Renewing visa is a part of life in Thailand for many long-term visitors and expats. Thailand has a number of different visas available, all of which have their own rules you must abide by. If you are in Chiang Rai and you are in need to do a visa run, you’re in in the right city. The closest border you can do viva run at immigration office in Mae Sai. The paperwork was very simple.
A few things you need before leaving Mai Sai to Tachkilek are your passport, departure card which can be obtained from the immigration window at the border, a pen as sometimes it is not easy to find a pen in front of immigration office, and 500 Thai baht.
When you at the border, you will see the Immigration office on the Thai side. There is a separate queue on the Thai side of the border for Thai nationals and another queue for non-Thai people making the border crossing. Make sure your departure card is filled out before you arrive at the window of the immigration office. Then hand your passport to an immigration officer behind the counter who will then stamp it with an official seal which simply states you are leaving Thailand. The Thai immigration officer will retain your departure card and stamp your passport to confirm you have exited Thailand.
Then walk across the bridge and you will see the Myanmar immigration office on the right side. You will see other tourist stand in line, just join them and continue walking inside. Then hand an officer 500 baht with your passport. Prior to 2011, you could pay US$10 as an alternative to 500 Thai baht. Now the Burmese office request you to pay 500 Thai baht rather than US$10.
Then you will be asked to take a photo which only a moment. When it is done, the Burmese officers will keep your passport, and give you a-brown-color temporary pass. This is OK. Just proceed ahead to Tachkilek and enjoy your day.
With this temporary pass, You are able to remain in the Tachilek to Kengtung region for up to 14 days, but most of the time you only need a few hours there. Remember that don’t lose this temporary pass because you need it to get your passport back when you exit Myanmar.
If you have time and want to continue inside Myanmar to the nearby market, you will receive a temporary day permit and then pick up your passport afterwards from the same office before heading back across the bridge into Thailand.
There is also a duty free shop on the bridge opposite the Burmese immigration office which sells designer leather goods, sunglasses, alcohol, etc. Each adult is limited to three bottles of spirits upon reentering the Kingdom of Thailand.
The border market is just down the bridge stairs on the right side at the end of the bridge. Here it is the best place to practice your mental toughness through pressure from various peddlers who desperately trying to sell you cheap goods like cigarettes, Viagra alike products, sex toys, DVD, etc. The best way is just give them a polite and firm declining of offers that you have to repeat a few times a long the road unless you’re interested in their goods.
Myanmar is on a different time zone, 30 minutes behind, and the border closes at 6:00 PM Thai time which is 5:30 PM Myanmar time.
Coming back to Thailand
When you have finished exploring and are ready to return to Thailand, you walk back up the stairs and head back to the office which will now be on your left. Pick up an arrival card at the immigration window.
Go inside and get your passport from an officer and head back to the Thai office where you will be asked to fill out a simple information form before re-entering Thailand. It’s basically your name, nationality, passport number and where you are staying in Thailand. After you fill it out, hand the form along with your passport to Thai immigration, who will then stamp your new visa in your passport and you are on your way.
If you are traveling on a 30 day visa on arrival, you will receive only a 15 day extension. Be aware that, by law, you are required to show 10,000 baht cash but this is rarely enforced. Just prepare this amount with you for your processes. The laws change frequently in Thailand, especially regarding visa rules and regulations, so it is always a good idea to check the current situation beforehand so you do not run into any surprises.
If you don’t have existing visa (meaning visa exempt entry, not a tourist visa), this entry will allow you to stay in Thailand for only 15 days. But if you have a valid multi-entry tourist visa, then entering into Thailand at Mae Sai you will be given a stamp that permits you to stay for 30 days depending on passport country you’re holding. Then this can be renewed for a further 30 days at immigration offices within Thailand which will allow you to stay in Thailand totally 3 months. Travelers from some countries are able to extend multiple entry visas to get another 90 days, while some get 30 days and some get only 15 days. You need to check first if you can get 15 days or 30 days at the border. People from the UK and G7 countries can now get 30 days at both land and airport border immigration.
All passport countries do not received the same extension. For example, UK and G7 countries will get 30 days extension, most other western countries will get 15 days while a few countries has special arrangement with the Thai Government and get 90 days. The below table shows the extension day for some of passport countries.
|Hong Kong||30 Days|
For countries not mentioned here, please check with respective consulates first because Thai law regarding immigration changes very frequently and it is enforced in differently. The number of extended days can’t be confirmed unless it come from the immigration authority. Travelers from some countries, for example the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam and some neighbor counties not in the list may not be able to do visa run or it will be extremely difficult to do.
Here is the summary of the steps you need to take to do a visa run in Mae Sai.
1. At the Mae Sai – Myanmar border, get your passport and 500 Thai baht ready.
2. Get a departure form at immigration office on the Thai side, fill the form.
3. Hand your passport along with the filled departure form to Thai immigration officers
4. Receive you passport back, and continue walking toward the immigration in the Myanmar side
5. Hand your passport along with 500 baht to Myanmar officers, you will be asked to take a photo
6. Receive a temporary pass, and leave your passport at the Myanmar immigration office, and enter Myanmar’s land
7. Get back to the Myanmar immigration office, hand them your temporary pass, receive your passport back
8. Continue walking to immigration office on the Thai side, then fill a form and hand it along with your passport.
9. Your visa will have new valid stay date, get the passport back and welcome back to Thailand.
Remember that Thai Laws change very frequently, and sometimes they are changed without any notice to the public. The best way is to check with the authority first. Most of the time, you will get confused with the procedures and number of extension days you will received because passport from different countries will will received different extension. Even different exit points have different rules. Seek help from someone who did it before will be a lot of help.
Should you use service from agencies who provide visa-run service?
Yes, if you are to do visa run for the first time. What you have to pay totally maybe 50-100% more than actual amount it is worth the risk. They normally provide a transportation with accompanying person. Most of the time they will offer a hotel and even food. But not all of them provides good service. One good thing about using an agency is it provide Thai companions while crossing the border. If something goes wrong they can assist and take you out the trouble. These people know best what and how to do, and you can observe them for your own future visa runs.
Update 2015: What about visa run crackdown recently?
Yes, there is a series of visa run crackdown in Thailand from time to time. The latest announcement was in July 2014 and media speculated it could be the end of Thailand’s visa run. You can read it in Bangkok Post. However this crackdown turns out to focus mainly for foreigners who work illegally in Thailand while tourists almost has no impact. Because of this crackdown, the authorities have been strict in Southern part of Thailand. Also the crackdown mainly target travelers from some certain countries like Vietnam, Korea, and Russia. So far the immigration point in Mae Sai is still the same and visa run there is on without problem.