Demystifying the ‘new’ TM.30 expat reporting law
What is TM.30?
TM.30 is a form for reporting the accommodation of a foreigner according to section 38 of the 1979 immigration act. Under the law, house owners, heads of households, landlords or hotel managers who temporarily accommodate foreign nationals must notify the local 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 28 March 2019 the government is now enforcing this law more strictly to include landlords and tenants as well.
Who is affected by this?
There is a misperception that TM.30 is for landlords only, who face fines for not reporting their tenants to the immigration office within 24 hours of their tenants’ return from a trip. This applies to every trip, whether in Thailand or abroad, even if only for a single night.
However, tenants must supply their landlord with the necessary documents for reporting purposes, and they may face difficulties having their visas renewed if these reports are not done properly. For example, immigration officers at Chaeng Wattana claim they will not provide services for visa extension applications, 90-days reporting, and multiple re-entry permits. We know of cases where this is being applied.
Therefore, both landlords and tenants need to take this seriously, and understand their respective roles.
Is this happening everywhere in Thailand?
Most of my business is in Bangkok, but some organisations, including the Danish-Thai chamber of commerce, are reporting that the new requirements are currently being enforced in Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi and Chonburi, with plans to extend it to other provinces in future.
How does the law apply to me?
The law is unclear about specific circumstances, such as when a tenant stays overnight with a friend, for example. However, to understand the risks, it is important to understand the way immigration officers work. In our experience, they look for matching records of a tenant’s departure and return, e.g. a hotel report when a tenant arrives at their destination plus the landlord’s report when they get back. It may seem self-evident that the risk of detection is low if there are no records at all, however the examples below illustrate why this is important:
Example 1: A tenant lives in a rented property in Bangkok and travels to Pattaya for 2 nights, staying at a hotel. Immigration officers will check the hotel’s report of the tenant’s arrival against the landlord’s report when they return home. If they match then there shouldn’t be a problem. However, if one report is missing then they might investigate further.
Example 2: A tenant lives in a rented property in Bangkok and travels abroad for 1 week. Immigration officers will check the record of departure (e.g. your TM.6 departure form at the airport) against the landlord’s report when they return home. Again, there’s no problem if they match.
Example 3: A tenant lives in a rented property in Bangkok and attends a nearby dinner party at a friend’s condo. At 2am the tenant decides it’s too late to go home and stays overnight. Strictly, the law says the owner of the friend’s condo must report the visitor’s stay, as must the tenant’s landlord when they return home. If only 1 landlord reports then this could raise a red flag with immigration officers. However, if both landlords fail to report then this might escape their attention, but it’s still an offence.
Clearly, examples 1 and 2 are higher risk because there are mandatory records of the trip that you can’t avoid, such as the hotel’s report or the TM. 6 departure form. Therefore, it’s important that the landlord reports as well so there’s a matching record. But in the third example it appears you are still technically breaking the law, but the risk of detection is low if neither landlord reports the overnight stay.
As is often the case with a new legal development in Thailand, authorities aren’t doing much to clarify confusion. In our experience, answers depend on which immigration officer we speak to! We will likely have to wait and see how very specific circumstances are treated. Please note that what I’m saying in this article is based only on our own experience and might not conform to what others are saying. Anybody who lives in this town for long will soon learn how quickly misinformation and rumours spread!
Why is this law necessary?
This is unclear, as for many years the law was mostly ignored. The recent clampdown is hugely unpopular as it’s a lot of work for landlords and tenants alike, and ultimately will make Thailand less attractive to foreign investment. There is also legitimate concern that immigration officers can’t cope with the enormous mass of paper shuffling, which will slow processing times and frustrate the process further.
There are several suggestions as to why this law is now being enforced, including to stem the rash of condo purchases by foreign investors for the purposes of running an Airbnb business, which has been generating a lot of negative news lately. Another alleged reason is to clamp down on long-stay foreigners who don’t have visas/work permits, but that’s nothing new. Tax evasion is another.
Do you think the law will change?
Something must surely give as landlords face more fines, more expats face visa refusals, and immigration officers drown under the growing backlog of paperwork. It’s hard to see how this won’t impact the property market and eventually the economy more widely.
The difference this time is that it’s not just foreigners who are affected. It’s directly impacting Thai landlords – many of them influential – who rely on the expat market to lease their investment properties. It’s also driving concern among influential business organisations. For example, 1D Property is a member of Austcham (Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce) which is watching this matter closely and may join other chambers to express concerns through appropriate channels.
For good or ill, it’s not uncommon in Thailand for existing laws to be ignored by authorities, as was TM.30 for many years. This is a likely scenario but hard to say when this could happen.
Another possibility is that the law is changed or dropped entirely as influential landlords apply pressure on the government, supported by business organisations. In my view, this is more likely now that elections are past and the new government looks for ‘wins’ to justify its appointment. I’ve heard rumours that TM.30 is up for the chop, but rumours are dime a dozen in this town!
Who is responsible for reporting?
Reporting is the landlord’s responsibility, and face fines for not doing so. Tenants must provide landlords with the necessary documentation for reporting, such as a TM.6 departure form.
The reporting responsibility doesn’t absolve tenants entirely, who risk problems renewing their visa. We know of actual cases where visa renewal applications are currently not being processed until landlords have cleared the TM.30 reporting backlog. It remains to be seen what happens when their current visas expire and they haven’t managed to clear the infractions.
Bottom line: It’s critical that landlords, tenants and agents work together. This is where a good agent can help, as maintaining the important tenant-landlord relationship should be at the heart of their ongoing service.
How do you report?
The landlord can submit a TM.30 form several ways:
- In person at the 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)
Is the reporting process easy?
Sadly, no. The queues at Chaeng Wattana are hideous. 1D Property has employed a full-time person just to wait in them on behalf of our clients. It’s clear the immigration officers can’t cope with the workload, and there are literally dozens of desks piled high with mountains of paper, with few computers to be seen.
Several of our landlords are experiencing problems with the online option, including very long waiting times for their registration to be approved and issued with a password. Some have been waiting 3 weeks while calls to the immigration office go unanswered. If a landlord can’t report in person or through a proxy then we recommend the registered mail option as they will be issued with a receipt. Hopefully this will count as proof!
At Chaeng Wattana, there appears to be some leeway to the 24-hour notice period. In our experience they are currently allowing 5 days before fines are applied, but we don’t know if this is official policy or for how long it will last. My guess is they are overloaded and can’t cope.
What if a landlord refuses to report their tenant’s movements?
Tenants can’t report themselves, so it’s critical there is a good working relationship with the landlord. We already know landlords who plan to sell properties or avoid expat renters. I doubt this is sustainable as there are too many investment properties in Bangkok that depend on the expat rental market.
I understand the frustration on both sides but this situation impacts both parties and they need to work together. I hope we can avoid friction because neither party is at fault, and they both share an interest in getting this law changed. I am always here to help in any way I can.
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, and we will ensure that landlords are aware of their reporting responsibility before the tenant signs a lease. If necessary, we will continually remind both parties of their responsibilities throughout the lease period.
What documents does a tenant need to provide to their landlord?
- Copy of current passport, including the visa stamp page
- Copy of TM.6 departure card (often attached inside passport)
- “Name of Aliens in Residence” form
You can contact 1D Property for samples of any of the above.
What documents does a landlord need to report?
- 30 notification form
- Copy of blue book (ทะเบียนบ้าน)
- Copy of ID card or passport
- Lease agreement
- Power of Attorney (if using a proxy)
How can 1D Property help with the TM.30 reporting requirements?
1D Property is reporting on behalf of a number of landlords as their proxy. The important tenant-landlord relationship is central to our ongoing service, and this is proving to be the critical factor. Our services include:
- We can report on behalf of Bangkok-based landlords at the Chaeng Wattana and Paknam immigration offices (fee 1,000 Baht).
- We can provide detailed samples of documents that tenants and landlords need.
- We can answer questions to the extent of our experience as an agency (but we cannot provide a qualified legal opinion).