The best advice for any tourist or person living in Thailand is to carry your passport at all times. Or at least a copy of the photo and visa pages. You just never know when Immigration Police will do a swoop on your hotel or night club. If you don’t have it you face the risk of being handcuffed, put in the back of a pick-up truck for all to see and then taken to the nearest Immigration Office. Here they will check their records to see your current status. That make take some while if that is not your local office. I know there are people like myself who have never been asked to show a passport. We have just been lucky. This could happen to anyone and at any time. Even more so at the moment while Immigration hunt the foreigners who used one of the visas recently stolen from the Thai Embassy in Malaysia.
Never give your passport to anyone other than Immigration Police. If you have to do this, then never let it leave your sight. You definitely shouldn’t allow your passport to be used as collateral for when your rent a motorcycle or passport. This is actually illegal and you should only give a photocopy of your passport. Don’t forget to put a line through it with the date and say what it is being used for. The best form of ID that I have is my Thai driver’s license. I use it for everything. For example, check-in for domestic flights at the airport, check-in at a hotel I’m staying at and proof of identity if asked by a policeman. Please remember, Immigration Police are the only ones authorized to ask for your passport. Ordinary police have no business in asking to see your passport.
TIPS ON CARRYING YOUR PASSPORT
Although the law says you need to carry your passport at all times, this isn’t actually very practical. It’s not really a good size to fit in your wallet. Plus, if you lose it or it gets wet, then it can get very expensive and time consuming to get it replaced. So, I have been told by Immigration officers that it is perfectly acceptable to carry a photocopy. What I do every year is photocopy my photo page and also the latest visa. I then shrink these down to credit card size so I end up with two small pieces of paper. I put these back to back and then laminate them. This then slips easily into my wallet and will safely last the full year. A tip by @in0nymous on Twitter is to scan all of your documents including work permit and put these in your dropbox. Then you can access them via your smartphone or tablet if anyone asks to see them.
OVERSTAYING YOUR VISA
If you have overstayed your visa, even by one day, and you are found out during a swoop on your hotel, you will be arrested and sent straight to Immigration Detention Center. It doesn’t matter if you can show them a ticket for the next day to fly out of the country. You will be detained for a few days before being taken to court to pay the fine. You are then sent back to the detention center where you have to find someone on the outside to arrange a flight for you. Basically, you stay there until you have a ticket out. Average stays seem to be five days. Some people have stayed there years as they have no money. You will then be escorted to the airport and put on your flight. My best advice if you have overstayed is to surrender yourself at the airport and pay the fine. Maximum is 20,000 Baht even if you have overstayed by years. I know someone who had done this. He paid the fine and flew out. He then got a new visa in a neighboring country and came straight back. No problem.
What about you? Have you ever been asked for your passport? What did you do?