You Can Live in Thailand More Easily Thanks to New Visa Options

thailand travel deal

As a destination for expatriates looking to live abroad for less, Thailand has a lot going for it. There’s just been one major obstacle: it’s tough to legally live in Thailand on a long-term basis.

That obstacle has been a big one. It hasn’t kept the digital nomads away—Chiang Mai is one of the most popular spots for location independent workers—but it’s been a reason that more people stick around for a few months than a few years.

Two developments have made this less of an issue, however, and I did a Skype call with local resident (and blog reader) Robert Holloway to get the scoop. Here’s the current situation, with two options that don’t require border runs or workarounds.

Six-Month Thai Visa Arranged at Home

The reason so many people get locked into a series of border runs and an uncertain future in Thailand is that they don’t decide to live there until they get there. Robert says it’s easy to avoid all this hassle by just applying before you go.

“You just go to your local Thai embassy in the USA, apply with your passport, and you get a six-month visa where you don’t have to leave the country. I paid $80 and it was ready the next day. For the first couple months you don’t have to report to immigration, but then you have to check in every month. There’s no further paperwork.”

He says he did not have to show any financial information to get this. It was just a matter of filling out the paperwork.

This 6-month multiple entry visa option debuted in late 2015 and took a while to work its way through the bureaucracy, so it has not been widely publicized yet. But I know it’s available for Americans ($140), UK residents (125 pounds), Canadians, Australians, and some other nationalities. Just be advised there are income requirements that may may not be enforced when you apply. Wear nice clothes and take out all the piercings!

Robert now lives in a nice 3BR/2 bath house he has rented long-term for around $500 a month and he’s got no worries about how long he can stay. He says the times he’s visited Thai immigration it’s been very straightforward and has taken 20 minutes or less. Lately you can even meet the routine “visit immigration” requirements online. As someone who has lived in Chile and Costa Rica in recent years as well, he has plenty of experiences to compare it to as well.

“Most locals get by on the equivalent of $300 per month, which is how much I spend just on food and eating out. I can still get a local meal for less than $3 with something to drink and a nice restaurant will be under $10, with a glass of wine even. You can spend $1,000 a month just for rent if you want a condo on the beach, but I spend around $2,000 a month total. I pay all my health care expenses out of pocket.”

living in Thailand

He’s of retirement age though, so he’s now on the scheme where you get a year-long visa at a time. Soon that’s going to be extended for a much longer period.

Long-term Visa for Those 50 and Older

It’s long been much easier to live in Thailand as a retiree, provided you had some money to put in a Thai bank account. You still have to have a chunk of cash and be able to support yourself, but now you can have the peace of mind that you’re set for years once you get locked in.

There’s a detailed Lonely Planet report on this new Thai retirement visa—which hasn’t been implemented yet as best we can tell. You don’t have to be all that old to qualify as it’s for those 50 and above. You do have to meet some income requirements though and check in with immigration on a scheduled basis every 90 days.

This is best for people looking to cut down their expenses in their later years, not retirees who are dead broke and desperate. Here’s what the LP article says:

Eligible foreigners must have a monthly income of at least 100,000 Thai baht (US$2,809/€2,657), or a bank deposit of at least three million baht (US$84,034/€79,706) This amount must be maintained for at least one year after receiving the visa.

For most retirees, this is going to mean cashing out part of a retirement plan or using the proceeds from a real estate sale in their previous home. It’s a hurdle, but not a real unreasonable one. This is similar to current requirements, which tens of thousands of foreigners have acted on. Robert says it’s possible to get around this too as an American You just have to fill out a statement that you’re solvent and get it notarized.

There is also a medical insurance requirement that applies to everyone, but it’s a minimal amount of coverage you need to have.

The great news is, this is a five-year visa that can be extended for another five, giving you a decade of being legal in an inexpensive and fun tropical country.

living in Bangkok

High-rise Bangkok view

Like most good, sustainable deals, this is beneficial to both parties. Thailand is trying to promote the country as a wellness and medical tourism destination and they like the fact that foreigners bring in capital that they’re willing to spend. Having all those deposits sitting in Thai banks is a big help to the domestic banking system as well of course. The interesting part of this is that Asian countries are starting to compete for this business, which created a big rush of expats when Latin American ones started doing then more than a decade ago.

“If you do your research and stay within the boundaries of the law, you’re not going to run into any trouble,” Robert says. “If you’re 50 or over, it’s really easy. You get six months by applying at home, then you extend it after you get here and you’re set. You just fill out the paperwork, show income, show you have a place to stay, and you’re done. It’s actually easier than many other places I’ve lived. In most countries though this is true. If you find out what the real laws are and you follow them, you will be fine.”

Readers who have bought into the Committed or All In packages of A Better Life for Half the Price have access to the audio interview I did with Thai resident Robert Holloway, along with other expat interviews from multiple countries. See more on the living abroad packages page.

Editor’s Update – 2018

This post went up in late 2016, but now some of the announced policies are in place. Robert got back to me with how things have been playing out since we talked and I’m pasting in his message below.

Since we talked, things are getting easier for us in Thailand for our visas and for working in Thailand as well.

The government is now releasing a list of several professions that cannot be easily filled here in Thailand and are now offering work visas more easily for those professions that will be listed.

Second issue is that our retirement extensions are becoming easier to renew and our 90 days visas can now be verified online, on a government website, at our local 7-11 corner stores or at our local immigration offices. My last two visits there have taken about 10-15 minutes here in Hua Hin, and they even opened up a new office in our Blue Port Shopping Mall for even more convenience. IT seems immigration is getting more straightforward and easing the qualifications with a new 10 year “super visa” for investors and some other categories now. There should be some new regulations that are verifiable coming out soon.

The coup government has announced the return of democratic voting will take place this year, but then came back and said it will be delayed 90 days more, so it probably will happen early 2019 if not sooner. Freedom folks are challenging this decision so who knows how it will settle out…

I just rented a new 3 BR 2 bath furnished house in an exclusive housing group for $825 per month. It’s really a lavish place, with beautiful pool and is a well-maintained, 24 hours development.

Yes, Thailand is still one of the best values in the world for living abroad.

Comments
  1. Fred

    The money requirements you mentioned are for the new 5 or 10 year visa.. You still have to report every 90 days but you don’t have to renew your retirement visa every year within Thailand. The actual requirement is a total of 800,000.00 Baht between savings in Thai bank account and your income. You also only have to keep it in a bank for 3 months prior to your first visa and then 2 months thereafter. Doesn’t matter how you make it happen it has to total 800,000.00 baht when you renew you visa. You also may have to be over 60-62 years old for the latter rule. I will check on it and let you know if you like.

    ….those new requirements just happened within the last few weeks I believe

    Anyway…thought I would give you my 2 cents

    fred

  2. Rick Rezac

    read more carefully, not necessarily that great, and Im a 15 year resident/teacher

  3. Daniél Lecoq

    How many retirees have a monthly income of US$2,809/€2,657?
    The other option might be set if you own a house or something which you sell, but most “normal” people rent an apartment and have a lot lower pension than that, so it’s as usual, only for the rich and privileged. Not for people just coping who wanna live somewhere cheaper.

    • Tim Leffel

      Anyone who saved during their working years and has an IRA, 401K, a pension, business income…plus social security is around half that amount by itself these days.

    • art

      Yeah Daniel, you match my feelings on this amount too. I think I get more social security than most guys (I’m single) and it’s still only $1850, so I really don’t think Thailand is doing the average social security retiree any favors.

      • joel perez

        I have been retired now 16 months I retired early but been traveling to Thailand for the last 10 yrs. on my 2nd visit, I open a bank acct & started depositing money every month now I have $ 2 million baht in acct. that I have never touch between my pension & my social security I get $2305 a month & I have $ 432.000 dollars in my 401k my home here in the states is pay off the only reason I only stay in Thailand 90 days because I have grown children & grandchildren living in different parts of the country that I travel to span time with them but the best way to save the $800.000 baht is to think ahead & open an acct to have direct monthly deposit from bank acct here in the states my monthly spances in thailand is $1000 dollars I don,t drink so I dont have no reason to hang out in the nighclubs at night other than then going out to dinner my morning breakfest cost me $ 3.50 u.s. my lunch & dinner is about $2.60 U.S each in the local markets that were most locals go out to eat after work with there families & a local restaurant don’t cost more than $ 6 to $ 7 U.S. dollars is up to each person if they want to live like a local or a tourist if they live like a tourist it could run into the thousands of dollars & that’s where people make their mistakes they span money that they normally don’t do at home thailand is a beautiful country especially if you get to know people & make friends you will get to see places that only locals visit away from the tourist section

  4. Jason

    Well, anyone who sells a house and moves easily meets the requirements. This is pretty lenient compared to many other countries. None of them want you if you have no money. Then you are just a refugee.

  5. Wayne Bernhardson

    “Your local Thai embassy in the USA?” Useful for those of us live in DC, I guess…

  6. Keith Mundy

    Robert Holloway says: ” I can still get a local meal for less than $3 with something to drink and a nice restaurant will be under $10, with a glass of wine even”.

    Reality check: Only in the very cheapest and most basic places can you get a “local meal” with a beer for $3. In a “nice restaurant”, the glass of wine alone will cost almost $10. Realistically, particularly in Bangkok and tourist centres, double those figures and you’ve got a better idea of eating out in Thailand.

    • Tim Leffel

      Keith, he’s not in Bangkok (like most expats who move to Thailand by choice and not for work) but it sounds like you need to get off Sukhumvit road where all the expats hang out. I routinely had that experience myself last summer in Bangkok and southern Thailand and actually posted photos on Facebook of menu prices—including glasses of wine for $2. I don’t think I paid more than $10 for a meal once. Why would you argue with someone who actually lives there and is paying what he says on a weekly basis? He’s not selling anything—retired and on a fixed income even. He wasn’t talking about “tourist centers.” He walk talking about living expenses. They shouldn’t be the same thing.

  7. Rachel

    Can the 6 month visa be extended in Thailand? For how long?

    • Tim Leffel

      I think it’s up to immigration but I’d assume you’ll have to leave and come back.

    • Paul

      The last entry of the visa can be up to the 6 month deadline. Each time you enter you get 60 days, which can be extended by 30 for a fee. So basically you can stretch it to almost 9 months with planning by entering just before it expires.

  8. Evan

    I’ve often considered Thailand, but the consistently hot and muggy weather kills the deal for me. That applies to just about all of SE Asia (not to mention Mexico and Central American coastal locations in the summers). Of course, there’s a/c, but if you like to be outdoors the humidty and heat can be difficult. Especially when one is older, climate is really important.
    Also, regarding Chiang Mai, I understand there’s a time during the year when there’s a lot of air pollution from the cane fields which are burnt before the next year’s crop. If you are asthmatic or sensitive to smoke, that would be another deal killer, at least for full-time living.

    • Paul

      Chiang Mai had great weather in the winter, but the smokey season is from about mid Feb until the rains start in April. Many expats go for an annual holiday in this time frame but some years are better than others.

  9. art

    I visited Thailand a few times many years ago and always wanted to go back but since I’ve been following the reports in Thaivisa.com about all the wild stuff that goes on there I really have second thoughts. It’s my understanding that a lot of the old veteran Farangs in LOS have and are moving to Cambodia.

    • Paul

      Thai visa will give you a very biased and negative view, as the participants are very negative to Thailand. This doesn’t mean there aren’t problems, but Cambodia is more the wild West in my view. But it has very easy visa rules and cheaper booze, less regulation and less developed. So it has its own appeal but I don’t think it’s safer. Thailand is safe unless you look for trouble or drive a lot.

      • Tim Leffel

        Not sure what you mean in that first sentence Paul. Visa holders are automatically negative? How?

      • Bob Henderson

        Cambodia is more and more an option these days, but the situation in Thailand does not change dramatically for the worse. I’m looking at ThaiVisa regularly and treating a lot of the comments with skepticism. If you want a good outlook on the situation in Thailand I recommend checking out https://onwardtravel.io/thai-visa. It paints a real picture in my opinion and answers a lot of relevant questions on Thai Immigration

  10. Dusty

    Putting $84,039 dollars in a Thai bank is not my idea of a good deal.
    Cambodia is going to win hands down with a one year visa for about $300 us, and you can own a business and land in your own name. And you can continue to do that as long as you care to play. Then you can invest in several businesses elsewhere with your extra $83,700 dollars.

    • Gayle Marie

      You can NOT own land in your own name in Cambodia, except a 50 year lease. Please check your information. A foreigner can only buy free hold, a strata titled condo, not on the ground floor in Cambodia.

  11. Tellie Seford

    Great information! What are the VISA options after the two 5-year terms have expired?

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