There are a number of visa options open for people planning trips to Chiang Mai and Thailand. Visa exempt entry for citizens of select countries is complemented by a choice of tourist visas which can be extended to give a stay of almost nine months. There are also special visas and visa extensions available for those married to Thai nationals, employed in Thailand or with Thai registered businesses.
Under new regulations introduced in 2016, tourists who overstay the permitted time stamped in their passports when entering face stiff penalties and could be prohibited from re-entering the kingdom. Visitor visas are available from Thai embassies, consulates and honorary consulates worldwide. Passports need to have at least six month’s validity left on them when arriving in Thailand. The different visa types are listed below.
*Note: The Thai government does occasionally change visa regulations, so we recommend you check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for any recent updates.
Last Updated: November 2018
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VISA ON ARRIVALUpdated: 01 December 2018
Visa-on-arrival is a convenient option for travellers from countries who are not eligible for visa exempt entry. Visas-on-arrival are valid for a stay of up to 15 days in Thailand. Nationals of 21 counties including China, India, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan can apply for visas-on-arrival at international airports such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi plus Thailand’s official immigration checkpoints with neighbouring countries.
The standard fee for visas-on-arrival is THB2,000. Until the 13 January 2019, this fee is being waived and passport holders of the eligible countries can enter Thailand for free. EVisa on Arrival (EVOA) launched in Thailand in November 2018. Travellers can pre-apply for visas at www.evisathailand.com and then use special lanes at Chiang Mai, Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, and Phuket airports, but not currently at Chiang Rai.
VISA EXEMPTION ENTRY
Visa free entry for 30 days is available for passport holders from around 60 countries at present. A full list of the countries is available from the website of Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but it includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, the US and most EU nations. A point to bear in mind when booking onward tickets is that the 30 days includes the date of arrival.
Opting to enter Thailand on a visa waiver does away with the need of pre-applying for a visa and paying for it. Immigration officers just stamp the passport with ‘admitted until’ and the date the passport holder has to leave by. There is also an option to extend visa exempt entries one time at in-country immigration offices by 30 days. The fee for this is THB1,900.
ENTERING THAILAND BY AIR ON VISA WAIVER
Thai laws stipulate that tourists arriving at Thailand’s international airports have onward flight tickets for departure within 30 days of their arrival dates. Immigration officers do not always check for this, but airlines invariably do and may refuse to check passengers in for their flights if they have not booked a return or onward flight.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there is no limit on the number of visa exempt entries a person can apply for at Thai airports. In practice, the limit seems to be six in one year before immigration officers start asking the arriving passenger why they keep coming to Thailand.
ENTERING THAILAND BY LAND ON VISA WAIVER
New rules introduced in December 2016 saw 15-day visa exempt entries at land border crossings with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia abolished. Citizens of nations eligible for visa exemption now get the full 30 days in Thailand. The drawback to entering Thailand on a visa waiver by land at border crossings such as Mae Sai or Chiang Khong is that there is a limit of two within any 12-month period. Immigration officers have been enforcing these rules and there have been numerous reports on social media websites of so called ‘visa runners’ being refused permission to enter Thailand.
Tourist visas are available from Thai embassies and consulates worldwide. There are two choices for this kind of visa below.
SINGLE-ENTRY TOURIST VISA
A single-entry visa gives 60 days in Thailand from the date of arrival. This costs the equivalent of THB1,000 in local currency. For a fee of THB1,900, tourist visas can be extended by an additional 30 days at Thai immigration offices to give a total stay of 90 days.
MULTIPLE-ENTRY TOURIST VISA
The second tourist visa option is a multiple-entry visa with a validity of six months from the date of issue. These are generally only available from embassies in the passport-holders’ home countries. Embassies in neighbouring counties such as Laos and Cambodia do not offer this visa option.
To obtain a six-month, multiple-entry tourist (METV) visa, embassies usually require applicants to supply proof of employment and bank account details showing sufficient funds to cover the duration of the visa. Each embassy’s website has its own requirements detailed. METVs cost the equivalent of THB5,000 in local currency.
Each entry on a METV gives a stay of 60 days after which the tourist is required to exit and renter the country or get a 30-day extension from an immigration office. The extensions are THB1,900. Used properly, the METV can give just short of nine months of consecutive entries to Thailand. This is achieved by doing a visa run just before the six months expiry date to get an extra 60 days and then extending this by 30 days at an immigration office.
Non-immigrant visa is better options for those with guaranteed employment in Thailand, spouses who are Thai nationals or for the purposes of retirement or joining specialised education or training courses. These are available as single entry or multiple-entry. Each non-immigrant visa entry gives 90 days in Thailand after which it is necessary to do a border run. The multiple is valid for unlimited entries for one year from the date of issue and gives almost 15 months in Thailand when doing a border run just before it expires.
Single use non-immigrant visas cost the local currency equivalent of THB2,000 and multiple-entry ones are THB5,000. Various extension options are available and depend on the category of the particular visa. If available, extensions cost the standard THB1,900 from provincial immigration offices. In addition to the main categories of non-immigrant visas listed below others are the M for journalists and film producers, and IM for investors.
NON-IMMIGRANT VISA CATEGORY ED
These visas are available to those taking courses at Thai educational institutions. Most people who get ED class visas take courses at language schools in Thailand, but they can be used to learn Muay Thai boxing or even when participating in projects or seminars in Thailand. Consulates and embassies always require proof of registration before issuing this class of visa. In the case of private institutions, an acceptance letter from the Thai Education Ministry is needed. This category of visa can be extended. Officers at Immigration Bureaus have got into the habit of testing the abilities of those enrolled on Thai language courses.
NON-IMMIGRANT VISA CATEGORY O
O class non-immigrant visas are an option for people over 50 years old and retiring in Thailand or who have Thai spouses or children. These are available as single and multiple entry. Multiple-entry is usually only an option for applicants with a marriage certificate showing they are married to a Thai national.
Non-immigrant category O visas can be extended for up to one year at a time at immigration offices in Thailand. After the initial extension is granted, immigration offices require holders to register with them every 90 days to prove they are still at the same address in Thailand.
To get the one-year extension, applicants have to show proof they have sufficient funds deposited in a Thai bank account for the life of the extension or monthly incomes. These monetary requirements are currently THB400,000 for a marriage extension and THB800,000 for a retirement extension and need to be in the holder’s account three months before the application date. The minimum monthly income requirements are THB40,000 and THB65,000 for marriage and retirement respectively.
Non-immigrant category O visa holders with Thai children or spouses can also apply for 60 day extensions which do not carry the same monetary stipulations. Each immigration office sets its own requirements about issuing these extensions and it is easier to check with the office concerned about what is needed.
NON-IMMIGRANT VISA CATEGORY O-A
Non-immigrant O-A visas are a variation of O visas, but give one year in Thailand from the date they are first used. Single-entry O-As have to be used within 90 days of issue whereas multiple ones are valid for a year from the date of issue. Multiple entry non-immigrant O-A visas can be made to last nearly two years if the holder exits and re-enters the country a few days prior to the utilise by date. Holders of this type of visa also have to register with immigration every 90 days.
Non-immigrant O-A visas are for the over 50s and require applicants to supply police record clearance letters and medical certificates showing they have no infectious diseases. They also have to show certified statements proving they have an equivalent income to THB65,000 a month or savings of THB800,000. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has restricted the issue of O-A visas to embassies in the applicants’ own countries of residence.
NON-IMMIGRANT VISA CATEGORY B
Non-immigrant category B visas are issued for the purposes of employment for foreign nationals in Thailand. They are available for employment, or internships, with Thai companies as well as non-Thai companies with trade links to companies in Thailand. Applicants typically have to provide a letter of invitation from the employer, a copy of the employer’s business registration and an employment contract. Nowadays, B visas are mostly issued as single use and have to be extended in Thailand.
THAILAND ELITE VISA
As the name implies, Thailand Elite is an exclusive club geared towards the affluent. Depending on their particular programme, people pay fees of between THB500,000 and THB2 million to join Thailand Elite for periods of between 5 and 20 years. Joining the club, and paying annual fees, means members get renewable Privilege Entry visas valid for five years. These give a one-year stay in Thailand each time they are used. Other benefits for Thailand Elite members include fast-tracking at airport immigration checkpoints and discounts and promotions at spas, golf courses and hospitals.
For most foreigners staying long-term in Thailand, permanent residency is just a pipe dream. This is because there are only a few thousand issued each year and the requirements are quite stringent. Applicants with Thai families, have been working in Thailand or have business interests are eligible to apply providing they originally entered with non-immigrant visas and have extended them for at least three consecutive years. Additional requirements are listed on the Immigration Bureau of Thailand’s website.
The admitted to stay until date stamp immigration officers put in foreign visitors’ passports is the date they have to leave Thailand by. People staying beyond this date are fined THB500 for each day they overstay. The maximum fine is THB20,000 or the equivalent of 40 days of overstay.
Under new regulations introduced in March 2016, foreigners with longer overstays now risk being banned from re-entering Thailand. The length of the ban varies between one and ten years and depends whether the person who overstayed gave him or herself up to immigration or was arrested and how long the overstay was.
The Immigration Bureau is called Tor Mor in Thai. In Chiang Mai, the Immigration Bureau’s main public service office is on Sanambin Road and about 100 metres before the access road for Chiang Mai Airport.
Chiang Mai Immigration Bureau: #71, Moo 3, Sanambin Rd., T. Suthep, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50200 | Open: 08:30-16:30 (Monday-Friday) | Tel: 1178, +66 53 201 755, +66 53 282 289 | Fax: +66 53 277 510, +66 53 142 787 | Website
EXTENSIONS OF TOURIST VISAS AND VISAS ON ARRIVAL
Extending tourist visas and visas on arrival in Chiang Mai, applicants need to supply copies of their passports’ personal data page, the entry stamp, the original visa and the TM6 departure card. A recent passport-sized photograph and the THB1,900 fee are also needed.