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Updates about the Thailand Pass

Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
When I returned to Thailand last week with the Thailand Pass, I thought that the firsthand experience that I had gained would be enough to help answer the questions people had. But as it turned out, I literally had hundreds and hundreds of questions. Many of which were unique to each person. So, I contacted the spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to see if he could set up an interview for me with a staff member in the consular department. As it turned out, Mr. Chatchai Viriyavejakul, the Director-General of the Department of Consular Affairs, wanted to meet me in person. I am grateful that he took the time to sit down with me to explain in more detail the process, and to answer my questions. This special newsletter is basically a summary of what I learned today.

Mr. Naruchai Ninnad (Director of Protection of Thai Nationals Abroad Division), Mr. Chatchai Viriyavejakul (Director-General of the Department of Consular Affairs), and myself
Mr. Naruchai Ninnad (Director of Protection of Thai Nationals Abroad Division), Mr. Chatchai Viriyavejakul (Director-General of the Department of Consular Affairs), and myself
The Thailand Pass
After reading all the comments on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I can see that quite a few people misunderstand about who is running the Thailand Pass system. Some people were saying Immigration, others were saying the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). But the truth is, it is run by the Department of Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The Thai embassies and foreigners applying for visas come under this department.) For the Certificate of Entry, the MFA did the back-end themselves using their existing online infrastructure. But for Thailand Pass, it was decided to ask the Digital Government Development Agency (DGA) to program it for them. (The DGA report directly to the Office of the Prime Minister as part of the government’s goal for all state agencies to become fully digitised by 2022.)
The idea about the Thailand Pass system was to streamline the application process to make it quicker and easier for people to apply. It is also meant to make it more automated in anticipation of more people arriving in the December/January period. According to tourism operators that I spoke to at WTM London, they are already receiving quite a few bookings from tourists for the first quarter in 2022. So, it is very important that there is a system in place that can cope with the expected numbers. Of course, we won’t see a repeat of the 40 million visitors that we had a couple of years ago. But an estimated 20% of this number will visit next year. Which means by January, the Thailand Pass system must be fast and efficient and mainly automated. They say at the moment, nearly 50% of the applicants, particularly ones entering the quarantine program as they don’t have a vaccine certificate, are automatically approved.
I think the first thing to say here is that they recognise the problems that they have had so far and that they are working hard to improve the system. Some updates coming very soon include the ability to upload PDF files and also multiple files per section. They will also add a dropdown list for approved hotels. For Bangkok, it is very important that people book a hotel package that includes transfer from the airport and the RT-PCR testing.
I think the biggest improvement that they will be implementing soon is the ability to log in to check on your application status. Which will also give you the ability to download the QR Code once it has been released. They did tell me that they weren’t able to send the QR Code to a number of people as they either made a mistake typing their email address or their mailbox was full and it bounced back. Being able to log in and check on status and download the QR Code yourself will be much better. Plus, if something was rejected in just one section, you can go in and correct that without having to apply again.
Visitors and returning Thai nationals can now apply for Thailand Pass by visiting http://tp.consular.go.th/. For any queries, they can be addressed to the call center of the Department of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 02 572 8442, which has added 30 additional lines for this purpose.
Frequently Asked Questions
After writing in my last newsletter and on social media that I would be meeting with the director general to talk about the Thailand Pass, I was inundated with literally hundreds of emails and messages. My post on Facebook inviting people to send in questions and suggestions had 544 comments alone. Many of these questions are beyond the scope of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as anything to do with Covid-19 and health issues has to be answered by the Department of Disease Control under the Ministry of Public Health. But I think I managed to get many of the most frequent questions and problems answered. If not, I have added contact details down below.
VACCINATION CERTIFICATES
I want to be quite clear here. Although the Thailand Pass is a project under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is the Ministry of Public Health who are responsible for verifying the vaccine certificates. This can quite often be done automatically. Thailand is part of a 30-member group of countries that share a PKI (public key infrastructure) for vaccination certificates. This will allow them to instantly authenticate the certificate. I haven’t seen a list of countries, but I am told that most are in Europe. Other certificates with QR Codes are relatively easy for them to authenticate too. But there are some certificates that are challenging for them which is why it sometimes takes time. Particularly if someone uploaded an image that is not clear.
Many people asked about children. At this moment, for the Test & Go program, children must be under 12 to be exempt from being vaccinated and for the Sandbox program, they need to be under 18. Some people asked me about their child who only had one jab as per the rules in their country. Unfortunately, to be recognised as fully vaccinated, they need to have the full course of jabs as outlined by the manufacturer. However, there might be some good news soon. A senior TAT executive told me last week that the age of exemption for the Test & Go program might soon be changed to under 18, the same as for the Sandbox. There will be a CCSA meeting on Friday that will discuss possible changes. If it doesn’t happen for mid-November, then this change might happen on 1st December.
One of the reasons a vaccine certificate is rejected is because the vaccine is not approved by the Thai government. Also, to be considered fully vaccinated, your 2nd dose must be administered at least 14 days before your travel. Here is the list of approved vaccines:
  • CoronaVac (Sinovac)
  • AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • COVILO (Sinopharm)
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Sputnik V
You are allowed to mix vaccines on this list according to this guide:
  • 1st dose (Sinovac) = 2nd dose after 2 weeks
  • 1st dose (AstraZeneca) = 2nd dose after 4 weeks
  • 1st dose (Pfizer-BioNTech = 2nd dose after 3 weeks
  • 1st dose (Moderna) = 2nd dose after 4 weeks
  • 1st dose (Sinopharm) = 2nd dose after 3 weeks
  • 1st dose (Sputnik V) = 2nd dose after 3 weeks
INSURANCE POLICIES
For tourists coming to Thailand for a holiday, it is highly recommended anyway to take out medical insurance. Particularly if you choose to travel during a global pandemic. If by some slim chance you test positive on arrival, and the rate at the moment is 0.10% of arrivals, then you will need a good insurance. Also, one that covers you for a hospital stay even if you do not have any symptoms.
See my last newsletter, The Nightmare of Testing Positive on Arrival in Thailand, for what may face you. You could be quarantined even if you test negative but sit next to someone, either on the plane or in the hotel transfer car, who later tests positive. However, in the latter scenario, I don’t think you will find an insurance policy which will cover you for a forced hotel quarantine of 14 days.
I think expatriates are finding it harder than tourists to find appropriate insurance for the $50,000 coverage. Particularly as they are supposed to be covered for the remaining length of the time left on their visa. I had ten months left on mine and was quoted 30,000 baht for a one-year insurance policy! Foreigners with Permanent Residence or people with long-term Thailand Elite visas, would face a much bigger bill. On this matter, I think I have some good news and some clarification about the rules.
For a start, it doesn’t seem to be written down anywhere that you need to have special insurance to cover you for the time you will be in Thailand if you are on a long-term visa. It was just implied by some embassies. I asked the director general about this, and he said a 30-day policy would be plenty. After all, if you test positive, you will only need to do 10 days in a hospital and a possible 14 day quarantine afterwards. So, a 30-day policy would cover you.
I also asked him about the option to have a certified letter from your employer. He said that as long as it is on official letterhead and clearly states that you are fully insured by the company and all costs can be covered up to $50,000, then you won’t need to take out a special insurance policy. He also confirmed that people like myself who have social security, can use this instead of taking out a special insurance. Another misunderstanding is that the insurance must have Covid-19 coverage up to $50,000. That is not true, and it can be general insurance up to that amount.
APPLICATION FORM QUESTIONS
I personally found the online Thailand Pass form easy to fill out and submit. That is if you ignore the server errors that I was getting last week. See my Summary of the Reopening of Thailand for the full details of how I managed to fly into Thailand. But there were a few things that were puzzling at first.
The “length of stay” field was a problem for some people. Tourists could just estimate and say 30 days. But for expatriates like myself, we plan to be here indefinitely. In the end, I had to ask Siri how many days until my visa expired. But I was told today that I could have just entered 999. But they added that there will be a special field here soon for expatriates.
Another problem is the “date of arrival”. For many people, there should also be a date of departure as it might take them several days to reach Thailand. This then becomes a problem if their QR Code doesn’t arrive before their first flight. They recognise that as a problem and have noted it. The second problem is that some people might need to move their flight date for some reason. I think most of us thought that to do that we would have to apply again from the start. But that is not so. You can apparently still arrive as long as it is within 72 hours of that date. I think that is good to know.
Before I forget, many people asked how far in advance can you apply for a Thailand Pass. Well, the good news is that there is no time limit. If you want to, you can apply now for a holiday to Thailand in say January next year. If you do that now, then you don’t need to worry about the QR Code arriving on time.
A Summary and a Look to the Future
The Thailand Pass is here to stay. At least for the foreseeable future. Once they have updated the software with the improvements that I have mentioned, it will be a lot easier for you to use. They are also working hard on automating more of the process so that more people will get the QR Code back very quickly. We should also see an easing of some rules over the next few weeks. So, like I have said many times already, don’t rush to come to Thailand. Certainly not during this transition period between the COE and Thailand Pass. But, if you can wait until, say December, then you will find it much easier.
Like I mentioned earlier, there will be a big CCSA meeting on Friday that will be reviewing the first two weeks of the reopening of the country and will discuss possible easing of some of the rules. I think next week, we might see the exemption age for vaccination certificates for the Test & Go program will be raised from under 12 to under 18. Another major change we might see next week, is the dropping of the rule to have a RT-PCR test within 72 hours of departure. This is because there is a growing number of countries that don’t actually have an option to have this test done. If it doesn’t happen next week, then I think we should see that happen by 1st December. The other thing they should be discussing is the list of approved countries and territories.
Other rules will probably remain for the time being. I would personally like to see the RT-PCR test on arrival to be changed to the quicker lateral flow test that places like the UK are now doing. A senior TAT executive told me that is a possibility. That travellers would be tested at the airport and after waiting 15 minutes for the negative result, they are then free to go anywhere they like. So, literally a Test & Go scheme. But, the Ministry of Public Health must agree to that. However, if they drop the pre-flight RT-PCR test later this month, I don’t think they will drop it for arrival any time soon. We might need to wait until January for that.
Contact Information
Contact information for people applying for Thailand Pass:
Call Center (24 Hours):
  • 02-572-8442
  • 065-205-4247
  • 065-205-4248
  • 065-205-4249
E-mail (for technical problems) support@tp.consular.go.th
You may also contact the Thai Embassy or Thai Consulate-General in your area.
Statistics
Richard Barrow
✈️ Yesterday, 2,779 people flew into #Thailand with three of them testing positive. This brings the total since 1st November to 28,021 people and 29 infections (0.10%). Most are taking part in Test & Go (17,861/0.07% infected) and most landed at Suvarnbhumi airport (17,494). https://t.co/SM4VpbYAFY
CORRECTION
In my last newsletter, I mistakenly said, “if the statistics are anything to go by, you will have to be extremely unlucky to test negative”. I of course meant “positive”. Unfortunately, by the time I spotted this error, the emails had been sent out. However, I did correct it immediately on the online version. My apologies for this confusion and hopefully most people saw it for what it was, a typo.
SEE YOU NEXT TIME
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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand @richardbarrow

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Samut Prakan, Thailand