For those who have decided to make Thailand their long-term (or semi-long-term) home, there’s always the issue of balancing your visa type with the frequency you’d like to leave the Kingdom.
And while it’s not the most exciting topic, I know that the visa re-entry question can cause plenty of confusion.
To simplify your re-entry permit process for easy travel in and out of Thailand, I’ve compiled this helpful guide that will help you determine if, when, and how you should apply for a re-entry permit in the near future.
Is the clock ticking on your time in Thailand? Read on.
What Is a Re-Entry Permit?
If you’ve made the move to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time, you’ve likely already gone through a lengthy process to obtain a visa of one kind or another.
And, as you probably know, entering and exiting the Kingdom without the proper measures in place may invalidate your current visa, leading to a lot of headaches, paperwork, and payments at border control.
Fortunately, a Thai re-entry permit, stamped on your valid visa, allows holders to travel in and out of Thailand without jeopardizing the validity of their current visa.
Note that if you need a re-entry permit and do not get one, your visa will no longer be valid.
Who Needs a Permit?
Because the Thai immigration process is a bit convoluted, the re-entry permit eligibility is as well.
If you are a tourist and the holder of a Single Entry Tourist Visa or a Single Entry Non-Immigrant Visa, you require a permit.
If you have gone from a Non Immigrant O Visa to an extension based on marriage, which permits you to stay in Thailand for a year without leaving and requires 90-day reporting, then you will need a re-entry permit when you leave the country to ensure the extension remains valid.
If you are on a retirement visa extension, you will need a re-entry permit to leave and return while keeping your extension valid.
If any of the above apply to you, you can obtain a re-entry permit and simplify your travel in and out of the kingdom.
Who Doesn’t Need a Permit?
You won’t need a permit if you have a Visa On Arrival or a Visa-Exempt Stamp from specific countries.
You won't need a re-entry permit if you’re in possession of a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa or a Multiple Entry Non-Immigrant Visa.
How Long Does a Re-Entry Permit Last?
The permit doesn't have an expiry date because it is linked to the validity of your visa.
Let's say you have a single entry Tourist Visa that lasts 60 days. On day 30 of your holiday in Thailand you want to go to Singapore for a few days. You would obtain a re-entry permit so that upon leaving Thailand your visa does not become invalid.
The re-entry permit doesn't freeze the visa validity at the point of exit; it simply keeps the visa alive, so to speak.
Now let's say you are enjoying yourself so much in Singapore that you decide to stay for a month. Doing so would mean that your single entry Tourist Visa (kept valid by your re-entry permit) has now expired.
In this case you would have two options. 1. Re-enter Thailand as a tourist and receive the standard 30-day exemption stamp. 2. Apply for a new Tourist Visa from a Thai Embassy.
Are There Different Types of Re-Entry Permit?
Yes. Eligible applicants can apply for either a single re-entry permit or a multiple re-entry permit, depending on their current visa status and their travel requirements.
If you obtain a single re-entry permit, be warned that you’ll be able to leave and re-enter the kingdom once with the stamp on your current visa.
Any time you need to leave the country again, you’ll have to apply for another permit, which will cost you 1,000 THB each time.
If you’re planning on leaving and returning to the Kingdom more than four times a year, a multiple re-entry permit is certainly more cost effective.
What Are the Requirements for a Re-Entry Permit?
You’ll have to go to your local immigration office or the immigration counter at an international airport in Thailand.
Be sure that you bring your boarding pass (at the airport), a 4×6 cm photo of yourself, a completed TM.8 form, photocopies of all of your documents (including your passport photo page, your current and valid visa, and your TM.6 departure slip), and cash to pay for the permit.
What Is the Cost of a Re-Entry Permit?
Those applying for a single re-entry permit must pay 1,000 THB.
Those purchasing a multiple re-entry permit will pay 3,800 THB, making it the more cost efficient option for frequent international travelers.
What Are the Benefits of a Re-Entry Permit?
Whether you’re an avid adventurer, you have an international family, or you’re chasing opportunities in neighboring countries, there are numerous benefits of a Thai re-entry permit — namely, that your visa will still be valid after you’ve left and re-entered the country.
Tourists will find this especially helpful as the re-entry permit allows them more flexibility than their original visa may have offered.
Those teachers, students, and retired expats who are looking to travel or pursue opportunities in different places will now have the opportunity to do so easily.
And finally, the re-entry permit is a fantastic resource for emergencies. If you need to leave the Kingdom quickly to deal with an issue, but don’t have the time to pack up your entire life and leave suddenly, a re-entry permit is invaluable.
Those who have gone through the hassle of applying for a visa will know that any stamp allowing them to escape a voided visa is a great option.
Where Do I Apply for a Re-Entry Permit?
If possible, prepare your application for a re-entry permit ahead of your trip!
You can apply at one of Thailand’s many immigration offices:
Bangkok’s Division 1 Immigration Office in Chaengwatthana is open to those seeking permits Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Here's a map to help you get to the office:
Those based in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai should venture to Promenada Mall for their permit; the location is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Here's a map to help you get to the office:
Those living in the tropical paradise of Phuket should head to the main immigration department in Phuket Town, which is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Here's a map to help you get to the office:
Can’t make it to one of the major cities?
Don’t worry: there are plenty of Thai immigration offices in airports across the Kingdom. You can use this map to find your local department.
Tips for Getting Your Re-Entry Permit at an Airport
As mentioned above, you can also apply at one of Thailand’s many international airports.
But be forewarned: when applying at an airport, you must be flying out of the kingdom on the same day that you apply for a re-entry permit. So get to the airport in plenty of time.
At Bangkok’s Survarnabhumi Airport, you’ll need to arrive at least three hours early — going through immigration could take as long as 45 minutes.
Head to the immigration section of the departure halls; the booth is open 24 hours a day.
Because this is a last-minute process, you may have an additional administrative fee tacked onto your permit charge. Expect to pay at least 200 THB more.
You’ll have an easier time at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, where processing a re-entry permit may take as little as 10 minutes. You can find the immigration counter after the passport control station — it’s also open 24 hours a day.
If you’re heading out of Thailand’s Jewel of the North, you can get your re-entry permit at Chiang Mai International Airport, in the international departure zone.
For those departing from Phuket: there has been a lot of contention as to whether or not travelers can obtain a re-entry permit from the Phuket Airport. Be safe and get it from the immigration office in Phuket Town instead.
How Long Does It Take to Process a Re-Entry Permit?
You never really know quite how long your permit processing will take, so be sure to dedicate at least a few hours to the process.
If you’re visiting your local immigration office, your permit will likely be validated between one to six hours. You may want to drop the documents off and come back at the end of your work day to avoid standing in line.
At the airport, the process will likely be much quicker, but you should also leave a substantial amount of time before your flight in the event that it isn’t.
Immigration experts recommend arriving at least three hours prior to your flight’s departure, if you’re looking to obtain a re-entry permit before flying.
You may also want to call the immigration departments of your local airport to see if they can provide any information about the wait time that day.
How Do I Use a Re-Entry Permit?
When you re-enter Thailand with the permit, make sure that the immigration officer knows you are in possession of it by either opening your passport to the re-entry stamp or by pointing to the visa.
If the immigration officer misses the stamp, your visa will be revoked and you’ll be responsible for paying the 500 THB-per-day overstay fee, so take care!
When returning to the kingdom, always write your re-entry permit number on any immigration forms or questionnaires. This will ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Now that you’ve gotten your re-entry permit, you’re free to travel in and around Southeast Asia — and beyond — without the fear that your life in Thailand will be disrupted!
Got any questions or comments about the process? Leave them in the comments below.