Foreign visitors arriving or departing Thailand are required to fill out an arrival/departure card. This is a two-part form that needs to be completed regardless of whether you are arriving/departing Thailand by air, boat or overland. This form should be filled out before you hand over your passport to a Thai immigration officer. Unfortunately, the failure of some visitors to do this is a contributing factor to the delays that sometimes occur during the immigration process, especially at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. To help everybody out (immigration officers and the other people in the queue) please make sure the form is fully completed before you start to line up at the immigration desk.
Most airlines will hand you this card during or after your flight to Thailand, but beware, sometimes they will offer them at lightning speed, so if you blink you might miss the chance. It is ideal to get the card in time and fill it on the airplane, as otherwise, you might lose some valuable queue position at the immigration check-in.
If you land without one in your possession, don’t panic: you can always get one at the airport and fill it on the spot. Just do it in one of the little tables for that purpose, before actually queuing. Similarly, if you are arriving in Thailand via a land or sea crossing there will be an area close to the Thai immigration counter where the forms are kept.
THE ARRIVAL CARD
The main page is the two-sided Arrival card. There are no optional fields, so you are expected to fill everything in here, excluding the obvious box for official use. In an ideal world, you will write a single letter in its little box, but sadly that is just impossible as some of the fields don’t have enough space. Try your best.
The information required for the arrival card is quite basic; name, passport number, nationality, date of birth etc. There will also be a space for you to put your address in Thailand. If you don’t yet have accommodation booked this should be the name of a likely hotel/guest house where you could be spending at least your first night in Thailand. If you do end up at another hotel instead of the one you wrote on the form, don’t worry. The other side of the page is way more nosy, probably for statistical purposes. In that section, you are required to provide information such as your occupation, income, whether is this the first time in Thailand or not etc.
After you hand your arrival/departure card to the immigrant officer, you can say goodbye to it, as you will never see it again. They will take that page, add its information to the system and give you back your passport with the departure card attached.
THE DEPARTURE CARD
The departure card needs to be kept with your passport for the duration of your stay in Thailand. When you depart Thailand you will be stamped out with an exit date in your passport and the departure card will be retained by Thai immigration. Always check you have been correctly stamped in and out of Thailand. I have the good habit of filling both cards on arrival, but you can always wait for the last minute to do it with the departure cards. Most of the fields are the same on the first page of arrival card