What's the best visa to stay long term in Thailand ?
You love Thailand and you're thinking about moving there?
That sounds good right?
But what visa should you get to stay long term in Thailand?
As every expats here, I had my fare share of experience with Thai Visas, Visa Runs (hello again Laos and Cambodia) and the only thing I can tell you is, it's not getting easier to stay long term in Thailand.
So if you're also considering to move to Thailand or at least looking at options to stay here longer, here are your options :
- The different Types of Thai Visas
- What visa should you choose to move to Thailand ?
- Single or Multiple Entry Visa ?
- What Thai visa will you get ?
The different Types of Thai Visas
There's a bunch of different visas that you can use to stay long term in Thailand, with each their pros and cons.
A 3 months Tourist Visa used to be one of the easiest way to stay long term in Thailand.
You apply from your home country or from one of Thailand's neighbor country and you get a 60 days visa that you can extend for an extra 30 days at the immigration.
For years, people would stay on tourists visa only, leaving the country every 3 months for a visa run and coming back with another tourist visa. (I'll probably dedicate a post to visa runs, let me know in the comments if you want to learn more about it)
That worked well for a lot of people until around 2015, when the immigration started to crack down on those that were doing that and on agencies that were helping them.
Now the "rule" is no more than 2 tourist visas of 3 months per year.
There's exceptions of course, but keep in mind that over 2 tourists visas per year, your application for a new tourist visa might be refused or the immigration can stop you at the border and refuse to let you in.
That happened to a lot of people already, including a few of my friends.
- Passport with 6 months validity or more
- Ticket that prove you're gonna leave the county at the end of 3 months (you can book something cheap on 12go asia)
- Have at least 20,000฿ (In theory, the immigration could ask you to show you have at least 20,000฿ with you to support your stay. In my last visa application they asked for a bank statement. So prepare one for your application.)
Student Visa - Ed Visa
A student visa is a good way to stay about 1 or 2 years in Thailand.
Student Visas aren't really expensive and it's a good excuse to learn a new language (usually either Thai, Chinese, Japanese or English).
But be careful. Now, if you have already 2 student visas in your passport, they might refuse your next application.
Oh, and they started to ask for a bank account statement on top of that.
I want to do a Student Visa when my Work Visa is over and I've been told by a school that they would ask to see bank statements with at least 5,000$ (150,000฿) on them.
That wasn't the case a few years ago.
If you're in Bangkok, here are two schools I can recommend for students visa :
- Sandee Thai Language School, the one I used for my student visa in 2016.
- Pro Language School, used by some of my friends.
- Pay the school tuition fee
- Attend classes
- Extend your visa at the immigration every 90 days (1,900฿)
- Pass a test at the end of your first "year" to be allowed to ask for another student visa
Business and Work Visa - Non-B Visa
Probably the best Thai Visa to stay in Thailand for a long time.
Great if you're working for a company that pay for it.
With a Non-B visa and a Work Permit you can do pretty much everything locals can do.
- Open Bank accounts
- Apply for a driving licence
- Get loans
But if you own your own business, that's a whole different story.
Either you got a restaurant or a big business, and the money and the number of Thai employees you have make sense to obtain a work permit.
Or, like me, you have a business that doesn't need staff. And now it's a pain in the ass and cost an arm each year to cover the costs of your Work Visa.
Because unless your company qualify for a BOI application (list of requirements), you're gonna need to employ 4 Thai Nationals for each foreigner you have.
That mean pay their salaries, social security (even if you got no work for them), rent an office to register the company (that you might not use), pay taxes of course, a yearly audit...
Really not ideal if you're a freelancer or if you run a small business.
- If you're employed :
- Usually, have a degree or proof of a few years of experience in your field
- If you have your own business
- Have a business that generate over 1,800,000฿ of income
- Pay VAT
- Have at least 4 full time Thai employees
- Have an office
(I'm not sure about the income for businesses that qualify for the BOI, check with competent people 😉)
Thailand Elite Visa
More and more of my friends have been opting for the Thai Elite Visa in the last few years.
With a price starting at 500,000฿ for 5 years (that need to be paid in full when you apply) it's definitely not for everyone.
But for anyone who spend a lot of time in Thailand and don't work there, it actually makes a lot of sense.
For this price you can come and go as you want for 5 years, open bank accounts, have a limousine that bring you to the airport and back to your place when you arrive in the country...
I mean, there's really a ton of upsides.
And if you know you want to stay in Thailand forever, then even have a 20 years visa for 1 million baht. That's "just" 50,000฿ a year and come with a complete peace of mind.
I actually have a connection that can help with the application if you're interested.
Drop me a message and I'll put you in touch.
- Pay the full price of the visa upfront (starting from 500,000฿)
- Have no criminal record in Thailand and in your country of origin
Family and Marriage Visa - Non-O visa
I guess the title if self explanatory.
In that case, you pretty know what you need to do to get one of those visa.
- Be married to someone Thai or have Thai kid(s)
- 40,000฿ monthly income for both partners
- At least 400,000฿ in a Thai bank account for more than 2 months
Retirement Visa - Non-O A
If you're over 50 years old you can apply for a retirement visa to live in Thailand.
You will need to prove that you have a pension of 65,000฿ or more each month, with a certificate from your home country. Or have at least 800,000฿ on a bank account.
I think that they recently added health insurance as a requirement. I'll check and get back to you on that.
- A pension or income of at least 65,000฿ per month
- or 800,000฿ on a bank account
- Health insurance ?
What visa should you choose to move to Thailand ?
That's a really great question and it's gonna depend on your situation :
- First time in Thailand? Want to move there? Start with a tourist and then a student visa to build your network and find out if it's really the right place for you.
- Got a job opportunity? Cool, your employer should be taking care of everything for you.
- Want to start a business here? Think about it twice, the Thai market is tough. Are you sure you're gonna be able to make enough money to support your company and yourself?
- You're working from your laptop, a digital nomad or have money coming from overseas? Easy, grab a Thai Elite Visa.
- You're married to a Thai? Even easier, marriage visa.
- You're over 50? Go for a retirement visa or a Thai Elite Visa (if you don't want to have to renew it every year and go through a more difficult application process).
So what's the best visa for a long term stay in Thailand ?
That depend a lot on your situation.
Are you working in Thailand or not? Are you married or do you plan to get married here? Do you have children here?
In my case, now that I'm done with my company here, the student visa is a good short term solution for the next 2 years.
That should give me some time to finally learn enough Thai to get by and to save for a 5 year Elite Visa.
As I don't plan to work in Thailand but rather use it as a base as I travel and have my company and clients overseas, that make sense.
For most of the visas you need to apply from outside of Thailand.
Going back to your home country is a good way to use it as an excuse to visit your family and friends.
But most of the time, you will be doing visa runs to a neighbor country to apply for a visa at their Thai Embassy.
Visa runs can be a real pain in the ass if you have to do a lot of them, but it's still a good opportunity to spend some time outside Thailand and visit the rest of South East Asia.
Personally, I mostly go to Vientiane in Laos because it's apparently easier to get a visa there. So if you happen to go there too, here are a few tips :
Single or Multiple Entry Visa ?
Most visas you will get are single entry visas but in some case you can apply for a multiple entry visa right away.
If you can, do it.
It cost an extra 1,900฿ usually but you can enter and exit the country as many times as you want during the validity of your visa.
If you have single entry visa, no worries. You can turn it into a multiple entry visa at the airport after you passed the immigration. It cost you an extra 1,900฿ and you need to have a recent photo of you (or they make you pay an extra 1,000฿ to take a photo).
Unless you're a Thai citizen, you most certainly do.
Always play by the rules with the immigration. They have the law on their side and you don't want to be banned from the Kingdom. Forget about shortcuts or loopholes, play it safe.
The visa exemption is usually 30 days when you fly in the country and 15 days when you cross the border by land. You can get more details and check based on your country of origin here : http://www.consular.go.th/main/contents/filemanager/VISA/Visa%20on%20Arrival/VOA.pdf
To get a tourist visa you can now apply online for an e-visa. For other types of visa, you need to apply at a Thai Embassy outside of Thailand.
Check the requirements in details before you apply and if you can, use an agency to help with the whole process.
What Thai visa will you get ?
Of course, all of the above is no legal advice, please visit official sources or visa agencies for more acurate and up to date information.
But still, I hope that give you an idea of what your options are and what a local expat feel about them.
And if you want to know more about the life of an expat in Thailand, you can read more posts related to that here.
Now I'm curious to know your thoughts on that whole visa situation.
What visa are you on? What visa did you use in the past? Do you feel like it's more difficult now than it was before?
Let me know in the comments below and if you got any question, please feel free to ask.
I'll answer as soon as I sober up.