Moving to Thailand: Things to get ready

Part 1: Immigration, Visas, and Work Permits

So you’ve made the decision to move to Thailand. Whether it’s purely for the exciting experience of moving to a different country, figuring out how to get a job and get settled along the way (this meaning you only have vague plans about the future, coming into Thailand on a 30-day visa), or you are moving here with your family because of your job, your company moves you over, or you are married to a Thai national, thus meaning you may live here up to 5 or 10 years. The first thing you want to be completely clear about before moving here is Thailand’s immigration and visa rules. Before you start planning on which area in Bangkok you want to live, where you want to send your kids to school, and other life details, we believe that by understanding the immigration system and knowing which type of visa to have will make things a lot easier and less stressful for you.

Immigration and Visas

If you hold a passport from the European Union, North America, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, or most Asian and Latin American countries, you are allowed a 30-day stay without a visa per entry which you can get when you arrive in Thailand. Often times it is called a ‘30-day visa waiver’ or a ‘tourist visa-on-arrival’, but technically it is not a visa. If you want to start a business, looking for employment as a teacher or work for a company, study in a program, or in other words, if you wish to work, conduct business or undertake investment activities in Thailand, what you must do is to change your current visa status into a visa that allows you to stay in the country for the long term. In order to do this, you must go in person to the immigration office. The process can take up to a few hours or the whole day depending on what time you arrive, but we recommend you to go in the mornings as there will be a great number of people coming in as the day progresses. By default, you will get a ‘single-entry visa’ valid for 90 days, but if you need to leave the country at some point while your visa is still valid, you must apply for a ‘multiple-entry visa’ that is valid up to 1 year. If you fail to obtain this, your visa will not be valid once you leave the country. Moreover, foreigners are required to report to the immigration office every 90 days. You can do this by notifying in person, authorise another person to make the notification for you, or you can make the notification by registered mail. However, if you leave the country (on a multiple-entry visa) and return to Thailand, you are considered to have checked in with immigration at the airport. Many foreigners choose this option as it is a lot less of a hassle than having to spend hours at the immigration office.

Types of visas

There are many visa types in Thailand, each serving a different purpose, including visas for researchers, skilled specialists, missionaries, film-producers, journalists, and retirement. However, these are the main types of visas that most foreigners tend to apply for.

Non-Immigrant ‘B’ Visa

The Non-Immigrant B or ‘Business’ Visa is issued for people who want to do business legally in Thailand. Also, this is the visa you will get if you’ve got a job here and your employer is sponsoring you. The company you will be working for should produce documents required for you to obtain the visa, as well as help you through the visa process. With this visa, you can get a work permit and open a bank account, however you still need to do a visa run every 90 days.

Non-Immigrant ‘ED’ Visa

This is the visa issued to those who are studying in Thailand at a language school or other qualified institutions. To apply for this visa you must be enrolled in a study program, in which the institution will produce a certified letter and other documents for you. It is said that you don’t need to be studying full-time or actually pursuing an academic degree, but you can get an ED Visa if you are studying Thai by taking a few hours of classes per week. Just make sure that the institution you are enrolled with is a qualified one and be prepared to confirm that you are really studying at the school when you renew your visa at the immigration office.

Non-Immigrant ‘O’ Visa

The O or ‘Other’ Visa applies to those who are visiting a family, married to a Thai national, or retired. If you are married to a Thai national, when applying for this visa you need to provide a copy of your marriage certificate (but also bring the real copy with you), a copy of your spouse’s Thai ID card, house registration papers, and in some cases, photographs of your wedding ceremony in Thailand. As for the case of applying for a retirement visa, you must be 50 years old or above and be able to show an income of 65,000 Thai Baht per month or a bank balance of 800,000 Baht to qualify.

Of course, what you read here is only a brief summary of very detailed rules and requirements regarding immigration and visas in Thailand. For more specific information and be up to date with rule changes, we suggest you go to these official websites:

Work Permits

Under the Thai law, foreigners working and earning income in Thailand must have a work permit, otherwise you are working illegally. In order to get a work permit, you need to have a job first. Generally, you will get hired and start working for your employer, while they begin to work on important documents required to apply for your work permit. During this process, your company will handle the work permit application for you, as you wouldn’t have access to their official documents and corporate information.

Like many countries, Thailand has a policy of not granting work permits for positions that can easily be filled by its own citizens. It is not a problem for specific, highly skilled jobs or teaching, but if you are looking for a job that could be easily filled by a Thai, for instance, writer, web developer, or sales manager, make sure that your employers are willing to invest their time preparing all the paperwork for your work permit. Most of the time, Thai companies avoid getting themselves in the work permit process as it can be quite time consuming for them. They may contact you for a job interview, but you are most likely will not be hearing back from them again. So of course, a better choice would be applying for jobs at international companies, as a lot of them have the experience of applying for work permits for their foreign employees.

The other upside to having a work permit other than working legally in Thailand, is that it’s an essential document when it comes to opening a bank account, signing up with a phone network, renting an apartment/condo, getting a loan, and other small necessities. Therefore, having a work permit is the golden ticket to staying in Thailand!