Thailand Visa Information

by Rachel Devlin

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 are wanting to spend time in Thailand and are prepared to follow the ‘conditions’ of your visa, there will be no issues. Well, the red hot tip at this point is make sure your paperwork is filled out perfectly.

The only way American citizens can stay in Thailand for longer than a thirty-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

thai visa 

American citizens fall under a Visa Exemption & Visa on arrival. This means that you can visit as a tourist for less than 30 days. In saying that, there are certain requirements.

You will need:

Upon arrival, those entering Thailand under the Tourist Visa Exemption scheme must show the documents below at the port of entry:

  • Proof of adequate finances for the duration of stay in Thailand i.e. travellers’ cheque or cash equivalent to 10,000 Baht ($324) per person and 20,000 Baht ($650) per family.
  • Proof of onward travel (confirmed air, train, bus or boat tickets) to leave Thailand within 30 days of the arrival date.

If you want to spend a little more time in Thailand, you can apply for a different type of Visa outlined below.

Extended Tourist Visa (Not exceeding 60 days)

This Visa will allow you less than 60 days in Thailand with the option of multiple entries, which means that you can base yourself in Thailand but do some travel to other countries.

You will need:

  1. Your actual Passport or Travel Document. (Passport or Travel Document must not expire within 6 months and contain at least ONE completely empty visa page).
    One visa application form completely filled out  (Download)
    3. Two passport-size photographs (2″x2″) (photocopy will not be accepted). Photographs must have a light color background with a full- face view of the person without wearing a hat or dark glasses and covering up shoulders Photos must be taken within 6 months.
    4. A copy of flight confirmation/reservation , showing going from US to Thailand and leaving from Thailand (The name of the applicant must indicated clearly)
    5. A copy of  bank statement for the last 6 months with a minimum balance of $7,000 USD (every month)(The name of the applicant must indicated clearly)
    6. Hotel reservation confirmation (The name of the applicant must indicated clearly)
    7. For non-US citizen, a copy of permanent resident alien card or a copy of valid US visa
    8. A letter proof of employment ( **we don’t accept pay stubs**)
    9. For students, full-time student status proof
    10.For self-employed, business license or business registration indicating the applicant’s name.

This Visa costs $200 to process at the Thai Embassy.

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 in Thailand.

Disadvantages

You are able to apply to extend this visa for another 30 days, however approval is solely at the discretion of the Immigration Officer.

Education Visa (Non-Immigrant Visa Category ED)

thai visa info

This visa is for 90 days and is for studying purposes only. The Single Entry Education Visa will cost $80 and the Multiple Entry Visa will cost $200 to process. This visa includes children of school age and adult learners. Most people either study the Thai Language or Muay Thai (a traditional Thai fighting art) or ‘Self Defence’ (which is different to Muay Thai). Depending upon the accredited educational institution you choose, you would be asked to commit to between 15-20 hours of study per month.

Please note that the type of course that you decide to do will also require payment and that varies depending on Provence and School.

At the time of writing this, I have a friend who is attending a Self-Defence course that in actuality runs for one year. The cost of organising the Visa within Thailand and the course itself is costing around $1,133, including Immigration reporting.

What you will need:

  1. Your actual Passport or Travel Document. (Passport or Travel Document must not expire within 6 months and contain at least ONE completely empty visa page).
    2. One original visa application form completely filled out (black and blue ink only) (Download)
    3. Two passport-size photographs (2″x2″) (photocopy or photo taken from Photostat will not be accepted). Photographs must have a light color background with a full- face view of the person without wearing a hat or dark glasses and covering up shoulders. Photos must be taken within 6 months.
    4. A copy of flight confirmation/reservation , showing going from US to Thailand and leaving from Thailand (The name of the applicant must indicated clearly)
    5. A copy of recent bank statement  ($700 per person and $1,500 per family) (The name of the applicant must indicated clearly) , In case of submitting family bank statement a proof of relationship (i.e. birth certificate, marriage certificate) must be provided.
    6. For non-US citizen, a copy of permanent resident alien card or a copy of valid US visa with a letter proof of employment ( **we don’t accept pay stubs**)/ letter proof of full-time student status
    7. Originalletter of acceptance from the concerned schools/ universities or institutes in Thailand

Advantages

This visa is great for people who want to gain access and insight into the Thai culture and it 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 some people have been successful at renewing this visa for another year.

Disadvantages

There is an obvious 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 America.  Many 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!

Retirement Visa – Non-Immigrant Visa Category “O-A” (long stay)

thai residency

This is a one year visa and is for people who are 50 years old and over. The majority of expats think that this is called a Retirement Visa (and it is used for retired people). Please note that work is strictly prohibited. Click for the  application form.(Download)

Eligibility:

  1. Applicant must be aged 50 years and over (on the day of submitting application)
    2. Applicant not prohibited from entering the Kingdom as provided by the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979)
    3. Having no criminal record in Thailand and the country of the applicant’s nationality or residence
    4. Having the nationality of or residence in the country where applicant’s application is submitted
    5. Not having prohibitive diseases ( Leprosy, Tuberculosis, drug addiction, Elephantiasis, third phase of Syphilis) as indicated in the Ministerial Regulation No. 14 B.E. 2535

What you will need:

  1. Your actual Passport or Travel Document. (Passport or Travel Document must be valid for at least 18 months    and contain at least ONE completely empty visa page).
    2. Visa application form completely filled out (black and blue ink only) (Download)
    3. Addition Application form (Download)
    4. Medical certificate showing no prohibitive diseases as indicated in the Ministerial Regulation No.14(B.E. 2535) certificate shall be valid for not more than three months (Download)
    5. Two photo’s passport-size photographs (2″x2″) (photocopy or photo taken from Photostat will not be accepted). Photographs must have a light color background with a full- face view of the person without wearing a hat or dark glasses. Photos must be taken within 6 months.
    6. US or Thai bank statement or evidence of adequate finance showing a deposit of the amount equal to and not less than 800,000 Baht ($25966.00). In the case of submitting a bank statement, a letter of guarantee from the bank (an original copy) is required
    7.  Letter of verification stating that the applicant has no criminal record (verification have to valid for not more than three months and must be issued from a state or Federal Bureau of Investigation only. Online criminal record without authorizer’s signature is unacceptable )

Advantages

This visa can be applied for each year. If you organise this visa in America, you can leave the Thailand at the end of the visa, and return (border run) 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.

This visa has the capacity to apply for renewal each year.

Disadvantages

It is essential that for a renewal of this type of visa that you have the 800,000 Baht in a Thai bank for at least 6 months before you apply for a renewal. It is also important to know that during the duration of the visa that you always keep 400,000 Baht in the bank at all times. Withdrawing a minor amount could possibly impact upon the success of your next renewal. These laws are strictly adhered to.

Please note: The ‘proof of funds’ option that has been running for many years as an option (instead of putting 800 000 Thb into a bank account is no longer accepted.

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.

Be Aware

The Thai Government has been looking into the idea that all applicants for the Non-Immigrant Visa Category “O-A” to be able to provide evidence of health insurance. (At the time of publication, the information has not been released)

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 3 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 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. The most accurate information around this rare situation is found within this blog post, even though it is a little dated.

Red Hot Tip

If time is on your side, most expats recommend you visit Thailand and look at visas from inside the country. Depending on your circumstances, it may prove to be an option well worth investigating. Prices vary so it pays to shop around.