Note: This post is being updated as I come across more information and you will find these at the end of this section.
This is a post that at least informs you about a subject that you might not be aware could apply to you. Do with it what you will but from my reading this is an updated law that is being more rigorously enforced and might catch you out at some stage. The extent of more enthusiastic enforcement struck home when I had a reader of this blog wrote to me recently detailing a situation he found worrying:
I want to ask you about an odd occurrence that just happened at my finances house in xxxxxxx. A police came by her house today and asked if she had a farlang boyfriend and where he stayed when he was in xxxxxxx. She said I stayed there but only a few days at a time. What I want to ask is he told her that when I fly into Udon Thani, I must go to their immigration service at the airport and notify them I have arrived, how long I am staying and where I will be staying. I have traveled throughout Thailand and the only time I have to do this is when I arrive at Bangkok at Thai immigrations. I have flown into many of the Thai regional airports and none, including Udon Thani, have written requirements or instructions notifying people traveling on tourist visa to “sign in”. This is very concerning to me and I want to understand if this is a legal requirement. Hopefully you can shed some light on this issue.
I have to say that unfortunately I couldn’t shed light on the issue and it was only when someone pointed me to the legal requirements around the lodgement of a TM30 form that it all made some sense. If you haven’t heard about the obligations to report your residency other than events like 90 day reporting, it is explained very well on several internet sites and I will try to pull out the basics and include the links where you can read more.
As I always state I am not an expert in just about everything so don’t ask me difficult questions 🙂 I am only opening up the Thai immigration world a little more, which often seems to work as a disincentive for expats and the vast amount of money we inject into local economies.
My previous understanding, and I suspect that of many others on the subject, of reporting current residency is well out of date because I associated it only with the paperwork hotels, guest houses etc did when I stayed with them plus of course normal visa reporting requirements. From 2016 the law states that all properties that have non-Thai nationals living on their premises must register their details with Immigration or a police station within 24 hours. An extract from HERE below:
Who has to Register?
When it was originally written, the hotel act specifically excluded properties having less than four rooms for rent from having to apply for a hotel license in order to operate.
This allowed private properties consisting of condominiums, homes and guest houses falling under the required number of rooms to avoid the expense and trouble of applying for a hotel license. It also exempted them from having to obey other provisions of the Hotel Act which were designed for the hotel business and didn’t really apply to them.
The lack of enforcement meant that virtually nobody except hoteliers knew that the law applied to everyone providing accommodations to foreigners.
This has all changed. Under the new expanded law, this non-enforcement loophole has been closed and anyone who offers accommodations must register their foreign guests with the immigration department.
Ongoing non-compliance can be costly for the private property owner. Fines are around 1,600 Baht for every instance of non-registration and can add up quickly as guests come and go.
Long-term tenants usually find out they have not been registered when they pop down to immigration to do their 90-day check in, or a visa renewal. So, if you’re on good terms with your landlord and want to avoid trouble for both you and them, you might want to warn them before you make your next trip to immigration.
The basis for this whole exercise.
The situation that may catch out many is when in your mind you are living in your own home or partner’s home long or short term, and therefore have no need to report your residency other than say 90 day reporting under your O/OA Visa (retirement) etc. Remember that under Thai law it is your Thai wife/partner who is the house owner and you are merely resident, whether temporarily or permanently and therefore it is their responsibility (read your responsibility if it’s a wife/partner as you’ll most likely be paying the fine) to ensure the reporting requirements are fulfilled. As stated HERE and copied below:
If the foreigner is my husband, I still report the immigration? Yes. No matter what who stay with you, if they are foreigners and hold any Thai visa, you must report the immigration by yourself within 24 hours since they arrive on your property. Otherwise, you will be fined.
If my foreigner friend comes to stay with me in a short time, do I report the immigration? Yes. No matter what who stay with you, if they are foreigners and hold any Thai visa, you must report the immigration by yourself within 24 hours since they arrive on your property. Otherwise, you will be fined.
If the foreigners stay in somewhere else (hotel in or out of the country) and they come back to stay with me, do I report the immigration? Absolutely, yes, you must report the immigration within 24 hours after they stay with you.
The requirement to lodge a TM30 even after a short trip away was reinforced in a recent article in the Phuket News HERE with extracts below:
PHUKET: The Chief of the Phuket Immigration Office, Col Kathathorn Kumthieng, has confirmed that all foreigners registered as living in Phuket must re-report their address to immigration after being registered as staying in a hotel within Thailand, even for just one night.
The confirmation follows complaints from long-term expats that they were fined B2,000 for not re-registering their home addresses after travelling within the country.
“By law, it is a requirement to register your address within 24 hours after being registered elsewhere, such as at a hotel or a guesthouse,” Col Kathathorn told The Phuket News this week.
“This is because the hotel or guest house will have to register you, also by law, as residing somewhere other than your residence. So when you return to your residence, you must inform immigration,” he explained.
The same also applies for foreigners living in Phuket who leave the country and return, say for a weekend trip to Singapore.
Col Kathathorn played down concerns for honest, law-abiding expats.
“Although it is the law, if it’s a short stay, for example a day or two, and nothing happens to prompt officials to check then there usually won’t be a problem,” he said, for stays away from home within the country.
“However, if you become involved in an incident and become a suspect in a case for example, not re-registering your address will be a big problem. So it’s better if you do.”
Regardless, although the overall effect for most foreigners caught not re-registering their address each time on returning home to Phuket might be deemed negligible, foreigners will be liable to a B2,000 fine for each infringement and the incident will remain on their immigration record.
Col Kathathorn explained that the requirement for foreigners to re-register their address in Thailand, even if they have lived at the same address for many years, derives from an archaic immigration law, specifically Section 37 (2) of the Thailand Immigration Act of 1979.
As always the actual application of the law as it applies to foreigners can be a bit vague and dependant on which office is involved. A facebook extract on the subject.
Comments on the farang forums like these next couple are common and don’t give a clear indication of what action we should be taking:
So after 11 years they decide to enforce the law? As I read it it doesn’t appear to be my problem as it’s the responsibility of the person named on the Blue Book to notify them. Failure to notify them is a 1,600 Baht fine.
How the xxxx are house owners supposed to know this stupid law if it’s not made public? I’ll have to get the missus to phone to see how long she’s got to register me.
As far as I’m aware this law hasn’t been enforced in Immigration Division 4 so there’s a lot of individuals around Korat, Buriram and Surin going to get caught out.
Or this one from a guy based in Chiang Mai:
Now no immigration office EVER cared about this form until Chiang Mai started fining people 1,600 baht (Tony – now 2,000 baht) for failure to have filed it. In fact, up there you can’t even apply for an extension of stay, file a 90-day report OR get a re-entry permit up until you were fined and filed it.
The rule is written where the landowner must report a foreigner within 24 hours of them taking up residence. Needless to say, many people who’d been getting yearly extensions of stays from the same immigration office using the same address year after year were vexed that this old rule was being enforced. Especially that the foreigner was being fined It was designed for thai landlords (hotels & guest hou Now no immigration office EVER cared about this form until Chiang Mai started fining people 1600 baht for failure to have filed it. In fact up there you can’t even apply for an extension of stay, file a 90 day report OR get a re-entry permit up until you were fined and filed it.
The rule is written where the landowner must report a foreigner within 24 hours of them taking up residence. Needless to say many people who’d been getting yearly extensions of stays from the same immigration office using the same address year after year were vexed that this old rule was being enforced. Especially that the foreigner was being fined for what is in reality the property owner’s responsibility.
Right now Bangkok doesn’t care a bit if you’ve ever filed on, but more and more immigration offices do. I think Bangkok IS gonna start caring because when I was out at Chaengwattana last week there were two big stand-up placards right where you walk into the 90 day reporting room which outlined the TM.30 filing procedure.
My advice to anyone would be down-load the form (print it on 2 pages), take it with you to the immigration office the next time you’re there. Also take along signed copies of the land owners thai i/d and their listing on the thai house book of that address and FILE the form.
There is some debate if it has to be re-filed every time you come back even if you travel inside thailand, OR if it’s just if you come back from outta country..
It’s a cluster xxxx right now, BUT the fines people are getting are real and they add up to a TON of money.. I would say if you try to file it and get fined, MAKE them write you a receipt..
I’m not going to repeat what’s already on the internet. This is only a heads up to my readers as a courtesy. I am required to lodge a 90 day report later this month and will ask the question at Udon Thani Immigration, who are an excellent and helpful bunch. As far as I know I/Gaun have a TM30 registered but I have stayed elsewhere since then so technically I/Gaun am in breach of the requirements and could be fined. I will report back.
I hope this has been helpful and I know some of you will have additional information and feedback that might be helpful for me and others so PLEASE comment on this post. I am open to being corrected on any aspect of this subject as I am learning along with others
Update 6 Oct 2018: Please note a comment made by Shane below that reinforces the fact that Immigration are increasing their application of this law so it’s not just a theoretical piece of advice.
Update 25 June 2019:
Bangkok Post recently published an article on the TM30 issue and I reproduce it below for you to read. It says much the same as covered already but there is new information. The fact that this issue keeps getting raised shows that it is topical and not just a one off from Thai Immigration:
Many foreigners were shocked by the 25 March 2019 enforcement of the TM30 regulations requiring reporting of location of stay of foreigners visiting, living or working in Thailand. Even more will get their shock when they learn of the consequences of failure to report, in most cases knowing nothing about the regulatory enforcement.
The basic rule is that the owner or lease holder of any premises in Thailand must report the presence of any foreigner who stays overnight at their premises, within 24 hours of the foreigner’s arrival. Failure to report can mean a fine of Baht 800 to 2,000 against the premises owner or lease holder (Baht 10,000 if a hotel) along with refusal by the Immigration Department to process applications for visa or work permit issue or renewals by the foreigner concerned.
Is the Regulation Imposition really so shocking?
The Immigration Department has long had the power and duty to monitor the presence of foreigners on Thailand territory.
Several countries are much stricter than Thailand in this respect, notably Vietnam, which not only monitors where its foreign visitors are staying, but also limits their choice of stay location, especially in private homes and non-authorised lodgings for foreigners.
With increasing risks of terrorism, Thailand has come to realise that some foreign criminals have been able to make extended stays in-country, often renting houses or apartments for long-term stays.
Who must be reported by TM30?
Theoretically, all foreigners are required to be reported within 24 hours of arrival at a premises in Thailand. However at the present time, there are some exceptions.
Required to be reported are the following:
- All registered hotels have routinely reported their guests within 24 hours of arrival, with copies of passports and personal details;
- Foreigners staying at private houses, condominiums and private apartments that are not hotels, have been escaping registration. These establishments welcome guests, without reporting either to Immigration or to the Revenue Department. Both organisations are seeking to crack down on such evasions, so as to be able to collect data but also tax on income received. Registration is now required on each entry into Thailand;
- Retirees on annual retirement visas, researchers and students on relevant visas are all required to be registered each time they enter Thailand;
- Work permit holders must be registered on each arrival in Thailand and will need to present their TM30 registration receipts as part of their work permit applications, approvals and renewals.
Who need not be reported?
There are some exceptions to the registration requirements, although these may become subject to modification and therefore need to be monitored in order to avoid becoming liable to fines for late or non-registration.
These exceptions include:
- Permanent residents of Thailand are not required to be registered either on their arrivals or under the Standard 90 day reporting process. Permanent residence used to be a regular process for those staying for extended periods in Thailand. Approvals for permanent residence are nowadays becoming rare privileges;
- Those with diplomatic status are already registered and closely monitored by the relevant authorities. Some live on diplomatic premises while others stay in alternative accommodation but are already duly registered. The same applies to international civil servants and visiting official technical experts;
- Special categories of work permit holders are also reported to be exempt from registration. These individuals are those whose work permits are handled by the “One-Stop Service Center” at Chamchuri Square, designed for Board of Investment privilege holders; Smart visa holders, and also some companies with large capitalisation.
- This is a somewhat opaque category of registration exemption. If one can gain admission to this exclusive club, one can save a lot of trouble to one’s landlord, but the latter will need more than word-of-mouth reassurance that there is no need to register and therefore avoid fines;
- Foreign personal owners of property titles have also been reported to be exempt. Since foreigners are not allowed to own land title deeds, these property owners will be condominium owners (not lease holders). Such foreign individuals will already be registered on house registration books (“tabien bahn”) and mostly be holders of retirement visas, or stay permits linked to work permits. Some foreigners have acquired condominiums in the name of a spouse or partner, in which case that person is required to register the foreigner in the capacity of property owner host. The exemption of condominium owners is challenged by some legal advisors. Such owners need to re-confirm their exemptions directly with Immigration authorities.
How to register: a bureaucrat’s delight
Bureaucrats love paperwork. Most of all they love to plough through a copious dossier and find just one key document lacking. That enables them to reject the application. This may mean rejection of an application filed within 24 hours and result in a fine.
The documents that an applicant should present are the following:
- Copy of passport information page relating to the foreigner. This can be a copy but should be signed by the passport holder and dated;
- Copy of the page showing the arrival stamp placed on the passport at the time of arrival of the foreigner. This needs to be dated not longer than 24 hours before reporting. However if the foreigner arrives on a Friday night , Saturday or Sunday, an application may be lodged on the following Monday. If that Monday happens to be a public holiday, the next day Tuesday may be acceptable. Likewise, public holidays allow for time limit extensions.
But what if the foreigner stayed overnight at a hotel, and then moves on to stay, for example, with friends, who are obliged to register their guest?
Some evidence of the previous registration should be available and submitted as part of the application. Where a foreigner has stayed in other accommodation but has not been registered, then moves to a new location which proceeds to register the foreigner, the owner, lessor or host may be subject to a fine;
- The departure portion of the arrival/departure card submitted to Immigration on arrival should also be submitted for endorsement as evidence of correct submission of a TM30 declaration.
- Documents to be submitted in respect of the owner or lessor are complex and voluminous, including the following:
- A copy of the title deed of the property where the foreigner stays may be required although this is not always demanded;
- A copy of the purchase and sale agreement relating to the property may be required as a substitute for the title deed;
- If a company is the owner of the property where the foreigner resides, a copy of the company affidavit (“nang sue rab rong”) is required;
- A power of attorney authorising the person representing the company is required;
- A personal identification of the power of attorney holder is required, usually an Identity Card.
Where to register
There are three possibilities for registration, as follows:
- The Immigration Department, Chaeng Wattana for Bangkok, or upcountry Immigration offices are the normal locations for registration.
- The Change Wattana office has two counters for TM30 registration, accommodating at
- least 300 applicants per day, each registering one or more individuals;
- On-line registration is permitted, with copies of all required documents. On-line applicants will need to register and obtain a code number in advance;
- Application by registered post is permitted.
This must also be performed within 24 hours of arrival, with copies of all documents.
If the registration is performed more than 24 hours after arrival, and a fine is therefore payable, then the registration must be performed in person by the owner, lessor or power of attorney holder so that the fine can be paid and a receipt issued.
The requirements for registration are more complex than the regular hotel registration process. Many property owners will inevitably be reluctant to welcome foreigners as guests especially for short-term stopovers. Will TM30 registration be observed or simply ignored? Foreigners are not presently asked on departure for evidence of TM30 registration. If they do not overstay or seek extension to their visas, foreigners are likely to avoid detection. If, however, foreigners need to approach the Immigration Department, they may find that their requests are refused pending TM30 registration, potentially with evidence of fine payment. There are reports that the new system is under review and may be modified, although complete abolition is unlikely.
Author: Christopher F. Bruton, Executive Director, Dataconsult Ltd, [email protected]. Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum provides seminars and extensive documentation to update business on future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.