I read on https://th.usembassy.gov/health-alert-u-s-embassy-bangkok-thailand-july-31-2020/ (mirror):

We will not issue visa extension letters for U.S. citizens who wish to stay in Thailand beyond September 26.  After that date, normal thirty-day extensions may be available for individuals who can demonstrate compelling reasons for not being able to depart Thailand.  Those decisions will be made by Royal Thai Immigration officers on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to the US embassies not helping, the USCIS also hasn't given any exception for US permanent residents regarding the 6-month and 12-month rules, so even if a US permanent residents can stay in a safe country for a long time, the USCIS doesn't let them do so without risking to lose one's green card.

This means that the US pretty much forces citizens and US permanent residents located in countries with no and almost no COVID-19 cases (in this example, Thailand) to come back to the US. Is there any reason to jeopardize the health of these US citizens and US permanent resident located in safer countries, while making the US more densely populated which doesn't help combat the COVID-19 pandemic?

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    I think it’s Thailand making this decision, no? It says “ decisions will be made by Royal Thai Immigration officers”, – divibisan Aug 1 '20 at 20:59
  • @divibisan with a letter from the embassy it makes the process much easier (i.stack.imgur.com/MSYQl.jpg look at the clause below the red rectangle) – Franck Dernoncourt Aug 1 '20 at 21:04
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    I see, so it’s not so much that the US is kicking them out of the country, as they’re not supporting US expats’ efforts to stay. That makes more sense now – divibisan Aug 1 '20 at 21:18
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    I don't understand why the US government has anything at all to say about how long a US citizen can remain in a foreign country. Surely this is up to the Thai government? – jamesqf Aug 1 '20 at 23:33
  • @jamesqf unsure about the letter but at least USCIS could temporarily increase its 6-month rule, for people who can stay outside the US even though letter. – Franck Dernoncourt Aug 2 '20 at 0:07

Reading the letter in full, it appears that this is merely a return to business as usual. The Royal Thai Government granted a grace period for expiring visas until September 26, based on the fact that travel during the COVID pandemic is difficult. That effectively means that no one needs to have their visa reviewed by anyone until that date. After that date people with visas can return to the normal 30-day extension process that the Thai government typically uses.

The US is not writing visa extension letters after the 26th for the reasons outlined in bullet points at the bottom of the letter: namely, that the CDC is advising against unnecessary travel, Thailand may not be able to provide adequate medical care for US citizens, and US citizens may face greater difficulties returning to the US in the future. Nothing is preventing someone with a 'compelling' reason from remaining in Thailand, but the US isn't supporting that course of action, so any individual must make that case to the Thai government on his or her own.


We don't know why and they aren't saying. According to an article on The Thaiger, a "spokesman from the US Embassy declined to comment on the motive behind the embassies’ decision to stop providing extension letters." The UK and Canada are also refusing to issue such letters, so the US is not alone in this. To speculate, it may be that these embassies think the letters are a waste of time and unlikely to be honored due to the Thai stance on the issue. Their announcement says the maximum extension possible is only 30 days and it does not imply that a letter is a guarantee that one will be granted.


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