Thailand Visas Made Easy

There are two reasons why so many people get confused and feel anxious about getting visas to stay in Thailand. Plastered on visa type Facebook pages are conflicting views on where to go, what you need and what you might be eligible for. This is not surprising and the first reason for this is that there are multiple ways to get visas and the outcomes vary from province to province (if you are applying for a visa from within Thailand) and also from immigration officer to immigration officer.

The second reason is that Thai immigration has the power to deny any person applying for any visa and they are not required to give any explanation. So there are also emotional online stories of visa rejection, but don’t be put off by them. There is no need to worry! If you want to spend time in Thailand and are prepared to follow the ‘conditions’ of your visa, there will be no issues. The red-hot tip at this point is make sure your paperwork is filled out perfectly.

Now that any type of discouragement has been dashed, congratulations! You come from ‘The Lucky Country’. Well, surely one of those reasons it’s lucky is because Australians are free to visit amazing Thailand for 30 days without any kind of visa. It is known as being ‘visa-exempt’. Yet, many people love their experiences of tropical beaches, Thai culture and delicious food so much they yearn to stay longer.

The only way Australians can stay in Thailand for longer than a 30-day period is through the application of a visa. However, there are lots of visas on offer and it is important to choose the one that best suits your needs and personal context.

So here are the most popular, tried and true, successfully tested visas outlined for your easy reading.

Tourist Visa

This visa is for 60 days and is for tourist purposes only. This will cost $55 to process and you can send the application in to the Thailand Embassy in Canberra, Australia. Alternatively, you can apply in person to the Thai Consulate in your state.

What you will need:

  • Your actual Passport or Travel Document. (Passport or Travel Document must not expire within six months and contain at least ONE completely empty visa page)
  • A completed and signed application form (available here)
  • One passport-size photograph (3.5 x 4.5 cm.) taken within six months with a full-face view without hat or glasses. (Photocopy not accepted)
  • A copy of the biographic page of your passport or travel document
  • A copy of airline ticket confirming the date of your arrival to Thailand as well as your departure from the country

Advantages

The main advantage is that it is cheap to process and very easy in terms of gathering the documentation to support the application. Excitingly, if you are still having fun, you can extend your visit for another 30 days through the Thai Immigration Office.

Disadvantages

You cannot travel to other countries whilst on this visa. It is for a short stay in Thailand only. It is illegal to do any type of work, including volunteer work on this visa.

Hot Tip

If you wish to do some border hopping, but have Thailand as your base, make sure that you apply for the Multiple Entry Tourist Visa. This is also for 60 days, but costs $275 for processing. It is the same application form as the Tourist Visa but you will also need to provide the below information.

  • A copy of your airline ticket confirming the date of your first entry and itinerary showing second entry into Thailand within the validity period of visa;
  • Bank statements or evidence of adequate finances in the last six months with a minimum balance of $8,000.00.

Education Visa (Non-Immigrant Visa Category ED)

This visa is for 90 days and is for studying purposes only. The Single-Entry Education Visa will cost $110 and the Multiple Entry Visa will cost $275 to process. This visa includes children of school age and adult learners. Most people either study the Thai Language or Muay Thai (a Thai fighting art). Depending upon the accredited educational institution you choose, you would be asked to commit to between 15-20 hours of study.

©Rachel Devlin

Martial Arts Visas are very popular with twenty somethings.

What you will need:

  • Your actual Passport or Travel Document. (Passport or Travel Document must not expire within six months and contain at least ONE completely empty visa page)
  • A completed and signed application (available here)
  • One passport-size photograph (3.5 x 4.5 cm.) taken within six months with a full-face view without hat or glasses. (Photocopy not accepted)
  • Letter of acceptance from the concerned schools/universities or institutes in Thailand indicating length of stay and your field of study
  • A copy of school’s profile, registration or license in Thailand
  • Approved letter from Office of the Private Education Commission (only for the private schools)
  • A copy of the biographic page of your passport or travel document;
  • A copy of airline ticket confirming the date of your arrival to Thailand as well as your departure from the country;
  • If you are not an Australian citizen, a proof of Australia Permanent Residency Visa is required.

Advantages

This visa is great for people who want to gain access and insight into the Thai culture and is a good option for people under the age of 50. It is also possible to re-apply for a new Education Visa before your initial visa expires. Again, there is no hard and fast rule, but people have been successful at renewing this visa a few more times.

Disadvantages

There is an additional cost to pay the educational institution and it must be one that is accredited and recognised by Thai Immigration. There is also a process to ensure that participants are actually attending the educational institution, so there is no way someone can sign up and then abandon the course. This would be in breach of the visa. It is not possible to work or volunteer on this visa either.

Hot Tip

The requirement to provide proof of the institution that you will be enrolling can be difficult to manage from Australia. Most people come to Thailand as a tourist and then transfer to the Education Visa from inside the country. There are many visa agents in Thailand that can help you through this process for a reasonable price. It also gives you more time in the country, a big plus!

Hottest Tip

If you fly to Thailand on a tourist visa, you can apply for a one-year education visa. It will cost around $1,400.

Volunteer Visa

The Volunteer or NGO Visa is for 90 days and allows you to volunteer or work in any non-government organisations. This is particularly popular with people who come from teaching or police backgrounds as well as people who are passionate about animal welfare. Obviously, you need to be self-funded.

What you will need:

  • Your actual Passport or Travel Document. (Passport or Travel Document must not expire within six months and contain at least ONE completely empty visa page)
  • A completed and signed application (available here)
  • One passport-size photograph (3.5 x 4.5 cm.) taken within 6 months with a full-face view without hat or glasses. (Photocopy not accepted)
  • An invitation or acceptance letter from the concerned organization in Thailand indicating position, responsibilities and length of stay in Thailand
  • A copy of the concerned organisation’s registration or license in Thailand
  • A copy of passport or I.D. card of a person who sign an invitation or acceptance letter
  • A copy of the biographic page of your passport or travel document

Advantages

Apart from the intrinsic reward of knowing that you are helping where help is needed, you will be immersed into Thai culture at a deeper level than a tourist would ever experience.

Disadvantages

It is not possible to do ‘paid work’ on this visa. If, for some reason, you terminate your work as a volunteer, your visa is void. You would need to very quickly organise another visa or organise another visa before you left that role.

Retirement Visa – Non-Immigrant Visa Category “O-A” (Long Stay)

©Rachel Devlin

Expat Breakfast at the River Market Restaurant, Chiang Mai.

This is a one-year visa and is for people who are 50 years old and over. The majority of expats opt for the Retirement Visa. Work is strictly prohibited. Click for the application form.

Eligibility:

  • Must be aged 50 years and over on the date of submitting an application
  • Must not be a person prohibited from entering the Kingdom as prescribed by the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979)
  • Must not have criminal record in Thailand or in Australia or the country of his or her residence
  • Must have the nationality of or permanent residence in the country where the application is submitted
  • Must have no prohibitive diseases as indicated in the Ministerial Regulation No. 14 B.E. 2535 (1993) i.e. Leprosy, Tuberculosis, Elephantiasis, drug addiction, alcoholism and third step of Syphilis.

What you will need:

  • Your actual Passport or Travel Document. (Passport or Travel Document must not expire within 18 months)
  • Three completed and signed applications
  • Three passport-size photographs (3.5 x 4.5 cm.) taken within six months with a full-face view without hat or glasses. (Photocopy not accepted)
  • A completed Personal Data Form
  • A bank statement showing a deposit at the amount equal to no less than 800,000 Baht ($33,500), or an income statement (an original copy) with a monthly salary of no less than 65,000 Baht ($2,700), or a deposit account plus monthly income of no less than 800,000 Baht ($33,500) a year
  • A police name check certificate issued no longer than three months prior to submitting the application
  • A Medical Certificate indicating that the applicant has no prohibitive diseases as indicated in the Ministerial Regulation No. 14 B.E. 2535 (1993) issued no longer than three months prior to submitting the application with a rubber stamp of the concerned doctor or hospital on the certificate confirming its authenticity.

Advantages

This visa can be applied for each year. If you organise this visa in Australia, you can leave the country at the end of the visa (on a border run) and return with another whole year visa without cost. This means on the third year you would have to reapply for a retirement visa through the Thai Immigration Office. This visa is the least amount of hassle and the longest in duration on offer.

Disadvantages

The proof of income can be an issue for some. For example, just say you are going to move overseas and rent out your Australian home to use as your income. But you cannot rent it until you move and thus have no documentation to prove your income and therefore find yourself in a ‘catch 22’ situation. The solution is simple, although it will cost a few hundred dollars more to set up. If you apply for a retirement visa in Thailand, (in other words, come over on a tourist visa) you can go to the Australian Embassy in Bangkok and write a statutory declaration stating that your income is X (at least $2,700) per month. The Embassy will stamp it and Thai Immigration will accept it. Please note that it is illegal to write a false declaration. However, this solves the issue for people who are just in tight spots until their money comes in.

Hot Tip

When applying for the Retirement Visa from within Thailand, there are definitely less hurdles to jump. The police check and medical evaluation are not required at this stage when applying from within Thailand.

Permanent Residency

To be honest, I know hundreds of expats in Thailand and none have ever applied for permanent residency. This also includes expats who have lived in Thailand for over 40 years! The reason is that it is quite a lengthy process and involves a lot of paperwork.

In summary, you have to have either been married to a Thai national and/or worked in Thailand for three years. The process involves handing over all of your financial and tax information and extensive proof that you are contributing to the country.

There do not seem to be any significant advantages to being a permanent resident when compared to just living on a Retirement Visa. The major advantage is that you do not have to do 90 reporting, which is a requirement of the Retirement Visa.

For further information and clarifications take a look at the Australian Thai Embassy website.

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