All visa processes, whether you are flying across the world or traveling to a neighboring country, are daunting ones. With all the different types of Thai visa available, at times it may seem as if figuring out how to fly to the moon would be an easier task than finding out which one is right for you.
It isn't straight-forward, that's for sure. I've been here 8 years now and I still discover stipulations in the small print now and again.
There are a number of different visas to consider, so to prevent the risk of deportation and the embarrassment of explaining your predicament when you wind up back in your home country, I have compiled up-to-date visa information for the 5 most common types of visa.
Let's get started…
Why Do You Need a Visa?
Let's start with this simple but common question.
A passport is needed when traveling to other nations to show that you are a legal citizen, so why do we need to go the extra mile to obtain a visa?
Visas are different than passports in that they show why it is you are going to another country, as well as how long you plan on staying there.
Visas are usually granted to those who are working or studying abroad for a certain amount of time, however, there are other types of visas, including marriage and retirement visas. All you have to do is apply for the correct one, which you'll be able to after reading this post.
So let’s get started with the different types of Thai visa, their requirements and the application process.
1. The Tourist Visa
Are you looking for a long spring break destination? Are you taking the gap year to blow all of your money in exchange for fond memories and a boatload of “candid” selfies?
Well, Thailand is certainly one of the most beautiful destinations you will find in your search for the perfect vacation.
If this is the case, don’t let the idea of getting a tourist visa scare you. While it may be easier to simply travel to another city in your own country of residence, figuring out the Thai tourist visa is well worth your time to see this beautiful country.
Also, if you are staying for less than 30 days, you may not need a visa to enter the country. See this link for the requirements for each country.
In order to apply, you will need to have a passport with at least six months of remaining validity. You must also have two passport photos. You must have already purchased your flights, as a copy of your round trip tickets or confirmed itinerary is required.
You must also have proof that you have sufficient funds to be traveling in the first place (20,000 Baht per person and 40,000 Baht per family).
There are two types of tourist visa:
1. Tourist (3 months validity/up to 60 days/Single)
This is a single entry visa that gives you up to 60 days straight in Thailand.
2. Tourist (6 months validity/up to 60 days/Multiple Entries)
This is the newer, far better option that gives you a 6-month visa, allowing you to stay for 60 days at a time, but with multiple entries.
Obtaining a tourist visa is the least difficult visa to obtain as there are few requirements. You apply for a tourist visa in your home country from the Thai Embassy or a Thai consulate.
After arrival in Thailand, if you need extra time, you can extend a tourist visa twice, each time for an additional 30 days. There is a 1,900 Baht fee for each extension. The extension of stay as well as the change of certain type of visa is solely at the discretion of the Immigration officer.
In most cases, the single entry will be enough, but for those who want to spend 6-months at a time here (leaving every 60-days) the new 6-month visa is a bonus option.
The advantage of entering the country with this visa is that you'll have 60 days instead of the standard 30 on arrival. This means that should you want to attend an extra full moon party, or spend longer with your Thai girl/boyfriend, you won't have to to do a visa run to buy some time.
2. The Work/Business Visa (Non-Immigrant “B” Visa)
Many people come to Thailand to teach English as a second language. Others are relocated here for work, to invest and even conduct international business. The B visa process is fairly harmless and, if done right, can be just another simple check off your to-do list before coming to source that next big import product from Thailand.
This is a bit tricky to stipulate because there is no set business visa, rather a category (B) for which you have to submit documents depending on the business-related reason you require this type of visa.
For most work-related type visas you need two passport photos, a medical certificate, a valid passport, a letter of employment, a certificate of degree and proof of funds of 20,000 Baht (per person)
Note that this visa isn't a work permit. A work permit is obtained separately inside Thailand, and usually by your employer. If you want to work in Thailand, you should apply for an initial 90-Day Non-Immigrant B visa from your home country under the employment category.
The work permit application then takes place during the initial 90 days of your visa. Once a valid work permit is obtained, the applicant then applies for the 1-Year Non-Immigrant B visa inside Thailand.
Once you have a work permit, 90-day reporting to any Thai Immigration Office is required. You'll also need a re-entry permit if you wish to travel outside of the country. The good news is that renewal of this visa can be done inside Thailand.
As with all types of visa, the B visa must be obtained in your home country (or country other than Thailand). Single-entry and multiple-entry visas are valid for three months initially, though multiple-entry visas are valid for 1 year (leave every 90 days).
For single entry, your passport must be valid for 6 months or more, and for multiple entry the passport must be valid for 18 months or more.
On a multiple-entry B visa, you are allowed to stay in Thailand for 90 days at a time. You are also able to open a bank account as well as obtain a work permit, if needed.
The B visa covers the following types of work-related activity: to conduct business, to work, attend business conferences, scuba diving courses, to teach, kick boxing courses (Muay Thai) and massage courses.
It will suit those prospecting for business in Thailand and having meetings with Thai companies or attending seminars and trade shows.
3. The Retirement Visa
What better way to retire than on the shores of Thailand’s world famous beaches, or in the quiet hills of Nakorn Nowhere? Thailand’s yearlong tropical climate makes it a great place to put your feet up and truly enjoy retirement at a slower pace, or not, as the case may be.
The retirement visa is fairly hassle-free, and not too long ago they introduced online reporting to make it easier. Personally I hope they'll do away with the laborious reporting in the near future.
I can't see why people aren't simply required to pop down to a local Police Station or immigration office every 3 months and get stamped in. Would take 5 minutes and be done at everyone's leisure.
The retirement visa is also referred to as the non-immigrant “O-A,” or the long stay visa. You must be at least 50-years-old and have a clean criminal background.
Two months prior to the visa, you must have a security deposit of 800,000 Baht in a Thai bank account, or a monthly income or pension of 65,000 Baht; or a total of 800,000 Baht through a combination of a bank deposit and income or pension for the entire year.
Every 90 days you must report to the immigration office regarding your current address in Thailand, but this can be done by mail if you do not wish to personally visit the immigration office.
An agent can also do this for you through power of attorney. What better way to fully enjoy retirement than to let other people do the 90-day reporting for you?
Before applying for a retirement visa in Thailand, you must first apply for a 90-day initial Non-Immigrant visa from the Thai embassy or a consulate in your home country. Once you are on the last 30 days of your current permit to stay, you can file your retirement visa application.
Note that to support your application you must have an updated bank book or passbook and a bank letter stating that the money has been deposited to the account from an overseas source for not less than 2 months.
You can stay up to one year with this visa, as well as renew the visa, every year, from inside of Thailand. That means you don't need to leave and do those horrible visa runs!
4. The Marriage Visa (Based On Having a Non Immigrant O Visa)
Online, on vacation, at a bar on Khao San Road: it doesn’t matter where you fell in love, it just matters that you did. Many of you may find yourselves lucky enough to have found the one and tied the knot, and if Skype and Facebook messenger aren’t enough to keep the romance alive, you may want to think about moving to Thailand on a marriage visa.
The marriage visa is a tad tricky to understand, in that it is actually technically known as a 1-Year Extension of Stay Based on Marriage. First you need to apply for a 90-day visa or a 1-Year Non-Immigrant O visa from your home country or country of residence.
Note that the 90-day Non-Immigrant visa may also be obtained from nearby countries in Thailand. When you apply for the Non-Immigrant O, you will be doing so on the basis of being married to a Thai national and therefore will need to submit your marriage certificate and copy of your wife’s ID with your application.
The Non-Immigrant O visa will give you a year’s stay in Thailand but with the condition that you leave every 90 days. However, to extend your stay without having to leave, you need to follow the requirements below:
In order to get the 1-year extension of stay, you need to be married to a Thai national and not have any criminal history. You must also have a monthly income of at least 40,000 Baht, or a Thai bank account with 400,000 Baht for two months.
There is some conflicting information from various legal sources on whether you can combine savings and income to meet the 400k financial requirement. However, the official law reads as follows:
In the case of marriage to a Thai woman, the alien husband must earn an average annual income of no less than Baht 40,000 per month or must have no less than Baht 400,000 in a bank account in Thailand for the past two months to cover expenses for one year.
Every year, this visa is renewable and this process can be done inside Thailand. The requirements to obtain the visa are the same as when you initially got it. You must also report every 90 days to the nearest immigration office with your current address.
Remember that if you want to travel outside of Thailand after having obtained your retirement visa, you will need a re-entry permit to do so. If you don’t get one, your visa will be cancelled when you exit the country.
You can apply for one at the nearest immigration office or at the international airport before leaving the country. Note that this does not apply to a 1-year multiple entry visa but a visa which was extended in Thailand for the period of 12 months.
Obtaining a Non Immigrant O visa based on marriage is straight forward. Simply apply inside your home country and provide the a copy and translation of your marriage certificate and a copy of your wife's ID card.
Once you have the Non-Immigrant O multiple entry, you can travel to Thailand and activate the visa. On the last 30 days of your 90-day permit to stay is when the 1-year extension can take place and, providing you meet the financial requirements, the processing time usually takes about a month.
Note that you don't need to do the 1-year extension if you don't want to. You could just leave every 90 days.
Once you have a marriage visa (extended Non Immigrant O based on marriage), you can stay in Thailand for a full year without ever needing to exit the country. You are also allowed to work if you are able to obtain a valid Thai work permit to go along with the marriage visa.
Lastly, if you don't apply to extend for a year by following the financial requirements listed above, you can always extend your visa for a further 60 days, making it last 5 months. I wrote a post on how to do this here.
5. The Education Visa (1-year Non-Immigrant ED Visa)
Believe it or not, this has been the most illegally exploited visa over the years. The ED visa, as it's known, became a popular way to long-stay in Thailand with minimal financial commitment: Simply sign up to learn Thai for a year with a language school and voila, you get an educations visa.
Of course, people weren't really learning Thai, and, after a number of years, the Thai government began asking immigration officers to conduct random basic Thai tests on those who'd supposedly been learning the language for a few years. Needless to say, those who couldn't answer very basic questions had theirs cancelled.
If you do apply for an Ed visa, make sure you go to at least one lesson a week!.
You can apply for the Ed visa in your home country or from inside Thailand. Most people come in on a tourist visa and then find a school to sign up with. The school then duly sorts out the paperwork with the Ministry of Education.
If you are accepted, which you most likely will be, you will then have to leave Thailand and apply for the Non-Immigrant ED visa in any Thai embassy or consulate outside of Thailand. Most people hop over to Laos to do this.
People of every nationality can apply for a 1-year Non-Immigrant Education visa. Though nationals of the following countries must apply in their own country: Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Sri-Lanka and Middle Eastern countries – don't ask me why!
From inside your own country, you'll need the usual suspects such as passport or travel document with a validity of not less than 6 months, and a recent 4 x 6 cm photograph.
In addition, you'll need a letter of acceptance from the language school you wish to study at, and for those who intend to study in a private institution, you may require an official letter from the Ministry of Education of Thailand or other sub-authorities concerned, which is basically an approval of your enrollment and a copy of your registration certificate.
Note that there are slightly different documents required for internships and other more specific areas of study.
It's actually much easier to apply for an education visa inside of Thailand because the language schools are crying out for students, and are therefore willing to do all the legwork required to sign you up.
The only hassle is having to go to Laos or any other country in the surrounding region to get your ED visa. But as I'm sure you can tell, this is why the ED visa became such a popular route for the “Oh my God, I don't want to go home. How can I stay here for longer” type traveller.
On arrival back in Thailand you will be permitted to stay for 90 days. Once you have the school paperwork you can extend your stay every 90 days at the Bangkok Immigration Office for the duration of the course (up to a maximum of 3 years). The fee is 1,900 Baht for an extension.
Note that if you have a single entry ED visa, when you want to travel abroad, you have to get a re-entry permit to leave and come back in. This can be conveniently done at Suvarnabhumi Airport before you leave.
You can file to pause your visa so that the period of your leave will not be included in the duration of your visa. To get a re-entry permit, you need the following:
- Passport and a copy
- One 4 x 6 cm passport photo
- 1,000 Baht fee for single entry, and 3,800 Baht for multiple entry
You get to stay continually in Thailand and don't have to leave every 90 days, as you would on some of the other Non Immigrant O visas (where the financial requirement hasn't been met to extend).
However you do have to report to immigration every 90 days to let them know your address. You can do this up to 7 days before the due date. Single entry ED visa holders also have to get a re-entry permit if they want to travel abroad; so get a multiple entry from the outset.
All in all, this visa is a good choice if you want to stay long term, and learn Thai, of course!
6. The Thailand Elite Visa
The Thailand Elite Visa is a multiple entry visa, valid for five years, and renewable as long as the membership is still valid. With the basic package starting at a cool 500,000 Baht, you will be granted a 1-year stay, with an extension possible at the end of the year.
The website doesn't quite reflect this upmarket offering: the design is poor, the information hard to decipher and the pages slow to load – you would have thought they'd spend some of that money on a decent user experience.
That said, if you have the money, this is the easiest way to stay in Thailand long term, with fringe benefits that make you feel important.
The only requirement is that you have the cash. Oh, and that you aren't a known criminal or banned from the country.
You won't need to do visa runs, but you will have to do 90-day address reporting. No stress though, your Thailand Elite personal liaison office will handle this for you, apparently.
Other benefits include: a concierge service at the airport (they greet you and get you a limo to your hotel), spa treatments, a health checkup, discount shopping, cheaper banking with Bangkok Bank, and a bunch of other stuff you might not use.
Visa Overstay Rules!
Do not make the mistake of overstaying your welcome in Thailand. Be sure to have a look at either the length of your permit by stamp or your particular visa to see what date it is you are supposed to leave Thailand. You are considered to be overstaying even if your visa ended the previous day.
Overstaying your welcome in Thailand could get you into serious trouble. The 500 Baht a day penalty that was once the only punishment handed out for foreigners overstaying their welcome has now been accompanied by an entry ban for severe offenders, and as of March 2016, you could receive a ban for as long as 10 years.
If you overstay and turn yourself in, you get banned for one year for staying more than 90 days, banned three years for staying more than one year, banned five years for staying more than three years, and last but not least, banned for 10 years for staying more than five years.
If you need to extend a visa, you can do so by applying for permission at the Office of Immigration Bureau, located on Government Center B, Chaengwattana Soi 7, Laksi, Bangkok 10210, Tel 0-2141-9889.
Be wary of your expiration date and don’t overstay your welcome, or you may not ever be able to come back to paradise!
Don't see the type of visa you want listed in this post? Confused and need some advice? Have I made a mistake? Leave a comment below and let me know!