Foreigners visit Thailand for different reasons. Certain visits require a Thai Visa, while some don’t. If you intend to stay long-term, this in-depth guide contains a comprehensive guideline, a list of useful resources, and up-to-date procedures for Thai Visa application services.
You can visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand website for general visa information. If you are looking for detailed info, including which visa option is best for your intended stay, and processes like extending a visa, changing one visa type to another, and more, this guide can help.
The information in this guide is sourced from credible news sources, Thai agency websites, forums, Facebook groups, interviews from visa experts, fellow expats’ experiences, and my personal experience as a tourist, then as an expat.
Update: Since I originally published this article, a lot of people have contacted me with questions pertaining to their specific situation. Unfortunately due to the volume of inquiries I receive, it’s impossible to provide accurate and professional input for all those messages. However, if you find yourself in a situation where it’s important to get a detailed, up-to-date and reliable assessment of your specific case, consider contacting an immigration lawyer. It’s not free, but it can save you a lot of money and headaches further down the road. Here’s one that helped out a number of readers already.
Heads up: I'm very detailed. This article is approximately a 53 minute read. No time? No worries. You can email the ad-free version of this article to yourself and read it later. This way you also have a list of required documents and references in your inbox whenever you need them.
- 1 Before You Leave Home
- 2 Visa Options
- 2.1 Tourism
- 2.1.1 Visa-exempt Stamp
- 2.1.2 Visa on Arrival
- 2.1.3 Single Entry Tourist Visa
- 2.1.4 Multiple Entry Tourist Visa
- 2.2 Employment
- 2.3 Education
- 2.4 Marriage
- 2.5 Retirement
- 2.6 Other Purposes
- 2.7 Diplomatic Visa
- 2.8 Business and Investment
- 2.1 Tourism
- 3 Extensions, Overstaying, and Visa Runs
- 4 Useful Sources of Thai Visa Info
- 5 Final Words
Before You Leave Home
Different rules apply to different nationalities, but one requirement governs everyone who’s applying for a Thai visa: a passport with at least 6 months validity.
This is a simple requirement, but some people still manage to overlook it. Overlooking this requirement is understandable if you are coming to Thailand as a tourist, but if you’re coming to Thailand for employment, education, business or investment, retirement, or for reasons that require longer stays, you must know the importance of this simple requirement.
I’m often asked by people who have scheduled flights to Thailand if they’re going to be allowed entry even with a passport that’s valid for less than 6 months. Most of them have had no trouble getting in, while some were prompted by airline staff to show their return ticket. This mostly happens with Philippine Immigration, though. But it’s just as likely to happen if you’re coming from any other country. One person’s experience will be different from another person’s, which means you can have a passport that’s only valid for 3 months and have no trouble with Thai Immigration, or you can have a passport that’s still valid for 6 months and be denied entry. When it comes to foreign immigration laws, the cardinal rule is: better safe than sorry.
Other than a passport with 6-month validity, there are no other required documents when traveling to Thailand as long as they meet the requirements of the Immigration Act of Thailand, and arrive as nationals from countries exempted from visa requirements. If you’re coming to Thailand as a tourist you’ll have the easiest of the processes.
Expats and foreigners who, for various reasons, have had to re-enter the country several times in various intervals often ask whether other requirements such as proof of onward travel are necessary. Usually, you just need to have a valid passport, but some of the following may be required under certain circumstances and for certain types of visas.
Proof of Funds
Visa on Arrival and visa exemption applicants are required to show proof of funds: 10,000 baht per person and 20,000 per family, when traveling to Thailand. For non-immigrant visas with strict financial requirements such as the Multiple Entry Tourist Visa and the Non-Immigrant Visa O-A (Retirement Visa), refer to the Non-Immigrant Visa section below for specific requirements.
Immigration officers might ask for proof of financial means based on one of the Immigration Act of Thailand’s rules regarding “Having no appropriate means of living following entry into the Kingdom.“ However, this rarely happens. Having proof of adequate funds as a means to re-enter the country has been a subject of inquiry for many. Personally, I have yet to hear of anyone actually being asked to show 20,000 baht, as this Thailand Visa Reddit thread shows.
Proof of Onward Travel
Aside from proof of funds, Visa on Arrival holders are also required to show proof of onward travel; for example, a plane ticket dated no later than 15 days from the date of entry into Thailand. Overland travel tickets by bus, train, or van, and tickets with no fixed return date do not count.
Again, with the exception of nationalities under the Visa on Arrival rule, foreigners are rarely asked to show a return ticket when traveling in and out of the country. However, if you’ve made several entries — regardless of the number of days in between each entry — there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to show this proof. Here’s one traveler’s personal experience and advice on having proof of onward travel while traveling in and around Thailand.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs requires certain nationalities to present an International Health Certificate as proof of Yellow Fever vaccination, which should be presented together with their visa application. You may also refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s in-depth guide.
Health certificates are often cited as a requirement for entering Thailand, but other than the aforementioned countries and barring any major disease outbreak similar to that of the H1N1 outbreak several years ago, foreigners are not required to present a health certificate to Thai Immigration.
These are your Thai visa options whether you’re going to Thailand for tourism, employment, education, business or investment, marriage, or retirement. Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s Consular Services page lists all the required documents, visa fees, validity period, period of stay, extension of stay, and additional requirements to obtain a visa. For a more detailed guide on your visa options, we’ve gathered all the visa options here for easy reference.
One thing to remember is that acquiring a visa in Thailand requires a lot of processes and paperwork. And rules tend to get updated regularly. Sometimes you cannot find the exact information you need, even from official websites. If you need professional help, you can use the visa service from our legal adviser. She can assist you with all visa matters, including working visas, retirement, marriage, education, and so on.
A lot of people do their regular travel to Thailand on a tourist-purpose visa or visa waiver. One reason for that being that those visas are actually very ‘powerful’ in Thailand: You can open bank accounts, sign up for health insurance and do a whole lot of other things while on a tourist visa. In the end, you should still get the visa most appropriate to your purpose of visit, but it helps to know that you can already figure out a lot of things while on a tourist visa.
The Visa-exempt Stamp, or Tourist Visa Waiver, are often mistakenly called 30-day tourist visa, visa on arrival, or tourist visa, allows eligible foreigners to stay in Thailand for 30 days without a visa. If you’re traveling to Thailand for the first time and need to know if your country is among the 57 countries eligible for a 30-day, visa-free stay, refer to this list of eligible countries in Thailand’s Department of Consular Affairs (dated April 2017 when this article was published).
In addition, if you are traveling to Thailand to attend a meeting, conference, seminar, and similar events that don’t last more than 30 days, you can opt out. However, this only applies to nationals of countries eligible for a 30-day visa-exempt stamp. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommends obtaining a visa to those who travel frequently to Thailand for meetings or similar functions, getting one may not be practical for 3-day or 2-week events. For these purposes, a visa-exempt stamp should suffice. For more information on visa requirements for meetings, conferences, trade shows, whether as an investor or participant, this guide can help.
Visa-exempt Stamp Extension
The visa-exempt stamp and tourist visas can be extended for 30 days for every entry at most Thai Immigration offices. Indian nationals, however, only get 7 days. The application procedure, requirements, and fees for extending a 30-day stay in Thailand on a visa-exempt stamp and a tourist visa are the same.
To extend your visa-exempt stamp or tourist visa, you need the following:
- 1,900 baht 7- or 30-day visa extension fee
- Passport valid for at least 6 months
- 4cm x 6cm photo, taken in the last 6 months
- Copy of passport, departure card (form TM.6), entry stamp
- Application form provided at the Immigration Office; can be downloaded from the Immigration Bureau website
- Your contact details: address, mobile or landline number
Extending your visa-exempt stamp or tourist visa is a straightforward process occasionally slowed down by queues. Queuing starts very early so be at the immigration office at least an hour before it opens. Once you’re in, go to the counter to get the necessary form, fill out the TM.7 visa extension form, and attach your photo. Proceed to the next room to get a queue number and wait to be called. There’s staff on hand to assist anyone at this point. The immigration officer might ask your purpose of stay and remind you to not overstay.
Frequent traveler and blogger Johnny Ward summarizes his experience in extending a visa on his website, which includes detailed instructions on extending a visa-exempt stamp and tourist visa.
Visa-exempt Stamp Extension Location
If you’re based in Bangkok, apply for an extension in the immigration Office in Chaeng Wattana, Monday to Friday, except holidays. Here’s one guy’s experience extending his visa, which summarizes the step-by-step procedure, requirements, and directions to the Bangkok Immigration Office.
Long-stayers in Chiang Mai can refer to Chiang Mai Buddy’s guide on extending visas. Immigration office location and directions, opening hours, requirements, step-by-step procedure, and secondhand account of applicants’ experience in extension requests are all there.
If you’re based in Chiang Rai, this guide has a map to the local immigration office and a few tips.
There are two immigration offices in Phuket where you can extend your visa: Phuket Town and Patong Beach. Travelfish covers the visa extension process in Phuket, complete with details on requirements, immigration office location, opening hours, and border run options.
Other than the locations stated above, it’s possible to extend your visa-exempt stamp and Thai visa where there is an immigration office. You can do it in the Pattaya Immigration, Samui Immigration, Korat, and other immigration offices. You can find discussions of others’ experiences with visa extensions – including 30-day, 90-day, or 1-year extension for tourist or non-immigrant visas – in the links above.
Visa-exempt Stamp Restrictions
Some tourists prefer not to get a proper visa and instead do a land-based border bounce or visa run to get another 15-day extension, or they fly out and fly back in to get another 30 days, which is why visa-exempt stamps have become prone to overuse. If this is an option you want to explore, know that Thai Immigration officers are privy to this workaround.
On December 31, 2016, Thai Immigration imposed a rule change for all countries: exiting by land border grants 30 days stay which was increased from 15 days, but can only be done twice per calendar year, meaning January 1 – December 31. Countries with a bilateral agreement with Thailand, including Laos, Macau, Mongolia, Russia, and Vietnam, whose can have 30 days per entry, and Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, South Korea whose nationals can enter for 90 days, and Malaysia are excluded from this new rule.
While you’re not exactly violating any immigration laws, abusing this privilege will eventually raise a red flag. You’re not likely going to find an official list of rules that indicate the number of times you can get away with constantly getting a visa-exempt stamp, but suspicious travel patterns will alarm immigration officials.
In case you’ve had to opt for this arrangement and are concerned about the legitimacy of your entry, this advice from Khum Amornrat Mattioli, owner of Thai Visa Service, a company that arranges and organizes visa applications and border trips to Cambodia and Laos, might help: Thai Immigration has a system in place that counts the number of entries on a passport under a visa-exempt stamp. While this system does not detect back-to-back entries, it’s designed in a way that counts the number of all the visa-exempt stamps you’ve had.
This means even legitimate tourists from Singapore who come to Thailand once a month over the course of a year will alert Thai Immigration officers around their 6th entry, even if the entry is just for one day. This does not mean, however, that you will be banned on your 6th entry. Somewhere between your 6th and 10th entry is when an immigration officer is likely to question your entry. In such a scenario, showing proof of onward travel and/or proof of financial means might help. An officer will assess the entry based on the passport-holder’s record. And from there he will decide whether you’ll be granted or denied entry.
If you’re a legitimate traveler who happens to make frequent trips to Thailand on a 30-day stamp and dutifully exit when you’re supposed to, you can expect to avoid trouble from immigration. That doesn’t mean you won’t encounter issues even if you’re certain that you’re following the rules.
Visa on Arrival
Often mistaken for the free visa-exempt stamp, Visa on Arrival is for the 21 countries that aren’t included in the 57 nations eligible for the 30-day visa exempt stamp when you arrive by air. Also, Visa on Arrival is valid for 15 days. The Suvarnabhumi Airport website lists the eligible countries, qualifications, requirements, fees, and where you can apply in the airport.
Visa on Arrival holders must also present proof of onward travel dated no later than 15 days from the date of entry in Thailand. Overland travel tickets by bus, train, and van, or tickets with no fixed return date are not considered proof of onward travel for this purpose.
The Royal Thai Embassy in Singapore website lists all Thailand Immigration checkpoints that issue Visa on Arrival where eligible countries can apply for a Visa on Arrival.
Unlike the 30-day visa exempt stamp and tourist visa, tourists with a visa on arrival cannot apply for a 30-day extension of stay unless they get sick in Thailand, in which case, the applicant can apply for a 7-day extension at the Thai Immigration office for 1,900 baht. Tourists on a visa on arrival can apply for a 15-day extension for 1,000 baht, but in case they get denied they will get an ‘Extension denied stamp,’ which would usually give them 7 days.
Single Entry Tourist Visa
A Single Entry Tourist Visa is valid for 90 days from the date of issue. It allows an initial 60-day stay and begins on the day you enter Thailand. It expires if you don’t enter within the granted validity period. If you’re not sure of the time period, see the ENTER BEFORE DATE on your visa. If you exit the country, the visa expires unless you get a re-entry permit.
Applying For a Single Entry Tourist Visa
You may only apply for a single-entry tourist visa outside of Thailand. Although, a convenient option if you’re in the country is to apply at any of the following Thai embassies within Southeast Asia:
Vientiane is a popular choice among foreigners applying for a visa as the Thai embassy in Vientiane is quite accommodating. There are 6 border crossings between Thailand and Laos, with the Nong Khai-Vientiane border being the most popular. Thai visa service companies have regularly scheduled trips to the Nong Khai/Vientiane border, which is usually an 8-9-hour van ride.
Not as popular as the Vientiane Thai embassy, the Savannakhet Thai Consulate is another option for visa applicants. Recently, visa applicants have reported experiencing being asked to show proof of funds and onward travel when applying from this consulate. On Migrationology, this guy’s explanation of the application process is pretty spot-on.
Although most expats in Thailand prefer to go to Vientiane in Laos, the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh is a serviceable alternative. Note that you have to stay in the country for at least 3 days and 2 nights while your Thai visa is being processed. In additional, Thai exmassy in Phonom Penh often asks for proof of funds, proof of onward travel, and proof of a hotel booking.
My experience when applying for a non-immigrant B visa in the Kuala Lumpur Thai embassy was painless. My application process was finished in 20 minutes. However, other applicants will certainly a have different experience. There are long queues snaking through the narrow gate of the embassy compound. But it’s not as crowded as the Vientiane embassy. The consulate is easy to locate; most taxi cabs know how to get there. But make sure you have all the requirements with you before you go because there are no photo studios or photocopying centers nearby. If you forget a copy of a document you’d have to search far and wide to find one.
Applying for a visa in Penang is a relatively pain-free experience, provided you have all the documents, including proof of onward travel, and proof of a hotel booking. I agree with this couple’s experience that applying for a visa in Penang is “easy peasy.” There are agencies in Georgetown that organize visa applications for a fee.
Unlike the aforementioned embassies, the Royal Thai Embassy in Manila is relatively crowd-free. But it’s a 3-hour flight from Bangkok and is not ideal an ideal place to apply for a Thai visa unless you’re already there.
Some of the less popular destinations for doing Thai visa runs include Singapore; Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam; Yangon, Myanmar; Hong Kong; and Bali, Indonesia. The Thai consulates in these countries have more or less the same general requirements and are worth considering if money isn’t an issue. This list of Thai visa run options provides a rough estimate on visa run costs for the aforementioned destinations.
Single-Entry Tourist Visa Extension
Extending a Single-entry Tourist Visa follows the same procedure as extending a visa exempt stamp. Please refer to the Visa-exempt Stamp Extension section above.
Single-entry Tourist Visa Restrictions
Applying for back-to-back tourist visas, while possible, raises red flags with Thai Immigration officers. According to Khun Amornrat of thaivisaservice.com, 3-5 tourist visas per passport, regardless of the place they were issued, is a safe guideline. But even if you change passports, immigration officers will be able to verify the number of times you’ve applied for a tourist visa. And, if you attempt to trick the system. For example, if you obtain a tourist visa, extend it for 30 days, do a border run, and then repeat this process or a variation of it. But be prepared for the possibility of being interrogated by an immigration officer. Again, you may not be technically violating any immigration laws, but working around getting a proper visa for long-term stays sends a signal to Thai Immigration that your stay in Thailand is not for tourism.
Needless to say, if you’re looking for a job in Thailand on a tourist visa you will have to exit the country to get a proper visa once you’re hired.
A Thai visa holder whose visa hasn’t expired and wishes to exit and re-enter the country can do so by getting a re-entry permit prior to leaving. This doesn’t pause the validity of the visa, but merely lets you exit without forfeiting your still-valid visa. Single and multiple re-entry permits can be obtained throughout Thailand immigration offices and international airports.
A re-entry permit is not allowed for Visa on Arrival holders and visa-exempt stamps. This stamp is forfeited upon exit, and you get a new stamp upon re-entry. The permit is only for single-entry tourist and single-entry non-immigrant visas. Retirement Visa holders, however, would only need a re-entry permit once they’ve received a one-year visa extension.
Prepare the following documents when applying for a re-entry permit:
- 1,000 baht – single entry; 3,800 – multiple entry (In Suvarnabhumi Airport, you may be asked to pay 1,200 baht for single entry and 4,000 multiple entry because of a certain 200 baht admin charge); Note that applying for a re-entry permit in airports is considered an emergency re-entry)
- Passport with the Thai Visa
- Copies of the passport pages with your photo ID, Thai visa, and immigration departure card (form TM.7)
- One 2″ x 2″ passport photo
- Filled out re-entry permit form (TM.8)
It takes at least 45 minutes to apply at the airport. While it shouldn’t take more than 20-30 minutes to complete, the number of people getting a permit is unpredictable, and if you show up without a photo, you will have to rush to the airport’s express photo center, queue again at the re-entry permit area, and wait for your name to be called. The Suvarnabhumi Airport website points you where to go to get a re-entry permit.
Multiple Entry Tourist Visa
If you’re set on staying in Thailand for more than the 90 days allowed under a Single-Entry Tourist Visa (SETV), the Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV), which replaced the double- and triple-entry tourist visas in November 2015, is a great option. Visa validity starts from issue date, not date of entry (unlike the SETV), and METV holders must exit Thailand every 60 days.
You can re-enter as many times as you like within the visa’s 6-month validity and you can extend your METV for 30 days per 60-day entry. As the METV allows unlimited entry within the 6-month period, you can get a total of 9 months, or 270 days.
Here’s how to maximize the METV: After your first 90 day-stay (initial 60 days + 30 day extension), you must exit Thailand either by land border or by air to get another 60-day stay, which can be extended again for 30 days, bringing the total number to 180 days. After the second 90-day stay, you can get another 60-day stay extendable by 30 days if you enter Thailand prior to your METV’s expiry – for example, before the ENTER BEFORE date on the visa. This gives you a grand total of 9 months on a single METV.
There’s no need to get a re-entry permit for an METV. And unlike the SETV, which can be obtained at Thai embassies in neighboring Southeast Asian countries, you can only apply for a METV from your country of residence. The exception is the Royal Thai Consulate General in Melbourne, which allows applications from non-Australian nationals. Application instructions, fees, and online form can be found in this downloadable form.
Visa fees, requirements, and embassies where you can apply for an METV vary by country. Here are some links providing instructions for select countries that issue an METV:
- Royal Thai-Consulate-General, Chicago
- Royal Thai Consulate-General, Los Angeles
- Royal Thai Embassy, Washington DC
- Royal Thai Consulate-General, New York
Non-Immigrant Visa B (Work and Teaching), Non-Immigrant Visa IB (Investment and Business)
The Non-Immigrant Visa B, commonly referred to as a Work Visa, is for work and teaching work. Non-Immigrant Visa IB is for business and other investment-related purposes, although most embassies do not commonly issue this visa, issuing a non-immigrant B visa instead.
As of this writing, a single entry non-immigrant visa is 2,000 baht while a multiple entry visa is 5,000 baht, extendable to 1 year. The complete list of requirements and the application process can be found in the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
The non-immigrant visa B is provided by the Thailand-registered employer with the visa applicant being required to apply for a work permit immediately upon arrival in Thailand. Once issued, the holder of the Non-B visa is eligible to stay in Thailand for 90 days. It can be extended within the country and is usually done with the assistance of the employer. Expat employees of Thailand Board of Investment (BOI)-registered companies can extend their visa to 1-2 years at the One-Stop Service Center for Visas and Work Permits in Chamchuree Square Building in Bangkok. Employees in companies that are not BOI-registered need to apply for the 1-year visa extension at the immigration office.
A foreigner who has successfully obtained a non-immigrant B visa can start working after a work permit had been issued. A work permit is a legal document that states your position and your job description. Like Non-immigrant B Visa holders, Non-immigrant Visa O (Marriage Visa and Spousal Visa/Non-immigrant Visa O-Accompanying Spouse) holders are also allowed to work in Thailand and obtain a work permit.
Since applying for a Non-immigrant B Visa and work permit go hand-in-hand, the employer needs to have the applicant’s complete set of documents when applying for a work permit. For certain types of employers, a work permit has to be obtained first before the non-immigrant B visa. As a foreigner applying for a work visa, you need to have all the following educational and employment documents:
- University diploma or any similar educational certificate
- University transcript of records
- Certificate of Employment and Clearance – from the applicant’s previous employer clearing the applicant of any liability and/or showing proof of previous employment records; work permit application might require certificates from previous employers, depending on the applicant’s work history
- A CV outlining a clear timeline of the applicant’s employment history
When you’re looking for work in Thailand and applying for a work permit you must have these documents to satisfy all bases. I covered this and more in this in-depth guide for finding a job in Thailand.
The step-by-step process for getting a work visa, from having an employer to applying for a work permit and re-entry permit, is outlined in this online form.
If you’re unable to extend your single entry 90-day non-immigrant visa to 1 year, you can apply for a 7-day extension at the immigration office for a short-term fix. But once the initial 90-day period has expired, you will have to apply for a new visa from a Thai embassy. However, if you have a multiple-entry non-immigrant visa and you tried to extend it within the first 90-day period/stamp and failed, you can exit and re-enter, and try to extend it within the second 90-day period.
Non-Immigrant Visa B-A (Business Approved)
The Office of the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok grants this visa to qualified applicants who will invest in or enter into a business partnership with a Thai-based company. The company involved has to apply on the foreigner’s behalf from the Office of the Immigration Bureau. Upon the Immigration’s initial approval, the bureau informs the concerned Royal Thai Embassy or Royal Consulate-General via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to grant the applicant the B-A visa. The applicant will be given a 1 year visa right away, as are applicants who have successfully applied for non-immigrant visas B-A, O-A, and ED-A.
This visa, however, is not commonly issued by Thai embassies or consulates (Thai consulates in Australia, eg, The Royal Thai Embassy in Canberra are one of the few embassies/consulates to issue this visa); applicants commonly opt for a Non-Immigrant B Visa.
Non-Immigrant Visa O for the purpose of doing Voluntary Services
This visa may be loosely referred to as a Volunteer Visa, which is for applicants rendering voluntary services in Thailand. This may include volunteer work for charities, foundations, or schools. Not all non-government organizations (NGOs) and social welfare and development organizations issue work permits, which is a requirement for this visa. For required documents, fees, validity period, and embassies where you can apply, go to this MFA page.
Non-Immigrant Visa M (Media Visa)
If you work in media, covering print, online, and television, apply for a single-entry Media Visa. Commonly referred to as journalism visa, it covers news reporters, film producers, and media correspondents of foreign news working for printed newspapers and magazines, TV, radio, or online agencies.
Some common concerns regarding the media visa:
- It applies only to those who are working for foreign news agencies. If you are a journalist working for a Thailand-based media company, a Non-Immigrant Visa B is the recommended visa.
- Applications and accreditation for a one-year Media Visa can be done online via the MFA Media Online Service website.
- Journalists who are working on short-term assignments should apply for a Non-Immigrant B visa, as well.
Requirements covering both long-term and short-term media assignments in Thailand, including frequently asked questions on accreditation, obtaining a press card and work permit, changing visa types from Tourist to Media–which can’t be done, visa for freelance journalists, visa renewal, obtaining a visa for media worker’s spouse or family, and other concerns, can be found in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ online guide. If that’s not enough guidance, this updated guideline on successfully obtaining a media visa might help.
Working Visa for Freelancers
Working in Thailand as a digital nomad on a tourist visa status puts you in a precarious situation with the Thai Government. Freelancers whose only requirements to work are a laptop, an internet connection, and ratty shirts legitimize their status by making deals with companies who offer work permits for a fee. This process falls in a gray areas; it’s not government-endorsed but it also isn’t illegal. Nevertheless, it’s possible to get a legitimate working visa as a freelancer in Thailand for your line of work.
The expat Facebook group, How to Thailand, hosts a live question-and-answer session called “Ask Me Anything” and recently held one on visas and work permits. In the session, visa expert Pongkarn “Aom” AomzFondue Khunphasee, who works at Anglo Thai Legal, offered expert advice on moving from a BOI employer to a non-BOI employer, setting up a foundation, and a few freelancer visa questions. Join the group and participate in future sessions, or add Karsten Aichholz as a Facebook friend, the group’s moderator and owner of this website, so he can alert you of future sessions and provide you with Bangkok expat informative links and witticisms.
According to Khun Aom, it’s possible for freelancers to get a work permit on a case-by-case basis. The successful application of a freelancer work permit is upon the discretion of the Labor Department officer and depends on the type of work. To apply for a work permit as a freelancer, you have to submit all relevant documents about your freelance work, including all applicable licenses, type of services, and any other documents pertaining to your practice. The officer at the Work Permit Division at the Labor Department will review and decide your fate. Renewal is subject to approval and the applicant’s practice will be subject to withholding tax.
Non-Immigrant Visa ED (Education)
The Education Visa is visa for study in a Thai university or any similar institution, work study or observation tour, participation in official projects or seminars, attendance in a conference or training course, or for study as a foreign Buddhist monk. Thai education visa holders are not allowed to work or conduct business. For the list of documents, fees, validity period, and embassy where you can apply, go to this official MFA page.
Currently, Thai education visa holders on a Thai language program can extend the visa for up to 8 months, while those studying other languages get at least 10 months. Rules on extending a Thai ED visa change frequently, so this may change in the next few months.
Enrolling for Thai language courses is a foreigner’s first resort to extend their stay, but with this visa you need to apply for extensions every 3 months, and during the interview with the immigration officer, you will be given an oral or written exam to assess your progress. Basically, it helps them determine whether you’re attending your classes or not, and whether you’re using your ED visa for education and not just as a means to stay longer in the country. Many Thai language schools inform their students about the written or verbal tests being enforced, and often include this info on their website.
You can check the legitimacy of a Thai language school based on the following factors:
- Teacher’s qualifications – A Thai teacher who has a relevant language degree is a giveaway that he or she can teach; legitimate schools often provide this information.
- Learning premises – One way to check the legitimacy of the school is to drop by and see if they conduct classes; those without a classroom might be a visa mill registered as a school.
- Learning methodology and curriculum – In the Thai language school that I applied for, learning materials such as books and some visual aids are provided, with a clear course scope–listening, speaking, reading, writing–all outlined with a corresponding number of study hours. A “visa mill school” may also provide such materials, but some may not.
- Other signs to watch out for are the school’s attendance rates and its admin’s knowledge of the Thai Education Visa process. When unsure of a school’s background, a bit of research can help.
Education Visa Options
A Non-Immigrant ED Visa is one of the best avenues to explore if you’re looking to stay in Thailand for one year or longer. But it can’t be any school and it can’t be any course, and you will still be required to notify Thai Immigration every 90 days. The length of your visa’s validity depends on the number of hours you study, eg, a minimum of 2 lessons per day at 4-5 days per week. Citizens of Bangladesh, China (some Chinese nationals are reported to be able to get one from the Vientiane embassy, but if you want to be certain, it would be best to research), India, Sri-Lanka, the Middle Eastern countries, and African countries must apply in their home country’s Thai embassy.
Thai Language Schools
Most language schools require you to pay school fees before they process your visa. They will send a letter of admission and/or a letter of introduction on behalf of the international student, which takes at least 3 weeks. In my experience applying for an ED visa, I was advised by the language school to get a tourist visa to “refresh my visa status” so that I would have at least 60 days while waiting for the Ministry of Education’s approval. This was due to the lengthy process and several instances where my current visa’s validity was about to expire and/or the school’s class schedules were in conflict with my current visa’s validity.
Some Thai language schools provide guidelines on an ED visa’s length of stay based on an applicant’s study program, which can provide visas from 3 months up to 1 year, in 3 month increments. I tried applying for an ED visa through The Knowledge Language School, a language and exam preparation school based in Bangkok, and they provided this helpful guide on the education visa process.
There may be instances when immigration officers visit the school to check if you’re attending classes, but these are rare occurrences. A viable option for extending your Thai education visa is by studying a language other than Thai in a Thai school.
For those looking to stay long-term in Chiang Mai, the Non Ed Visa for Hand-to-Hand Combat beats getting a Thai language education visa – it’s a practical alternative. Initially, the visa is valid for 3 months, but it can be extended 3 times, which adds up to a year. Training for this course is conducted by the Thai Military Police, so that’s another plus point for legitimacy. And unlike the Thai language education visa, there’s no need to complete the 9 to 12 hours required for Thai language courses, and there are no requirements to pass a quiz at immigration.
This visa can be applied for in your home country or at a Thai embassy in neighboring nations, such as in Vientiane, Laos. Sak Yant Chiang Mai, a Chiang Mai-based tour and culture company, offers this program and arranges the visa application. For details on eligibility, requirements, and other information, go to their page. Chiang Mai Buddy also offers a similar program.
Another option for getting a Thai education visa is by enrolling in a culinary institution. Thai culinary schools provide instructions for education visa application, whether it’s an international school like Le Cordon Bleu or a smaller cooking company such as Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy.
Other Study Options – Thai Boxing/Muay Thai, Thai Massage, Diving
Studying Thai Traditional Yoga massage is offered at this Chiang Mai school, which offers a helpful guideline on applying for an education visa. Another great option for those looking for a more physically demanding option is a one-year Muay Thai education visa.
Taking these courses, however, comes with a set of guidelines, which outlines the differences in the benefits of enrolling in a Thai university versus enrolling in short-term courses such as Thai language, Thai cooking lessons, or Muay Thai.
A foreigner married to a Thai spouse is eligible for a 1-Year Extension of Stay based on Marriage, commonly referred to as a Marriage Visa. Prior to obtaining this visa, you must have a Non-Immigrant Visa O based on marriage/for the purpose of accompanying a family member. This must be obtained from your home country, and once you’re in Thailand, you will then apply for an extension of stay based on marriage to a Thai national, which will be valid for 1 year.
Holders of this visa are allowed to work legally in Thailand and apply for a work permit under a Thai-registered company. You don’t have to apply for a working visa, but the employer must ensure you’re given a work permit.
How to Go from a Non-Immigrant Visa to a Yearly Extension of Stay Based on Marriage (Valid for 1 Year)
Before you apply, you must apply for a 90-day or 1-year Non-immigrant Visa type O from your home country. Once approved, you can enter Thailand to activate your visa and apply for an extension of stay based on marriage. Submit all the necessary documents for your application. Make sure you apply with the last 30 days of your initial 90-day stay because the process may take about a month.
If all requirements visa are met, a foreigner on a visa exempt stamp or a Tourist Visa can convert his or her visa into a Thai Marriage Visa within Thailand at the immigration office.
Marriage Visa Financial Requirements
Your single-entry Non-Immigrant O Visa with a 3-month validity can be extended to 1 year if you meet the financial requirements: 400,000 baht in a Thai bank account deposited 2 months prior to the application, or present a verification from the consulate where you’ve applied that you have an income of 40,000 baht (or higher) from abroad. Meeting this requirement would also allow you to renew your visa in Thailand.
The best thing about meeting the financial requirement is you don’t have to do visa runs every 90 days. But, like every long-term visa holder, you still have to do the 90-day reporting at your local immigration office. Although it’s not often cited as a requirement, a foreigner applying for a 1-year extension must be living with the Thai spouse (see Question 16 on the Thai Immigration website).
Interestingly, foreign women married to Thai men are not required to provide the same financial documents to qualify for a 1-year, border run-free extension. The Expat Women with Thai Partners Facebook group is a good place to ask around for this arrangement.
This information only scratches the surface of the complex process of the Thai marriage visa application. For other concerns on qualifications, the application process, financial document requirements, and re-entry process, it’s best to seek a reliable legal adviser for advice.
Non-Immigrant Visa O-A (Long-term Stay)
Also called a Retirement Visa, the Non-Immigrant O-A-Long-term Visa lets you stay in Thailand for 1 year and can be renewed every year with the same requirements. You can apply for a retirement visa if you are 50 years old and above, have no criminal record in your country of residence and in Thailand, have no prohibitive disease, and have the following financial requirements:
- Copies of bank statements showing a deposit of the amount equal to and not less than 800,000 baht in a Thai bank account
- Notarized bank statement copies that show income of not less than 65,000 baht, plus an affidavit from the foreign embassy or consulate as proof of income
- A combination of a deposit account and a monthly income in totaling at least 800,000 baht
In some cases, additional documents such as an updated passbook, a bank letter confirming your funds were deposited from a foreign source not less than 2 months from the date of application, health certificate, and police clearance may be required.
Retirement visa holders are prohibited from engaging in any type of work.
The retirement visa can be single- or multiple-entry, costs US 200 dollars, and can be applied for in your home country or in Thailand. Retirement visa holders are also required to do 90-day reporting at the nearest immigration office in the area of residence and/or nearby police station. For details on eligibility, requirements, application, and fees, go to the MFA’s official page. Please note that requirements for each nationality can be different. If you have a difficulty getting the retirement visa, it’s better to ask a visa lawyer for help.
1-Year Stay and Extension Based on Retirement
You can apply for a 1-year stay and extension based on retirement in two ways:
Applying for a Non-Immigrant O-A Visa – This visa grants you a 1-year stay straightaway, but it should be applied for in your home country. It’s best to check if the Thai embassy in your home country issues this visa as not all Thai embassies or consulates grant a 1-year O-A visa.
Applying for an initial Non-Immigrant O Visa and extension – The initial non-immigrant O visa is valid only for 90 days and should be obtained in your home country, but the application for the 1-year extension can be done in Thailand, which should be done within the last 30 days of your 90-day stay. Suppose you have a non-immigrant O visa granted on January 1 valid until March 30. In this scenario, you can apply for a retirement visa anywhere from March 1-30. If you choose this option, you are required to present proof of address.
Multiple Entry O-A Visa
A Multiple Entry O-A Visa allows you to make multiple entries and exits in Thailand, and for every entry, you’re granted one calendar year to stay. If you enter before the visa’s expiry date or the ENTER BEFORE date, you will be granted one extra year. Don’t forget to apply for a re-entry permit, which is required only if the ENTER BEFORE date on your visa has lapsed and what remains is the ADMITTED UNTIL date which is valid for 1 year from date of arrival. With the ADMITTED UNTIL stamp, you can also get an extra 1 year. If you cannot leave and enter Thailand before the expiry date, you can extend it within Thailand for another year. It’s important, however, that you apply for a re-entry permit on your second year because by then, your visa would have already expired, and once you exit the country, you forfeit the validity of your stay as indicated in the ADMITTED UNTIL stamp.
More info on re-entry permits below.
This extra 1 year is not to be confused with, and should not be referred to as, an extension because a visa extension means a conversion of the Non-immigrant O single-entry visa, which is valid for 90 days, to a 1-year retirement visa, done at the immigration office.
You can apply as early as 45 days before the expiry of that extra 1 year stamp inside Thailand to extend your stay for 1 year. Your other option is to apply for another O-A visa from your home country.
10-year Thai Retirement Visa
The Thai Government is planning to implement a 10-year retirement visa, which should appeal to the retirees demographic. The 10-year visa would require similar qualifications of age and funds, and is supposed to be different from the 1-year retirement visa in that there is no need to renew every year. However, current discussions suggest that this longer long-term visa will still require some sort of renewal after the fifth year, and 90-day reporting will still be mandatory. Should it get implemented, it won’t be replacing the 1-year retirement visa and would most likely require applications to be made from a foreigner’s home country. Also, only citizens of 14 countries will be qualified to apply.
There hasn’t been any updates since the fourth quarter of 2016 about the proposal’s progress, although financial requirements are said to be pegged at 100,000 baht monthly income or a minimum of 3 million baht deposited in a Thai bank account, which must remain in the account for at least 12 months, and insurance coverage requirements of 1,000 US dollars for outpatient care and 10,000 US dollars and above for inpatient care per policy per year. As of this writing, the proposal is being studied by the Thailand Ministry of Interior, and is yet to be finalized. You can check blogger and expat Richard Barrow’s blog for updates on the 10-year visa.
What you need to know about this visa: the Cabinet of Thailand has approved it, but it hasn’t been finalized as of this writing.
Thailand Elite Visa Program (Privilege Entry Visa)
The Elite Thai Visa is a Thailand Government-issued visa program that caters to affluent foreigners who wish to enjoy a long-term stay in Thailand without having to leave the country for visa extensions. Depending on the applicant’s membership package, validity of stay ranges from 5-20 years.
The privilege entry visa is a multiple-entry visa granted to qualified Thailand Elite members who are given access to a wealth of privileges, such as a visa run-free 1-year extension of stay, priority treatment at the airport immigration, prestigious golf club memberships, first-class accommodations, healthcare benefits, airport services, and more.
To apply or to learn more about the privilege entry visa, go to the official Thailand Elite website or download this quick pdf reference guide. Also, bankerinthesun shared his detailed experience on how to get a 5-year elite visa. You can also contact Pongkarn Khunphasee for help.
Non-Immigrant Visa O
Other popular name: Spouse/Spousal Visa. This is for applicants who are accompanying a spouse or family members working, studying, or living in Thailand. The visa is granted with an initial 90 days, and can be extended at the Office of the Immigration Bureau in Thailand for up to 1 year. Holders of this visa are allowed to work in Thailand as long as their employer is able to secure a work permit for them, which is actually one of the requirements for a spousal visa application. For requirements, fees, validity period, and embassy where you can apply, go to this official MFA page.
If you have a Thai spouse or Thai family member in Thailand, Non-Immigrant Visa O is also the visa for you. For the list of documents, fees, validity period, go to this official MFA page.
Applicants can also apply for a Non-Immigrant Visa O for purposes other than what’s stated above, including staying after retirement, staying with a family member who holds an appropriate visa, performing duties for a state enterprise or social welfare organizations, receiving medical treatment, acting as a Thai Government-required sports coach, or visiting as a contestant or witness for judicial procedures.
Non-Immigrant Visa F (Official Duty Visa/Courtesy Visa)
This is for those who have to perform official duties in Thailand, including as an officer on a diplomatic mission, Laissez Passer Passport holders and their families who will perform official duties in Thailand, ordinary passport holders who have received an invitation from the Royal Thai Government to attend a meeting, and ordinary passport holders that are recipients of a Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency scholarship. For this visa, it’s best to check with the Royal Thai Embassy website based in your country as requirements vary for different nationalities. The Laissez Passer Passport is issued by a national government or an official international treaty organization such as the United Nations.
Non-Immigrant Visa R (Religious Visa)
This visa type is for ministers, priests, or missionaries who want to enter Thailand to perform missionary or religious work that is recognized by Thai Ministries or Government Departments. This visa is valid for 3 months but can be extended to 1 year. Check the MFA website for requirements and other info or Karl Dahlfred’s guide to visa options for missionaries.
Non-Immigrant Visa RS (Scientific Research)
The Scientific Research Visa is for those who are conducting scientific research or training or teaching in a research institute. Check the MFA website for requirements and other info. The Royal Thai Embassy, Helsinki website is also a good source of information although for a highly specialized visa such as this, it’s best to check with the Royal Thai Embassy in your own country.
Non-Immigrant Visa EX (Expert)
For short-term visit to Thailand for the purposes of doing skilled work, or to work as an expert or a specialist. Refer to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for requirements and application procedure.
A Thai Diplomatic Visa may be granted and be valid for 3 or 6 months or longer, depending on the terms of the eligible passport-holder’s diplomatic mission or consulate or international organization. The diplomatic visa holder’s family may also be granted the same validity. Diplomatic and official visas are granted at no cost.
Business and Investment
Not too keen on doing visa runs? If you’ve got a cool 10 million baht that you’re willing to invest in Thailand, that problem can be solved. Investing in a legally-defined condominium unit, a fixed deposit account at a Thai-majority owned bank, or in Thai government or Thai state enterprise bond amounting to no less than 10 million baht makes you eligible for an Investment Visa. Spreading out your investments in several baskets is allowed, with your qualifying investment to be renewed annually. This is a great option for the more well-off expats because eligible visa holder’s family members can also apply for a Non-Immigrant Visa. And, unlike the retirement visa, you don’t need to be 50 or older to apply and no need to show monthly proof of income.
For an official and complete set of requirements and other info, visit the Immigration Bureau website (Question #20).
Since putting away 10 million baht in any investment requires some careful thought, those interested in getting an investment visa would have a few considerations in mind, like which condominium properties should be purchased, or which banks one can make a fixed deposit in. For this and other concerns, it’s best to get legal advice. You can read up more about the Investment visa on this page.
One frequently asked question is whether investing on a re-sale condo is eligible for an investment visa. These clauses in the Bangkok Immigration website should shed some light:
6.1 Condominium title deed, which is in the Applicant’s name, and, in the particulars of registration, the Applicant must be the first purchaser.
6.2 A copy of the sale and purchase agreement of the condominium unit made by the Applicant and the project owner/company and a copy of the registration showing that the Applicant is the owner of the condominium unit, which is issued by the relevant agency or government authority.
That doesn’t mean re-sale condos do not qualify. When buying a re-sale condo, you should make sure that the terms of the purchase are stated before the sale is registered on the back of the deed. A helpful guide when considering this visa type is: investing on a second-hand condos is not eligible.
Extensions, Overstaying, and Visa Runs
Visa-exempt Stays/Visa Extension
Anyone who is inclined to stay in Thailand beyond 30 days would, more or less, know how to extend a visa, but is often unsure of certain details. Here are some of the frequently asked questions:
Can a visa exempt stamp or tourist visa that was already extended for 30 days be extended for a further 30 days (60-day tourist visa + 30 days extension + 30-day extension)?
No. But in case of an emergency you may be granted a 7-day extension for 1,900 baht.
Once my 30-day extension has expired can I fly out and fly in and not get into trouble at Immigration?
It depends on the number of exit-reentries you’ve made.
Can I apply for a back-to-back tourist visa after my tourist visa’s 30-day extension?
You may get away with it, provided you apply in different embassies. Certain embassies may allow 2 consecutive applications. But, again, this is not set in stone.
Have more questions?
You can find variations of these questions and concerns in Thailand expats communities, Thai expats forums, and Facebook groups. Knowing what others have experienced can be comforting, but remember that your passport and your travel records are different from others, and you’ll most certainly be dealing with officers of varying temperaments.
The general consensus is that only those who make questionable exits and entries–for example, applying for back-to-back tourist tourist visas or doing frequent visa runs–are the ones most likely to be interrogated.
Criteria, conditions, and documents for extension of temporary stays can be found in the links in the Thai Immigration Bureau website (Criteria and Condition of Temporary Stay button).
90-Day Reporting for Long-term Visas
Long-term Thai visa holders – such as non-immigrant visas, retirement visa – are required to report their current address to the Immigration Bureau every 90 days, without exception. It can be done by the passport holder and, under certain circumstances, by an authorized representative. It can be done 15 days before the due date or your 90th day in the country after your last entry, or 7 days after notification due date, but only in person. There’s a 2,000 baht fine for those who fail to do it within that given window.
The Thai Immigration website provides the details on procedure, requirements (the most critical ones being your passport and the TM. 6 form), and how to do it by mail. You can report by mail 15 days before the notification’s due date.
90-day online reporting is another option, but the online portal that processes this only works on an Internet Explorer browser. As of December 2016, all Thai Immigration Office Extranet sites were taken down as anti-hacking measure, so it’s not advisable to attempt this. If online is your preferred route, then this guide on 90-day online reporting might help.
Here are some locations where you can do your 90-day reporting:
- Main Immigration office – Building B, Government Complex, Chaeng Watthana Road, Bangkok
- Imperial World Mall at Big C Lad Prao Soi 83, 5th floor
- Big C Ratburana Road across the river in Thonburi
Cancellation of a Non-immigrant Visa
Something I’ve experienced several times is cancelling a Non-immigrant B Visa. When I changed jobs, I explored the possibility of keeping my current Non-immigrant B Visa and work permit, with non-encouraging results. The short story is that when an employer cancels a work permit, your visa will also have to be cancelled, per Thai Labor laws.
Workarounds are possible, however, and a legitimate way to do this is to ask your former employer to extend your work permit’s cancellation, which happens more often than you think. This is a temporary fix though.
Previously, holders of a Non-immigrant Visa B managed to keep their visa up until the expiry date even after the work permit had been canceled. This was due to the fact that the Thai Immigration and the Labor Department function separately. Needless to say, the legality of this workaround is questionable and is best avoided. Matters on work permit deserve its own guide, but in relation to keeping a visa the general rule is:
Terminated Employment = Cancelled Visa + Cancelled Work Permit
Cancelling only the work permit and keeping the visa will result in a standard 500 baht fine effective upon the work permit’s termination date. But the fine could be as high as 20,000 baht.
A word on overstaying in Thailand: don’t do it.
Other than paying the 500 – 20,000 baht-fine, overstaying for one day carries no severe consequences, especially if you’re flying out. But if you do get checked by the police on the streets or elsewhere, you will be arrested and fined. Based on reports, there is an ongoing crackdown on overstaying, which led to the arrest of overstayers found in entertainment complexes, hotels, condos, and other places.
On March 20, 2016, new rules on overstays of more than 90 days were imposed, which raised the penalty from merely being fined to being banned anywhere from 1 to 10 years.
For foreigners with children, note that children below 15 years old do need a visa. In case they don’t, they will not be persecuted in case of overstay. Children ages 15-18 with no proper visa will be charged for overstaying but won’t be blacklisted. Any foreigner 18 years and older will be charged for overstaying and will be blacklisted.
Overstaying for one day is often seen as a victim-less crime, but it is a violation of Thai Immigration laws. If you’re thinking of overstaying, some people who’ve got away with it in the past may advise you to overstay and pay the fee. They may say overstaying is not a big deal. But remember: overstaying is a violation, which could result to imprisonment, a year-long ban, or deportation.
Land Border Crossing
If you rely on visa-exempt entries and/or apply for tourist visas several times, then extend it for 30 days to prolong your stay in Thailand, although not illegal, then you will alert the Thai Immigration Office. If you’re staying long-term in Thailand without a visa, here’s a safe assumption to make: Thai Immigration officers are aware of border bounce because it’s not a recent trend.
Thai Immigration has cracked down on visa runs and multiple or back-to-back entries in the country, and in December 2016, they implemented a change in border entry policy, limiting the number of land border entries to two per calendar year. However, this doesn’t apply to visitors from countries with a bilateral agreement with Thailand. In the past, border runs were made an unlimited number of times. But this recent change could mean stricter measures with border bounces.
Border Bounce / Visa Runs
A border bounce basically means doing a land border exit from Thailand and re-entering under a new stamp in order to renew one’s validity of stay. This entails exiting to any of Thailand’s neighbor countries. Others opt to go by air and that’s a fairly legitimate way to do it, too. Border bounce and visa runs are often interchanged, but a visa run is more appropriately referred to as the process of exiting the country to apply for a proper visa, which is done either by land or by air.
Doing a border bounce is perceived as illegal in some quarters because, as I’ve mentioned above, it has become prone to abuse. However, determining its legitimacy is a pretty loaded discussion since, on the one hand, it is prone to abuse. On the other hand, people who do it are not exactly violating Thai Immigration laws. And border bounces are often necessary procedures for those who are about to apply for a legitimate visa and are merely extending their stay’s validity.
Visa Run Providers
Thai Visa Service – Offers reliable visa info and its owner is knowledgeable in Thai visa rules, changes, updates, and visa workarounds. Their site is updated with visa run and visa application schedules, and is responsive to queries via email and Line Application. The company’s border runs to Ban Laem in Cambodia and visa trips to Vientiane in Laos are hassle-free and are cheaper than similar services. The best reason to go with this company is the reliability of the info on visa queries.
Bangkok Buddy Travel Service – Has daily scheduled visa runs to the Aranyaprathet/Poipet border in Cambodia. They also provide Thai Visa application service at the Phnom Penh Thai Consulate, and arrange an elite visa package service. This Facebook thread offers useful insight as to why the company’s Thai visa application service in Phnom Penh is not as convenient as Laos visa applications.
Meesuk Travel – Caters mostly to Filipinos but is open to all foreigners.
Visa and Work Permit Services
Sorting out your Thai visa and work permit involves a lot of paperwork. If you need professional assistance, you can ask our legal adviser or check out legal firms below. They can help with both work permits and corresponding visa:
Siam Legal – One of the most reliable firms for visas and work permit concerns, Siam Legal has an extensive suite of Thai Visa application services. They specialize in Thai Immigration laws, with offices in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai. Although I haven’t used their services, I’ve made several queries to them via their website’s chat and email and received accurate info on general visa questions.
Mazars Thailand – Although they specialize in tax and accounting services, Mazars’ expatriate services cover visa and work permit application and renewal. They are recommended by business owners who have concerns on both fronts.
M&S Law Office 2006 – Comprised of Thai and foreign lawyers, M&S Law Office 2006 specializes in permanent residency, working visa, marriage visa, retirement visa, and work permit applications. I’ve never used any of their services, but their firm often comes up for recommendation for visa and work permit services.
Anglo Thai Legal – With offices in the UK and Thailand, Anglo Thai Legal is one of the most recommended law firms for advice on expat and immigration issues, among others. I’ve never had to engage the services of a legal firm to sort out my visa and work permit because I was lucky to have been employed by companies that take care of all that. But firms like Anglo Thai legal comes with a handful of recommendations from expats I’ve talked to, as well as expat forums, including the Facebook group, How to Thailand.
Fees for these firms vary and largely depend on your needs, so it’s best to contact them for details. These are just a few of the many legal firms in Thailand that can help you with concerns on visas and work permits. If you want to expand your options, check out this list of recommended lawyers in Bangkok.
Useful Sources of Thai Visa Info
While you can rely on networking and friendly advice from the kindred souls at Bangkok Expats Group on Facebook, some situations call for professional assistance.
To get visa-related answers that you can rely on, speaking to visa experts at companies like Siam Legal, a law firm that specializes on visa-related matters, could be more accurate than a comment you’ve read on Facebook. If you prefer to get legal help for visas and other concerns, check out this in-depth guide on finding legal advice.
ThaiEmbassy.com provides guidelines on Thai Visas. And although the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems like a good source of info, it’s not always up-to-date and doesn’t have country-specific information.
Thai Embassy Websites
The Thai Embassy website has a directory of the Royal Thai Embassy Consulates, Royal Thai Consulate-General, Permanent Mission websites, as well as the Thailand Economic and Trade Office. As requirements, application procedures, and operating hours are different for each Royal Thai Embassy, check the country’s Thai Embassy website where you’ll be applying for a visa for details.
Note, however, that the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs website is rarely updated and it’s not uncommon to find the info from their website in conflict with those found in various consulates’ sites.
For example, when applying for a tourist visa in Penang, it’s best to read up on that embassy’s website. There are differences in each Thai embassy’s requirements, procedures, and temperament. And that can affect the outcome of your application.
Thai Expat Communities
Extending a visa at Chaeng Wattana in Bangkok is a straightforward process, but application procedures, fees, and rules change frequently. In case you need some visa advice on extraordinary scenarios, Thai expat communities can give you firsthand accounts of other expats’ experiences. But be wary, some of the comments are based on individual experiences. The community, however, can point you to sources for expert and professional advice, or refer you to a knowledgeable consultant.
Thai Visa Forums
Thai Visa Forums such as ThaiVisa.com are reliable because people who’ve been living in Thailand post their experiences when applying for the visas mentioned in this article. Discussions are based on what has worked for many expats and foreigners, and participants usually provide reliable news and updates, too. One of the best ways to keep yourself informed is by bookmarking their site or following their Facebook page.
Post questions, read visa application experiences on the Thailand Expats Group, and even if you don’t get the answers you need, you’ll at least have a good idea of what usually happens in consulates, embassies, and airport immigration. Keep in mind, though, there will be conflicting information. In Thai Visa Advice, for instance, you can read about recent scenarios of denied extension of stays due to an unfortunate slip-up. You’ll never read stories like these on the Thai Immigration website.
You can expect a few helpful, knowledgeable members to answer some of your queries, but be cautious of trolls, too. For visa-related queries, the Bangkok Expats group has an active discussion on visa matters, and is a great forum to meet fellow foreigners with similar visa issues.
The Thailand thread in Reddit is a good place to get firsthand account of visa-related matters and encounters with Thai Immigration officers. Aside from Thai Visa info, comments on this VISA-Mega Reddit Thread can illuminate a few points on the frequently asked Thai Visa questions on Non-immigrant B Visas, getting a work permit with a Non-immigrant O Visa, and provide firsthand experiences of the METV application process in Australia.
When I applied for a tourist visa and a working visa (Non-immigrant Visa B), my experiences were different in Vientiane, Laos than they were in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Aside from arranging transportation and accommodations for your visa application, visa service agencies provide guidance on the application process. However, these trips can get chaotic, as you are applying with a large group of visa applicants. This is why applying for a visa in Vientiane is a crowded affair. But based off my experience, applying for a visa in Penang or Kuala Lumpur can be easier.
When you apply for a non-immigrant B visa, you will notice the differences in requirements, especially if you’re employed by different types of employers. If you’re applying for a non-immigrant B visa under a BOI-registered or multinational company, the application process can be smoother. The likelihood of being asked for a surprise requirement is rare. If you’re applying for a visa under smaller companies, it pays to double check the requirements of the embassy where you’re applying.
As detailed as this guide is, I have to reiterate that rules frequently change. Just recently, there were reports of extending the incentives on visa on arrival fees. This and similar policy tweaks are not uncommon and you can expect more of these changes the longer you stay in Thailand.
In writing this guide, I linked to the most up-to-date sources – official embassies and Thai Visa guides – for visa application matters. I sought the knowledge and insight of visa service providers and fellow expats, both Asian and Western, who’ve been living in Thailand for years, and who’ve gone through an assortment of visa application processes, changes, and crackdowns.
Do you have a visa application story you feel is worth covering in this guide? If you feel like this guide missed vital information in the visa application process and experience, sound off in the comment section below.