What To Do If You Have an Overstay in Thailand – If You’re in the Country Illegally, Don’t Worry

Don’t worry if your Thai visa expires – it is possible to fix the problem

At one time or another, many travelers to Thailand end up with an overstay on their visa that allows them to stay in the country. When most people arrive in Thailand, they either get a 30 day stamp in their passports, or they arrive with a 60 day tourist visa or 90 day non-immigrant B visa. On the day after the visa expires, no matter what type of visa it is, if you haven’t taken steps to get it renewed (if you can) or haven’t left the country and come back in again with another visa, then you are officially on overstay in Thailand. But, is having an overstay a serious issue or not? And what should you do if you have one?

Having an Overstay Depends on How Long – In the seven years I’ve lived in Thailand, I’ve never had an overstay on my visa. I intend to live here for the rest of my life, so don’t want to do anything to mess that up. But…. many farangs (westerners) and other travelers end up with overstays. For some tourists, their overstay is likely to be just a day or two. They either forget the date when they’re supposed to leave, misunderstand the visa stamp or have something happen where they can’t leave. With a day or two overstay, it’s not that serious. Really.

Other long-time visitors to Thailand or long-time residents end up with overstays that are weeks, months, sometimes even years. Particularly for those who know they cannot get a legitimate visa allowing them to stay in the country, many choose to just stay in Thailand and take their chances. For the ones I’ve heard of, very few get caught. But, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Nor that you should do an overstay for that long. Longer than a few days is serious, and can get you in a lot of trouble.

Consequences of Having an Overstay in Thailand For Short Overstays – For most overstays of just a few days, as long as you don’t get caught by the police, you will have no problems at all. When you get to the airport and are going through immigration, if you have a short-term overstay, you’ll be pulled aside and asked to pay a fine. The fine is 500 baht per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. So, for example, if you have an overstay of four days, you will pay 2,000 baht. The immigration officer will give you a receipt, stamp your passport with an overstay, wave you on through and that’s that. You leave the country and can re-enter Thailand any time you want.

If, however, you are stopped or caught by the police before you make it to the airport, you will be arrested (they are obligated to do so), and you will be put in a Thai jail to await your court case. This could cause you to miss your flight and end up with a lot more problems than you started with. Your court case will probably be simple. You’ll plead guilty, pay the fine and be allowed to leave Thailand. Plus, in 99 out of 100 cases, you’ll be allowed back in whenever you want. But….do you really want a criminal record in Thailand? I know I don’t.

The moral of this (short-term) story? Don’t get an overstay and, if you do, stay away from the police, don’t cause any trouble and leave Thailand and pay the fine as soon as you can.

Consequences of a Having an Overstay in Thailand For Long Overstays – With a longer overstay, things are a lot different. If you can get a flight and leave, at the airport you will likely be fined 20,000 baht, regardless of whether your overstay was six weeks, six months or six years. You will get a stamp in your passport saying you overstayed and then, most likely, be allowed to leave. However…..depending on the mood of the immigration officer, you could be arrested and held in the immigration holding area, and then transported to a Thai jail to await trial. Again, do you really want to take that chance?

I met two people who have been on overstays for years. One recently left Thailand via Suvarnabhumi Airport, where he paid the 20,000 baht fine, had his passport stamped with an overstay and left. He came back to Thailand three weeks later on a valid tourist visa, and had no problems re-entering the country. He’s now living on a legal visa and work permit, so his troubles are over.

The other guy has been illegally living in Thailand for five years. I recently found out he had been arrested, thrown in a Thai jail and was serving a six month sentence. Once he has finished serving his sentence, he will be deported from Thailand and will probably not be allowed back in the country for a certain period of time. Again, why chance it?

To have an overstay in Thailand of a few days isn’t too serious. We all make mistakes and bad things sometimes happen. However, if you have an overstay of several weeks, months or years, it’s an

entirely different story. Bad things can happen…..to you. And, if they do, you’ll only have yourself to blame. Don’t stay in Thailand on overstay visas deliberately. It’s really not worth it.

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