Long Term Visa in Thailand: Which One Is For You?
Do you love Thailand so much that you're thinking about moving there?
That sounds good, right?
But what visa do you need to stay long-term in Thailand?
Like most expats here, I had my fair 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 get the right visa to stay long-term in Thailand.
So if you're considering moving to Thailand or at least looking at options to stay there longer, here are your options.
There are a bunch of different visas that you can use to stay long-term in Thailand, with pros and cons for each.
- Tourist Visa
- Student Visa - Ed Visa
- Business and Work Visa - Non-B Visa
- Thailand Elite Visa
- Want to know more about the Thai Elite Visa?
- Family and Marriage Visa - Non-O visa
- Retirement Visa - Non-O A
- What Visa Should you Choose to Move to Thailand ?
- Single or Multiple Entry Visa?
- What Thai visa will you get ?
A 3-month Tourist Visa used to be one of the easiest ways to stay long-term in Thailand.
You apply from your home country or from one of Thailand's neighboring countries 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 a tourist visa only, leaving the country every 3 months for a visa run and coming back with another tourist visa.
That worked well for a lot of people until around 2015 when Thai 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 are exceptions of course, but keep in mind that when you get over 2 tourist visas per year, your application for a new tourist visa might get 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.
- A passport with 6 months validity or more
- A ticket that proves you're gonna leave the county at the end of 3 months (you can book something cheap on 12go Asia)
- A bank statement of a bank account with at least over 20,000 THB for the last 3 months.
Student Visa - Ed Visa
A student visa is a good way to stay for about 1 or 2 years in Thailand.
Student Visas aren't really expensive and it's a good opportunity to learn a new language (usually either learn Thai, Chinese, Japanese, or English).
You can even learn Muay Thai, or go to a university to get a degree.
It doesn’t have to be a language school.
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 statement on top of that.
I've been told by a language school that they would ask to see a bank statement with at least 5,000 USD (150,000 THB) on it.
That wasn't the case a few years ago.
If you're in Bangkok, here are two schools I can recommend to do a student 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
- A passport with 6 months validity or more
- Attend classes
- Extend your visa at the immigration every 90 days (1,900 THB)
- Pass a test at the end of your first "year" to be allowed to apply for another student visa
Business and Work Visa - Non-B Visa
A business or work visa is usually the best Thai visa to stay in Thailand for a long time.
And awesome when you're working for a company that pays for it and handle all the paperwork.
With a Non-B visa and a Work Permit, you can do pretty much everything locals can do:
- Open Thai bank accounts
- Apply for a driving license
- Get loans
But if you own the 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 costs an arm each year to cover the costs of your Work Visa.
Because unless your company qualifies for a BOI application (list of requirements), you're gonna need to employ 4 Thai nationals for each foreigner you have.
That means paying their salaries, social security (even if you got no work for them), renting an office to register the company (that you might not use), paying taxes, of course, a yearly audit, usually hiring an accountant, and much more fun stuff.
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 generates over 1,800,000 THB of revenue per year
- Pay VAT
- Have at least 4 full-time Thai employees for each foreigner working in the company
- Have an office
(I'm not sure about the income for businesses that qualify for the BOI, check with competent people)
Thailand Elite Visa
The requirements for the business visa and work permit are why many of my friends who have online businesses chose to go for the Thai Elite Visa in the last few years.
With a price starting at 600,000 THB for 5 years (that needs to be paid in full when you apply) it's definitely not for everyone.
But for anyone who spends a lot of time in Thailand and doesn't do business in Thailand, it's actually a good deal.
For this price you can come and go as you want for 5 years, open bank accounts, have a limousine that brings 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", they even have a 20 years visa for 1 million Thai baht.
That's "only" 50,000 THB a year and comes with complete peace of mind.
I wrote a whole post about it where I cover the different memberships, costs, advantages, and answer the most common questions.
I actually have a partnership with an agency that can help with the application if you're interested.
Drop me a message and I'll put you in touch with them.
- Pay the full price of the visa upfront (starting from 600,000 THB)
- Have no criminal record in Thailand and in your country of origin
- Have a clean visa record in Thailand (if you did overstay, or had issues with Thai immigration, it’s better to talk with an agent like the one I’m working with)
Want to know more about the Thai Elite Visa?
Leave me your email and I'll put you in touch with the best visa agent.
Family and Marriage Visa - Non-O visa
I guess the title is self-explanatory.
In that case, you pretty much know what you need to do to get one of those visas.
- Be married to someone Thai or have Thai kid(s)
- 40,000 THB monthly income for both partners
- At least 400,000 THB 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 THB or more each month, with a certificate from your home country. Or have at least 800,000 THB in a Thai bank account.
- A pension or income of at least 65,000 THB per month
- OR 800,000 THB in a Thai bank account
What Visa Should you Choose to Move to Thailand ?
That's a really great question and it depends 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 your Non-B visa and work permit for you.
- Want to start a business here? Think about it twice, the Thai market is tough. Start by checking if you qualify for the BOI, or get in touch with a lawyer to learn more about the process.
- 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, get a 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).
For most visas, you need to apply from outside of Thailand.
Going back to your home country is a good way to use it as an opportunity to visit your family and friends.
But most of the time, you will be doing visa runs to a neighboring 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.
If you happen to go there too, here are a few tips :
Now the application process can be a pain in the ass, especially with some Thai embassies (like the one in Paris for example).
So you can use online services that will handle the visa application for you.
The one I use now is iVisa.
Click on the button below and you’ll get 20% you visa application with them.
Single or Multiple Entry Visa?
With most long-term visas in Thailand, you will get a single-entry visa.
But in some cases, you can apply for a multiple-entry visa right away.
If you can, do it.
It cost an extra 1,900 THB usually but you can enter and exit the country as many times as you want during the validity of your visa.
If you have a single entry visa, no worries.
You can turn it into a multiple entry visa at the airport before you passed the immigration.
It cost you an extra 1,900 THB and you need to have a recent photo of you (or they make you pay an extra 1,000 THB to take a photo).
Yes, unless you're a Thai citizen.
Always play by the rules with Thai 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.
To get a tourist visa you can now apply online for an e-visa. For other types of visas, you need to apply at a Thai Embassy outside of Thailand. You can use a service like iVisa to help you with the application.
Check the requirements in detail 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 not legal advice.
Please visit official sources, visa agencies, or contact a service like iVisa for more accurate and up-to-date information.
But still, I hope that gives you an idea of what your options are and what an expat feels 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 questions, feel free to ask me anything.