This post will provide you with all the information you need to obtain your retirement visa, and answer all the nagging questions to which you have seen conflicting answers for all over the Internet.
Let's get started.
What is a Retirement Visa?
In truth, there is no such thing as a retirement visa, per se. However, when we talk about a retirement visa, we refer to it as such because people applying are generally retirees intending to spend their retirement in Thailand.
Moreover, you can't work on this type of visa, so it's generally for those who've stopped work and entered the sunny side of life.
What most refer to as a retirement visa is officially known as an extension of stay based on retirement.
The way the extension of stay based on retirement is obtained is by entering Thailand on a Non Immigrant O Visa, which we will discuss a little later, and then by obtaining the retirement extension from an immigration office – provided you meet the requirements.
What Are the Retirement Visa Requirements?
There are three key requirements, as follows:
- You must be over 50 years old
- You must have a monthly income of 65,000 Thai Baht or more
- Or, ฿800,000 in a Thai bank account for 60 days+ before applying for the extension. And ฿800,000 remaining for 3 months after the extension, and ฿400,000 thereafter.
The ฿800,000 must be in the bank for at least 2 months before your visa application.
The ฿800,000 must also remain in your bank for 3 months after the extension, and, after those 3 months, you must keep ฿400,000 in there indefinitely.
You also need a letter from your Thai bank to confirm the ฿800,000 is there and has been there for the required time frame.
Note that you need a letter from your bank verifying the balance and a copy of your bank book.
Note that you can also use foreign currency, but the money must be the equivalent of ฿800,000 Baht.
There are a number of banks offering foreign currency accounts, but you must make sure that the amount you have in there equals the requirement for the extension of stay: exchange rates fluctuate throughout the year, and this may leave you short if you don't monitor it.
Instead of having ฿800,000 in a bank account, you can show an income of ฿65,000 per month, without having to bring the money into Thailand.
For those who don't want to tie up such a large amount of money in what essentially will be a zero interest account, it may be preferable to use this requirement, particularly if you have a steady pension income, or income from investments.
You will need to provide details of this income over a three-month period, by way of bank statements and through a notarized letter from your embassy that verifies the monthly income.
New Rules for UK and US Nationals
British and US nationals are no longer able to obtain a letter from their respective embassies to confirm that they have a pension income or other income of the required ฿65,000 amount.
This means that nationals of these countries will have to go down the route of having ฿800,000 in a Thai bank account, or they must have the ฿65,000 income paid into a Thai bank account each month and prove this by way of a 12-month bank statement history.
This is problematic for those who have not held a bank account for 12 months. It is therefore likely that British and US nationals will have to go down the 800k lump sum route, at least for the first year anyway.
On the plus side, money transfers to a Thai bank account are relatively cheap these days (see the link below).
* It is expected that other embassies will follow suit and stop issuing income letters too. I will update this article as and when this happens.
What If I Don't Meet the Financial Requirements?
Perhaps you don't have an ฿800,000 lump sum of money to put in a Thai bank account, or a monthly income of ฿65,000. In this case you can still meet the financial requirements by combining the two.
For example, let's say that you earn 50,000 a month. That would equal ฿600,000 a year.
In this case you would only need to deposit ฿200,000 in your Thai bank account to make up the required ฿800,000. However, you would need to provide both the letter from the bank and the proof of income letter from your embassy
(British and US nationals are currently unable to obtain this income letter).
What Documents Do I Need for a Retirement Visa?
To obtain the extension based on retirement, you will need to attend an immigration office, such as the office located at the Ministry of Foreign affairs in Bangkok. On the day you will need 5 things, as follows:
- Passport with Non Immigrant O Visa inside. Photocopies of: photo page of passport, page showing visa, page showing last entry date into Thailand.
- TM.7 (extension of stay form completed and signed). Attach a passport photo and include phone number by your signature.
- Departure Card (TM.6) (make a photocopy)
- 2 passport size photos
- Proof of funds and or proof of income (letter from bank/embassy). Bank letter cannot be more than 3 days old. If using the lump sum application route, you'll need an updated photocopy of your bank book page that shows the balance. Obviously take your bank book along too.
- Proof of address (copies of rental agreement, and utility bills (if you have them))
- Application fee of ฿1,900 THB
*Sign all photocopies.
Once you have your retirement visa, there are two important rules that you must follow to ensure that you do not overstay your visa or invalidate your visa.
- You must conduct 90 day reporting. This means you must report to an immigration office in Thailand every 90 days. This is because Thailand has a law that states that a foreign national must produce his/her address if staying in the kingdom for 89 or more days. The address is reported on a TM48 form.
- Perhaps the most common mistake foreign nationals make when living in Thailand on a retirement visa is leaving the country without getting a re-entry permit. A re-entry permit can be obtained from an immigration office or the airport before leaving the country.
This permit will be stamped in your passport and protects your visa from expiring while you are outside of the country. If you do not get a re-entry permit, then your visa will be invalidated and when you re-enter Thailand you will get a standard 30 day exemption stamp.
As noted, you can obtain a re-entry permit as you are leaving the country. However, if you are able to plan in advance, it may be better to get one a few days before you leave to ensure that you get it done in time and don't miss your flight if you are in a rush to the airport. The re-entry permit form is known as TM13.
I have written extensively about the re-entry permit in this post here.
How to Renew Your Retirement Visa
Your retirement visa (extension of stay based on retirement) will last for one year. But don't wait until that year is almost up before you start planning to renew it. In fact, you can renew your visa up to 45 days before it expires.
Remember that you need to ensure that your Thai bank account balance does not fall below the ฿800,000 threshold three months prior to renewing your visa.
Also consider that if you need a proof of income letter from your embassy, you should plan this at least a few weeks before you apply for your visa.
Some embassies require you to make an appointment and they may be busy at the time you apply. Don't worry though, the letter from your embassy will be valid for six months, so is perfectly fine to obtain the letter up to a couple of months before you need to renew your visa.
Rules for Those Retiring with a Spouse (Dependent)
It may be the case that you're a foreign couple who want to retire to Thailand. In this situation, there are two possibilities for obtaining the visa:
- Each partner obtains a retirement visa by following the financial requirements laid out above: that is ฿800,000 in a Thai bank account two months prior to applying; or proof of ฿65,000 income per month, as verified by your embassy; or a combination of the two.
- One of you obtains a retirement visa and the other receives a visa as his/her dependent. The visa holder is generally the male party.
The easiest route is for you to both independently get visas. One reason for this is that if the main visa holder were to pass away then the dependent's visa would be immediately void.
This could be problematic because it would present you with a visa issue to overcome at a time when you would be going through a lot of grief and having to sort out a lot of other things in your life.
In this situation, you could essentially leave the country and come back in on a 30-day exemption stamp, or get a tourist visa from a Thai embassy in a neighbouring country. But this still might not give you the time you need to get all your affairs in order and take care of probate.
It sounds quite morbid, but it is worth considering – because at a time like this you would not want the hassle of sorting out visa issues.
The other reason to avoid going down the dependent visa route is that Thai immigration has moved the goalposts on this visa are a couple of times over the last decade. Both times they have reverted back to the original rules, but it can cause confusion and be problematic.
In the case of a dependent, immigration requires the financial aspect of the extension to be provided by the male party and not through a joint bank account.
Similarly, if you are using a letter from your embassy to prove your income to extend your visa, this must solely be in the man's name and not in joint names. In other words, the income is verified as the man's income and not a joint income.
It is also worth noting that if you are seeking to obtain a dependent visa for your spouse and your spouse is not yet 50 years old, your spouse must enter Thailand on a Non-Immigrant O Visa.
This is because a 30-day on arrival stamp cannot be converted into a Non-Immigrant O Visa inside Thailand, if you are not yet 50 and seeking an extension based on retirement.
Getting Your Non Immigrant O Visa
The most common pathway to getting the extension based on retirement is to obtain a Non Immigrant O Visa (90 day validity) from your home country before you arrive Thailand. You can do this via the E-Visa system.
You can obtain this visa in Thailand, but then that's an extra step that you will have to go through with immigration before applying for your extension of stay based on retirement. It really isn't difficult to get from your home country either, so it is advisable that you do this.
Here are the requirements for the UK Thai Embassy. Please note that requirements may differ slightly from country to country.
- Passport or travel document with validity not less than 6 months and at least 2 blank pages, as well as the photocopy of passport. The actual passport must be submitted with visa application form.
- Two (2) recent photos (taken within the past 6 months)
- Supporting documents for the purpose of visit to Thailand. (Please see details for each type.)
- A copy of pension statement if the applicant is a pensioner, or a copy of 1-month bank statement showing your income from pension, or 3-month bank statement of at least £10,000
- Health insurance policy for the 90-day period that covers 400,000 inpatient and 40,000 outpatient treatment.
Once you have your Non Immigrant O Visa, you can enter Thailand and stay for 90 days. You will have to wait 60 days before you can file your retirement visa application at the immigration office and follow the steps laid out in this post.
Getting a Retirement Visa (O-A) Instead
You should also know that you can obtain a long-stay visa (generally known as a retirement visa) inside your home country. It's known as an O-A visa.
Rather than include all the details in this post and confuse the two options, I wrote a separate post on this.
In a nutshell, there's more paperwork involved and it requires you to have a specific insurance policy. Though it does have some benefits that the extension we have discussed here doesn't have.
Have I missed anything? Still got a question? Leave it in the comments below.
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