Bangkok Immigration want expats to register their address every time they return from a holiday to another province
During a meeting at the India-Thai Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night, Immigration officials from Division 1 at Chaengwattana, made it very clear that a TM30 form has to be filed each and every time a foreigner (non-immigrant) goes away for more than twenty-four hours to another province in Thailand. This is in addition to when the foreigner returns home from abroad. The only exception are foreigners who hold permanent residence. Although this is an old law, not all Immigration offices around Thailand are enforcing it. But, this is the first time I have heard that Chaengwattana have an intention to enforce it now.
An example that they gave us was if you live in Bangkok but have a condo that you own in Pattaya. If you go away for the weekend, you must file a TM30 yourself as the owner to say that your new address is in Pattaya. When you return to Bangkok on Sunday night, your landlord then has to file TM30 again to inform immigration of your “new” address. In another example, if you go to another province for the weekend and stay at a hotel, they will file a TM30 for you. However, either you or your landlord have to file another TM30 when your return “home”.
We asked them multiple times about this and they said that yes, the movement of the foreigner has to be reported every time with no exceptions. However, in the past, Immigration officials have told me off the record that if you go and stay at your friend’s house for the weekend and then come back home there is no need to file a TM30. This is because no-one knows you left your home. Unless like me, the staff at your local Immigration office follow you on social media and they see you have been away! But, joking aside, it is a big pain if we travel a lot and our local Immigration office are enforcing this law. I’m lucky that so far Samut Prakan are only enforcing TM30 when you fly back to Thailand.
As you can see in the examples above, they don’t consider our “home” as a permanent residence because most of us are non-immigrants. In their eyes, every time we stay at a friend’s house or even a hotel, they consider that as our new “home”. So, when we go back to the place that we consider to be our home, a TM30 needs to be filed again. However, they did say that if we had a minimum contract of three years, they would then consider that as our permanent address and that we don’t need to file a TM30 again for the length of that contract. In this case, three years. But as this doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the law, it will be up to the consideration of Immigration officials at each office.
One of the most common questions from foreigners is that why are there so many forms to do with our address? After all, when we first arrive we fill in the TM6 form (arrival card) with our address. Then every 90-days we fill in the TM47 form with our address. On top of that, there is the TM28 form which is for when we change address and the TM30 form for the homeowner to report foreigners in their residence. A simple answer to this from Immigration is that not every foreigner fills in the TM6 thoroughly or even correctly. The same goes for the TM47 form. But now that they are being strict with landlords filing TM30, they can crosscheck with your TM 47 form to see if you are staying at the place that you stated. And don’t think they won’t come to your condo to check. They do and foreigners have been fined already for either living at the wrong address or for not filing a TM28/TM30.
So, we next come to the question as to why they are doing this to us. Do they really hate all foreigners? The quick answer from them last night was that they are certain that everyone in the audience are the good guys. But, unfortunately, there are a small minority of foreigners who have the intent to cause harm to Thailand. So, in order to keep the city safe, they have to strictly enforce the law as it is written. “The law is written with the intention to control the bad guys,” said one of the Immigration officials last night. “If you are one of the good guys, then don’t worry. We are not that stupid. Trust me.” Unfortunately, this is not actually what is happening. Their methods have resulted in us good guys being collateral damage in this war against the bad guys. Some have commented that it is like Immigration swatting a mosquito with a sledgehammer. For some reason, they don’t seem to care what damage this is causing.
There has been a lot of talk that this TM30 saga will affect tourism. Yes and no. Most tourists don’t need to concern themselves with TM30 as the hotels that they stay at will file the TM30 online. The only time that they might face a problem is if they need to go to Immigration to do something like extend their stay. These days everything is online and when you visit Immigration they can see on screen your complete history including all the places that you have stayed around Thailand. Tourists might have a problem if they stayed at a friend’s house, at an AirBnB residence, or basically one of the many guesthouses and hotels that are operating illegally. None of those owners are likely to have filed a TM30. Mainly because they don’t want the tax man to know that they are making some money on the side. What this means is that Immigration will refuse to do anything until someone pays the fine. Nine times out of ten, this will probably be the foreigner. And the fine is between 800 Baht and 2,000 Baht.
According to Immigration, there are three “simple” methods for people to inform Immigration about foreigners in their residence. And to be clear here, homeowners include your Thai wives or husbands, your Thai friends, or even your foreign friends. The only exception is if you own your own condo and then you can file a report about yourself. So, back to the three methods:
(1) Report to the officials at your local Immigration Police office
(2) Send the form and supporting documents to your local Immigration office by registered mail
(3) Register and submit the documents online
The last method is what Immigration want landlords to do as they say it is quick and simple. But, in reality it is far from that. The first problem is that after you register, and that is presuming you can get it to work, it can take several weeks if not longer to get a username and password. Some people have told me that they have been waiting for eight weeks now. Immigration say that this is because they have to verify each and every application. But they are also having problems with the system. Obviously, they should have had all of this in place before they started enforcing the law. Not after.
If you think all of this is causing a headache just for foreigners then think again. Thai landlords are also angry about the enforcing of the TM30 form. Many of them have multiple properties and they are not happy about having to keep filing the TM30 form. Yes, there is an online version, but as we all know, the system is very unreliable and most have to go to Immigration themselves. The problem is, many expats are businessmen who take frequent trips abroad. The landlord has to go to Immigration every time that foreigner returns to Thailand. The same goes for trips to other provinces in Thailand if their local Immigration office is enforcing this too. It has got to the point now that we are starting to see signs going up in apartment blocks saying “no foreigners” as it is just too much of a hassle for landlords to deal with.
So, what can we do to make our life easier. Immigration say that they are working on the problem and are producing apps for your smartphone that will make reporting quick and easy. The first one already out is “Section38” which is for reporting TM30. Search for it on the playstore or the apps store. I’m told that there will soon be apps for TM47 and even TM6. With the first app, Immigration suggests that you get your landlord to register online or by using this app. Then, once it is set up, they said ask the landlord for the username and password so that you can then report yourself each time by using this app. However, I am not sure if landlords would be happy about passing on passwords. At the moment, not many of them of them are being cooperative. Some don’t even live in the county, let alone the same province. But, it is a step in the right direction.
Immigration officials last night said that they are well aware of the problems it is causing and that they are working to make it better. One official even said several times “we are not stupid”. I really think that the efforts by the expat group in northeast Thailand to put together a petition, and the subsequent editorial and front page story in the Bangkok Post, the many letters to the editor in the Bangkok Post, and the editorial cartoons by Stephff, have all made a difference. They have sat up and they are listening. But, we shouldn’t stop here. We still need both clarity of the law and consistency of its enforcement. As we all know, provincial Immigration offices are not all interpreting the law in the same way as head office in Bangkok. Yes, we are willing to obey the laws of the Kingdom on Thailand. But please make it fair for everyone.
As usual, please post your comments and firsthand experiences in the comments below. I will be attending at least one more Chamber of Commerce meeting next week. This time with the Australians. And then I have been invited to talk at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand about TM30.
Related blog: Sign the petition to reform Thai Immigration and Article 37
104 thoughts on “Bangkok Immigration want expats to register their address every time they return from a holiday to another province”
Yes, actually, they are stupid.
They say this is to catch “The Bad Guys,” but just like Gun Control Laws; the bad guys simply ignore it and do whatever they want.
The only person affected is The Good Guys. It is a voluntary system! The Bad Guys simply don’t participate. The rules make no sense, all information is inaccurate. Every Immigration Officer makes up their own rules in the moment. Depends if they like you or not. Maybe they had a bad day and want to hurt someone.
I came to Thailand hoping to travel the country. It is no longer possible. All I can do is sit in my condo and get older. If I want to go to Phuket? Forget it. Chaing Mai? Forget it. Sure, I can go to these places, but I will be persecuted when I come back to my condo in Pattaya. It is impossible to travel in Thailand. It is even worse if you travel outside of Thailand frequently.
I fill out a TM30 and TM28 every time I go somewhere! I cannot sleep, I must go to the Immigration Office IMMEDIATELY! Less than 24 hours! Wait in the office. I am told I am wrong no matter what I do. Pay the fine! I follow all the rules. Pay the fine! Immigration Office is closed! Come back tomorrow! Closed again! Police checkpoint! Go to jail! You didn’t report to the Immigration Office! But it’s closed! Doesn’t matter! You are a criminal now!
To be fair, it’s not only Thai Government. Every Government of every country is becoming stupid and violent very rapidly. What Thailand is doing with TM47/TM30/TM28 does not make any sense. It does not hurt any of the Bad Guys. It only hurts Good Guys. Most of us came here to escape stupidity and violence in our home countries. But now Thailand becomes stupid as well, soon it will become violent, also… Good People have nowhere left to run.
I understand what they are trying to do, but it is impossible. TM30/TM28/TM47 is useless. It makes Thailand look very stupid. Save face, stop doing it! It is embarrassing. It is a desire for too much control. Try to do something that cannot be done. You cannot slam a revolving door! Maybe you will install a computer chip in my brain to spy on my thoughts and track my location with GPS? That’s what the apps you’re developing are for, right? Installed in my phone is as close as you can get to installing it in my brain…
The Bad Guys just ignore it and have a happy life. The Good Guys get punished.
You cannot show an example of this system catching a Bad Guy. It has never happened.
There is a definite correlation, that increasingly borders on causation, that as the economy tanks and thus there is progressively less and less work in the real economy, the reaction of the Thai bureaucracy has been to generate ever greater amounts of BS to compensate.
Tourist numbers are in sharp decline. So, if you want to keep your job, perks, nice office and a pension down the line. Well, start ‘squeezing’ that ‘low-hanging fruit’. The problem with this plan, as with so many in Thailand, is that it is short-term’ism incarnate. Sure, you can decimate a few forests and keep thousands of officers busy, but the costs – as anyone who lives off the interest of their savings, but has ever been tempted to dip into their capital knows, the more you dig, the less the returns.
In addition, it’s a minor point, but I must take issue with the description of this rule-change/new enforcement regime, as being ‘a pain’. It’s that alright, but it’s way, way more. It’s effectively criminalising, and thus potentially seeking to permanently exclude huge numbers of people who have over the years transferred quite simply biblical amounts of hard currency into the Thai economy. That these people are being bled white by insane FX rates on the one hand, and persecuted – remember, many of these people are married and have children with Thais, is frankly little short of scandalous, and the Thai government should be called-to-account and shamed wherever and whenever its officials and ministers are on international duty.
My letter, unpublished, to the Bangkok Post re TM 30 (what else?)
While the government has said it would cut regulations and red tape to make Thailand a more attractive place to do business, and to promote development of the EEC, Thai immigration hasn’t gotten the message. It is hard to imagine that a business considering Thailand as a place to do business, would subject its personnel to the intrusive and onerous reporting requirements of the now-infamous TM 30, especially since Thailand’s competitors are able to protect their publics while holding out a friendly and welcoming hand unknown to Thai immigration.
As for real estate, it is hard for me to imagine that, once word gets around (and it does get around), foreigners will be eager to buy residential units when they know what is required of them (a weekend in Hua Hin requires reporting to immigration, if you can believe it), and investors, both Thai and foreign, should think twice before buying units to produce income, when they figure out what they are required to do when they rent to a non-Thai, or they themselves are a foreign owner spending some time in their Bangkok condo.
No, expats will not leave in droves, business will not stop locating inThailand, and the real estate market will not collapse; rather, immigration has driven yet another nail in the coffin of Thai competitiveness, while Thailand’s neighbors, many of whom (e.g., Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore) already have higher competitiveness ratings than does Thailand, stand ready to take advantage of Thailand as a place to do business and to invest.
The next to last paragraph of Section 37 says that subdivisions (3) and (4) of Section 37 (which relate to the reporting of a change of residence or traveling to another province for over 24 hours) shall not be applicable to the situations mentioned in Section 34 under conditions as prescribed by the Director-General. Section 34 lists a series of 15 activities for which foreigners may be admitted into Thailand, such as for tourism, business, education, investment, and, in subdivision 15, “Other activities as prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations.” Has the Director-General issued any such “conditions” or ministerial regulations in regard to Sections 37 and 34, and, if so, how might they affect the reporting requirements for foreigners, particularly retirees and condo owners?
This law is so confusing! I’m currently in the USA, but will be returning to Thailand in the near future. My husband is Thai. When I return back to my house in Bangkok, what needs to be done, in regards to the TM30? I don’t rent, as it’s our home, my husband isn’t my landlord, he is MY HUSBAND! I have live in the same house for over 15 years, and have never had to anything other than report every 90 days! I will be returning with a Non O immigrant visa, not a tourist visa!
Would appreciate any information you can provide.