Thailand, with its pristine beaches, lush jungles and rich Buddhist culture, is undeniably an attractive country to visit and live in. At first glance, maneuvering through the consular bureaucracy and understanding which Thai visa is right for you may seem daunting, but hopefully, this post will help.
Pretty much everyone in the world will need a visa when entering the Kingdom of Thailand. To begin, let’s break down the visas into three categories: Tourist Exemption; Tourist; and Non-Immigrant.
Thai Tourist Visa Exemption
At the time of writing, citizens of these countries will be issued a visa exemption, free of charge, upon arrival in Thailand. If arriving by air, you’ll be granted 30 days to stay in the Kingdom. If crossing the border overland, you’ll get 15 days.
Any valid Visa On Arrival may be extended for 7 days at an immigration office in Thailand for a fee of 1,900 THB.
Thai Tourist Visa
If you’re planning on staying longer in Thailand, the next visa option to consider is a Tourist Visa. The basic Single-Entry Tourist Visa, offered at all Thai consulates and embassies, will allow you to spend 60 days in Thailand, which can be extended for an additional 30 days (1,900 THB).
Most consulates/embassies for Thailand in Southeast Asian countries only accept applications for Single-Entry Tourist Visas, with the except of Vientiane, Laos, which offers Double-Entry Tourist Visas. Each “entry” of a Thai Tourist Visa permits you to stay 60 days in the country, plus an extra 30 if you choose to extend it. So, a Double-Entry visa can technically give you 180 days of living in Thailand (60 + 30 days on the first entry; leave and return to Thailand – e.g. “border run” – to activate your second entry, and receive another 60 + 30 days).
Thai Non-Immigrant Visa
Although there are a number of different classes of Non-Immigrant Visas, the two main ones for most expats in Thailand are “B” and “O”. If you plan to work in Thailand, you will require a Work Permit, a pre-requisite of which, is a Non-Immigrant Visa.
Non-Immigrant “B” Visas allow you to work in Thailand for financial gain. In order to apply, you must have proof that a Thai company has hired you. Even if your new employer is helping with the application process, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with all the necessary required documents of the specific Thai consulate/embassy where you’ll be applying. It’s possible that one consulate will need 2 photos and one set of passport photocopies, whereas a consulate in another country may require 3 pictures and two sets of signed copies.
Non-Immigrant “O” Visas are multi-faceted. Applications are received from foreigners married to Thai citizens (Spouse Visa), retirees enjoying their post-employment days in Thailand (Retirement Visa), as well as people working for non-profit organizations that do not receive any official salary (Volunteer Visa). The requirements for an “O” visa differ greatly depending on why you’re applying, so pay attention to what you need. Check out the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mfa.go.th) for current requirements.
For both “B” and “O” classes, most Thai consulates and embassies in Southeast Asia will only accept applications for Single-Entry Non-Immigrant Visas, which will give you 90 days in Thailand. Some consulates farther away from Thailand will accept applications for the coveted 12-Month Multi-Entry visa. If working in Thailand, these 3 months will give you time to apply for and receive your work permit from the Ministry of Labor. At the end of this initial 90 days, your Non-Immigrant Visa can then be extended at an immigration office in the country, ranging from 3 – 9 months, provided you have the required documents, for the standard extension fee of 1,900 THB.
- If you overstay your permitted time in the Kingdom of Thailand, you will have to pay a fine upon your departure of 500 THB per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 THB. If you only stay one day past your allowed time, the officer at exit immigration might let you go without paying, but certainly don’t expect it.
- Overstays also apply if you carry a Non-Immigrant Visa. Every 90 days, you must either check in at your nearest immigration office and complete a 90 Day Report, or go on a vacation and leave the country, so that when you return, you will be forced to complete a new Arrival & Departure Card that will be stapled into your passport.
- For any and all applications and check-ins, be sure to have signed copies of your passport (photo page, page containing the current Thai visa, and Departure Card). Bringing passport-sized photos with you will never hurt, so we try to keep those well-stocked.
- Most often, you’ll find a small place offering photocopying and photo services near consulates and immigration offices.