The Thai Embassy in Belgium issued a statement yesterday saying that 14 passengers on a Thai Airways flight bound for Bangkok late last month were denied entry into Frankfurt because of concern about a "visa scam".
The THAI flight was delayed due to technical problems, forcing some 106 passengers and crew to seek overnight accommodation at a hotel. However, German immigration officials refused to let some 14 passengers go out into the city, forcing them to camp inside the airport lounge until they caught a flight back home the following day.
The embassy account differs from initial reports from THAI, which said 60 Thais were not let out because their visas had expired. However the embassy pointed out that some of them were not allowed to leave because of a visa scam run by tour agencies.
"Some Thai tour agencies apply for Schengen visas with one Schengen country complete with hotel bookings and in line with the other requirements. Once the visas are approved, they cancel all the bookings and travel to other countries instead," the statement read.
A Schengen visa allows tourists access to 25 countries in Europe.
This practice could cause direct problems for Thai tourists and affect the Kingdom's image, as immigration officials may no longer let Thais into their country if they hear about this scam, the embassy warned, adding that this incident at Frankfurt airport was a classic example of the scam.
German immigration officials detained the 14 Thais after learning that their tour agency had applied for a visa with the Belgian Embassy even though the group did not set foot in Belgium, but visited Germany, Italy and Switzerland instead.
Incidents of this nature have become common at Frankfurt Airport, which has now told officials to focus on Thai passport holders. The embassy also warned that Thai nationals might face difficulties when applying for a Schengen visa in the future.
The embassy recommended that Thai travellers apply for visa for the country where they will be landing first. For instance, if a traveller is planning to visit 10 Schengen countries over seven days, and if the first stop is Amsterdam, then they should apply for a visa at the Dutch embassy.
However, it said, if a traveller wishes to spend three days in Paris but two months in Belgium, then they should seek a visa with the Belgian Embassy, not the French.