Thai Immigration Aims to Make the Long Haul Shorter

What is the worst thing about visiting Thailand? You’re probably thinking there isn’t one, everything about the Land of Smiles is out-of-this-world. You’re wrong. Think about your arrival and getting through Thai Immigration, those long queues, well soon they could be a thing of the past because Thailand’s Immigration Bureau aim to make your long haul to the Kingdom a bit shorter. An automated service is to be put into place which will turn the slow trek through immigration into a fast-track procession of hand luggage, handbags and bum bags.

The image above (image source: Airports Authority of Thailand) is an artist’s impression of how Thailand’s new fast-track immigration service will look. The new airport technology, ‘Advance Passenger Processing (APP)’, is expected to be introduced to all of Thailand’s international airports within two years. The APP system will put an end to lengthy queue times and make air passengers long haul to Thailand a fair bit shorter. The system will also have the know-how to check in-bound flight passenger lists for anyone on Thailand’s Immigration blacklist.

The Commissioner of the Thai Immigration Bureau, Lt Gen Wiboon Bangphamai, had this to say about Thailand’s new APP system when he addressed a meeting of ASEAN immigration officials in Phuket;

“The APP system will shorten the immigration clearance process. The system will allow people to just walk through without having to stop to get a stamp (passport) or other details checked”.

That’s great news and hopefully the days of 45-60 minutes waiting time in Thai Immigration queues will be over. It’s a positive step by Thailand’s Immigration Bureau and one which could turn the Land of Smiles immigration process into the Line of Smiles. At present that is very much not the case.

The APP system gets a big thumbs up from me and fingers crossed it works.

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I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

8 Responses

  1. DanPloy says:

    I have never had a problem with the queues and have even been gestured through the fast track and Thai lanes sometimes. They are nothing compared to the US or Japan. Or Heathrow for that matter. As a lot of delays are caused by people failing to fill in the landing card. How do you think these automatic scanners are going to go. They have them for Thais already.

    I don’t see how this works. For all visa extensions here they are based on the stamp in your passport at the entry point. This means each immigration office in Thailand will also have to be linked to the same computer network. Good luck with that.

  2. Martyn says:

    Dan – You’re right about Heathrow, it’s a nightmare trying to get through there. It’s the last thing you need after a long flight.

    I’m not sure about the nuts and bolts of the APP system or whether it’ll work or not but it seems Thai Immigration are going to give it a go. I hope it doesn’t make the queues even longer.

  3. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I haven’t had a problem with Thai immigration since I flew to the US last year. Due to the mess I barely got through to my flight (and I was there on time).

    The room was heaving. There was no organisation. Worried people were shuffling forward slowly, shoulder to shoulder. What a stupid time to wear heels!

    But after the embarrassment of last year there’s been a huge improvement.

  4. Martyn says:

    Catherine – The only problem I’ve ever had at Thai airports is the waiting in a queue at immigration. Hardly a problem but a bit frustrating after 20 hours of front door to Bangkok travel. I did once have my suitcase scanned when going through customs, it had three torpedo sized black puddings in it. These were massive. Customs didn’t bat an eyelid. I froze one, gave one away and ate the other over the course of my holiday. Three months later the frozen one still tasted absolutely perfect.

  5. Peter_M says:

    Martyn, there was a lot of buzz earlier this year about horrendous queues at Swampy immigration but I really did not experience that and have never done so in many trips to Thailand. In April, 2012, I was no more than about 5, 6, possibly 7 minutes in the queue. I really cannot recall ever waiting more than about 15 (maybe 20) minutes. To me that is quite acceptable and anyway I am so happy to be back in Thailand that I am completely Zen, relaxed and excited, so much so that the whole time/continuum/universe/thing implodes and leaves me in a parallel universe where time is non existent and Immigration officers are like Tumnus, the half man, half goat in Narnia who plays his hypnotic tune on his flute. One thing I have noticed on recent trips is the delay in baggage coming out. That is taking far longer than immigration. Clearly the angry dwarf Ginarrbrik is in charge here. Grrr…he is interfering with my Zen mood and needs to be replaced.

  6. Martyn says:

    Peter – I’ve faced some horrendous queues at immigration, so much so that I can rarely remember having to wait for my luggage. It’s always been waiting for me.

    Keep your wardrobe doors open and continue to have fun. I’ll be hitting Thailand just before Christmas on an Etihad flight which cost me £300 and quite a few air miles.

  7. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I just flew in last night. Again, no problem. They now corral you coming and going (previously, the directional tapes – or whatever they are called – were only on departure). But Singapore still has them beat. I don’t know why Thailand doesn’t observe their uber-organised neighbour.

  8. Martyn says:

    Catherine – Singapore…. At this rate you’ll be sprouting wings, a hermit with wings, wouldn’t that make a fascinating cartoon character.

    I’m never lucky at inward immigration, maybe it’s the timing of my flights, plus the ten minutes or so I hang around in the smoking room. Are the directional tapes red? Come Christmas I’ll be more than happy to stand around for thirty minutes or more waiting to get through. It does mean my suitcase is there ready and waiting.

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