What Types of Thai Visas Are Available
Thailand is a hugely popular destination with tourists, backpackers, digital nomads, and expats. Visiting Thailand and even living there is generally easy. However, the big question is: Do I need a visa to go to Thailand? Whether or not you need a visa to enter the country will depend on your country of origin, your length of stay, and the reason for your trip. Like many countries, there is a long list of possible Thai visas that cover just about any set of circumstances. That said, most visitors will find themselves in one of the following popular categories.
Thai Visa for Tourists
The majority of foreigners in Thailand are short term tourists. But even though they’re not visiting for work or immigration purposes, many still require visas. For those that do, their best choice is the 60-day tourist visa.
The 60-day tourist visa is either a multiple or single entry visa. Those who want to stay in Thailand longer can do so for an extra 30 days. However, in order to apply for a visa extension, you have to leave Thailand and visit a Thai embassy in a foreign country. There are inexpensive flights from Bangkok to destinations like Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Tourists in Thailand can enjoy a short getaway while they take care of their necessary visa extension work.
Travelers exempt from carrying a tourist visa – including those from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom – still have some paperwork to take care of. They must be able to provide proof of onward travel out of Thailand within 30 days (or 15 days if they arrive by land). They must also be able to prove, upon being asked, that they have sufficient funds to provide for themselves during their stay.
Non-Immigrant Visa for Short Term Stays
A non-immigrant visa gives you the right to enter Thailand to work, study, retire, or join family members. It essentially covers nearly all circumstances, except for tourism.
3 Categories of Non-Immigrant Visas in Thailand
The non-immigrant visas are divided into three main categories.
- The “B” visa applies to those who want to conduct business or apply for future work permits.
- The “ED” visa applies to education and studies.
- The “O” visa is applicable for family matters. This includes circumstances such as being the spouse of a foreign worker or for those entering Thailand to receive medical treatment.
There are also additional, lesser-used categories that apply to religious work, journalism, scientific research, and other purposes.
While in Thailand on a non-immigrant visa, you’re allowed to obtain a work permit and open a bank account. However, you cannot start working until your work permit (also known as a blue book) comes through.
The 90-day short term non-immigrant visa is perfect for anyone needing an extended trip to Thailand with no chance of visiting other countries. This visa is also a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the hassles of leaving the country to get an extension. If you want or need to stay longer, this visa can be extended for 30 days. However, you must visit a Thai embassy in a foreign country to apply for a visa extension.
Non-Immigrant Visa or Multiple Entry Visa in Thailand
This Thai visa is often referred to as the Multiple Entry Visa. As the name suggests, it is valid for a period of 1 year. However, you can’t simply fly into Thailand and then relax for one year. Every 90 days, you must go to the border and have your visa stamped by immigration. It’s not exactly the most convenient system, especially if you live in a more remote part of Thailand That said, if you’re interested in spending considerable time in one spot, the one-year non-immigrant visa is often the best choice.
Visitors who opt for this visa must ensure their passport will be valid the entire time they are in Thailand. Applicants will also be expected to provide passport-sized photos of themselves. Images must be less than 6 months old. They must also be able to prove that they have sufficient funds to support themselves while in Thailand. Finally, they must prove that they have outward travel plans once the year is up.
Marriage Visa and Retirement Visa
If you have romance or retirement on your mind, a marriage visa or a retirement visa is probably the best choice for your particular circumstance. Whether you’re tying the knot or just settling down, your first step is to obtain a non-immigrant visa. Next, you have to convert your visa into either the marriage visa or the retirement visa. In both circumstances, these programs will allow you to stay in Thailand for a 1 year period of time (which is renewable). This saves the hassle of needing to go on visa runs to the border every 90 days.
Permanent Resident Thai Visa
You can apply for a Thai permanent resident visa for the following reasons:
- if you need to for business or employment reasons
- if you require residency for investment purposes
- if you are engaged in academic research
- for family reasons
- if you have retired in Thailand and will likely stay there permanently
In order to qualify, you must have lived in Thailand for three consecutive years with a non-immigrant visa that you’ve consistently renewed. If you’ve been married to a Thai national for at least 5 years, you must show proof of earning 30,000 Bhat a month. However, if you are single, your monthly earnings must be 80,000 Baht a month. You must also be prepared to present three years of personal tax statements.
Tips on Applying for a Thai Permanent Resident Visa
Complicating the process is a quota system operating behind the scenes. The Thai government sets a cap on how many people in any particular nationality can apply for a permanent resident visa. It’s usually capped at 100 successful applicants. As well, in past years the application process was only open for a few months at a time.
It’s not necessary to hire a lawyer to apply for a permanent residence visa. However, many applicants chose to do so. A lawyer can help you organize your documents and translate forms to ensure that nothing has been forgotten. They can also cut through some of the red tape and streamline the process as a whole.
In addition to your paper application, you will also be interviewed at a Thai Immigration Office. You will be asked questions about your documents, your background, and your religion. There is a short, 10 part multiple-choice questionnaire that the officers can help you with should you not read Thai. You will also be recorded introducing yourself in Thai. It can up to one and a half years to receive your approval letter after your application.