Which Visa Do I Need To Live In Thailand?
Unless you’re fortunate enough to already have any special plans, for example a job in Thailand or a Thai wife, then before you leave for Thailand, you will most likely need to apply in advance for a tourist Thailand visa. Usually, if vacationing to Thailand then there is no need to worry about visas before leaving… a 30 day tourist stamp can be obtained on arrival in Thailand under these circumstances. However, if you are moving there for the unforeseeable future, then it is quite likely you will be entering Thailand on a one-way ticket and this can cause problems at immigration – or more so with the airlines anyway.
See, officially, if you do not have a Thailand visa beforehand, then you need proof (i.e. a return ticket or train ticket) that you will be departing Thailand. Therefore if you are planning on moving to Thailand, it is advisable to apply for a visa at least a month before leaving just to be safe. The easiest visa to apply for is a tourist Thailand visa – available as single, double and multiple entry – it is possible to stay in Thailand for up to six months on this visa just as long as you exit and re-enter every 60 days (apparently you can even stay for a year at the discretion of the embassy you apply at – apparently the Hull consulate can arrange this for you).
However, if you are planning on changing your visa (see visas listed below) shortly after you get to Thailand, then a single entry visa will suffice. I have found the most uselful source of information for this to be the Hull consulate:
Alternatively, instead of applying for the tourist Thailand visa, you can apply for the exact visa that you require before travelling to Thailand. Or, after you have obtained your tourist visa in your home country and arrived in Thailand you can then apply for one of the following visa types:
Non-Immigrant Category B Thailand Visa
- Conducting business in Thailand as an employee of a non Thai company
- Taking up employment in Thailand with a company located in Thailand
- Undertaking a vocational training course (teaching, diving, boxing, etc)
Non-Immigrant Category ED Thailand Visa
- Studying in Thailand
- Taking part in a work study/observation tour in Thailand
- Participating in a project or seminar in Thailand
- Attending a business conference or trade fairin Thailand
- Attending as an official at a recognised event in Thailand
- Studying as a Buddhist Monk in Thailand
Non-Immigrant Category O Thailand Visa
- Married to a Thai national
- Visiting family working/living in Thailand
- Volunteer work in Thailand
- Visiting Thailand as Pensioner
- Visiting Thailand as retired person aged 50 years and over
I don’t have a job and I don’t have a Thai wife! So which visa is best to live in Thailand for as long as possible?
Option 1: In my opinion, for those like myself, who have no particular skills to get a permitted job in Thailand, and aren’t particularly interested in teaching English, then the educational visa is probably the easiest option for staying in Thailand long-term. Also, once you have obtained the Ed Thailand visa, you don’t need to cross the border to do visa runs, which may get irritating. For this visa, you have two options – you can either apply for a tourist Thailand visa before you leave for Thailand, then find a school to join once you get there. The school will sort your paperwork out for you within a few weeks, after which you will need to leave the country (just a neighbouring country such as Laos) to change your Thailand visa to Non-immigrant ED at a Thai embassy.
Alternatively, you can join a school online from your home country before travelling to Thailand; they will post you the necessary paperwork within about a month and sort everything out for you so you won’t need to leave Thailand once you get there. Basically you have to apply for an ED visa outside of Thailand – whether it’s your home country or crossing into a neighbouring country.
If the ED Thailand visa issued is multiple entry, there would be a requirement to exit and re-enter Thailand every 9o days. If the visa issued is single entry, you can stay for a year without having to do any visa runs. You can always apply for permission to leave and re-enter at the Thai Embassy for a small fee. For anybody who wishes to stay in Thailand for the long-term, most language schools will be able to allow you to study for up to 3 years on an ED Thailand visa. After living in Thailand for three years, it is possible to apply for permanent residency.
Joining a school in Thailand will generally cost between 18000 and 40000 baht for a year. The cheapest I have found so far is www.sandee.ac.th at a cost of 18000 baht.
Option 2: Can’t be bothered with all this boring Thailand visa stuff? Some people will opt to stay in Thailand illegally, without a visa. If you are caught doing this then you can be sent to prison and fined, maybe even banned from the country in extreme cases. However in many cases, as long as you hand yourself in with your passport at immigration first, you will get away with just paying a fee. The maximum that they can charge you is 20,000 baht so whenever you are ready to leave Thailand, be it maybe 2 years say, just admit your ‘Overstay’ and have the cash ready to hand over. Easy really (depending on how laid back you are), just not so good if you get caught first…
N.B. Immigration rules are constantly changing. Even though I know people who have stayed in Thailand this way, rules can always change and punishments can always become harsher!
Learn more about Thailand Visa Extensions with my guide and checklist here