(Updated: October 5, 2020)
Though international travel has increased in complexity, studying in Thailand is still possible. ISDSI successfully navigated the visa and travel process with a Fall 2020 student cohort and will continue partnering with universities and students to offer an immersive, in-person academic and cultural program in Thailand.
Because the travel process is more complex and has nuanced requirements at each each step, ISDSI staff will be closely overseeing and guiding students through the entire visa application and entry process. We have formed close partnerships with the Thai consulates in the United States as well as airlines and approved Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) hotels in Thailand.
Phase 1: Visa and Certificate of Entry Application
Students will be applying for a Non-Immigrant Education visa sponsored by ISDSI’s partner school, Payap University. In addition to a visa, all travelers to Thailand must be approved for a Certificate of Entry. The following is a general overview of the application process:
- Before students can begin the visa application process, they need to have a sponsorship letter from Payap University (arranged by ISDSI) and proof of health insurance in Thailand with $100,000 coverage for COVID-19 treatment (arranged by the student or their university).
- Visa: With the sponsorship letter, insurance coverage letter, and copy of passport, students submit an online application (6-8 weeks prior to departure). If all documents are in order, students will be asked to submit an official visa application by mail to their assigned regional consulate (Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C.).
- Certificate of Entry: After the visa is issued, all travelers to Thailand must be issued a Certificate of Entry. The Certificate of Entry is issued by email after students provide proof of their flight and quarantine reservation. Flights are usually released for booking 2-4 weeks prior to departure. Both the flight to Thailand and quarantine will be arranged by ISDSI.
Phase 2: Pre-Departure Group Requirements in Los Angeles
Students will travel to Thailand as a group, departing from LAX. Students and ISDSI staff will meet in Los Angeles three days before departure to complete the final pre-departure requirements: (1) an RT- PCR (long nasal swab) COVID-19 test and (2) a Fit to Fly physical. ISDSI will arrange housing, meals, transportation, and appointments in Los Angeles. An ISDSI staff member will accompany the group to all appointments and airport check-in. The check-in process at LAX is incredibly detailed and as such requires more time than usual. Once the students are successfully checked into their flight, they can expect the travel experience to be the same as normal until arrival in Bangkok.
To lower the risk of trip disruption due to a positive COVID-19 test result, ISDSI recommends the students do the following: (1) diligently distance themselves in the two weeks prior to traveling to Los Angeles (2) do an additional COVID-19 test (not an antibody test) 1-2 days before traveling to Los Angeles, and (3) purchase additional trip insurance from a policy that would cover tip disruption or cancellation due to a positive COVID-19 test result. Students and their families should have a contingency plan in case they test positive for COVID-19 while in Los Angeles.
Phase 3: In-Country Quarantine Experience
Upon arrival in Bangkok, Thailand has a structured process for reviewing all traveler documentation. Students are then transported to their ASQ hotel by van (2-3 persons per van). Each ASQ is assigned a partner hospital; hospital staff will be waiting for the students upon arrival at the hotel to complete the hospital registration process. Students will be quarantined in an individual hotel room with meals provided and rooms cleaned every few days. All food intolerances and allergies permitted on our programs can also be accommodated through the hotel. Students will be tested for COVID-19 twice during quarantine and will be required to report their temperature twice per day. After the first test result comes back negative, students can schedule relaxation time in an outdoor hotel space for 1-2 hours per day.
While in quarantine, ISDSI will facilitate classes through Zoom. ISDSI staff will be in constant communication with students and the hotel. When the quarantine is complete, the hotel will provide a certificate and physical copies of the two lab results. ISDSI will arrange the group flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and transition to the in-person portion of the program.