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For those that want to move to Thailand long-term, there are plenty of visa options available. No matter what your age, there will be one that’s available to you.
If you haven’t made up your mind about whether you want to stay in Thailand long-term, then the best visa option for you will probably be a tourist visa. Most people, including US and UK citizens, can enter Thailand without a visa and are allowed to stay for 30 days if arriving by air. If you visit via a land crossing, you will only be allowed to stay for only 15 days.
If you’re planning to stay longer, you can apply for a tourist visa before leaving your home country. Most consulates will give a maximum of a 6-month visa, although some only provide a 3-month visa. So, you’ll need to check with the embassy in your home country to find out what the current rules are. These can change often, so it’s not possible to keep an up-to-date list.
With a 6-month visa, you can get single, double, or triple entry. If you opt for a single-entry visa, you can only enter Thailand one time during those six months. Each time you enter Thailand, you will be allowed to stay for 60 days, but this can be extended for an extra 30 days at local immigration, upon payment of 1,900 baht ($62.12, £49.19). You then have to leave the country and return to get your next 60 days’ ability to stay and pay 1,900 baht to extend for an extra 30 days.
Many people get confused between a visa and permission to stay. In basic terms, a visa allows you to enter the country during the period of the visa. Once the visa has expired, it is invalid. Permission to stay is what you get when you arrive. It is usually 30 days when you arrive without a visa and 60 days when you come with a tourist visa. So, suppose you had a single-entry 6-month visa that was valid from 1 January until 29 June. If this is you, it means you can only enter Thailand once during those six months, and when you enter, you’ll receive permission to stay for 60 days. So, if you arrive on 1 January, you’ll be able to stay until 1 March (60 days). You can get a further 30-day extension until 31 March, but then you have to leave the country. Your visa is then no longer valid, as you have already used your single entry. So, if you plan to enter the country more than once during the visa’s validity, it would be best to get a double or triple-entry visa.
A retirement visa is one of the most accessible visas to get for people over 50. The only requirements are that you are over 50 and have 800,000 baht ($27,000, £18,000) in a local bank account or the equivalent in monthly income. The way most people get this visa is to arrive on a tourist visa, and then convert it to a non-immigrant visa while they are in Bangkok. When the non-immigrant visa is about to expire, they then apply for a retirement visa.
When you first apply for a retirement visa, you need to show that you have had the money in the bank for a minimum of two months. The amount cannot have dropped below 800,000 baht at any time during these two months. You’ll also need to get a letter from your bank confirming that you have the money in the bank. If you have the equivalent amount as monthly income, you need to get a letter from your embassy to confirm this. If you have a regular pension, rental income, or other income, this could be a good option. Getting a retirement visa is incredibly easy. Once you have queued up at immigration, the actual process usually only takes around 30 minutes. The cost is 1,900 baht ($62.12, £49.19). With this visa, you need to report your address to immigration every 90 days that you are in the country. If you intend to leave the country and return, you need to get a re-entry permit for 1,000 baht ($32.17, £25.88). If you don’t get this, your retirement visa will be canceled when you leave the country, which means you’ll have to start the process from scratch when you return.
For those that are married to a Thai national, there is the option of getting a marriage visa. This is a little more complicated to get than a retirement visa, so if you’re over 50, and have sufficient funds, then it’s easier to apply for a retirement visa, even if you are married to a Thai citizen. One benefit of a marriage visa is that you only need to show 400,000 baht funds or the equivalent in monthly income. As with the retirement visa, you need to report your address to immigration every 90 days and get a re-entry permit if you leave and return to Thailand.
If you have a job offer in Thailand, then the company that employs you will be able to sort out your work permit and visa. The visa you’ll need is a non-immigrant B visa. This type allows you to stay in Thailand while your work permit is still valid. Once your work permit expires, you will need to leave Thailand right away.
For those that don’t fit any of the above categories, there is another visa option. And that is the educational visa. Most people that get one of these visas do so by attending a Thai language course, although they are also available for other educational courses. Walen International is a company that offers Thai language courses, and they can also arrange a 1-year visa for you. If you sign up for a 1-year course with Walen, you will get a 1-year ED visa. This allows you to stay in the country for 90 days at a time. But this can be extended every 90 days without having to leave the country. The cost of each extension is 1,900 baht.
See http://www.thaiwalen.com/student_visa.php for more details.