FOREIGN nationals overstaying their visas are a growing headache for regional authorities, which are now tightening immigration controls.
Thailand has had more than its fair share of overstayers, with a recent case of Russian, Nigerian and Swiss nationals being rounded up in the country underscoring the problem.
The Bangkok Post quoted Surat Thani immigration police chief Supalerk Phankosol as saying that Russian Alexey Safronenkov, 32, overstayed his tourist visa by 2,861 days, or more than seven years.
He was arrested in Koh Samui, Surat Thani during an operation by immigration and tourist police and subsequently blacklisted from entering Thailand for 10 years.
In another case, the Koh Phangan News portal reported that a Nigerian man was arrested at a Koh Phangan resort for overstaying his visa by over six years.
The portal quoted Supalerk, who said that Samuel Nwabueze Iwoha was detained in an operation at a rented house.
In yet another case, a 52-year-old Swiss national was arrested at a rented house in Koh Samui for overstaying by over four years.
The operation was conducted in the province of Surat Thani, where the popular tourist islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao are located, said The Thaiger portal.
The sweep of overstayers was launched after members of the public called a ‘1178’ number to report those suspected of breaking immigration regulations.
But it’s not just foreigners overstaying in Southeast Asia that is a growing problem. Asean citizens overstaying overseas are also becoming a menace.
For instance, about 33,000 Malaysians have flouted Australia’s visa rules – a figure revealed recently by the Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia, Andrew Goledzinowski.
The News portal revealed that Malaysians – along with Canadians, Japanese, Singaporeans and Americans – are eligible to apply for Australia's Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) system, but many have abused the privilege.
Cracking down on the problem, it was reported that Border Force officials deny entry to more than 20 Malaysians at Australian airports each week.
Meanwhile, the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration (BI) is reviewing its visas upon arrival privilege.
Some have suggested that the facility is being exploited by mainly Chinese nationals.
The country issues visas upon arrivals to Chinese tourists for a period of three months – but many, suspected to be illegal workers, tend to overstay by three months.
In Singapore, those convicted for overstaying can be jailed for up to six months and may also be caned up to three times, said a Yahoo news report.
The island republic is known for tough measures for those breaking the law and an example was last April, when a Vietnamese was sentenced to five months’ jail and four strokes of the rotan for overstaying by over 10 years.
As for Indonesia, authorities have introduced a new legislation requiring foreign nationals who overstay in Indonesia be fined 1 million rupiah (RM295) per day, up from the previous fine of 300,000 rupiah per day.