With 20+ years of both living and travelling in Thailand (showing my age here), I couldn’t begin to count the number of Thai visas and visa applications I have processed through these years. From visa exemption and regular tourist visas to ‘non-o’ for marriage, similar for owning property in Thailand (this option no longer exists), and of course the STV (Special Tourist Visa) during Covid. Then there are the regular ‘visa runs’ in surrounding Southeast Asia (here for my top 10 visa runs) and visa extensions within Thailand. In short, I am fairly familiar with the ins-and-outs of the Thai visa application as well the various visa options for visitors to Thailand?
While visa options rarely change (although both the Elite Visa and Smart Visas are relatively new) the visa requirements and regulations may change from time to time. I will try to update here otherwise it’s best to check the latest information with online forums, directly with the local Royal Thai Embassy/Consulate, or with a reputable visa agency.
Do I Need a Visa to Visit Thailand?
It depends on your nationality and the length of your intended stay. Thailand has a visa exemption policy that allows citizens of many countries to enter and stay in Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa. However, some nationalities may be required to obtain a visa prior to arrival or can apply for a visa on arrival.
You can check if your country is eligible for visa exemption and what the requirements are for obtaining a visa on the official website of the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate in your country. Alternatively, you can consult a travel agency or contact the Thai immigration office for more information.
What is Visa Exempt?
Often mistaken as a visa on arrival, visa exempt actually refers to the policy that allows citizens of certain countries to enter Thailand without a visa for a limited period of time. This means that travellers who are eligible under the visa exemption program can enter Thailand for tourism or business purposes without having to apply for a visa beforehand.
The length of stay allowed under the visa exemption program varies depending on the traveller’s nationality. For example, citizens of the UK, United States, Canada, and most European countries can stay in Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa. Also citizens of some neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore are allowed to stay up to 90 days without a visa.
What Different Visas are there for Thailand?
Thailand offers several types of visas for different purposes. Here are some of the most common types of visas for Thailand:
1. Tourist Visa
This visa is for those who want to visit Thailand for tourism purposes. It is valid for up to 60 days and can be extended for an additional 30 days.
2. Non-Immigrant Visa
This visa is for those who want to visit Thailand for business, employment, education, or other non-tourist purposes. There are several categories of non-immigrant visas, including:
• Non-Immigrant B Visa: Thai visa for business and employment purposes
• Non-Immigrant ED Visa: For education and training purposes
• Non-Immigrant O Visa: For retirement or family purposes
• Non-Immigrant O-A Visa: For long-term retirement purposes (valid for one year)
3. Transit Visa
This visa is for those who are passing through Thailand en route to another country.
4. Visa on Arrival
This is a type of visa that allows citizens of certain countries to enter Thailand without obtaining a visa in advance. The visa on arrival is valid for up to 15 days.
5. Elite Visa
This is a special type of visa that offers long-term residency and various privileges for a fee. The Elite Visa is available in several packages, with varying lengths of stay and benefits.
6. Smart Visa
This visa is designed for highly skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, and startup founders who wish to live and work in Thailand long-term.
It is important to note that visa requirements and regulations may change from time to time, so it’s always a good idea to check the latest information with the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate in your country or with a reputable travel agency.
How do I Renew my Visa?
The process of renewing a Thai visa depends on the type of visa you have and the purpose of your stay. Here are some general guidelines:
1. Tourist Visa Extension:
If you have a tourist visa, you can extend it for an additional 30 days at the immigration office in Thailand. You can apply for the extension up to 30 days before your visa expires. You will need to provide your passport, a completed application form, a recent passport photo, and the fee for the extension.
2. Non-Immigrant Visa Extension:
If you have a non-immigrant visa, you can extend it for an additional 90 days at the immigration office in Thailand. You can apply for the extension up to 45 days before your visa expires. You will need to provide your passport, a completed application form, a recent passport photo, and the fee for the extension. Depending on the type of non-immigrant visa you have, you may also need to provide additional documents, such as a work permit or a letter from your employer.
3. Re-Entry Permit
If you have a long-term visa, such as a non-immigrant visa or an Elite visa, and you plan to leave Thailand and return later, you will need a re-entry permit to ensure that your visa remains valid. You can obtain a re-entry permit at the immigration office in Thailand or at the airport before you depart. You will need to provide your passport, a completed application form, a recent passport photo, and the fee for the re-entry permit.
It is important to note that visa renewal and extension requirements and fees may change from time to time, so it’s always a good idea to check the latest information with the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate in your country or with a reputable travel agency.
How to Apply for a Thai Visa?
There are several ways to get your Thai visa sorted, depending on your circumstances and preferences. Here are some options to consider:
1. Apply for a Thai visa before you travel:
If you are planning a trip to Thailand and require a visa, you can apply for one at the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate in your country before you travel. This will allow you to have your visa sorted before you arrive in Thailand.
2. Use a visa service in Thailand:
If you are already in Thailand and need to extend or renew your visa, you can use a visa agency in Thailand (in other words visa service providers) to help you with the process. Visa services in Thailand are private companies that specialize in visa applications and can provide assistance with filling out forms, obtaining required documents, and submitting your application to the immigration office. You can find visa services in major cities in Thailand, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
3. DIY visa application:
If you prefer to handle your visa application yourself, you can go directly to the immigration office in Thailand to apply for an extension or renewal. Be prepared to provide all required documents and pay the fees for the application.
When choosing a visa service in Thailand, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable company with good reviews and a track record of success. Be sure to check their fees and what services are included, as some companies may charge extra for certain services. It’s also a good idea to confirm with the immigration office whether the visa service is authorized to handle visa applications on your behalf.