We recently paid a visit to the latest award winning develClarifying the new Student Visa and Language School Regulations
UK expat Chris Gleeson and his Thai wife Dr Tewi Gleeson PhD are well known for their high-standard, well-run TLS language schools, based in Bangkok (since 1998) and Pattaya (since 2008).
Dr Tewi Gleeson PhD has been in the educational field for most of her academic career and helped to write the program upon which the Thai government instituted its Educational (or Student) Visa.
That student visa program has recently come under serious scrutiny by government officials due to abuses of its regulations. This has led to changes in the regulations to return the student visa to conform to its original purpose.
In this article Chris Gleeson hopes to clarify the truths and dispel some of the myths surrounding the student visa furore. As he says, “It is very sad that the best visa in Thailand, has, in the last two years, simply been abused to the point where the government had to do something about it. Our schools, which try to do the right thing, have been caught in the crossfire.”
As Chris notes, “There are now over 150 schools offering this visa…There were 18 new schools opened in Pattaya last year all selling the student visa with non attendance at the schools. Some of these were one-classroom and two-classroom schools which really were just visa factories. They simply have too many students for their seating capacity. Even if they opened 24 hours a day 7 days a week they can’t sit there students down.”
The changes began on 1 August 2014. Chris said language schools were only given warning of the changes just 10 days beforehand. “All student visas had to be started again. Some people lost three months extension, some lost nine months,” Chris said. “As a school it was a nightmare but we have excellent staff and I would like to commend Jollybee and Lisa for all the extra work they did, doing 30-page applications for all our students, some of whom needed them as early as 2 August.”
“As a school built on honesty and integrity we tried to be fair to all our students. If they lost three months they only paid us 75 percent of the school fees. If they lost three extensions they paid us 25 percent of the school fees. They had the inconvenience of going to get the new student visa, but it also financially very difficult. But we were fair to our longstanding and new customers,” Chris stated.
The changes have brought the ED Visa into line with the Non-O and Non-A visas where the maximum stay is 12 months. So the ED Visa can no longer just be carried on at Immigration. People now have to leave every 12 months.
Chris continued, “Some schools are saying their students learn via Skype, which is OK, but that does not qualify you for a student visa. You are required to have a 75 percent attendance record to sign up for a second, third, fourth and fifth year.”
According to Chris, the Immigration Department is visiting all schools and pulling student records out at random to check attendance records. “If visas are cancelled for non-attendance at a school, the student is then blacklisted at the Education Department from obtaining the student visa again,” Chris said.
Further changes took place at the start of March this year, with the major difference being that all classes were required to go from four to eight hours per week. This means it only takes 22 weeks to get your lessons done.
Chris states, “All new students can only have a six-month visa for our 180-hour program. But they can get a 12-month visa for signing up to a 350-hour program, which we are offering at 45,000 baht. Our licenses have not changed. We can still offer the student visa in 15 subjects for a period of five years. But, as we tell our students, you pay us for classroom time, not the visa. Although the visa has been altered your classroom time has not, you still get the classroom time you paid for.”
As Chris notes, “It’s not us who have changed the rules, it is the government, and we have to abide by those rules.”
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