Fri 25 Jan 2008
If you intend to come to Thailand for less than 30 days, you do not need to pre-arrange, or apply for a visa, before you travel. However you will need a confirmed onward travel document dated within that 30 day period, and leaving by air. Overland exits from Thailand rarely qualify - a flight-ticket does. Your airline may not allow you to ‘board’ if you have neither a visa, nor an onward ticket within the 30-days.
The following is the current position regarding ‘Visa Waiver Entry Permits’ (mistakenly called 30 day visas):-
Nationals of countries which have special arrangements with Thailand (this includes most EC/US/Aust/NZ nationals) can enter Thailand for simple tourist purposes for a stay not exceeding 30 days without the need for a pre-arranged visa provided they can show a confirmed international flight taking them directly out of Thailand within 30 days of arrival. Nationals of certain countries must arrive in Thailand with a visa whatever their length of stay. At the point of entry into Thailand, Immigration Officials will stamp a visitors passport and grant them a stay of 30 days. Upon expiry of their stay visitors must leave the country or risk a heavy fine and/or imprisonment. This type of entry is either 1) Visa Waiver, or 2) VOA - Visa on Arrival (depending on nationality).
Since 1 October 2006 the situation has been complicated:- Those planning to enter Thailand utilising the ‘visa waiver’ (30-day stay method) will have to comply with another criteria. This criteria is NOT new, but has been largely ignored in the recent past. When you first enter Thailand using the 30-day method, a 6 month time-line period will start for you. During that 6 months you will be allowed to enter Thailand several times up to a total aggregate stay of 90 days. When 90 days is reached you must leave Thailand for the remainder of the 6 months - OR - return to Thailand using a different visa entry method.
The purpose of these adjustments to the policy is to stop perpetual tourists from living in Thailand with no visa arrangement.
This does not affect you if you arrive with any current visa already stamped in your passport.
If you intend to stay longer than 30 days, you need to get a visa BEFORE arrival - usually from a Thai Embassy or Consulate in your ‘home country’.
A visa is simply - ‘permission to come to Thailand, with the intention of staying more than 30 days’ - There are various types of visa for different lengths of stay, and reasons for stay. You do not need an onward travel document when you have a visa, although you may have problems with the airline check-in staff insisting that you do. Please be patient with the airline staff, they cannot possibly remember all the different visa regulations for all the countries they deal with. A righteous attitude with a member of ‘check-in’ staff may earn you that seat allocation you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. I’m sure you know the one!
All visas have a life - a ‘Use By date’ - when they are stamped in your passport. The date of expiry of that visa is shown on the visa. This is the ‘validity of the visa’ (not the permitted length of stay in Thailand). Your visa must NOT have expired for entry into Thailand, even if you have never used it.
Tourist, and Non-Immigrant Visas typically have a ‘Use By’ date in your passport of 3 months. This means you must travel to Thailand within 3 months of your visa being stamped into your passport in order for it to work. Multiple versions of a visa do have a longer life.
The ‘Use By’ life of a visa in your passport should not be confused with how long you will be allowed to stay in Thailand. You may enter Thailand as late as just 1 day before the ‘Use By’ date, and still stay in Thailand the full amount of time allowed under the visa type. Therefore do not apply for your visa too long in advance of your travel.
Different visas allow different lengths of stay in Thailand. Typically 60 days for a ‘Tourist visa’, and 90 days for a ‘Non-Immigrant visa’. Often a visa can be purchased with more than a ‘one-time’ use, e.g. a ‘triple-entry’ tourist visa (allowing 3 separate visits to Thailand), or a ‘multi-entry’ non-immigrant visa (allowing unlimited entries over a given time), without the need to visit a Thai Embassy or Consulate each time you wish to enter Thailand. Although the total time allowed to stay may be similar, the purposes of the visits are different.
You may not qualify for all visa types - they may be dependant on age, gender, educational qualifications, health, financial status, marriage status, past history in Thailand.
It is usually not possible to challenge, or change, a decision by an Embassy or Consulate in any country, or Immigration Official in Thailand. You are a ‘guest’ here, and they can choose to allow you to come, stay or leave. However you can ‘appeal’ a refusal of visa and request an explanation, but you may not always get it.
To stay beyond the date granted by Immigration is a very serious criminal offence. You become an ‘Illegal Alien’, and the penalties include fines, jail and deportation. Recently ‘Visa Run’ transports to the border have been checked by Police at the roadside. Anyone found not to have a ‘current permission to stay stamp’ is arrested. Often Police visit Hotels, Guest Houses and late-night tourist venues to check for drugs, anyone found not to have a ‘current permission to stay stamp’ is arrested.
NOW FOR AN “IN DEPTH” LOOK AT VISAS
(remember you DON’T need to understand ALL of the following, just the rules that apply to your needs - ask yourself, how long do I intend to stay in Thailand - ask yourself, how often do I intend to visit Thailand - then look up the rules for that particular type of visa)
WHAT IS A VISA? - How does it work?
Entry into Thailand, by a document issued in a foreign country is termed a VISA, obtained from a Thai consulate or embassy abroad.
Entry into Thailand without a VISA, permitted at many ‘ports of entry’ for thirty (30) days, is with a document termed an Visa Waiver ENTRY PERMIT.
As explained by immigration on their website, VISAS are the sole province of Consulates and Embassies, entities attached to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Entry into Thailand, deportation and regulation of the length of your stay, including entry and re-entry permits, are the province of the Department of Immigration, a Police Agency.
It is important to understand that these two departments are different and separate. Embassies outside Thailand cannot guarantee length of stay in Thailand. This is the job of the Immigration Police. A lot of good information is available from both sources, and both try to smooth the way for visitors. However it is possible to change your visa entry type, under special circumstances, to allow a different length of stay, here in Thailand.
Think of the purpose of a visa as being two-fold. a) it allows you to travel to Thailand for a stay in excess of 30 days, and b) it tells the Immigration Officer at arrival how long you are authorised/permitted to stay, although this Immigration Officer has final control over this decision. The Officer will stamp two dates in your passport - the date you arrived, and the latest date you must leave by. If you are not sure ask the Officer when you must leave Thailand. Basically this is 60 days with a ‘Tourist Visa’, and 90 days with a ‘Non-Immigrant Visa’. Please remember the day you arrive is ‘day 1′ - also think in terms of 60 days, not 2 months! Do check these dates at the time they are stamped. Do not assume they are as you anticipate. Mistakes can happen - it is your responsibility to check.
The visa you acquire in your passport (outside Thailand) contains three quite different elements:
1. It’s ‘life’ (Use By Date) (the limited period during which you may use it).
2. How many times can you use it, during it’s ‘life’ (e.g. single-entry - - double-entry - - multi-entry).
3. Visa type - indicating how long you should be permitted to ’stay’ in Thailand upon arrival. (’T’ = 60-days, ‘O’ = 90-days, ‘B’ = 90-days)
You can ONLY get NEW visas OUTSIDE Thailand. Your ‘home country’ is usually the easiest. Many Embassies/Consulates in other countries (particularly bordering Thailand) will no longer issue multiple-entry visas to foreigners of any age.
So, there are basically two ways to come to Thailand. a) No visa - for a total of 30 days, and b) with a visa for a longer period.
Please remember ALL visas are ‘temporary’, they do not allow you to ‘live’ in Thailand forever. Many people think they can come to Thailand without a visa and stay forever - you cannot!
The following visas are designed for temporary, short visits, but ‘permission to stay’ MAY be convertible (in Thailand) for longer - up to 1 year at a time.
Tourists wishing to visit Thailand for any length of stay without a pre-booked/confirmed air ticket out of Thailand must obtain a Visa prior to arrival in Thailand.
Tourists wishing to visit Thailand for a stay in excess of 30 days must obtain a Visa prior to arriving in Thailand.
[in other words - for a single stay up to 30 days, you simply arrive at the airport in Thailand, and provided you come from an approved list of countries, and have an onward reservation confirmed, you will receive ‘permission to stay’ FREE for a further 29 days. You can usually extend this permit once for 7 days (1900 baht) on application to any Immigration Office. Then, ON EXPIRATION YOU MUST LEAVE Thailand]
TOURIST VISA. 60 day stay obtained from external Embassy or Consulate. (an extension is allowed - one time)
At the point of entry into Thailand, Immigration Officials will stamp a Tourist visitor’s passport granting them a single stay of up to 60 days. It may be possible to extend a stay but only with the approval of the Thai Immigration Bureau and should not be relied on. Upon expiry of the stay visitors must leave the country or risk a fine and/or imprisonment. Possession of a further valid entry on the visa entitles the tourist to re-enter for a further stay of up to 60 days.
There are four entry options for Tourist Visas:-
a) Single Entry — The ‘life/validity’ of this visa is 3 months from date of issue and allows a visitor to enter Thailand for a single period of up to 60 days after which they must depart. A further visit will require another visa which can only be obtained outside Thailand.
b) Double Entry — The ‘life/validity’ of this visa is 6 months from date of issue and allows a visitor to enter Thailand for one period of up to 60 days after which time they must leave the country. They can then re-enter for a further stay of up to 60 days. On expiry of the second stay they must depart and cannot return without a new visa which can only be obtained outside Thailand.
c) Triple Entry — Same principle as for Double Entry except that it allows for up to three visits within a period of 6 months.
d) Quadruple Entry (not always available) — Same principle as for Double Entry except that it allows for up to four visits within a period of 6 months - this is generally the maximum.
[in other words - each entry is valid for 60 days, and can be purchased in units of 1, 2, 3 or 4 (i.e. 3 separate trips to Thailand over the fixed ‘Use By Life’ of the visa.
Leaving Thailand without a specially pre-arranged ‘Exit/re-entry permit’ terminates your visa (whether expired or not), re-entry to Thailand requires a new visa. So, crossing a border (in both directions) will terminate one ‘trip’ & create a new ‘trip’).
You can extend each stay once (usually for 30 days - costing 1900 baht) on application to any Immigration Office, but do NOT rely on this.
NOTE: The total ‘Use By Life/validity’ of this type of visa varies dependant on the number purchased, 1 = 3 months, 2, 3 or 4 = 6 months. This is the ‘fixed’ time you may use the visa, not how LONG you may STAY.
[In UK (consulates, not embassy) 4 units are available = 6 months total life]
[So, every day the visa sits in your passport BEFORE you arrive in Thailand does not change the ‘permitted dates of use’ written on the visa, although this may well effect your total time allowed in Thailand with a multiple entry type. These dates are ‘fixed’, and cannot be changed later.]
No proof of finances is currently needed to obtain this type of visa in your ‘home’ country, and is available at any age. Availability rules in other countries may vary.
NON-IMMIGRANT VISA. 90 days ’stay’ obtained from external Embassy or Consulate. (Can be converted to ‘long-stay’ fairly easily if you are over 50 years of age, or legally supporting a Thai national)
The following is the current position regarding Non-Immigrant Visas:-
Anyone wishing to visit Thailand for purposes other than tourism must have a Non-Immigrant Visa stamped in their passport before arrival in Thailand. At the point of entry to Thailand immigration officials will stamp a Non-Immigrant visitor’s passport granting them a single stay of up to 90 days. It may be possible to extend a stay but only with the approval of the Immigration Bureau and should not be relied on. Upon expiry of the stay visitors must leave the country or risk a heavy fine and/or imprisonment. Possession of a further valid entry on the visa entitles the traveller to re-enter for a further stay of up to 90 days, etc.
Among the 13 categories of Non-Immigrant Visa are the two most popular types available:
a) Category ‘O’ for travellers wishing to visit relatives/friends living in Thailand.
b) Category ‘B’ for travellers with business in Thailand.
There are two entry options for Non-Immigrant Visas:
a) Single Entry — The validity of this visa is 3 months from date of issue and allows a visitor to enter Thailand for a single period of up to 90 days after which they must depart. A further visit will require a new visa which can only be obtained outside Thailand.
b) Multiple Entry — The validity of this visa is 12 months from date of issue and allows a visitor to enter Thailand on as many occasions as required for stays of up to 90 days each (unless extended) within the validity of the visa.
[in other words - a single entry non-immigrant ‘O’ visa allows you to stay in Thailand up to 90 days, and may be extended locally for 1900 baht]
[and — for a multi-entry non-immigrant ‘O’ visa, when the trip is over and you must leave Thailand, a simple ‘border run’ will allow a further stay of 90 days - etc, etc. Because it is a ‘multi-entry’ type, this procedure can continue throughout the ‘Use By Life’ of the visa (usually 1 year). The start date of the ‘life’ is when the visa is placed in your passport, not the date of first entry into Thailand) and allows as many entries into Thailand as you like during that 1 year period. Your FIRST 90 days will start with a date stamp in your passport upon arrival in Thailand, and each entry’s expiry date (89 days later) may be extended at an Immigration Office in Thailand, for a short period (usually 7 days), at a cost of 1900 baht. Then you must leave Thailand, or travel to a border - cross - and return. Thus your next 90 day period starts - etc. Your LAST 90 day period may have to be adjusted to agree with your original visa’s expiration date. (this varies by Immigration Officer at your entry point)
*DO NOT SEND YOUR PASSPORT UNACCOMPANIED TO ANOTHER COUNTRY FOR A NEW VISA, IT IS ILLEGAL AND EASILY EXPOSED - THE CONSEQUENCES ARE DIRE*
NOTE: Trips from Pattaya to the nearest border currently cost around 2200 baht for an ‘all-in visa run’, which should produce a ‘new 90 day stay’ stamp (for a multi-entry-non-immigrant-O’). If you have this multi-entry ‘O’ type it makes sense to do ‘visa runs’ to the border instead of seeking an extension at an Immigration Office (office gives 7 days - border gives 90 days - same price!).
Some financial ‘proof’ may be required to get this visa from an Embassy or Consulate in your ‘home country’, depending on age (maybe a Bank statement) (enquire from Consul). (currently, PEC members get a discount with some ‘Border Run’ companies in Pattaya)
Upon expiry of the ‘O’ visa originally stamped into your passport, getting another NEW ‘O’ visa requires you leave Thailand and go to an Embassy or Consulate in another country. Seeking a new visa in countries bordering Thailand is usually not successful. Most folks return to their ‘home’ country for this new visa. With the advent of increasing international security, the issue of visas is coming under increased scrutiny.
IMPORTANT. A multi-entry ‘O’ visa does NOT allow you to stay in Thailand for 1 year (a very common misunderstanding). It only allows you to VISIT Thailand multiple times WITHIN a 1 year period. Only a ‘retirement extension’, or a ’spousal support extension’, allows you to STAY in Thailand for 1 year, and is only available in Thailand as an ADD-ON to an ‘O’ visa.
A MULTI-ENTRY ‘O’ visa simply allows you to VISIT Thailand, for up to 90 days, AS MANY TIMES AS YOU WISH in 1 year. VERY DIFFERENT!
At the expiry date of EACH entry of a ‘multi-entry’ type you must leave Thailand. It is designed for a frequent traveller to Thailand, not a resident. You will find the date you must LEAVE Thailand stamped in your passport on arrival in Thailand, (probably next to the blue/white TM6 departure card stapled to a page).
You don’t have to return to your ‘home’ country if you have this ‘Multi-entry O’ type of visa, you just need to ‘leave’ Thailand. Many folks make a day-trip to Cambodia (or any neighbouring country - Burma, Laos, Malaysia), thus activating another of the ‘multi-entries’ available with this ‘multi-entry O’ visa. Thriving ‘Visa Run’ businesses exist in many tourist areas, some in the Pattaya area give PEC members a discount. They are legal as they only take you to a border & give advice. They cannot get a visa for you - you must do this in person.
One last point. Most ‘O’ visas are stamped to specifically exclude WORKING in Thailand without a ‘work-permit’. There is no exception to this rule. A ‘work-permit’ is required to WORK in Thailand and may be available if you qualify.
Since June 2006 it is possible to upgrade a 30-day entry stamp (or a Tourist Visa entry stamp) (or a Non-Imm ‘O’ Visa entry stamp) into a full 1 year extension for qualifying nationals at certain Immigration offices. This would (for example) allow you to get a 1-year extension for ‘retirement’ purposes, provided you qualify for all the steps (see below). Currently only major Offices can achieve this in-house, Pattaya’s local office at Soi 5 Jomtien, is one that can do this. To apply you must have 21 days remaining on your current entry stamp, and may take a while to finalise. If you leave the country during the process it will be cancelled unless you tell Immigration and obtain a special permit. Your required financial amounts in baht must be maintained during the whole process otherwise your application will fail. (Note: even if you arrive on a 30-day entry stamp, you will be allowed to stay for the required waiting period, in order to qualify)
ONE YEAR ‘EXTENSION’ FOR A NON-IMMIGRANT ‘O’ VISA.
When in possession of an ‘O’ visa (either single entry, or multiple), if over 50 years of age, or legally supporting a Thai national, obtaining a ‘1-year’ extension (officially classified a retirement extension, or spousal extension) is fairly straightforward and can be obtained locally at the Immigration Office for 1900 baht. This is where the ‘money in the bank’ part raises it’s ugly head. In order to qualify for a 1yr ‘extension’ for retirement purposes, you will need to show an official Bank letter confirming a Thai bank statement in the amount of at least 800,000 baht. You may be required to show confirmation from your Embassy as to your ‘Wish to retire in Thailand’, and (very occasionally) a recent, local, medical certificate from a government approved medical facility. This minimum Bank balance will need to be shown for 3 months prior to the extension being granted. (The medical certificate is largely redundant now and only required if you are deemed to be ‘very sick’)
The first time you get this type of ‘extension’ your current ‘permission to enter stamp’ for 90-days will be extended by 12 months. Thereafter, renewal is again for 1 complete year periods. Although an application for this type of extension may be problematic the first time (proving your qualification), upon expiry a repeat extension for one year at a time will be granted to this group of people as long as they continue to meet the requirements as earlier stated, but is at the discretion of the immigration department. Each further extension currently costs 1900 baht/year (December 2007), provided you continue to qualify, without the need to depart from Thailand at any time.
Financial requirements for issue of a 1 year extension for under 50 year olds supporting a Thai national (by marriage, maybe) is by proven combined income for husband & wife of 45,000 baht per month (proven by tax returns showing salary) + 400,000 baht in a Thai bank.
We advise nationals over 50 years to choose the ‘Retirement’ option whether married or not, as it is much simpler to qualify.
Application for a retirement visa, using income as a financial support, will require the following. Notarising (by your Embassy) of the original proof of income documents + a notarised letter stating income qualification.
In the case of the first application for spousal support, there will now be a delay for Immigration to prove ‘income’ or ‘true marriage’ over at least a 3 month period. Each year Immigration may exercise it’s right to do this.
NOTE: if you get a ‘1 year extension’ you must be aware of the consequences of simply leaving Thailand for a ‘trip’. Leaving Thailand will cancel your current visa, and your 1yr extension, and you would have to start again with a NEW visa in order to enjoy another ‘1 year extension’.
The way to safeguard your extension is to obtain a separate ‘exit/re-entry permit’ from your local Immigration office so that your current extension will be preserved and continue on your return to Thailand (a one-time use ‘exit/re-entry permit’ is 1000 baht. A multiple use ‘exit/re-entry permit’ is 3800 baht. Both permit types expire on the same anniversary date as the ‘1 year extension’). Exit/Re-entry permits are available in Pattaya Immigration Office. There is also an Office at the airport in Bangkok that provides this ‘Exit/Re-Entry Permit’. You require 2 photos, can be busy causing a delay.
Foreign single women are treated the same as foreign single men. Only when a foreign woman is married to a Thai man are the rules different. She would then not need to show independent financial security. And could get a 1-year extension based on ‘marriage to a Thai national’.
A foreign man wishing to retire to Thailand, and bringing his (foreign) wife with him as a Dependant (under 50 years), could be granted a ‘Retirement extension’ to an ‘O’ visa, but his wife would only be granted a simple ‘O’ visa which may be extended for the same period as her husband. Only one 800,000 baht would be needed, but she would have to make ‘border runs’.
If they are both over 50 it probably makes sense to apply separately, each for a ‘Retirement extension’ to their visa. This would save any ‘border runs’, but would need 800,000 baht in separate bank accounts in order for each to qualify. As they say in Thailand - Up To You!
Best advice is that an application that relies on one person qualifying has less potential future risk than an application dependant on two or more people.
The experience of many people who obtain visas outside Thailand is that a Thai Consulate is easier to deal with than a Thai Embassy. Indeed a Consulate will often operate by phone/mail in your home country.
NOTE: Do not send your passport to your home country for a ‘new’ visa while you stay in Thailand. IT IS ILLEGAL, and easily verified by Immigration. The consequences are dire!! You must possess a current passport when in Thailand, and have it available to show a Police Officer when required. Passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months upon entry to Thailand (or the total time of an extension e.g. more than 12 months for a retirement extension).
So, the bottom line is - if you are over 50 years and get the right visa to start with, you can come to Thailand for about a year (without getting a 1 year extension) before having to return ‘Home’ to get another visa, during that time all this will become a lot clearer when you attend our meetings. During that year you can apply for the ‘retirement’ extension if you wish. You certainly don’t have to make any irrevocable decisions about visas whilst in your home country, but getting the ‘right’ visa to start with can reduce unnecessary travel costs.
The last type of visa available outside Thailand I will attempt to cover here is designed for those who want to stay for long periods without the need for frequent ‘border runs’. Currently this visa is available in UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, UAE, but may be available elsewhere. (please let me know if you get one of these in another Country)
O-A (Long Stay/Retirement) Visas - obtained in your ‘home’ country before coming to Thailand.
You must apply for this type of visa only through the Royal Thai Embassy in your country. (Canada, USA, Europe, Australia may issue O-A visas from certain large Consulates as well - UK currently does not)
If you are unable to satisfy the requirements of the ‘O-A’ visa in your ‘home’ country, the only other option available to you is the non-immigrant category ‘O’ visa (maybe multiple entry) - see above - which may be extendable for up to a year, when in Thailand. The end result is very similar.
[Reports from our members say that obtaining an O-A in your home country is complex & expensive. Most say they would choose to upgrade a Non-Imm ‘O’ in Thailand as a much simpler & cheaper option. The only real advantage is that the financial requirement applies to the country of application, not Thailand, so your money can stay in your country for at least one more year - probably at higher rates of interest. But this may well be overtaken by the added cost of paperwork.]
[If you choose the ‘O’ visa route upgraded in Thailand - see above]
Basically an O-A is a ‘full retirement visa’ obtained in your home country, without the need to upgrade it in Thailand. You do need to show financial standing, medical status, and a criminal activity report - all in your home country!
An advantage is that you will better understand the requirements for such a visa as the instructions will be written locally, and the financial requirements relate to a bank account in the country of application in the first instance. Make enquiries. Be ready to receive conflicting information from different offices, as a certain amount of variation exists in the interpretation of the rules. Be patient & ‘go with the flow’. Look upon it as ‘good training’ for living in Thailand.
Sometimes this visa even comes with the added advantage of a ‘Multiple Entry’ title. This means it has the same advantage as a ‘Multi-entry O visa’ (except that the 90 day stay becomes a 365 day stay) and if you have this you will NOT need to purchase an ‘exit re-entry permit’ when going ‘in & out’ of Thailand. Not every Embassy is issuing this ‘extra’ type.
Folk who go this route often comment on the ‘hassle factor’ in their own country, rather than arriving with an ‘O visa’ and upgrading in Thailand. e.g. you don’t need a Police report in Thailand. You don’t need to have any documents ‘notarised’ in Thailand (except income/pension verification). The medical document is usually not required - a lot less than a full medical check in (say) USA. If you stay in Pattaya it’s all done locally - no long distance travel. Therefore the extra cost involved in doing this in your own country may well be more than the extra bank interest earned over a two year period by keeping your money back home, and you do have to bring money here to ‘live on’ anyway. The only real advantage to applying in your home country is the ‘multiple-entry’ aspect (if you get it!).
Some of the visas mentioned above are available in Thai Embassies in countries adjacent to Thailand. This availability is becoming less as time passes due to International Security reasons.
By-the-way, it would not be helpful to state that you are leaving your country to ‘live’ in Thailand, either to the Thai authorities, or to the Embassy or Consulate, as in order to qualify for most of these visas you will be asked to state a ‘permanent’ home-address outside Thailand. After all, a ‘T’ or ‘O’ or ‘O-A’ visa is actually only a ‘temporary’ (renewable) visa. There is no such thing as a ‘permanent’ visa. You would need a ‘Permanent Residency Permit’ or ‘Citizenship’ in order to eliminate the need for a ‘VISA’ (not a simple procedure here).
Many people ask us “How can I come to Thailand for an extended time (permanently)”. Thailand, in keeping with most other countries, does not allow foreigners to just come and ‘live’ there, unless permission is given by issuing a ‘Residence Permit’. Under normal circumstances this takes a minimum of 3 qualifying years. Before obtaining this ‘permit’, you will be in Thailand only on a ‘temporary visa’. This visa arrangement can be terminated at any time by the Immigration Police and should not be considered a ‘right’ or ‘a way of life’. At best we are ‘guests’ in Thailand, and can be asked to leave at any time.
CRITERIA FOR RETIREMENT EXTENSION (obtained in Thailand)
Initially you should apply for a Non-Immigrant (’O') visa before you enter the country from a Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad. Permission will be for 90 days for the first permit (single entry), but you can apply for a multiple type giving a maximum of a one year stay in Thailand (interrupted each 90 days by a ‘visa run’ to the border).
NOTE: If you get a 1yr ‘extension’ (to any kind of Non-Immigrant Visa) you MUST report your address to an Immigration Office every 90 days or face a fine of 5000 baht + 200 baht a day.
Requirements for a 1 year extension to an original ‘O’ visa at an Immigration Office in Thailand:
Application form T.M.7
Passport + Copies of passport or substitute document. (Passport must have validity in excess of 12 months)
Two 4 x 6 cm photos (just one in Pattaya).
1900 baht fee.
Proof of financial status or regular income (such as a pension).
[Letter from your embassy saying you wish to retire in Thailand, and confirming your overseas income if appropriate. For an applicant who is over 50 years old, proof of a sum of at least 800,000 baht in a Thai bank (bank letter) OR an income of not less than 65,000 baht per month must be presented (a combination of the two is sometimes permitted). (Remember these are ‘minimum’ amounts.) From Dec 2007 a pension confirmation letter obtained from your Embassy in Thailand must be accompanied by the original, notarised documents proving the income.] Embassy costs are in excess of 2000 baht.
The approved extension will add 12 months to your 90-day-stay stamp.
(For a foreigner married to a Thai national, the bank amount can be reduced. See below)
With all the required documents in hand, and the bank certification dated within a day or two the applicant goes to the Immigration office, the one year Retirement Visa is sometimes issued speedily, or may take up to 3 months for the first time application. This delay is for verification of your claim for qualification.
NOTE: The bank certificate of account balance (for 800,000 baht) must show that the money came into the bank from another country. (The bank will need to be able to follow the paper trail, or transfer) (It’s a great idea to ask the bank for a copy of the Telegraphic Transfer document to keep as proof of an International transfer, which would be required in order to re-transfer the money out of Thailand, later)
800,000 baht is the minimum for a man (or woman) over 50 years.
45,000 baht family income per month is required for a man married to a Thai. A Thai bank account showing a minimum of 400,000 baht is also required.
The overriding criteria is to satisfy the Immigration Officer that you have ’sufficient’ money to live in Thailand comfortably, without the need to rely on Thailand for support in the event of a big problem. Being able to demonstrate more than the minimum amount goes a long way. If you have the bare minimum and no other income, they may refuse. But if you can show the minimum + even a small regular pension, this will often suffice. They are aware that an ‘age pension’, or ‘company pension’ is ongoing. You will need to confirm an income/pension through your Embassy - remember to bring proof. The Embassy will notarise the documents.
PLEASE REMEMBER, if you have permission to stay for a ‘long’ period (e.g. a ‘Retirement Visa’ or ‘Work Permit’), you must report to an Immigration Office every 90 days to confirm your address - or pay a 5000 baht fine + 200 baht a day!
There are other Visa ‘types’ available, but they are mostly specialised (e.g. Work, Education, Investment, Religious, etc.). You would normally only need one of these after becoming familiar with Thailand for some time.
All this may sound horribly complex! But remember, you only need (and can only have) ONE visa at a time. Decide which type you need, then learn the rules for THAT visa type. It’s not really as bad as it sounds.
Some people even write to complain we don’t give enough detail - WOW!
In the UK the London Thai Embassy issues the O-A visa to qualifying applicants by personal attendance. The UK Consulates will give application details, but refer you to the Embassy for application.
The Consulates in Hull & Birmingham (UK) have recently updated their websites of very helpful information on obtaining various visas. Those applicants in UK can download forms for application by mail. (http://www.thaiconsul-uk.com) & (http://www.thailand-visa.com)
See links for Consulate addresses in the United Kingdom, USA, Australia and Europe.
Also remember - ‘Murphy’s Law’ applies! (not sure if Murphy ever came to Thailand, but I’m sure he would have loved it!) I sure do!
For individual advice, contact: Darren <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A personal experience of extending a Non-O single entry visa, to a Retirement 1 year renewable in Pattaya for the first time.
I arrived in Thailand with a ’single entry Non-O visa’ obtained from a Consulate in the UK. About 77 days later I did this:-
Day-1. I visited my bank, and arranged to pick up the letter the following day - 200 baht. I visited Soi 5 Jomtien, picked up an application form TM7 (they insisted I didn’t need two), and asked if anything had changed in the rules in the last month (it hadn’t). NOTE: the medical certificate is no longer required for the retirement extension renewal - August 2007.
Day-2. I picked up the bank letter, noticed the wrong date & got it re-written (do check!) Got 2 photo-copies of almost everything - 20 baht. Visited Soi 5 Jomtien, and left 45mins later with a 1 year extension to my non-immigrant-O visa - 1900 baht.
I also registered for the ‘90-day’ stamp at the same time - next visit 90 days later.
I took all the ‘house papers’ + the owner, but was never asked for them. I was asked how long I had lived at my address. I was asked to name my parents, and state my previous occupation, and salary in baht. I showed my Thai drivers licence to prove my address, this worked well.
The ‘One-Stop’ service system (at Soi 5) is certainly a vast improvement on the ‘old one’. I visited 2 different desks as part of the process. Very efficient. The staff were relaxed, amiable, and chatty - but business-like.
Before I left I picked up form TM8 (re-entry permit), and form TM47 (90-day reporting) ready for later.
And before you ask, I did all this without professional help - just another old Farang.
1 TM7 application form.
1 photo 6×4cm.
1 passport + 1 copy of ‘face’, ‘visa’, ‘entry card (TM6)’, latest entry stamp.
1 bank book + 1 copy of ‘name’, ‘deposits & withdrawals’ pages.
1 bank letter dated within a few days showing amount in book (no copy needed) 200 baht.
It’s a good idea to write down your parents names, and your profession + salary (needed 1st time only).
My 1-year renewals for ‘retirement purposes’ have been completed - total time at office 1 hr, and a return trip to pick-up passport later. (if you take the list of items stated above for the renewal, you will have everything required - renewals only need one photocopy for each original) (if you take exact money, there will be no problem with change!) NOTE - medical exams & certificates are no longer required - August 2007.
My last ‘90 day address confirmation’ notification at the Immigration Office on Soi 5 Jomtien Beach Road took 9 minutes on a normal busy day. They tell me, soon it may be possible to do the ‘90 day’ notification by Internet.