Your Thai Visa — how to visit, revisit and remain in the Kingdom of Thailand
What type of Thai Visa do you need?
Thailand sees 30 million or more visitors every year. The nation is the leading global tourist destination, and one vital necessity for your visit is a visa. You must have a visa to enter the country. So, how do you get your visa?
There are several answers to this depending on where you come from, your reason for visiting, and how long you wish to stay.
The first, simplest, and easiest is a “visa on arrival”. Actually, this is not a visa, but an official exemption from requiring a visa—though most refer to it as a visa. This is a 30-day “stamp” in your passport. For many countries (certainly all developed countries) upon arrival at any Thai border crossing or international airport you will automatically receive your stamp that entitles you to reside within the Kingdom for a maximum of 30 days.
This is time enough for a package tour and for first-time visitors.
To stay longer—things become just a little more complex. A tourist visa is your next choice. A tourist visa can only be obtained at a Thai embassy— outside Thailand. This can be back home or in any other country. Acquiring the visa is a 2-day process. You must arrive at the embassy on the morning of the first day with your passport, a photo of yourself, a completed application form (available online), and then submit.
Usually an official glances over your application to ensure that all is correct before you hand it over. Return the next afternoon to retrieve your passport with your new Thai visa inside (one whole page of your passport). The tourist visa gives you 60 days in the Kingdom. With this tourist visa (check the final date to enter) you can enter Thailand at any time, but as soon as you cross the border the clock is clicking. Put the expiry date on your calendar. The good news is that in 2017 the tourist visa is free of charge.
Now, to stay longer!
A tourist visa can be extended at any Thai immigration office inside the country. The extension costs 1900 Baht (us$60) and will give you an extra 30 days. Note, for this you will need a photo and additional paperwork including an official statement of your residence.
With the original tourist visa (60 days) and the extension (30 days), you can stay for a total of 3 months. Enjoy Chiang Mai!
When your original visa expires you must depart Thailand and return with a new visa, however, the Thai government is limiting the number of consecutive tourist visas issued per person, but two or three should be no trouble.
Now, to stay even longer!
To live in Thailand for a year or more you are no longer considered to be a tourist. You move into the category of non-immigrant.
A longer stay is where it all becomes tricky. There is a lot of paperwork and visits to various government officers.
There are a few options.
If over 50 you can become a retiree. There are a number of requirements for a retirement visa. One of these is that you must have 800,000 baht in a Thai bank, about us$25,000. Or, if retirement visa does not work then there is the option of a student visa. You can enrol and study for a year. The courses on offer range from the Thai language to Muay Thai (Thai boxing) to combat classes. Take your pick.
There is also the option of working in Thailand. While it does have some appeal there is really only one job most foreigners can reliably take. This is as an English language teacher. For this, you need to be from a native English speaking country, or have a high IELTS (English proficiency) score, and be a degree holder (any degree). Find a school that suits and start the long process of obtaining a work visa.
There is also a business visa option. This requires you to invest money in the country, to hire staff, and to run a successful business. Many have successfully down this, but many have also failed. It is not an option for the inexperienced.
Marriage! If you marry a Thai national you can apply to live in the Kingdom permanently. This is perhaps too much for someone simply wanting to extend their stay in Khao San Rd, but if Cupid’s Arrow strikes this is the flip side—permanent residency in Thailand.
A few pointers when choosing a Visa
Your passport must have more than six months validity to be accepted for a visa. After you receive your visa, check it, mistakes have been known to happen. Take a photo of your visa, keep it with you. Also, if you are a tourist you are not allowed to work in the Kingdom. Your photographs—passport sized 4cm x 6cm, no glasses, look straight ahead, and no smiling!
The good news is that outside each and every Thai visa office there are enterprising locals who will photograph you, photocopy your forms, even complete the forms on your behalf, and assist you in every way, for a reasonable fee.
Also, it is possible but unlikely that you will be asked a few questions when crossing the border. For example, for proof that you will leave Thailand before your visa expires. A confirmed air ticket (or bus and train) is needed. It is also possible, but unlikely that you will be asked for proof of funds. This means at least $600 in cash. Similarly, proof of a hotel booking.
Thai visa rules change constantly, and each embassy is free to interpret the rules differently. It is a complex subject and becomes more complex the longer your stay. The resources of a visa agent may be helpful. If you decide to use one of these services ask around (Facebook and real life) for a guide.
Thailand is a wonderful destination. It can be easily and safely enjoyed. Just make your sure your visa is up to date!