Good news is coming for expat renters worried about Thailand’s onerous TM30 foreigner reporting requirements. On 4 November I heard directly from a highly credible senior Thai source that a fix is on the way and is likely to be “in 2 months”. Keep reading for more details.
I am continually updating this article to reflect new information about Thailand’s onerous TM30 reporting law for foreigners. Frustrations have mounted for expat renters since the law was more forcefully applied in March this year. In this article I clarify the TM30 reporting process for my clients, analyses its impacts, and forecast the future for this unpopular law. I hope you find it useful. – Wandee (Lekky) Iamyoung, 1D Property owner.
What’s the latest TM30 development since the last update on 19 September?
I have heard directly from a very well-placed senior Thai that a TM30 fix is likely “within 2 months”, placing it somewhere around New Year. This is good news but, of course, rumours and gossip abound in Thailand and I remain cautiously optimistic. However, this comes from a highly credible source and I’m inclined to believe it.
I have no idea what the fix could be. Changing the law is a very difficult thing to do in Thailand so I doubt there will be a comprehensive overhaul of the Immigration Act, which will take a lot more than 2 months anyway. My guess is they will take the easiest option and simply go back to their previous position before 25 March TM30 was mostly ignored. Or they could make it easier to comply by, for example, not penalising foreign tenants when their landlords fail to report them (TM30 reporting is the landlord’s responsibility but some tenants are paying the fines). In September, a senior government official announced they were developing an app that will allow foreigners to file a report; however it’s unclear what this means as an app already exists, but only landlords can register to use it. Perhaps they will allow expat renters to report themselves using the app, except that this sort of defeats the entire “security” purpose of TM30!
Well, we shall wait and see.
Actually, we are already seeing major improvements in 2 key areas of concern for expat tenants. First, some tenants are reporting that immigration officials are now ignoring TM30 records and are processing visa extensions. In some cases they even made it clear that it is the landlord’s responsibility to report their tenant’s TM30, not the tenant. Of course, it’s not yet known whether this new direction is being applied consistently by all immigration officers in every instance. But it’s a nevertheless a positive development as this was probably the biggest stumbling block for expat renters.
The second improvement in recent weeks is to the online registration process, which is now much quicker. I register on behalf of many of my landlords and the process is instantaneous. This is a big improvement on the previous wait of several weeks just to get a username and password.
At 1D Property, we are increasingly doing TM30 reporting on behalf of our clients – tenants and landlords alike. I have two staff working full-time on it, including standing in the queue at Chaeng Wattana immigration office. It’s not exactly where I envisaged my business heading but I do want to take care of you all, however I can.
What’s the TM30 controversy all about?
TM30 is a form for reporting the accommodation of a foreigner according to section 38 of the 1979 immigration act. Under Thailand’s TM30 foreigner law, owners, heads of households, landlords or hotel managers who accommodate foreigners must notify immigration authorities within 24 hours. This includes landlords who lease their properties to expat tenants. This law has existed for many years but was mostly applied to hotels, which automatically report guests at check-in. However, since 25 March 2019 the government is now enforcing this law more strictly to include landlords and renters as well.
The controversy started on 25 March this year when immigration authorities extended the requirement to landlords and renters, which made the lives of thousands of expat residents potentially very difficult. Every foreigner’s movements must be reported within 24 hours of arriving at a destination for an overnight stay, and also when arriving back home. This must be done every single time, even if staying overnight at a friend’s home. Foreigners already have to report to immigration every 90 days on top of the onerous visa and work permit process. Landlords face fines of between 800-2,000 Baht if they don’t comply. A foreigner can be fined 1,600 Baht for not registering their address.
However, the real problem with TM30 is that it’s the landlord who has to report, not the tenant. This means that if your landlord refuses to comply then the tenant may face difficulty getting their visa extended if their TM30 record isn’t up to date. Some tenants simply pay the fine, even though it’s the landlord’s responsibility, but they still need to get their TM30 updated.
Consider this worst-case scenario of “John”, a tenant who travels several times a month for business. If John’s landlord refuses to report then John has no option but to report himself. John cannot register for the online method (which is available only to landlords). So he must either report himself via registered mail or in person at Chaeng Wattana immigration office within 24 hours of his return. If he chooses to report in person, he would spend half a day or more at Chaeng Wattana several times a month! You see where I’m going with this…
No surprise that concern quickly spread through the expat community. Officials made a bad situation worse through poor or no communication, and the confusion only deepened amid reports that the new requirements were being inconsistently applied from one immigration bureau to another and exemptions were seemingly being ignored or rolled back. The backlash was swift and caught officials by surprise. A petition by expats in the north-east triggered a raft of negative media coverage and several expat business organisations in Bangkok arranged sessions to address the confusion. I was a panelist at Austcham’s TM30 event on 15 August. Immigration officials who faced angry questions at these forums provided few answers and admitted to taking a bruising. Clearly the new TM30 requirements had not been properly thought through.
On 9 September the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT) called for a review of Thailand’s TM30 foreigner law. This was echoed on 18 September by the The European Association for Business and Commerce (EABC). As popular blogger Richard Barrow said here, we need clarity and consistency. Hopefully that’s now coming with the latest report of a “fix”.
What’s the most important thing for foreign renters to know about TM30?
For expats renters, the most important point about TM30 is this: FOREIGN TENANTS CANNOT REGISTER TO USE THE ONLINE TM30 REPORTING OPTION. Only a landlord can register for the online option. Therefore, if your landlord refuses to give you their online password, or won’t comply with TM30 at all, then your only options are to report yourself in person (or use a proxy) or the unreliable registered mail option. This is obviously a pain.
The best scenario is to have a cooperative landlord who reports your tenant’s movements online, or gives you their password so you can report yourself on their behalf. However, if your landlord refuses to comply with Thailand’s TM30 foreigner law then it gets hard. Your only option is to report yourself in person or via the unreliable registered mail method. It seems from the latest report that this could be fixed. We live in hope!
Why is the TM30 law necessary and what are the impacts?
Immigration officials claim security is the main reason under their recent “good guys in, bad guys out” policy. Another reason for enforcing Thailand’s TM30 foreigner law is the rash of condos running an Airbnb business. This has been generating negative news lately. Another alleged reason is to clamp down on long-stay illegal foreigners in Thailand, but that’s not new. Tax evasion is another, and why many landlords don’t like the new TM30 development at all. In fact, some landlords are refusing to comply.
The government is using a dormant part of immigration law to deal with an unrelated security problem. TM30 is simply not fit for this purpose. They’re using a sledgehammer to knock in a nail, and are only now starting to appreciate the much deeper impacts. Immigration officers are struggling to cope with the enormous workload. TM30 is also making Thailand less attractive for foreign investment.
Something must surely give as landlords face more fines and more expats face visa refusals. Thai immigration officers are drowning under the growing backlog of paperwork. It’s hard to see how this won’t impact Thailand’s property market and the economy more widely. Already, we have clients who are traveling less to avoid TM30 reporting. That’s a potentially big dent in domestic tourism.
We hear of schools where expat teachers are forced to miss classes, and landlords who no longer rent to foreigners.Multinational businesses who employ foreigners will also be dragged in. Thai landlords will eventually react as the expat rental market in Bangkok dries up.
The best TM30 news coverage
- Khaosod English: Gov’t to scrap arrival cards for foreigners, introduce TM30 app
The Bangkok Post: TM30 not fit for purpose
- The Bangkok Post: Kang calls for TM30 immigration review
- BBC: TM30: The form getting expats in Thailand into a bureaucratic tangle
- The Bangkok Post: JFCCT issues call for major TM30 review
- Nikkei Asian Review: Thailand’s foreign businesses balk at stricter immigration tracking
- Khaosod English: Immigration bosses say TM30 fix underway, plead for understanding
- Asia Times: Police state squeeze for Thailand’s expatriates
- Nikkei Asia: Thailand’s Cold War immigration tactics unnerve long-term foreigners
- The Bangkok Post: Confusion reigns in TM30 palaver
- Richard Barrow (blogger): Everything I know about the TM30 form
- The Bangkok Post: Europe trade body wants end to TM30
Who has to report and who doesn’t?
A strict reading of Thailand’s TM30 foreigner law says that all movements have to be reported. There is no mention of exemptions or special circumstances. However, there is a great deal of inconsistency as some types of residents are being exempted while others are not. Some previously confirmed exemptions now appear to have been reversed. For example, some weeks ago Austcham provided a list of exclusions in an article here. I have listed these below and added my own notes.
- Immigration officers at a Thai-India Chamber of Commerce TM30 seminar on 8 August confirmed that permanent residents do not need to report. This appears to still be the case as far as I can tell.
- Austcham’s exclusions included those with category F (diplomatic) visas. However, my United Nations clients told me this position is reversed and they now need to report.
- Immigration officers at the “one-stop service center” at Chamchuri Square (for BoI privilege holders; Smart visa holders, and companies with large capitalisation) were previously ignoring TM30 requirements. This was “sort of” confirmed by immigration officials at the Indian chamber event on 8 August. However, I have now received reports from several clients that this has now reversed.
- Foreign owners of properties have also been reported to be exempt. However, immigration officers attending the FCCT event on 15 August said this was not the case. Foreign owners must report. You can register for an online username and password by submitting your blue or yellow book (“tabien baan”), passport and title deed (“chanote”).
Examples of how Thailand’s TM30 foreigner law is being applied
To understand the risks, you need to understand how immigration officers work. They look for matching records of your departure and return. This could be your hotel report when you arrive and your landlord’s report when you return. A missing record may raise a flag. The risk is lower if there are no records.
Example 1: A tenant travels to Pattaya for 2 nights. Immigration officers will check the hotel’s report against the landlord’s report when they return. If they match then no problem. However, if one report is missing they might investigate.
Example 2: A tenant travels abroad. Officers will check the TM6 form against the landlord’s report when they return. Again, there’s no problem if they match.
Example 3: An expat stays overnight at a friend’s condo. The friend’s landlord must report the stay, as must the expat’s landlord when they return. However, if both landlords don’t report then this might escape attention.
Example 4: A foreigner owns his condo and travels abroad. Despite contrary reports, immigration officials confirmed recently they must report, and can do so online. If the owner does not have a blue or yellow book (“tabien baan”) they can register for a password by submitting their passport and title deed (“chanote”).
Example 5: An owner invites a foreigner to stay. The owner must report his visitor. The visitor’s landlord must also report when they return. If they own their home then they must report themselves. However, if neither the owner nor the visitor’s landlord reports then the risk is lower.
Examples 1, 2 and 4 are riskier because there are records that you can’t avoid, including the hotel’s report and TM6 form. In the other examples the risk of detection is low if neither landlord reports.
Convenient “workarounds” to TM30
If you’re an expat renter then your best option is to ask your landlord for their online password. If this isn’t forthcoming and you prefer to avoid the other options then I’ve heard several clever, but risky, workarounds. For example, one online poster suggested using a different address for TM30 reporting than the one you live in. I’m not sure I recommend this!
Another option is to ignore your TM30 until it’s nearly time to extend your visa and then take a trip and get it updated. Our own observation is that immigration officers only check your last TM30 report – not your entire travel record. However, the situation is changing all the time. One never knows when immigration officers will start checking your entire record.
Immigration officers at the Indian chamber event mentioned an interesting alternative option for tenants with a minimum 3-year lease. They said renters can obtain a long term TM30 stamp in your passport by submitting your lease and your landlord’s ID. However, they were unable to expand on what “long term” means.
How do you report?
It is the landlord’s responsibility to report. After they register, they can submit a TM30 report in several ways:
- In person at the Thai immigration office, or through an authorised person (Chaeng Wattana office for Bangkok and Paknam office for Samut Prakan)
- By registered mail
- Internet (website and app). A landlord can register for a username and password here: https://www.immigration.go.th/content/online_serivces. Note there are delays in receiving a username and password, often several weeks.
The Section 38 app for Android can be found here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=th.go.immigration.section38&hl=en_US. The Section 38 app for iTunes can be found here: https://apps.apple.com/th/app/section38/id1451853492?l=th
What documents does a landlord need to register for TM30?
- 30 notification form
- Copy of blue book (ทะเบียนบ้าน Tabien Baan Thor Ror 14)
- Copy of ID card or passport
- Lease agreement (if reporting for a renter)
- Power of Attorney (if using a proxy)
Once registered, reporting TM30 can be done online. However, many landlords are waiting up to 8 or more weeks to receive their online username and password.
Can a tenant report on behalf of their landlord?
Yes, a willing landlord can give you their online password to report yourself. If your landlord won’t give you their password but they are willing to provide a power of attorney form, then you can also report yourself. But this option is only available for the in-person and registered mail options as only landlords can register online. You will need the following documents:
- Copy of current passport, including the visa stamp page
- Copy of TM6 arrivals card (often attached inside passport)
- “Name of Aliens in Residence” form
- Power of Attorney
What if your landlord refuses to report and won’t give you their online login or power of attorney?
This is a VERY IMPORTANT question, and one which many people (including the media) often get wrong. If your landlord refuses to report you then you can report yourself. But you can only do this by registered mail or in person (or proxy). The online option is only available to landlords. Let me be very clear: You CANNOT register for the online method. The only way a tenant can report themselves online is if their landlord willingly gives them their login. To report, the tenant needs to submit their lease agreement in person or by registered mail.
If you are having trouble getting your landlord to comply with the law, then I can try to help you. I can lobby your landlord on your behalf and explain the law to them or I can report for you as your proxy. Please see our services below. My advice is to maintain a productive working relationship with your landlord or use a good agent who can do that for you. At 1D Property the tenant-landlord relationship is central to our ongoing service. We will ensure that landlords are aware of their reporting responsibility before the tenant signs a lease. We continually remind both parties of their responsibilities throughout the lease period.
What is the difference between TM30 and TM28?
For this, I will defer to blogger Richard Barrow’s very good summary of TM30. I met Richard at the various TM30 events this months (yes, he’s as charming and pleasant as he is online). The TM28 is for tenants and the TM30 is for the property owner. According to immigration officials, a renter only needs to file a TM28 when you change your permanent address. You don’t have to file every time you return from another province.
Is the TM30 reporting process easy?
I do online reporting on behalf of many landlords and I must say the process is now relatively smooth. We used to wait for many weeks to receive a username and password. The situation is worse if your landlord refuses to comply with Thailand’s TM30 foreigner law. This means you have to report yourself by registered mail or in person (or proxy) as you cannot use the online option. If standing in a queue at Chaeng Wattana for half a day isn’t quite your idea of fun then 1D Property can do this on your behalf.
What does 1D Property recommend as the best option for TM30 reporting?
Option 1: For tenants, the easiest option is for your landlord to give your their online password so you can do it yourself (on their behalf). Alternatively, the landlord must report you themselves after you notify them of your return home from a trip and provide them with relevant travel documents, e.g. TM6 arrivals form.
For Thai landlords, the online method is the easiest method. It is relatively easy to register for a password. 1D Property can register on your behalf and chase up Thai immigration if needed. Some tenants and landlords ask us to report for them all the time.
Option 2: Reporting in person, or through a proxy, is onerous as the queues at Chaeng Wattana can be long. 1D Property can do this for you as your proxy.
Option 3: Reporting by registered mail has the advantage of a receipt as proof but it can take immigration 3 weeks or more to process. Immigration officers are cautious about recommending this option, which says a lot.
How can 1D Property help with the TM30 reporting requirements?
To cut time and make life easy for you, 1D Property is registering and reporting on behalf of a number of landlords and tenants as their proxy. Please contact us for more. Our services include:
- Help landlords register for Thailand’s TM30 foreigner law reporting, including chasing immigration officers at Chaeng Wattana or Paknam.
- Report in person on behalf of Bangkok-based landlords and tenants as your proxy at the Chaeng Wattana and Paknam immigration offices.
- Provide detailed samples of TM30 documents that tenants and landlords need.
- Answer questions to the extent of our experience as a Bangkok-based property agency (but we cannot provide a qualified legal opinion).
1D Property produced this article for its mostly expat client base in Bangkok, as well as the Thai landlords. We based it on our practical experience with the new TM30 requirements. It is not a legal opinion, for which readers are encouraged to seek their own legal counsel. 1D Property based the information contained here purely on our own experience and sources that we trust. It may differ from accounts on other forums. We will update this article as new information comes to light where we trust the source. 1D Property is a registered company in Thailand, owned by Wandee (Lekky) Iamyoung, who prides herself on a highly personal, professional and ethical property service for expat families in Bangkok.