You’ve likely heard of some of the common scams in Thailand. There’s the gem scam, overcharging tuk tuks, and tours that become shopping trips instead of the promised visit to the famous attraction. But there are also immigration scams in Thailand that are far more harmful — scams that can result in expensive fines or penalties or even get you banned from the Kingdom altogether. The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of the scams you may encounter so you can avoid them.
Immigration and visa scams in Thailand
Thailand Pass scam
Thailand Pass is the online registration system that visitors to Thailand must register with before entering the Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Thailand Pass requirements have changed substantially since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, one thing has remained the same: there has never been a registration fee. Over the past year, reports of people charging for Thailand Pass registration have circulated. As this is a free service, any attempt to collect money for registration is a scam.
Visa extension scam
To save time, foreigners will sometimes hire agents to take care of the visa extension process. But you need to be careful who you choose. Back in late 2020, at least eight foreigners fell victim to an immigration scam in Thailand, in which a deceptive Thai visa agent required a 10,000- to 100,000-baht deposit for visas she never delivered. A report in the Thaiger noted that when the foreigners contacted the agent to check their visa statuses, she replied that they were being processed. Eventually, the agent disappeared and the foreigners were left without their money or visa.
Long-term visa scam
Most foreigners want to complete the visa process as quickly and easily as possible. A 50-year-old Thai con man named Pairoj KanchanaratIn knew this. And he used this knowledge to swindle unsuspecting tourists out of 20,000–50,000 baht for a permanent visa. If you wish to stay in Thailand long term, there are legal ways to make the Land of Smiles your home, especially if you’re over 50.
Thai ED visa scam
Language schools offer a convenient way to stay in Thailand long term. By enrolling in one, you can obtain an education (ED) visa, which grants you 90 days in the country and can be extended for up to a year. The problem is sometimes these schools can be fake or not require students to attend class. In either case, the visa issued could be fraudulent or the student could have issues extending their visa if an immigration officer tests their language skills and the student fails.
How to identify a scammer from a trustworthy immigration specialist
Now that you’re aware of various immigration scams in Thailand, how can you avoid falling victim to one? The key is to be able to identify trustworthy visa specialists from con artists. Below are some red and green flags to be aware of.
|Untrustworthy/Red Flags||Trustworthy/Green Flags|
|Approaches you: Strikes up a conversation, saying they could easily extend your stay in Thailand because they have “connections.”||Comes highly recommended: You found them through an online search or referral. They have a website, physical office, and real reviews from happy clients.|
|Requires little information: Says they can “take care of everything,” without gathering key documents or information from you.||Educates you on process: Answers all your questions and educates you about the process so you know exactly what to expect. Gives you a clear roadmap.|
|Dodges your questions: Doesn’t offer clear answers to your questions or return your phone calls or passport. Isn’t transparent about the process, just promises that it’s in progress.||Provides updates: Is transparent throughout the visa extension or application process, is available to accompany you to appointments, and provides frequent updates.|
|Pushes for a quick decision: Asks for an immediate payment and pushes you to decide quickly before the opportunity expires. Everything is urgent.||Takes time to get to know you: Offers a free consultation and asks relevant questions before providing recommendations.|
|Offers discounts: Provides quotes that have round numbers like 10,000 or 60,000 Thai baht. Says they can get you a deal or provide a discounted rate.||Provides transparent pricing: Fees and scope of work are clearly communicated upfront, including fees charged by the government.|
|Makes big promises: Says they can get you quick approvals or a long visa extension that wouldn’t be possible without their connections.||Offers realistic options: Provides legitimate options that match with information you find on government websites.|
How to enjoy the Land of Smiles
Most foreigners who’ve lived in Thailand long term will tell you the country has much to offer: delicious food, beautiful beaches, mountains, and a rich culture to explore. Like any country, scams can happen. That said, most Thai people are friendly and eager to welcome foreigners back. The key to avoiding visa scams in Thailand is to work with people you trust and be aware of big promises that sound too good to be true.
At Baan Thai, we’ve helped victims of scams resolve their immigration issues. If you’ve been scammed yourself or need help securing a visa in Thailand, contact us to book a free consultation.
What should I do if my passport was lost or stolen?
Report your stolen passport to authorities immediately. If your visa is still valid, you should take steps to get your passport replaced. You can also contact a legal professional for assistance. If your visa has expired (overstay), you should contact your home country’s embassy or consulate immediately.
What should I do if I fall victim to a scam?
It depends on the severity of the scam. If you were a victim of petty theft or a closed tourist attraction scam, you may want to just chalk it up to experience. If there were large amounts of money lost or you were victim to an immigration scam in Thailand that has legal implications, contact the authorities or a lawyer.
What can I do if I was banned from Thailand?
If you were banned because of an overstay or other mishap, it may be possible to gain reinstatement. That said, it depends on the severity. Contact us and we can explore options to rectify your situation.
Is it possible to stay in Thailand long term legally?
Absolutely. There are several options, from retirement visas to spouse visas to working for a company operating in Thailand. Contact us to help you find a visa that works for your unique situation.