Expats involved in Phuket visa fraud must leave the country
PHUKET: Victims of visa fraud whose permits have expired more than 90 days are being asked to leave the country, according to one of the people who attended a meeting at the Phuket Immigration Department last Friday (July 1).
Phuket’s immigration department has so far remained silent on the scale of the visa fraud, which amounts to 3 million baht and is resulting in foreigners being expelled from the country. Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub
More than 100 foreigners have been caught in the scams, with two Phuket companies filing formal complaints against them by victims: Phuket Siam Corporation Company in Koh Kaew and Asia Titan Group on Thepanusorn Rd in Wichit.
A group of the victims were called to a meeting at Phuket’s main immigration office in Phuket Town so officials could “hear their problems” and explain solutions, one of the attendees said The Phuket News.
“If the victim stays longer than 90 days and has had their passport returned [from the relevant visa company]you must first report it to the police. If the payment has been made to Siam Corp, the police report must be filed in Phuket Town. Once payment has been made to Titan Group, the report must be filed with the Wichit Police Department,” the group representative said.
“Then they have to take the police report to the Phuket Immigration Department and pay the fine of 500 baht per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht for overstaying,” she continued.
“They will get a two-month COVID visa according to their last stamp. This can only be done before July 25 as no COVID visa extensions will be issued after that,” she added.
“You don’t have to travel to cross a border. They won’t have any problems with their status next time they extend their visas.”
However, the same conditions do not apply to victims who have not received their passport back from the visa company.
“We were told that if you don’t have your passport, even though you’ve made the reports to both the police and immigration authorities, they can’t put your status on hold,” the representative said.
The explanation was that without a passport, immigration officials would not have a passport on which to put a stamp.
Foreigners stuck without a passport because the visa company didn’t send them back must apply for a new passport, immigration officials advised.
Foreigners who have applied for a new passport and have already filed a police report are not being arrested on the street, the group’s representative said.
All victims without a returned passport who do not have enough time to apply for and have a new passport issued must leave the country. Immigration officials advised foreigners to obtain an emergency travel document from their embassy in order to leave the country.
“They will fall into the 90-day length of stay and face the current reality [law] that their names be entered into the immigration system they have crossed and face a year-long blacklist for returning to Thailand,” the representative said.
Also, those who got their passport back without the visa extension promised by the visa companies and have exceeded 90 days or more will see no mercy either.
“Anyone who has exceeded 90 days or more must pay the fine of 20,000 baht and leave Thailand,” the representative said.
“You will be blacklisted for a year. If they want to join the lawsuit against the company, they must first file the police report, then find someone to represent them in court, and be prepared to leave Thailand.
“No timeframe has been given before they have to leave Thailand. I assume Thai law requires them to leave the same day you pay for your overage,” she added.
At press time, Phuket Immigration and its Superintendent, Col Thanet Sukchai, had not issued any public statements or offered victims any advice or explanations as to what penalties they might face.
The move to enforce expulsion from Thailand and blacklist penalties for 90 days overstay is the first time they have been reinstated since they were suspended during the COVID pandemic, when travel from Thailand was nearly impossible .
The meeting at the main Phuket Immigration Service in Phuket Town last Friday came after Phuket Immigration Service issued its only public notice acknowledging the situation.
The notice urged all foreigners affected by a visa broker or visa extension agency to contact Phuket Immigration Help Center at 086-4077763 or 076-221905 by taking their passports and money with them, but not have their visa stay extended on their behalf ext. 10.
The notice asked foreigners to prepare the following documents before contacting the Help Center:
- Passport or copy of passport
- Evidence of action taken against the company/agent regarding the visa
- Evidence for legal proceedings such as documents, reports, etc. (if any)
- Other related information
“Foreigners can use the hotline to submit a formal complaint or make an appointment to receive assistance,” the statement said.
While the scale of the problem has been largely ignored while played out on English social media channels, news of the widespread scam has made its way into mainstream Thai-language news.
Notably, ThaiPBS noted in its report that the money scammed by the visa companies from foreigners by not providing the requested service amounted to as much as 3 million baht.
Phuket Town Police Chief Colonel Sarawut Chuprasit vowed last week to prosecute visa agents who have deceived tourists.
However, as of last Friday (July 1), representatives of the Siam Corp Visa Company had yet to report to the Phuket City Police Station.
The victims were told last Friday that the police first had to ask the company representatives to introduce themselves. If the request were ignored, the police could issue a subpoena for representatives to present themselves. If the subpoena was ignored, the police could then attempt to issue arrest warrants.
The delay in action is contributing to the problem, the group representative said The Phuket News.
“Many of the victims are still less than 90 days overstayed. They should be able to work out their problems and get legal again. But without their passports… [that cannot be done],” She said.
“Although over 100 people have lodged complaints with the police, the process has not been expedited, leaving many people who have not had their passports returned with no way of getting them back,” she said.