BANGKOK, 19 December 2012: A single visa for Thailand and Cambodia is ready for launch 27 December at all of the countries’ consulates and embassies.
It is a test phase of a wider project called ACMECS Single Visa (Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy) involving Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar that originated in 2005, under the concept known as “Five Countries, One Destination”.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Consular Affairs, Visa and Travel Documents Division director, Pratak Sikhamonton, told TTR Weekly that the Thailand-Cambodia single visa would be initially valid for 35 countries, as of 27 December. The nations on the list were selected due their economic potential and track record as strong tourism suppliers to the region.
“This is a trial that will later be expanded to Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar if it yields benefits…It should take at least a year to test and assess all the elements such as homeland security, impact on arrivals and spending,” said Mr Pratak.
Tourists will be able to apply for a visa at any consulate office of the two countries, but the process will take longer than applying for a single-country visa as it will involve checking with the partner country and possibly cross checking for security purposes.
“Each country has its own priorities, watch lists for nationalities that are subject to a higher level of scrutiny and this cannot be overlooked in the process,” he explained.
The visa cost and length of the stay is identical to the standard tourist visa and based on the individual country’s regulations. A Thailand tourist visa costs Bt1,000 for 60 days, while Cambodia charges US$25 for 30 days.
The scheme is not relevant to nationalities that already have visa-free entry for either Thailand or Cambodia, but it will be a boon for visitors who do require a visa for both Cambodia and Thailand by reducing the need to visit two embassies before the trip begins.
Revenue earned from visas is on the decline as countries add more nationalities to their visa-free list. Also the nations that require a visa for both Thailand and Cambodia are dwindling, which reduces the importance of the project to some degree. However, for the nationalities that do require visas for both countries the convenience of a one-stop shop saves the Mekong Region traveller time and expense.
It will really come into its own when the single visa applies to all Mekong Region countries, but it will need to allow multiple entries and be valid for all border checkpoints across the region. That facility would encourage more overland trips that explore lesser known destinations in the Mekong Region and extend length of stay.
In the meantime, the pilot project finally gets under way after seven years of deliberation and planning.
Thailand allows visa-free entry to passport holders of 48 countries and one special administrative region – Hong Kong SAR for up to 30 days, while Cambodia only allows visa-free entry for ordinary passport holders of Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.
On the single visa list
35 Countries are eligible for the ACMECS Single Visa:Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, India, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Luxemburg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Portugal, Qata, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America.