Visitors to Thailand have a wide range of choices when it comes to acquiring visas. These range from visa-exempt entry for certain nations to annual retirement visas. With the new visa regulations introduced on 1 October 2007, here’s an overview of your options.
Thailand 30 day tourist visa on arrival
These is available at all airports and border crossings for citizens of 40 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America and Vietnam.
Thailand visa extensions
Once your 30 days are up, an extension of 10 days can be applied for at the local immigration office for a fee of 1,900 Baht, overstay fines are now set at 500 baht per day.
You can also travel to any border crossing to leave and re-enter Thailand on the same day, thus getting another 30 days on entry. Some border crossings require you to show an outward ticket from Thailand to another country and you may also be asked to show 10,000 Baht or the equivalent in another currency in cash or travellers’ cheques.
This process can be repeated once more for a total stay of 90 days using visa-exempt entry within any 180 day period. Be aware that this rule is subject to arbitrary enforcement and application, depending on which border crossing you go to and which immigration officer is on duty.
Thailand tourist visas
Another option is to apply for a Tourist visa in your home country or at any Thai embassy or consulate abroad. This will entitle you to an initial stay of 60 days, extendable by 30 days for a fee of 1,900 baht. Some countries will issue double-entry or even triple-entry Tourist visas. This means that after your first 60 days (90 with extension) are up, you simply cross any border to validate the next entry. This will then give you another 60 days, again extendable by 30 days. After your tourist visa has been used up, you can repeat the visa-exempt entry cycle again, up to a maximum of 90 days within any 180-day period. There is a reasonable fee for these visas (varies at each embassy), and they are usually issued on the spot
Non-immigrant visas for Thailand
Those who are looking to stay longer should apply for a Non-Immigrant visa. Non-Immigrant visas will let you stay in Thailand for up to 90 days. Multiple re-entry non-immigrant visas allow you to extend the visa for a further nineties days, before leaving the country briefly to repeat the whole process once. Effectively this gives you a 12 month period.
This is a popular method for many who remain permanently in Thailand although the authorities are getting stricter about issuing these. Ostensibly you ought to be studying, intending to take up a genuine job offer or several other limited reasons. In reality many foreigners produced enough ‘paperwork’ to satisfy their local consulate and use it as an excuse to remain in Thailand.
There are several types of non-immigrant visa;
Type B: for conducting business or employment.
Type M: for journalists accredited as press representatives.
Type O: if you are a taking care of dependent or are retired (over 55).
IM: investors who meet the Board of Investment requirements.
ED: education study or observation.
For application, in each case, you will need to submit supporting documents and its advisable to check with your local consulate. Each applies the rules differently, but those in Asian countries are famously difficult and it even varies from one officer to the next. Since many residents in Thailand head for the nearest neighbouring countries’ consulates (such as Penang in Malaysia and Vientiane in Laos) these staff are notoriously tough and usually will only issue a single entry visa, if they agree at all. It’s more advisable to apply in your own country where they are seldom sticky and readily give multiple-entry visas without asking too many questions
These are granted, without much fuss or paperwork, to any foreign national who is 50 years or older and can show a regular income of 65,000 baht per month or 800,000 baht cash in a Thai bank account. Applications are made at your local Immigration Department and are easily renewable after the 12 month duration.
Spousal or marriage visa
Those who are married to a Thai citizen can apply for a visa to remain in the country for up to 12 months. Those under 50 years of age will have to show proof of income of 40,000 Baht per month. Lately they’ve started asking to see a total sum of 400,000 baht, but will accept proof of a regular income that meets this amount. This can be from overseas and ratified by your embassy or income derived from your or your spouse’s work.
This can be applied for if you have the right paperwork, but it’s a lengthy process. Most prohibitive is the 195,000 baht fee. Fortunately it’s a once-off application that when finally granted allows you to live indefinitely in Thailand, but doesn’t afford you any citizen’s rights and you’re no better off legally than someone with a non-immigrant visa other than not worrying if it will be renewed. There are however, a few advantages to this type of status when it comes to applying for a mortgage, the right stay for your non-Thai family members, buying condos or trying to get a Thai passport.
Business owner and work permit
As a business owner, you have the right to secure a work permit or 1 year, renewable non-immigrant B visa. Quite a few foreigners choose this option if they are serious and have the money required. Thai law states that a company cannot have more than 49 per cent foreign ownership. Furthermore, the founding charter must bear the signatures of seven directors: these can be of any nationality as long as the share agreement places the majority of ownership in Thai hands.
The benefits of a company are that it can own property (land) and it overcomes several of the obstacles concerning rights of foreigners here. However, you need to find a trusting partner and for many this is usually a Thai wife or husband. Strangely, foreign women married to Thai men enjoy more rights than their male counterparts.
The company does however have to invest a hefty minimum amount. Certain companies with board of investment privileges also benefit from this. Since mid 2006 the authorities have begun to carefully scrutinise the structure, intentions and operations of companies with foreign ownership, especially when it comes to buying land. Therefore this option has diminished in popularity.
Work permits: are required if you are going to be formally working but there is an incredible paper-chase involved. First you will need a non-immigrant visa in order to get approval from the immigration department to remain for a full 12 months. This will be issued after you have a work permit in your possession from the manpower department, but immigration will insist on all the company documentation all over again! Work permits are only granted if the company can show that your job cannot be filled by a Thai (certain roles are barred entirely to foreigners) and that the company has four Thai employees and 2 million baht in registered capital for each foreigner employed. In reality many foreigners work illegally without the permit and survive on multiple re-entry visas year after year.
Be aware that rules and fees are subject to change and that immigration officers at land crossings can and will apply the rules as and when they want. Local immigration offices, inundated by all sorts of feeble excuses to try and remain in Thailand (bear in mind more and more foreigners have been trying to live here), are well known for being unco-operative, unusually rude (for a Thai), and generally bureaucratic.
Be prepared for the run around when you deal with this department. In recent years the law enforcement and application has been greatly tightened up. Remember that overstay accumulates a fine of 500 baht a day and can result in you being permanently barred from entering Thailand.
If you need some professional assistance with your Thai visa application then Thai Visa Expert can help. Whether it is a retirement, education, spousal or even a tourist visa enquiry, they can help take the sting out of the application process and ensure there are no nasty surprises.