If you arrive in Thailand via the visa exempt option that’s available to many Western passport holders, you have the option to convert this to a Non-Immigrant “O” Visa if you meet the criteria. If you’re over 50 and meet the income requirements, this could be a good option if you want to stay in Thailand long-term. I arrived from Jakarta using the visa exempt option and was given a stamp for a 30-day stay. As I want to stay in Thailand long-term, I needed to convert this to a Non-Immigrant “O” Visa which allows a 90-day stay, and also extend that permission to stay for a further 12 months. The same process applies if you arrive on a Tourist Visa. So this is a 2-step process for me. Step 1 – get a Non-Immigrant Visa; Step 2 – apply for permission to extend my stay in Thailand. This post is about Step 1 (see Apply For Retirement Visa).
How To Get A Non-Immigrant Visa
If you’re over 50 and meet the income requirements, you can apply for a Non-Immigrant “O” Visa. This is the process you need to follow:
The income requirement states that you must have 800,000 baht ($26,700) in a bank account in Thailand or have 65,000 baht ($2,150) per month in income from a source such a pension.
If you have the 800,000 baht in a bank account, you’ll need to update your bank book on the day you go to the immigration office, as you need to show that the money is still in the account. You also need a letter from your bank confirming the amount you have in your account. Many banks charge around 100 baht ($3.35) for this letter. You’ll also need a second letter from the bank showing that the money in your account was transferred from outside Thailand. It’s important that the account and letters are in your own name (no joint names) and that these are dated the same day as your application. So get the letters from your bank in the morning and then go to the immigration office. You’ll also need photocopies of all the pages from your bank book.
If you don’t have the money in the bank, but have the equivalent in income, you’ll need to get a letter from your Embassy confirming this.
You can also use a combination of the above, as long as it adds up to a total of 800,000 baht. For example, 300,000 baht in a savings account and 500,000 baht in annual income. If you’re using this option, then you’ll need letters from both your bank and Embassy.
Once you have the above, complete form TM87 (if you arrived visa exempt) or TM86 (if you arrived on a tourist visa) and take this to your local immigration office. You’ll also need copies of your passport, including the pages that show your entry stamp, visa and arrival/departure card, a passport photo taken in the last six months, and the fee of 2,000 baht ($67).
Note: Not all immigration offices in Thailand will convert a tourist visa. If you have problems you can get the conversion done at the Bangkok office.
The immigration officer will check that everything is in order, and if it is, they’ll give you a receipt with a date to return to pick up your visa. This is usually two weeks later. You’ll then get your 90-day stamp and Non-Immigrant “O” Visa put into your passport. This will allow you to stay in the country for 90 days from the date of your application.
All the above needs to be done when you have at least 15 days stay left in the country. Get this done as soon as possible. If you leave it until the last minute and encounter any problems, you’ll have to leave the country, return, and start the process again.
How To Extend Your Permission To Stay
Once you have your Non-immigrant “O” Visa, you then need to apply for permission to extend your stay based on retirement. This needs to be done during the last 30 days of your 90-day stay. I will write a post about this step in a couple of months time, once I’ve completed the process.
Bangkok Immigration Office
The Bangkok Immigration office is located at Chaeng Wattana Soi 7. From central Bangkok, the easiest way to get there is to take the BTS to Mo Chit, take exit 1, and get a taxi. Ask to be taken to Soon Ratchagan, Chaeng Wattana Soi Jed. Soon Ratchagan is the Thai for Government Complex, and all taxi drivers will know where it is. The taxi should cost around 100-110 baht to get there, and 120-140 baht to get back (a slightly longer route due to the one-way system).