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Thailand has begun checking student visas for foreigners


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Thailand’s tourist destinations are being raided by immigration police to detect the illegal issuance of student visas

The Phuket Immigration Bureau has confirmed that a campaign is underway on the island to combat the issuance of fictitious educational visas, whose holders use them only as a way to legally live on the island but not to get an education. The campaign was launched against the backdrop of the Chinese Triads case, but the Phuket office of the Immigration Bureau did not specifically mention this investigation.

However, as follows from the publication of the Department of PR, the authorities are targeting in principle all violations related to the stay of foreigners in the country, including illegal work, overstaying, and unscrupulous visa services.

The progress of the Phuket portion of the nationwide campaign against visa violators was described at a press conference held in Phuket on the evening of December 15, the Phuket News reported. Representatives of the immigration bureau spoke about the program to create a safe society in Thailand without drugs and crime, and also reported on the arrests of foreigners for crimes committed in Phuket.

It is noted that the event was attended by the Consul General of the Russian Federation in Phuket Vladimir Sosnov. Representatives of the diplomatic missions of any other countries are not mentioned or quoted in the text. In the published photos they are not present either.

According to the text of the press release on the results of the meeting, from 1 to 15 December, the Phuket Immigration Bureau made six arrests and imposed 117 fines to foreigners for exceeding the permitted period of stay in the country (overstay, visa overstay). Also, eight people from among the owners of housing and hotel managers were prosecuted for failing to report to the Immigration Bureau on the provision of housing to foreign nationals.

As part of the checks carried out in connection with these cases, one foreigner was charged with working illegally in Phuket. Immigration Police Colonel Sukchai explained that the charges were for working with a visa other than a work visa.

The joint press release also refers to the activity of the tourist police in identifying foreigners working illegally as tourist guides or agents in the sightseeing sector. In this regard, an unspecified number of foreigners were detained in three cases for working without work-permits or performing duties beyond those prescribed in work permits.

However, according to Colonel Sukchai, the main target of the authorities’ interest is still “powerful mafia groups” whose members “try to hide” on the island, obtaining student visas through private schools and being students in them. Earlier, in the Chinese Triads case, police explicitly said that Chinese businesses had their own partner schools that provided visas to foreigners who needed legal grounds to stay in Thailand. Such schools were assisted by unscrupulous Immigration Bureau officials in positions up to and including the heads of entire divisions.

Colonel Sukchai, who heads the Phuket office of the Immigration Bureau, said at a press conference that there are currently 28 private schools registered on the island, but did not specify which institutions he included. Technically, private schools can be understood to include large international schools that provide schooling by Western standards, as well as small language schools that offer instruction in Thai or English.

Colonel Sukchai explained that during the coronavirus lockdowns in Phuket, an inventory of educational institutions was conducted. Each school had to report its address, provide data on available students and the maximum number of people it could teach.

“We confirmed that there is no excessive influx of students in Phuket. The number of visa and residence permit revocations is 605 cases,” Colonel Sukchai said.

The current nationwide campaign against student visa abuses and violations of visa laws in Thailand began in the background of the case of Chinese criminal syndicates, i.e. groups with a clear national affiliation. However, the active arrests of visa violators, which began in December, do not have any national boundaries. In Phuket, in particular, the arrests of citizens of the USA, South Africa and the Philippines were confirmed. On Samui, citizens of China, Kuwait, Poland and Norway were arrested.

Also, the head of the Phuket Immigration Bureau touched on the activities of unscrupulous visa agents who promise foreigners “visa extensions”, but do not fulfill their obligations to clients. According to Colonel Sukchai, 15 cases were initiated against such agents in Phuket, the head of the Bureau of Immigration did not name the figures and did not indicate what responsibility they may face.

Colonel Sukchai concluded his presentation by talking about the opening of the Immigration Bureau’s “Help Center”, which should deal with the issues of foreign nationals who have suffered from the activities of unscrupulous visa agents. The officer also urged island residents to report to law enforcement agencies about cases of violations of laws by foreigners they are aware of and about Thai citizens who actively help foreigners to do so.

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