It’s well-known that Thailand is one of the most popular places for nomads. First, there is the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, one of the biggest cities in Southeast Asia and all of Asia. Then, for those who want a slower pace, there are smaller cities like Chiang Mai, which have become a haven for expats.
You also have cities like Chiang Rai that boast hundreds of Buddhist temples as well as historical and cultural sites alongside the jungle. For those who prefer the island life, you’ve got Koh Samui and Thailand’s other islands. And you can’t forget the beach city of Hua Hin. Simply put, there’s a place for almost any choice of “paradise” in Thailand. How do you qualify for and obtain a Thai Visa?
Whether it’s a digital nomad visa, a second passport, a golden visa, or citizenship, nobody has more options than Nomad Capitalist. We don’t believe in one-size-fits-all all options but rather provide holistic strategies for your individual needs. Apply to become a client today.
Passport holders from 64 countries are allowed into Thailand without a visa. Under the visa-exempt law, tourists can be in the country for up to 30 days without needing a visa.
Tourists who wish to stay in the country longer without obtaining a visa have often resorted to visa runs in which they cross the border to a country like Malaysia for a couple of days and return for another 30 days of visa-free visitation. In light of such practices, the Thai government has cracked down in recent years and has limited the visa-free period upon re-entry.
Thailand’s crackdown is rather strict than other countries that allow easy visa-free travel and visa runs. They’re not giving tourists much leeway and are ending the process of visa runs altogether. It has become much harder to become a nomad there.
So what can a Thailand-loving expat do to get a few more days in the country? If you prefer Thailand, there are several visas you could potentially qualify for in order to stay long-term in the “Land of Smiles.”
Visa Exempt Entry & Tourist Visas
As mentioned, if you enter Thailand without a visa (i.e., on a visa-exempt entry), you have a full 30 days in the country.
That rule has not changed. What has changed is the re-entry policy. Until a few years ago, people went on visa runs every month.
However, in 2014, the Thai government decided to intensify and enforce their immigration laws, bringing into effect the 15-day rule for border crossings.
The next best solution is obtaining a tourist visa. At the most, you can get a 60-day tourist stamp. However, foreigners are allowed to spend up to 90 days in six months in Thailand. To get those full 90 days, most people enter on a 30-day visa-exempt stamp and then extend that to a full three months with a 60-day tourist visa. This works perfectly fine. Just note that after three months, you will have to leave for another three months before you can return to Thailand.
If you apply for a visa before entering the country, you have two options: the non-immigrant visa (a single entry visa valid for 90 days) and the one-year non-immigrant visa (a multiple entry visa valid for a year but still limited to 90 days per entry). In summary, if you plan on staying less than 30 days (and you are from one of the few visa-exempt countries), just enter a visa stamp.
Why the Crackdown?
So why the crackdown? In some ways, the Thai government wants to stem the flow of tourists to its country.
Thailand is one of the most touristed countries on the globe. In fact, Bangkok is the second most touristed city in the world this year, beating out even London and Paris with almost 22 million visitors as of November 2023. It’s easy to assume the Thai government doesn’t want so many people in the country to the point that everyone walking around the central business district is a foreigner, which is what it can be like, especially during tourist season.
It may also be a reflection of the Thai government’s desire to go for more quality tourists. They’re not too keen on the under-50 crowd that wants to retire early and party all the time.
As such, getting any type of long-term visa in the country will require that you prove links to the country, whether that’s through marriage, education, business, or investment.
If you are willing to go to work for a company, foreign government, or other organization based in Thailand, you could qualify for a Thai work visa and permit. In order to get the work permit, your employer must file an application on your behalf. Once you receive the visa and permit, you can live and work in Thailand for a one-year period.
Many expats in Thailand go the educational route to obtain a longer-term visa. Of course, you could enroll in Thai classes, but if you’re a serious Nomad Capitalist, enrolling in a Thai class may not be the best use of your time.
You do have the option to attend a top-ranked university that many world rankings place in the top 200 college institutions in the world on par with colleges such as the University of Florida.
You may also choose to study in Thailand to not just benefit from the degree and visa but to learn how business and culture operate in that part of the world. To qualify for a student visa, you have to be enrolled in a Thai educational institution, enroll in at least three courses, and have at least 15 hours of classes a week.
To qualify, you must invest at least 10 million Thai baht, currently about $275,000, in stocks, real estate, bonds, and any type of investment available in Thailand.
Once the investment is made, you can then renew the visa on a yearly basis for an indefinite period of time. The investment visa is not a permanent residency, but it does allow the investor to stay in Thailand indefinitely, more or less.
Of course, laws do change, but Thailand is known to grandfather people into law changes. For example, back in the 1990s, a 10 million baht investment visa could be bought for 3 million baht. Even though that’s not the case anymore, there are still people living in Thailand who obtained their investment visa with the 3 million baht 30 years ago.
The Thai marriage visa is technically known as the one-year extension of stay based on marriage. Just from its technical name, we understand that it is extended on a one-year basis. With a marriage visa, there is no need to exit the country during the year’s time, and it can be renewed within the country. The visa also gives the holder permission to work.
Besides being married to a Thai national, you must also meet specific financial criteria. You must either have a security deposit of 400,000 baht in a Thai bank account for at least two months prior to your application or a monthly income of at least 40,000 baht with a letter from your embassy verifying the income. You could also qualify with a combination of both a deposit and income, as long as the total is at least 400,000 baht, or just over USD$11,000).
You will also need the proper paperwork, including your passport, police clearance, and a medical certificate. Once you receive your marriage visa, you will still need to follow the general 90-day reporting rule.
Before checking out the details of the Thai business visa, it’s important to note that the business laws for foreigners in Thailand are very difficult.
You may not be willing to invest in something that he wouldn’t actually own. Having said that, if you are interested in obtaining a business visa in Thailand, you will need to apply for the non-immigrant B visa. It’s best to apply for this particular visa before going to Thailand.
If you’re over the age of 50, you can get a retirement visa fairly easily. The main requirement is proof of pension, but it is not really all that strict. You will either need to show proof of a security deposit of 800,000 baht (roughly $22,000) or a monthly pension or income source of at least 65,000 baht (about $1,700).
Again, you can also have a combination of both as long as the total is equivalent to or higher than 800,000 baht. In all honesty, the Thai government is very welcoming to retirees. They basically say, “If you’re over the age of 50 and you’re getting a pension, then great, welcome in.
To begin the process, you will first need to obtain a non-immigrant visa, which you will then convert into a retirement visa that will be good for one year and available for renewal within Thailand on an annual basis.
Permanent Resident Visa
With the constant need to renew any type of visa, some wonder if there is a path toward permanent residence in Thailand.
Thailand has two options: the 90-day Non-immigrant visa and the Long-Term Resident Program launched in September 2022.
The long-term visa option is open to wealthy global citizens, wealthy pensioners, and highly skilled professionals and is valid from between 90 days to 10 years.
If you work for a Thai company for at least three years and can provide personal tax statements proving an income of at least 80,000 baht per month or about $2,200, you could qualify for permanent residence.
You could also qualify if you’ve been married to a Thai national for at least five years and have a minimum monthly income of 30,000 baht, or $825, during that five-year period.
Overall, the process is a little more complicated than it seems at first. So, if your end goal is to get permanent residency, recognize that you will have to get a certain type of visa in order to qualify. It won’t matter how long you’ve lived in Thailand with one visa or another if you don’t have the right visa to grant you a pathway to permanent residence.
For people who have more money to put in, you could get the Thai Elite Visa that will allow you to live in Thailand for up to twenty years. It’s not a permanent residence card, but it allows you to stay much longer than the majority of the visas listed here and allows you to live in Thailand year-round. The Elite Visa also comes with some extra benefits and special treatment. However, you will have to hand over between THB 900,000, or around $24,300, and THB 5,000,000, or around $135,300, for the privilege.
Now that we’ve covered the types of visas you can get, there are just a few questions left. First of all, what happens if you overstay your visa?
According to the US embassy, Thai police have been known to sweep areas popular with low-budget travelers and arrest anyone who has overstayed their visa. Police raids may happen, but they’re not common.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to overstay your visa. For one, it’s rather difficult to leave the country on an expired visa and not get caught. If someone has overstayed their 90 days, they will be stopped by immigration on the way out. The penalties range from a small fine to a ten-year ban from entering Thailand.
The Renewal Process
The key to avoiding problems such as overstaying a visa is checking in every 90 days and renewing your visa on time. Most visas, whether for marriage, investment, education, retirement, etc., require a 90-day check-in regardless of the length for which the visa is extended.
Go Where You Are Treated Best
You could very easily spend six months out of the year in Thailand, six months in Cambodia or Malaysia, or really any country in the region.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that spending more than 180 days in Thailand will qualify you as a tax resident. Although it is known for its favorable tax system, as of 2024, laws around foreign source income will change, ensuring that if you are a tax resident, spending the majority of your time in Thailand, then you will be subjected to tax on all foreign income no matter when remitted.
For retirees, if you’re over the age of 50, it’s easy. If you’re under the age of 50, it’s more challenging to spend more than six months out of the year in Thailand. Alternatively, Thailand could work as part of a trifecta method.
There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, and what Nomad Capitalist does is evaluate all the different options. We have helped people move to 31 different countries, and we look at the whole picture, helping you figure it all out through a holistic strategy. Contact Nomad Capitalist today and take the first step.