Everyone wants to come and live in Thailand these days, it's comfortable, cheap and an enchanting place which is attracting an increasing amount of foreigners. It's also relatively easy to enter the Kingdom and continue staying indefinitely. The locals aren't fussed but the immigration department has become increasingly sticky about applying the rules. They are generally regarded as bureaucratic, and are not immune to suggesting underhand gratuity. They can, and do, give you the run around.
In general, the government is more interested in attracting 'monied' foreigners, rather than foreigner dropouts who tend to swell the ranks of ex-pats here. Everyone is welcome provided you have a good excuse to stay here or a generous monthly income to live off.
The following are the common and accepted ways to stay in Thailand:
30 day visa exemptions:
These are issued for free to most nationalities upon entry to the Kingdom and can be extended once, for 7-10 days, by visiting your nearest immigration department before the expiry date. The fee for this extension is 1,900 baht. Overstay fines are 500 baht per day, to a maximum of 20,000 baht, and can jeopardize your future applications. Every time you leave and re-enter Thailand at any border post a new 30 day visa exemption is issued if by air, 15 day visa exemption if by land. No matter how short your exit is. Those leaving and re-entering Thailand on the same day are sometimes asked to show proof of at least 10,000 baht in a local bank account or cash.
60 day tourist visa:
These are issued by Thailand Embassies/Consulates abroad for a variable fee (around $30) and often can be collected the next day. Once in the Kingdom you may renew this visa for a further 30 days at your nearest immigration department before the expiry date. The fee for this extension is 1,900 baht.
For many in Hua Hin, the 15 day visa is all they bother with, for the paperwork necessary for a non-immigration visa is sometimes problematic. Fortunately, the Myanmar border is only a four hour drive away and many conduct a monthly 'visa run' to the Rangoon border south of Hua Hin in this case they will give you only 15 days only.
This is the most popular and realistic way of remaining long term in Hua Hin. With a Non-immigrant visa you can remain in Thailand for up to three months at a time and this can usually be extended several times, theoretically allowing you the right to stay here for up to a year. Typically you could apply for one of these in order to study full-time, take up a job, investigate starting a business and a number of more obscure excuses. In each instance you need a plausible excuse with verifiable paperwork to apply. If you have a letter from a prospective employer the immigration authorities may issue you a single entry visa, advising you to obtain a work permit and then apply for an extension of stay based on employment. Obviously a single entry visa will last no more than three months. If possible, get a multiple entry visa (which costs more).
There are several types of non-immigrant visas, the most common include;
Type B: for conducting business or employment.
Type M: for journalists accredited as press representatives.
Type O: if you are a taking care of dependent (including spouse) or are retired (over 50).
Type IM: investors who meet the Board of Investment requirements.
Type ED: education study or observation.
If you're after a non-immigrant B visa allowing you to stay for three months and renew for a further three months (twice more), you need to go to the nearest Thai consulate. If you are already in Thailand, then the nearest ones are;
Vientiane, Laos - which is notoriously slow.
Savannakhet, Laos - currently the favourite for all types of visa, less known and less particular for paperwork.
Penang, Malaysia - is so fed up with visa-runners that you'd better make sure you have all your paper work in order to avoid a run around.
Yangon, Myanmar (Burma) - not a popular option, though most people we've heard of going there have had few problems.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia - the closest to Bangkok but they too are jaded by the many 'visa application runners' from Bangkok and aren't co-operative.
The elusive multiple-entry Non-Immigrant visa:
The multiple entry visa is the most desirable since it theoretically allows you to remain in Thailand for 15 months if utilised correctly. However, getting a multiple entry is not that easy. Since a single entry visa is adequate for most applicants who genuinely intend to follow through on getting the right paperwork, embassies and consulates near Thailand see no reason to issue multiple entries. In fact you will be lucky to find one anywhere in Southeast or South Asia who will happily stamp 'multiple' in your passport. Nowadays you have to return to Europe, Australia or the US to get this type of non-immigrant visa. Even then some have difficulty, such as in London, whereas the consulate in Hull happily dishes them out without asking questions. We suggest you study online forums such as thaivisa.com first before making your trip to avoid disappointment.
Although there are laws in place and Thai immigration get tired of all the foreigners invading their city, money lines pockets easily in Thailand and the system is completely porous to those who don't mind entering into 'the system'. We don't encourage it and if your intentions here are genuine then there are legitimate options open to you.
There are many companies offering to help you secure a long-stay visa or work permit (by fair means or foul) and often it's worth paying the fee (about 20,000 baht) to let them 'get on with it'. As we have experienced ourselves, even an honest and legitimate attempt to secure a work permit through the correct channels can be frustrated by unreasonable obstacles and these visa services usually know who the right people are to 'buy bottles of whisky' for, saving you the red tape.
This is first prize for those wishing to stay here long-term, as it doesn't require frequent renewing, or hefty financial stipulations, but the red tape run around is incredible. Naturally you have to have a job offer from a company that meets the stipulated criteria for employing foreigners. There also has to be a plausible excuse why they can't hire a Thai for the job. It is the company's responsibility to apply, and at least 15 documents (including detailed statements about the company's position) are required, along with a fee and a health certificate from you. This can take up to two months and you need to be in possession of a non-immigrant B visa. Incredibly, once the work permit is issued, you then have to carry out the whole rigmarole again to satisfy the Immigration department before they will give you a one-year visa. In all, the process can take several months and cost more than 10,000 baht in various fees. There are also hefty stipulated minimum salaries set (scaled according to your nationality) in order to qualify.
Because of this some companies, in particular language schools, are reluctant to offer permanent jobs complete with work permit (besides, there need to be four Thai employees for each foreigner) and many employees have to resort to three monthly visa runs which are widely undertaken.
Be aware that once you have a work permit/extension of stay you will still be required to pay 1,000 baht for a re-entry permit every time you wish leave the country without re-applying for you visa/extension of stay.
People over the age of 50 wishing to stay here may apply for a retirement visa (Non-immigrant 'O'), but you are required to prove you have sufficient funds to remain here. According to the Immigration department this is 40,000 baht per month. You will also have to show at least 800,000 baht in your bank account, but they usually only check this once a year.
Documents required for extending stay for senior citizens:
1. Completed application form T.M.7, one photograph size 4x6cm taken within 6 months.
2. Passport and copy of passport data page, T.M.6 (arrival card) and current visa/entry stamp (must obtain a non immigration visa).
3. Letter from Embassy showing external income of not less than 65,000 baht per month, together with proof of money transfer into Thailand.
4. A current letter from your bank in Thailand showing a balance or not less than 800,000 baht together with a current bank statement.
5. External monthly income together with a bank balance of not less than 65,000 baht per month (3.and 4.combined).
6. Extension fee of 1,900 baht.
7. 1 set of all documents required.
8. After you get this visa and you wish to leave country please arrange the re-entry with the Immigration Office , Single cost 1,000 baht ( leave country for 1 time and come back to Thailand ) and Multiple cost 3,800 baht ( can leave country unlimited time)
Please contact us for any visa issues, we will be happy to assist you.