Anyone who has lived in Thailand as long as I have has met many people who have overstayed their visa and are currently in the country illegally. While technically a jailable offense in Thailand, few people are ever actually put in Thai immigration jail as the overstay can be easily settled by paying a fine as you leave the country.
Where confusion comes in for many people, however, are rumors that have been going around for years that say it is not possible to pay an overstay fine at a Thailand land border. What that means for the person who has overstayed is they must fly out of Thailand via an airport, thus costing them a lot more money than a quick trip to a Thailand land border to settle the overstay problem.
But is this true? Or can you pay an overstay fine at a Thailand land border, and leave the country that way?
Paying an overstay fine at a Thailand land border
Yes,in fact, you can pay an overstay fine at a Thailand land border without having to fly out of Thailand via an airport, and it doesn’t matter if your overstay is one day or seven years, the same rules apply.
I know as I did it myself just last week due to a five-day overstay because of a visa mix-up that was entirely my fault. I simply took a visa run service from Bangkok to the Aranyaprathet-Poipet, Thailand/Cambodia border and paid the 2,500 baht for my overstay fine when I got there.
In fact, so easy was it, it took all of three minutes to pay the fine and sign the paperwork at the Overstay desk and I was allowed to leave Thailand, go into Cambodia, turn right around and come back to Thailand an hour later and receive a visa for another 30-days in Thailand. No problems, and no questions asked. Not even about the reasons for my overstay.
After I had paid my fine, I also spoke with the Thai woman who runs the Bangkok-based visa run service I always use and she told me they usually have at least one person a day that has to pay an overstay fine at a land border, and the only time they ever have a problem is if the person doesn’t have the money for the fine. Then it is possible they might be arrested.
In her words, though, “One day overstay or ten years, doesn’t matter. Pay the fine and come right back into Thailand”.
How much is the fine for an overstay in Thailand?
Now that you know you can pay an overstay fine at a Thailand land border, you may want to know how much of a fine you will be expected to pay.
The applicable fines for an overstay in Thailand are 500 baht, or $16.12, per day. The maximum fine, which would be reached by day 40 of an overstay, is 20,000 baht ($645). That means, if you have a 41 day overstay or a nine-year overstay, you will still pay 20,000 baht as the fine when you leave the country.
Word of warning
The only time you are in any danger of being arrested and locked up with an overstay is if you have any trouble in Thailand for an unrelated reason (regular police sweeps at nightclubs are where people who have overstayed usually get caught) and are caught by Thai police. They will then check your passport, see the expired visa, and you will more than likely be sent to the Thai immigration lock up where you will be held for a few days until your court case comes up.
During your court case, which tends to take less than 15 minutes, a fine will be instituted, and after you have paid and proven you have enough money to take a flight back to your own country, you will be taken to the airport and deported.
As this is Thailand, however, deportation simply means you are asked to leave. You could turn around and come right back and would be allowed access into the country once again, as long as you had not committed any crimes that would put your name on a blacklist.
For more information about the law when it comes to overstaying your visa in Thailand, read this excellent article from Siam Legal.
Finally, don’t believe the myriad of westerners who live in Thailand and seem to enjoy either giving incorrect information or scaring people about “arrest if you have even one day overstay”. It is simply not true.
Of course, it’s never good to overstay by many days, many months or longer, but if this does happen to you, it’s also not the end of the world.
In fact, in most cases when you pay an overstay fine, the Thai immigration police could not be nicer or more professional, and simply collect your fine and wave you on your way. No matter how long your overstay.