Visitors to Thailand who plan to spend several months, or even years, exploring or working here will need to apply for some sort of long stay visa. Although not the most interesting experience, tackling the Bangkok visa and immigration process is a necessary part of any extended trip to the ‘land of smiles’.
It is worth taking the time to understand the Bangkok visa and immigration system, as this can save a lot of time, trouble and money in the future. There are a wide variety of different visas available, with some lasting for six months or even a year. Those who wish to work in Thailand will need to obtain a non-immigration visa, while anyone who chooses to study Thai or work towards their TEFL certification can also obtain long stay visas.
Visa waiver in Bangkok
Lasting for up to 30 days, visa waivers are granted by visitors from certain countries when they arrive at the airport, while those who travel overland will be granted a 15-day visa. Citizens of more than 40 different countries qualify for this type of visa, including people from the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and many more.
Visa on arrival
Residents of another 20 countries are granted a 15-day visa when they cross into Thailand, which costs 1,000 baht and can be arranged on the spot.
Tourist visas in Bangkok
People who are not from one of the countries listed in the visa waiver or visa on arrival category can apply for a 30-day tourist visa in their own country, while those who do fall under the visa waiver category can apply for a visa lasting up to 60 days.
Visitors to Bangkok immigration can extend their tourist visa just once, which costs 1,900 baht and lasts for an extra seven days. Those who wish to stay longer should opt for a multiple entry tourist visa, which lasts for 60 days at a time and can be renewed twice, totalling nine months in all including three 30-day extensions.
It is important to bear in mind that anyone entering Thailand on a tourist visa is expected to have the equivalent of 10,000 baht in the bank for every 30 days they expect to spend here, and visitors could be asked to show proof of this upon entry. It is also possible for those who make repeated trips into Thailand from neighbouring countries to be prevented from entering for up to 90 days.
Retirement visas in Bangkok
Anyone who is over the age of 50 can apply for a retirement visa, provided that they don’t have a criminal record and are able to show proof that they have either a monthly income of 65,000 baht or that 800,000 baht has been in their bank account for three months.
Non-immigrant visas in Bangkok
Those who wish to make Thailand their home rather than just passing through will need to obtain some sort of non-immigrant visa. The most common kind is spousal arrangement, while work permits, journalist posting, religious work or investigating business investment visas are also available. All non-immigrant visas have to be applied for outside Thailand and relevant paperwork is required, such as the proof of a job offer or marriage certificate. While these visas can be made in virtually any nation, the individual country’s fee for processing the visa can vary dramatically.
Non-immigrant visas last for 90 days and can be used while you are applying for a full visa. Although non-immigrant visas in Bangkok are relatively easy to obtain themselves, they can be notoriously difficult to convert into a full 12-month visa, as there is a large amount of paperwork involved as well as extremely strict rules and regulations to follow. The way around this is by obtaining a multiple entry non-immigrant visa, which gives you an extra three months every time you re-enter the country for a period of up to 12 months. However, many consulates and embassies are now wise to this and refuse to grant these visas.
Rules and regulations regarding visas change often and sometimes unexpectedly, and the best way to keep abreast of the situation is by regularly following the thaivisa.com forum.
Types of non-immigrant visas in Bangkok
The full criteria can be found on Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Non-imm B: this type of visa is for those who want to work or do business in Thailand and should be granted to applicants who provide a letter of appointment from a company. In order to convert this type of visa to full 12-month visa, applicants need to have a work permit as well as a whole sheaf of paperwork, and the process takes around four weeks.
Non-imm O-A: this type of visa is less common and is for retired people and those who are looking after a spouse or child of Thai nationality. Non-imm O visas can be obtained by producing a marriage certificate or ID document or proof that the child you are supporting has nobody else to look after it. Applicants also need to have at least 400,000 baht sitting in a Thai bank account for at least three months, while retirees must show proof of 800,000 baht or a regularly monthly income of 65,000 baht. This type of visa can also take several weeks to complete, although it is significantly easier to renew.
Non-imm Ed: a great way for those who wish to stay in Bangkok for up to 12 months. Applicants simply need to prove that they are taking part in a part-time Thai language or other type of course and provide endorsements from their school of choice.
There is a range of other less common types of non immigration visa that include;
Non-imm M: for those who are conducting journalistic work and are endorsed by an accredited media agency.
IM: this investor visa must be approved through the Board of Investment.
Non-Imm B investment visas are a good way for those who wish to explore investment possibilities to establish a business in Bangkok and are valid for up to three years, providing you meet the necessary criteria.
Permanent residence in Bangkok
This type of visa is difficult to obtain (one below citizenship), even for those who have been living in Thailand for several years and have Thai wives and children. Only a limited number of permanent resident visas are issued each year and applicants must pay an application fee of 5,000 as well as 195,000 on approval (half that for those married to Thais), while the process can take several years to complete.
Overstays and extensions in Bangkok
Those wishing to apply for an overstay visa in Bangkok must do so through the city’s immigration office and those in the process of completing existing applications will usually be granted 30 days while the paperwork is being processed.
Tourists can extend their visa for a further seven days at immigration, which costs 1,900 baht, while those who travel to the Thai-Cambodian border will be granted 15 days. It is important to note that anyone who overstays their visa will be charged a whopping 500 baht per day, which climbs to a total of 20,000 for long overstays and those who overstay their visa for more than 40 days run the risk of being randomly detained.
Bangkok Immigration Department
Immigration Division1, 120 Moo 3, Chaeng Watthana, Thung Song Hong, Laksi. Tel: (02) 141 9889, Fax: (02) 143 8228. Open: 08:30-15:30 (Monday-Friday). It is a good idea to arrive as early as possible, preferably just before the office opens.