Common Misunderstandings About Thai Visas

Understanding Thailand's visa rules can be a real headache sometimes. They keep changing, and if you're not familiar with the terms, it can get pretty confusing. But don't worry, we're here make things easier for you. Let's see what those misunderstandings are.

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So, let's start with the basics. Thailand offers different types of visas, like for business, education, retirement, tourism, and more. You'll spot these visas as shiny stickers in your passport. Each type lets you stay for a different length of time and has its own requirements for applying.

Now, let's clear up some common mix-ups you might find online:

Can I apply for a Thai visa in Thailand?

First off, can you get a visa while you're already in Thailand? Nope, not really. The closest thing is something called a 'Visa On Arrival,' but that's only for people from certain countries. You get it right before you go through immigration when you enter Thailand. But remember, it's only available for specific passport holders and only at certain entry points like airports and land borders.

And here's a big one: don't confuse a Thai visa with a Visa Exempt Stamp. Even though it sounds like it, the stamp isn't actually a visa. We'll get into that difference in a bit.

If you want a proper Thai visa, you have to go to a Thai Embassy or Consulate outside of Thailand. That means you can't apply for one while you're already in the country. 

So, if you're in the US and need a Thai visa, you'd go to the Thai Embassy in Washington, DC. If you're in Canada, it's in Ottawa, and if you're in Australia, you'd head to Sydney. But check carefully through the Embassy Website in your country or nearby countries, as many Thai embassies now allow for online Thai visa applications, while some do not accept in-person applications.

But here's the thing: you can't just pop into your own country's embassy in Thailand and ask for a Thai visa. So, if you're an American in Bangkok, you can't go to the US Embassy there and apply. It doesn't work like that. You've got to go to a Thai embassy or consulate outside of Thailand to sort it out.

Can I change my visa once in Thailand?

If you're wondering if you can change your visa type once you're already in Thailand, well, the answer is yes, but there's a catch: you need to already have a valid visa. You can sort out this change at any Immigration Bureau office in Thailand. For instance, if you entered with a tourist visa and decide to study in Thailand, you can gather all the necessary documents from schools or universities and then apply to change your visa at the immigration office.

Is a tourist visa valid for 60 days or 90 days?

Now, let's clear up something that confuses a lot of people: the duration of a single entry tourist visa. Is it 60 days or 90 days? Well, here's the deal: a single entry tourist visa lets you stay in Thailand for up to 60 days. But you can extend it without leaving the country. This extension costs 1,900 baht and you can get it at any local immigration office in Thailand. And get this: no matter when you apply for the extension, it adds 30 days to your original 60-day visa.

So, with the extension, you effectively get a total of 90 days on your single entry tourist visa - that's the initial 60 days plus the extra 30-day extension.

The visa exempt stamp is not considered a visa.

Now, let's talk about a common mix-up: the visa exempt stamp. This little stamp in your passport doesn't actually count as a visa. It's more like a waiver saying you don't need a visa to enter Thailand. It allows you to stay in Thailand for free for 30 days.

It's handy if you're just passing through or planning a short trip. But if you want to stay longer, you can extend it for another 30 days at any Thai Immigration Office for 1,900 baht.

Remember, even though it helps you get into Thailand hassle-free, the visa exempt stamp isn't the same as a proper visa. It's just a stamp to make your entry smoother, without all the paperwork of a regular visa.

A border run and visa run are two different things

Let's talk about border runs and visa runs because knowing the difference is super important.

  • A border run :First up, a border run is when you go over to the Thai border real quick. This is handy if you've got a multiple entry visa or if you want to come back into Thailand using a Visa Exempt Stamp or Visa On Arrival. Basically, you just hop across the border to activate your visa or re-enter Thailand.Usually, the easiest way to do a border run is to book a van that'll take you to the land borders of Thailand's neighboring countries like Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, or Malaysia. You cross the border, hang out for a bit, then come right back into Thailand.

  • A visa runs: Now, let's talk about visa runs. These are a bit more complicated. You've got to visit a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate outside of Thailand to apply for a visa. Unlike a border run, this isn't a quick or easy process. You'll have to wait in long lines, submit a bunch of paperwork, and hope everything gets approved. Plus, you'll need to spend at least few nights in the neighboring country before heading back to Thailand with your new visa.

Not every school can provide you with an Education Visa.

If you're seeking an education visa, it means you're either genuinely interested in studying something or you're under 50 and wish to extend your stay in Thailand beyond what a tourist visa allows. It's important to note that not all Thai language schools or Muay Thai schools are authorized to issue Education visas. The schools that can offer you an Education visa must be approved by the Ministry of Thai Education, and it's not easy for a school to get this accreditation. So, if you're keen on learning Thai language or Muay Thai while enjoying the perks of living in Thailand long-term, you know where to find us!

There are 4 types of retirement visas available for retirees now:

Retirees are individuals who are 50 years old and above.

  • Non-Immigrant O Visa: This visa allows you to enter Thailand with a tourist visa and convert it to a retirement visa within the country. To qualify, you must meet all requirements, especially having a Thai bank account with THB 800,000 for at least 2 months. Alternatively, you can apply for the Non-Immigrant O visa from your country at a Thai Embassy, which grants you 90 days, then extend it inside Thailand.
  • Non-Immigrant OA Visa: This visa grants a 1-year stay for retirees who want to live in Thailand. It has the same financial requirements as above but requires additional supporting documents such as an FBI check and health insurance.
  • Non-Immigrant OX Visa: This visa is initially granted for 5 years, which can then be renewed for another 5 years for retirees from 14 countries only. To qualify, you must have 3,000,000 THB or no less than 1,800,000 THB together with a monthly income of no less than 1,200,000 THB per year in a Thai bank located in Thailand.
  • The LTR Wealthy Pensioner visa : is for retirees aged 50 and up who have a yearly pension or steady passive income. You need at least $80,000 of passive income annually for 2 years and health insurance of $50,000. Or you can get it if you're getting social security benefits in Thailand or keep at least $100,000 in your bank account for a year.

Thai permanent residency isn't the same as a visa

Thai permanent residency isn't the same as a visa. Permanent residency means you don't have to keep applying for visa extensions or leaving the country every year. But it's really hard to get, and not many foreigners get it. And getting Thai citizenship? That's even tougher.

Also, don't mix up a residence certificate with a visa. A residence certificate just proves you live in Thailand, which comes in handy for stuff like getting a Thai license or buying a car. But it's not a visa, and it doesn't help with visa applications.

So, if you're planning on staying in Thailand for a while, it's a good idea to get a Non Immigrant Visa and renew it every year or apply for a new one. This way, you'll always be following the rules and staying legal. Lots of folks stick around in Thailand for years on Non Immigrant Business, Education, Dependent, or Retirement Visa.

Contact us, Thai Kru, for any visa assistance you need. We can help you apply for a tourist visa online from your own country, arrange a retirement visa whether you're still outside Thailand or already inside the country, or find schools that offer education visas. Just come talk to us, and we'll take care of the rest.

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