Updated 3 March 2008
How To Stay In Thailand Long-Term
Much of the information here is repeated from other parts of the visas section of the site, but is arranged in such a way that you can simply look at the options available to you to stay in Thailand, as opposed to look at the different types of visas and see which ones fits.
If you are legally married to a Thai national (in either Thailand or your home country) then you can apply for a non-immigrant O visa at an embassy or consulate outside Thailand. Once you have been issued with this visa and have entered Thailand you can apply for an extension of stay at any Immigration office - meaning a one year visa. You need to show the ORIGINAL copy of your marriage certificate (translated into Thai if it is from abroad), your Thai spouse’s ID card as well as their house registration papers. You also need to show a joint income of 40,000 baht or more per month*. This can be made up of income from one partner or both partners combined. If the income is from abroad, you will need a letter from your embassy verifying it. You may also need to show some proof of the income such as pay slips, bank accounts, money transfers, a letter from your employer / investment company or other documents to that effect. *It used to be that you could show a local bank balance of 400,000 baht OR an income of 40,000 baht a month but now it seems that only an income of 40,000 baht per month is accepted.
In recent times Immigration has also asked for 4 photographs of you and your spouse in your Thai property, one photo of you standing outside the property clearly showing the mailbox and your street number and three photos inside the dwelling showing both of you. Also required, in some instances, is a map from your property to the Immigration office. Presumably this is so Immigration can easily find you if they wish to do one of the spot checks that they perform from time to time.
The first year the extension of stay is applied for it is usually a requirement that both the visa applicant and the spouse attend but after that it is not always necessary. There can be a short wait while the visa is extended for a period of between a week and a month before it is then extended for a full year.
To qualify for a retirement visa you must be aged over 50 years old and must have either a monthly income of 65,000 baht or a bank balance of 800,000 baht.
You need to apply for a Non-Immigrant O visa outside of Thailand and enter the country on that visa. You then must go to Immigration where you need to show that you meet the financial requirements and the visa will be issued. Some immigration officers insist that this balance be deposited in a Thai bank account whereas others accept it in a foreign bank account with a letter from your embassy verifying it. When the balance is in a local bank account, often showing the bank account book alone is not enough and the officers like to receive a letter from the bank also.
Like the marriage visa, there can be a short wait for the visa to be processed, a few days to a week.
If you are employed in Thailand you really should be legal and that means having a work permit. Once you have a work permit you can apply for a one year extension of stay.
You first need to apply for a non-Immigrant B visa at an embassy or consulate outside of Thailand. Once issued, you enter Thailand on that visa and your employer should put in place paperwork with the Labour Department for the issuing of a work permit. Despite what some employers might tell you, this should take no more than a few days. Any delays in getting it issued are invariably in the preparation and submission of the application by your employer! Once you have been issued with the work permit, you can apply for an extension of stay, based on the length of employment, typically a year. So if you have a work permit for a year, you can apply for an extension of stay to match the date in your work permit.
If you are self-employed with your own company it is much the same. You first need to get the work permit and then can apply for an extension of stay based on the date in your work permit.
Not Married, Not Working, Not Retired And / Or Aged Under 50
There is an increasing number of Westerners living in Thailand who fall into this category. They enjoy Thailand for its warm weather and low cost of living. They do not wish to get married, do not wish to work and are aged under 50. This eliminates most of the easy visa options and requires one to be a little more creative, perhaps looking closely at the various loopholes.
The good news is that with a little effort one can stay in Thailand indefinitely if you are in this category - although there might be the need for frequent visa runs.
For the wealthiest, there is the Elite Card option. It’s bloody expensive, but it is one option. Personally, I would not choose that option but if you are rich, it is worth considering – 1.5 million baht gets you a 5 year non-immigrant visa which presumably rolls over ad infinitum.
One could come and go on tourist visas with a mix of 30 day stamps and actual tourist visas applied for at Thai embassies and consulates abroad. This would suit those who wish to or need to travel in and out of the county frequently, but frankly, I think all of this travel would become rather a nuisance fairly quickly unless it was necessary for other reasons.
You could start your own company and get a work permit based on that. This is, in my opinion, not a good idea because foreigners who have a work permit in Thailand must pay a minimum amount of tax every month – whether they are working or not, so while you might get a one year extension of stay and not have to leave the country and re-enter every three months, you would have the cost of initially setting up the company and all of the paperwork, then the requirement to pay tax each month as well as the ongoing costs of twice year auditing (for which it is an offence if you forget!). All of this could easily run to 150,000 baht a year – a rather hefty cost merely for the privilege of staying in the country, a country in which you are very likely spending money you had earned abroad. I think this is perhaps the worst option of all.
One could always apply for multiple entry non-immigrant visas at some of the consulates which are currently considered a soft touch. The Thai consulate in Hull in the UK has always been considered a soft touch. Once one has this visa, they only need to exit and re-enter Thailand every 3 months. Again, it is a nuisance and you would need to be in England to apply for it.
At the end of the day, if you are not employed, married or on a retirement visa, the need to exit and re-enter the country so often would become a burden and one that I personally would not want to deal with.