thai police or immigration before leaving Thailand of your own volition, it is an immediate arrest, an immediate incarceration until you can prove you have a plane ticket home and at least a five-year ban from being able to enter Thailand again.
What happens if you do not have the money to pay an overstay fine in Thailand?
Finally, if you know you have an overstay, want to leave the country but do not have the money to pay a fine, you should do everything you can to borrow that money so you can officially leave.
That is because, if you cannot pay the fine, you will be arrested and imprisoned.
Imprisonment pays off your fine at 200 baht per day. So, if you have a 20,000 baht fine to pay, that will mean you have to stay in the Thai immigration detention center for at least 100 days. You will only be allowed to leave if you have a plane ticket home.
Advice about being on overstay in Thailand
If you are on overstay in Thailand, you should find a way to leave the country legally as soon as you can and face the consequences. Whether that is a fine, or a fine and a ban. If you do not, and are arrested, the consequences will be quite severe.
Arrests of foreigners overstaying visas are now happening frequently in Thailand.
Just last month, 55 foreigners were arrested in raids on language schools, hotels and schools. One German man was discovered to be on a nine-year overstay, with several others on overstay for several months or longer.
More than 1,7000 foreigners have been arrested for overstays in the last few months, with police and immigration raids happening all over the country.
If you are one of the people on overstay in Thailand, and have not yet been caught. Please, do everything you can to ensure you are not.