Thailand Visa The Various Types Of Visas And How You Get Them
There are many visa types, each with a different purposes. The following summary doesn’t include all the visas, just the main types of visas that Westerners tend to apply for. I have outlined the reason for issuing the various types of visa, what they are intended for and perhaps most importantly, how you can get them.
Those holding the passport of a Western country as well as some other countries are issued a 30 day entry stamp on arrival if entering the country by air and a 15 day entry stamp if entering the country at any border border point if they have not already applied for a visa at a Thai mission before entering the country. This is automatic and you do not need to fill out a visa application, pay a fee nor provide a photo. I believe the entry stamp can be extended once in-country at any Immigration office for 7 days at a cost of 1,900 baht. After that you would have to exit the country. It should be noted that in 2009 the Immigration Department introduced a new policy whereby you could only exit and re-enter the country on 4 x 15 day visa waivers. After that you had to EITHER apply for a visa at a Thai embassy or consulate outside the country OR fly into the country. This is to prevent people living in Thailand permanently on such visas.
This entry stamp is generally not considered a visa as such, but rather permission to be in the country for a 30 day period. Strictly speaking, with this type of entry stamp you are supposed to be able to show air (or rail) tickets out of the country within the period for which the visa is issued. For example, if you arrived in Thailand on December 1st, you would be issued a stamp allowing you stay until December 31st, but the Immigration officials may ask for proof of onward travel. In fact, when you board an aircraft flying into Thailand you may be asked for proof of onward travel at that point. If you are unable to provide proof (and a credit card or other means of purchasing a ticket are not necessarily accepted), then you may well find yourself being refused entry on to the plane!
The actual visas, that is a pre-approved permission to enter the country for a specific purpose for a specific period of time, come in single entry, double entry and multiple entry types (the latter means you can enter and exit the country 4 times on the one visa).
Not all visas are available in all types. For example, I have not heard of anyone getting a multiple entry tourist visa in a very long time.
There are, I believe, two types of tourist visa, single entry and double entry tourist visas. These are available for people who wish to visit the country for tourism – not for business or any type of work.
The single entry visa allows you to stay in Thailand for 60 days and it can then be extended in-country at any Immigration office at a cost of 1,900 baht. The extension given is entirely up to the Immigration officer and can be anywhere from 7 to 30 days. 30 days used to be the norm but I hear these days that the extension given may only be for 7 days.
The double entry tourist visa is similar to the singe entry except that after your visa extension, you can leave the country, literally walk across the border to a neighbouring country and walk straight back at which point you will get a new 60 days, which can then be extended one more time. At that point you have to leave the country as the visa will have expired.
When applying for any of the Non-Immigrant visas, you need a valid passport with adequate time remaining before its expiry, a 4×6 cm photograph and documentation supporting your application. I am not going to list all the documents required because every consulate and embassy seems to ask for different things! You are better off asking at the embassy / consulate just what it is they require.
There are a number of Non-immigrant visas, more than 10 in fact. I am only going to summarise the most common 3.
Non-Immigrant B visa
The “Non-Immigrant B visa” is for business purposes. If you wish to conduct business in Thailand, this is the visa you need. Also, if you wish to work in Thailand, this is the visa to apply for. Once you have this visa and have entered Thailand, you can then go through the steps and jump through the various hoops in the process of applying for a work permit.
If you are going to be in Thailand for the purpose of business, you will need, at the minimum, a letter from your employer / company explaining the purpose of your business. You *may* be required to furnish further documentation and an embassy official feeling particularly officious might ask for everything from a letter from the company you will be dealing with in Thailand to your company and your Thailand contact company’s registration documents. These are not often requested….but you never know!
In the case of an individual who has been offered employment in Thailand, usually a letter to the embassy explaining that you have been offered a position of employment will suffice but again, sometimes, more can be required. If you have yet to be offered a position of employment in Thailand but wish to seek employment in Thailand, you could write a letter to this effect. A visa may be issued or it may not – it all comes down to the embassy’s discretion.
Non-Immigrant Ed visa
This visa is for those who wish to study in Thailand. A number of language schools advertise this visa as being available for the students who take their courses.
To apply for this visa you will need a letter from the language school and various other documents, all of which they will provide for you.
I have never heard of anyone being able to successfully apply for a visa of this type themselves without assistance from a recognised or certified school. Simply writing a letter stating that you wish to go to Thailand and study, even if genuine, does not seem to be accepted – which is a real shame. I guess they are scared of abuse and thus require documents from the school itself.
If the visa issued is multiple entry, as it would be in the case of someone studying language for a year, there would be a requirement to exit and re-enter the country every 3 months.
Non-Immigrant O Visa
The “O” stands for other. This is the visa to apply for if you are retiring in Thailand or wish to get a one year visa based on being married to a Thai national.
In the case of an applicant applying for an O visa on the basis of being married to a Thai national, the original marriage certificate needs to be provided and they may well ask for copies of your wife’s ID card and perhaps her family’s house registration papers. I have also heard of at least one embassy that REQUIRES photographs from the wedding ceremony IN THAILAND. I kid you not. If you got married outside of Thailand or got married in Thailand but did not partake of a typical Buddhist Thai wedding ceremony, then things might get tricky. (And once in Thailand when you wish to extend the visa from 3 months to a year you require photos of you and your wife in the family home!)
In the case of applying for an O visa on the basis of retiring in Thailand, you must be 50 years of age or older and be able to show either an income of 65,000 Thai baht per month or a bank balance of 800,000 baht. It used to be that this needed to be a bank balance held in Thailand but now it seems that it is unnecessary and that if you have the equivalent in funds in an overseas bank account along with a letter from your embassy verifying this then that is ok. <It has to be said that a number of readers have emailed me and told me that this is wrong but I have to weight that up against the fact that one friend had his visa granted in exactly this way – so it seems to be a rule that is enforced on the whims of the Immigration official you deal with!> IT should also be noted that the money in a Thai bank account should have been there for at least three months prior to the visa application being submitted. One is also supposed to provide a medical certificate but this doesn’t always seem to be asked for.
* It should be noted that the old “investment visa” whereby you brought in 3 million baht into the country and invested in property, bonds or whatever, still exists, but in a different form. You now require a 10 million baht investment, but I have heard of few foreigners actually choosing that as a means to stay in Thailand. 10 million baht is in excess of $300,000 at today’s exchange rates and with term investment interest rates exceeding 5% available in some Western countries (New Zealand for example), it is hard to justify investing such a sum in Thailand with little guaranteed in the way of return. If you choose to go the investment visa route, I would get in touch with your nearest embassy, consulate or branch of the Thai Immigration department.
** There are various other visas available such as a specific visa for missionaries, visas for highly skilled workers, visas for journalists etc, but these are less common and my knowledge of them is limited, hence I have chosen not to include anything about them here. If you have specific knowledge AND experience with such visas, do let me know and perhaps we can add something to the info here.