Visa and Law

Why are we arrested for violating immigration laws if we are asylum seekers/refugees ?

  • Under Thai law, if you enter into Thailand without lawful document or permit and do not enter via immigration check points, you will be considered to have illegally entered into Thailand.
  • If you obtain a visa to Thailand but remain in Thailand after your visa has expired, you are then considered to be an illegal over-stayer and is possibly subjected to detention or deportation. There is no law in Thailand to differentiate refugees from other migrants who overstay their visas because Thailand is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

What precautions can I take while I am here in Thailand concerning immigration ?

  • Under Thai law, you are required to carry photo ID with you wherever you are not at home, including finding apartment and contacting a landlord.
  • Remember that Thai authorities i.e. police, immigration officers, or soldiers, have the right to ask you for your ID at any time.
  • Make copies of your passport and important documents and keep them in various places and with yourself.

How can I renew my visa legally ?

  • You are required to leave Thailand to apply for a new Tourist or Education visa.
  • The process of legally renewing a visa depends on the type of visa you have. You can find further information in English or Thai at the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs: or at

What are the risks concerning visas in Thailand ?

  • Using an Agent
    • People who claim that they can get you a visa we call them ‘agents’. These are often independent travel agencies or people dealing in illegal visas. Remember that:
      • Agent secured visas are almost always stolen or fake.
      • The agent may claim that they did not know the visa was false, leaving you liable to fraud charges.
  • Having No Visa
    • You are considered illegal in Thailand and are at risk of arrest and detention.
    • You cannot move freely without a visa. Your access to basic services, such as housing, is limited.
  • If you are asked to pay a court fine and cannot afford it at that time
    • Negotiation of the amount of the fine is common but if it seems non-negotiable, ask if you can call a friend or family or AAT to assist you.
    • You could be put in prison – the confinement time for an unpaid court fine is 500 THB a day.
    • After confinement, you will be transferred to the Immigration Detention Center (IDC).

Arrest and Raid

What will happen if I am arrested, how can I respond and what can I expect ?

  • Show your UNHCR card and call the UNHCR hotline number.
  • UNHCR may be able to negotiate your release.
  • If you are taken to a police station, you will be asked basic information about yourself and charged with not having a visa and / or not having a passport.
  • You will be blacklisted by Thai Immigration and not permitted to enter the country for 5 years. For overstay case, you will be blacklisted for 10 years.
  • Your case will be brought to the court and you will be asked to pay a court fine.
  • When you are arrested, you may also be subjected to immigration detention. In any case, please be cooperative and polite to the authority (not only the police, they could be officer from the Ministry of Interior, or the army).
  • In case of emergency, please contact UNHCR Emergency Protection Hotline by (+66) 81-899-7617 (from 16:30 to 23:00 on weekdays and from 08:30 to 23:00 on weekend).
  • If you cannot reach the UNHCR officers, try to contact another refugee-serving organization like Asylum Access Thailand (AAT).

What will happen if there is a police raid at my apartment building ?

  • Apartment raids are usually on a larger scale and many people may be arrested at the same time.
  • One person should call the UNHCR hotline and report the address of the building and if possible, how many people are involved and whether they are all refugees and asylum seekers, or a mixed group.
  • If the UNHCR officer cannot be reached, you can also call refugee-serving organizations, including AAT.

Immigration Detention Center (IDC)

How will UNHCR process my case if I’m in IDC ?

  • UNHCR will continue to process your case even if you are in IDC. Please make sure that a UNHCR officer is notified you are there.

How many options are there for me to get released from IDC and what are the criteria ?

  • IDC is operated by the government of Thailand. UNHCR has no influence over how IDC is controlled. In the past, UNHCR has negotiated the release of Persons of Concern that are particularly vulnerable, e.g. mothers with children or people with serious illnesses.
  • The Immigration Act, B.E. 2522 (1979), does not set a maximum length of time that a person can remain in detention awaiting deportation.
  • After Thai Government signed MoU to end the detention for children in January 2019, mothers and children who are Persons of Concerns but detained in ITDC are eligible for bail. Step Ahead is a part of a collaborative project with other organizations called Freedom for Families that raise bail money for mothers/primary care providers in the IDC, and acts as guarantor for them.
    Contact numbers: (+66) 89-106-0223 or (+66) 96-405-4749

What is the Bail policy and how do I access it?

  • Following the signing of the MoU on end of the detention for children, children and their mothers (PoCs) are eligible for bail, please see more details above.

Medical Services in IDC

  • Immigration Bureau is responsible for medical care in IDC. There are two clinics in IDC. One is operated by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) and another is operated by Jesuit Foundation. Detainees are advised to reach out to the IDC clinics for medical care.
  • UNHCR cannot provide medical care in IDC. However, UNHCR is able to share the medical history, with your consent, to IDC clinic for further medical care and follow-up with IDC clinics when it’s necessary including for those with life-threatening conditions.
  • Dental care is not available.

Psychosocial counselling in IDC

  • For the UNHCR PoCs detained in IDC who require psychosocial support/attention, please request to UNHCR. UNHCR staff will reach out for the support for psychological assessment and psychological/psychosocial counselling.
  • BRC will provide psychosocial service in IDC when requested by UNHCR (both organizations work together to deliver the service).

How can I contact my family or friends who are living outside ?

  • IDC authorities normally allow detainees to use the telephone booth in IDC once or twice a week but detainees are responsible for the cost.

Is there any school for my children in IDC ?

  • It is impossible for children to access formal education while they are detained in IDC. However, Thailand has signed MoU on Alternative to detention of children in January 2019 to end children (immigration) detention.

I need someone to visit me in IDC

  • Any foreigner with a valid visa or Thai with valid legal document is welcome to visit IDC during the visiting hours from 8.00-11:30 am from Monday to Friday (except holidays).

How can I have legal advice while being a detainee ?

  • When you have time to use the landline call service in IDC, you are welcome to call AAT. One of the lawyers will speak to you directly. It is best to call on a Tuesday if you require an interpreter.

I want to register with UNHCR but I am in IDC

  • Please submit request letter to UNHCR in writing. UNHCR will get back to each individual for further process.

I got my first RSD rejection while I am in IDC. What should I do next?

  • You have 30 days to submit an appeal to the UNHCR.
  • You can call AAT and ask us to visit you in IDC and then assess your case for representation – AAT lawyers are allowed to come into IDC to represent clients both at first instance and on appeal. For appeals, it is very important that we get a copy of the UNHCR rejection letter as soon as possible after you receive it.

UNHCR has closed my case while I am in IDC.

  • Voluntary Repatriation – See the section on Voluntary Repatriation and contact the IOM.
  • Call the lawyers at AAT and they can advise you on your options, including a legal evaluation of the likelihood of having your case reopened and how to proceed with the attempt if that is your wish.
  • Deportation – the costs of deportation are to be covered by the person being deported. Even though detainees in IDC have already paid the fine, they will have to pay for airfare and administrative costs.

UNHCR has recognized me as a refugee and I am in IDC

  • Unfortunately, even though you are a recognized refugee, you are still subject to detention in the IDC because Thailand does not sign the 1951 Refugee Convention. In following, UNHCR card does not allow you to reside in Thailand legally.

Concern over UNHCR Durable Solutions

My case is closed and I am interested in going back to my country (Voluntary Return). Who can I contact?

You can contact the following organization for further information about Voluntary Return :

IOM International Organization of Migration
18th Floor, Rajanakarn Building,
3 South Sathorn Road, Bangkok 10210
Working hours: Monday – Friday 08:00 – 17:00

If you are in IDC – please contact the UNHCR officer in IDC.

I am still waiting for resettlement.

  • Please note that refugee status does not mean that you will be resettled. Please understand that resettlement is not a right or a guarantee for all refugees. Worldwide, less than 1% of refugees are resettled every year. Resettlement opportunities for urban refugees in Thailand are very limited. Obtaining refugee status does not guarantee resettlement or even consideration for resettlement. Being considered does not necessarily result in being resettled.

    UNHCR will contact you if you are being considered for resettlement.
  • If your case has been submitted for a resettlement through UNHCR, the decision to accept or reject the case is made by a resettlement country in which your case was submitted to.

Does UNHCR facilitate private sponsorship ?

  • UNHCR, BRC, AAT and JRS have no direct role in private sponsorship offered by different governments around the world. It depends on immigration law of each country.
  • Please submit your sponsorship application with a copy of UNHCR card to the corresponding embassy or immigration authority directly, with a request that the immigration authority contact UNHCR to verify the status of the sponsored refugee.

My RSD case with UNHCR is still active/opened and I want to return to my country. Who do I contact? who can I contact?

Please note that Voluntary Repatriation through UNHCR is for active cases only.
Please contact UNHCR for further details:

I have arranged private sponsorship or resettlement and just need a UNHCR recognized refugee card – can UNHCR issue one ?

  • You will still need to contact and go through the UNHCR process of refugee status determination (RSD).
  • All UNHCR Persons of Concern will receive the card upon registration and throughout the process. The card will not be extended and will be required to be returned when the case is no longer active.

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