Your Guide to Visa and Residence Options for Thailand

When my wife Vivien and I first thought of moving to Thailand, one of the first questions we asked ourselves was, “How do you legally live there long term?” We knew there were different types of visas, but which was best for us? Since moving, we’ve had a lot of International Living readers ask us those same questions…

So here is the answer: The two types of visa most commonly used by would-be retirees are retirement and tourist visas. Here are details on both.

Scouting Trips—Checking Out Thailand

U.S. and Canadian passport holders can arrive in Thailand without a visa. To do so, you must have at least six months’ validity left on your passport. Then, when you arrive, a visa-exempt stamp, or Tourist Visa Waiver, is issued.

(This is often mistakenly called a 30-day tourist visa, visa on arrival, or tourist visa—all these terms are incorrect descriptions. If you’ve vacationed in Thailand before, this may have been how you entered the country.) The visa-exempt stamp, or Tourist Visa Waiver, allows for 30 days in Thailand. You can extend your stay for up to another 30 days at most immigration offices within Thailand. The current fee for the 30-day extension is around $60 (depending on exchange rates).

If you want to stay longer in the country for your scouting trip, there are two other options: the single-entry and the multi-entry tourist visas. A single-entry tourist visa is valid for 90 days. It allows you an initial 60-day stay that begins on the day you enter Thailand. You can extend it 30 days by submitting the usual application, your passport, photos, and the 1,900 baht ($60) fee at local immigration offices here in Thailand. Do note that this visa has an “enter before” date. If you do not enter Thailand before that date, the visa automatically expires.

If you exit the country, the visa expires unless you get a re-entry permit.

Single-entry tourist visas are only available outside Thailand, including in neighboring Southeast Asian countries—for instance, in the Thai embassies in Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Some people get a single-entry tourist visa, extend it for 30 days, then do a “border run”—that is, they hop across the border and then return to get another tourist visa. The authorities have recently been cracking down on border runs. How many times you get away with doing them totally depends on the border agent you get each time. If you plan to stay in Thailand long term, it’s a good idea to find a visa that allows you to do so legally.

The multi-entry (METV) tourist visa allows you six months in Thailand.

The six-month term starts the day the visa is issued—not the date you enter Thailand. Those holding this visa must leave Thailand every 60 days…but you can extend your visa by 30 days per each 60-day entry. You can thus potentially get a total of 270 days on this visa. You don’t need to get a re-entry permit for a multi-entry tourist visa. You can only apply for this visa from your country of residence. The fee is $200.

Retirement Visa Options

Many expats choose the retirement visa option; that.s what my wife Vivien and I did. Officially, it’s entitled the Non-Immigrant “OA” (Retirement/Long-term Stay) Visa. This visa lets you stay in Thailand for one year and can be renewed in the country annually. You must be 50 or over to qualify, and you cannot work in Thailand if you hold this visa.

You can get the visa in your home country or in Thailand, and it’s available as a single-entry or multi-entry visa. The multi-entry option gives you much more flexibility to explore the region, and you can return home at the drop of a hat. Applying for the retirement visa in your home country may eliminate any foreign-language issues that applying in Thailand may present. The Royal Thai Embassy website ( sets out all the requirements. The application forms can also be downloaded from there. Here’s a summary of current requirements:

  • A passport valid for at least another 18 months.
  • Completed application and personal detail form.
  • Passport photos.
  • Criminal record check (plus, you cannot have any criminal history in Thailand).
  • Medical certificate stating that you do not have leprosy, tuberculosis, elephantiasis, drug addiction, alcoholism, or third-stage syphilis.

You need to show a bank deposit of 800,000 baht (that’s about $25,445 at time of writing). Alternatively, you can present documentation showing a monthly income, combined with monies from a pension, which equal the annual figure of 800,000 baht. You may need to go to your embassy to have a statutory declaration signed. This declaration sets out your compliance with the monthly income requirement. The Thai embassy requires three copies of all the stipulated documents, bound in order and notarized by a notary public or justice of the peace.

You can apply by mail. Processing time is three days. The fee for a multi-entry OA visa is $200—paid by cash, money order, or bank check.

Checking-in With Immigration

Retirement visa holders are also required to do 90-day reporting at the nearest immigration office for the duration of their visa. The process requires submitting a completed form, proof of your current address, a brief meeting with an official, and several stamps. A new 90-day form is then issued. It’s a very simple process, from our experience in Hua Hin.

However, we have heard that the process is more bureaucratic in locations like Chiang Mai. Missing a 90-day check can result in your visa being revoked. We have read that Thai immigration has proposed and done trials of 90-day reporting by mail or online. To our knowledge, trials continue and no national roll-out is on the horizon.

So expats should do their 90-day checks in person or engage an agent to help them.

Renewing a Retirement Visa

Each year you must apply for a one-year stay and extension of your retirement visa. Thankfully, it is easier than the initial application. You can apply as early as 45 days before your current visa’s expiration date. You need to complete the visa and multi-entry application forms. You also need to show proof of 800,000 baht (about $25,455 at current exchange rates) in a Thai bank. This amount, or an equivalent amount including pension payments, must have been in the bank for at least three months immediately prior to your applying for a visa renewal.

A statutory declaration that shows sufficient monthly income from pensions or annuities, duly signed by your home country embassy, may also be acceptable.

The fee for renewal is $200, and the renewal can be completed at your nearest immigration office. If all is well, your new visa is issued on the spot.

We know people who obtained the one-year stay and extension as a married couple, with just one bank deposit of 800,000 baht. However, we have not found information on official websites that refers to it. It is certainly worth speaking with immigration officials in your location about a married couple’s retirement visa, versus two individual visas.

Other Long-Stay Visas

Recently, the Thai government announced a 10-year retirement visa. This visa should appeal to retirees who want more certainty than the current one-year option gives. Like the “OA” retirement visa, the 10-year visa requires you to be at least 50 years old. You must also deposit at least 3 million baht (about $95,434) in a Thai bank for at least a year. Alternatively, a letter from a Thai bank showing a balance of 1.8 million baht (about $57,260) and proof of annual income of over 1.2 million baht (about $38,175) will suffice.

Applicants also must have health insurance that provides coverage of outpatient care of no less than 40,000 baht ($1,272), and coverage for inpatient care of no less than 400,000 baht ($12,725). The 90-day reporting will still be mandatory. Only citizens of 14 countries can apply; the U.S. and Canada are both among the 14.

The Thailand elite visa is based on a tourist visa. It caters to affluent foreigners who want to enjoy long-term stays in Thailand without having to leave the country to extend their visa. Depending on the applicant’s membership package, the validity of stay ranges from five to 20 years. It is a multiple-entry visa and includes access to priority fast-track treatment at airport check-in, immigration, and customs.

There are even special airport lounges. Membership can also include discounts on prestigious golf courses, a duty-free retailer, accommodation, and more. Additionally, a concierge service assists with opening banks accounts, navigating immigration services, obtaining a driver’s license, and facilitating business networking.

The fee for five years starts at around $16,000. More information is at

Two Immigration Tips

Re-Entry Permits. You may need to obtain a re-entry permit before leaving Thailand if you hold one of the following visas: single-entry tourist, single-entry non-immigrant “O,” and single-entry “OA” retirement visa. If you don’t get the re-entry permit, your visa will be treated as expired when you leave the country. That means you forfeit the time left on your current visa. And no amount of pleading to immigration will reverse your situation.

You can get re-entry permits through your local immigration office and at Thailand’s international airports. As always, you’ll need to fill in some paperwork, have passport photos, and pay a fee.

Overstaying Your Visa. It is illegal to stay in Thailand beyond the period stated on your visa, and doing so is considered breaking Thai law, even if you overstay by only one day. As soon as you realize you have overstayed, even by a day, head to your nearest immigration office to explain your situation and pay the appropriate fines.

Finally, a simple reminder: Immigration laws do change from time to time, so for up-to-date information, check out the Royal Thai Embassy website. (See: