People can find themselves overstaying in Thailand for a number of different reasons. Some foreign nationals do so by mistake, by miscalculating their given visa days against the length of their stay, or by simply forgetting their visa expiration date.
You should strongly avoid overstaying in Thailand, but if you do find yourself in Thailand on an expired visa it is very important that you act fast and in the right way.
Overstaying is basically the act of staying in Thailand beyond the given permission to stay period on your visa. For example, if you enter Thailand on September 1st on a 60 day tourist visa you will be given a visa expiration date of October 29th. If you continue to stay in Thailand after October 29th without successfully renewing or extending your Thai Visa, or leaving and re-entering Thailand, you will be deemed as overstaying.
You are solely responsible for leaving Thailand or extending your visa when in Thailand. If you are caught failing to do so you will face legal sanctions which can end in imprisonment.
If I overstay in Thailand what will happen?
It is illegal to overstay your visa in Thailand and it is seen as breaking Thai laws, even if you overstay by only 1 day. If you are caught overstaying in Thailand you will face a fine and the probability of detainment in a Thai immigration cell, after which you will be deported or face imprisonment in Thailand.
If you are caught in Thailand as an overstaying foreigner you will be detained and face punishment, however, if you leave Thailand as an overstaying foreigner without being caught you will only face a fine and possible ban from re-entering Thailand when exiting through immigration, and will not face any imprisonment or detainment.
As you can face detainment and imprisonment even when overstaying by just one day, it is important to avoid getting caught or being questioned by police, and resolving your overstay issues as soon as possible. On occasions immigration police will do random checks on foreign nationals outside of international airports.
What happens if I get caught overstaying in Thailand?
If you are caught before reaching an immigration point you will face detainment in an immigration prison. Just like any Thai prison, these places are dirty, unsafe, and very unpleasant places to be in. In order to get out of an immigration prison and leave the country you will have to rely on help from friends, your national embassy, and/or a lawyer; and even with this help the process can take months.
If you make it through to an immigration point as an overstayed, your fine will be based on the length of your overstay and you will face the possibility of being banned from re-entering Thailand. If you have overstayed in Thailand by a considerable amount of time, or repeatedly overstayed, you may receive a red stamp signifying that you have violated Thai Immigration Law; not only will this affect any future visas or visits to Thailand, but it can impact visas and travel to other countries.
In the case of more serious overstaying you can receive a status of “Persona Non Grata” which means you can be banned from re-entering Thailand for the rest of your life. You may even end up on the infamous travel ‘Black List’, which can mean making future international travel more difficult.
Thai Immigration can be very strict and difficult to deal with, typically sticking to the rule book in all cases, so don’t expect any special treatment, sympathy, or leniency when breaking immigration laws.
What penalties can I face?
The fine for overstaying is 500 Baht per day, reaching a maximum fine of 20,000 Baht (when overstaying 40 or more days).
When overstaying for a significant amount of time (90 or more days), you can face the possibility of a ban from Thailand. Here are the current guidelines for overstaying and banning:
When caught at immigration while leaving Thailand..
Overstay more than 90 Days = 1 year ban from Thailand
Overstay more than 1 Year = 3 year ban from Thailand
Overstay more than 3 Years = 5 year ban from Thailand
Overstay more than 5 Years = 10 year ban from Thailand
When caught outside of an international airport while overstaying..
Overstay less up to 1 Year = 5 year ban from Thailand
Overstay more than 1 Year = 10 year ban from Thailand
What should I do if I find myself overstaying in Thailand?
If you do find yourself overstaying in Thailand you should try to resolve the issues as soon as possible.
If you are overstaying in Thailand by just 2 or 3 days and are about to leave Thailand via an international airport, you should be OK to leave as normal, making sure to avoid confrontations with any Thai authorities or checks from police. Once you reach immigration you will be asked to pay a small fine (500 baht for every day you have overstayed), which should be resolved within 10 minutes and without further punishment (as long as you have not overstayed several times before).
If you are overstaying in Thailand by a few days but still have a several days before you plan to leave Thailand, your best advice is to head to the nearest Thai immigration office and explain your situation and pay the appropriate fines. You may find that you are allowed to apply for a visa extension which will cover the remaining days of your stay.
If you find yourself having overstayed in Thailand for a week or more you are advised to leave Thailand as soon as possible, making sure to not get caught and having the appropriate fine ready in cash.
If you find yourself in Thailand having overstayed for more than 90 days it is advised that you immediately seek legal help and prepare to leave the country as soon as possible, facing the possibility of being banned from re-entering Thailand for a set period of time.