In recent weeks there has been a flurry of reports and forum discussion about requirements to carry an original passport and the enforcement of severe penalties for those who do not comply.
A senior Immigration official was quoted as saying: “By law, all tourists and expats nationwide are required to carry their original passports with them at all times. There is no exception to this. Failure to carry your original passport may result in a 2,000 THB fine. The reason behind this is that Immigration needs to keep track of overstayers and foreign criminals who may be staying illegally in the country.” However common sense and an examination of the law demonstrate this is not the case.
The Immigration Act, B.E. 2522 states; an alien who has no lawful document for entering the Kingdom under section 12(1);and has no identification in accordance with the Law on Alien registration, is considered to have entered the Kingdom in violation of the Act. However there is no legislative requirement for these documents to be carried, just available if requested. Thaivisa.com has reported on a meeting with Deputy Commander and Police Colonel Voravat Amornvivat, a senior official at Immigration headquarters in Bangkok. Deputy Commander Voravat wanted to reassure the expat community in Thailand about the current situation.
Deputy Commander Voravat confirmed that foreign tourists and expats do not need to carry their passports with them at all times. He said that tourists can leave their passports locked in their hotel safe and enjoy their holiday in Thailand without worrying about the need to carry their original passport. Deputy Commander Voravat also said that for expats living here, a Thai driving license or photocopy of your passport can be used as a form of identification.
However, if Immigration Police suspect an individual to be overstaying in Thailand or being involved in illegal activity, then the individual would be required to produce their original passport promptly. Entering or staying in Thailand without holding a valid passport and visa/extension is subject to a fine and possible prison sentence. “Making all foreigners in Thailand carry their original passports with them would be very difficult. It’s about being reasonable and using common sense. But if we think a foreigner is involved in illegal activity then we will of course need to see their original passport, this is normal”, said Deputy Commander Voravat.