Thailand is evolving and the future looks bright. There have been big changes and major announcements over the last few months regarding visas and immigration in Thailand. Let’s make sense of it all!
The bulk of the changes have seemed to coincide with the appointment of Surachet Hakpal as the the new Thai immigration chief. Known as Big Joke in the Thai media, Surachet has already started tackling corruption within the Thai immigration, mainly dealing with (illegal) visa agents and stopping visa or visa exempt misuse.
As with anything that changes, not everything will be positive for you, or expats in general. There’s news surrounding income affidavits that could potentially be problematic. That being said, I believe overall the changes we are seeing are positive for the average expat.
Almost immediately after the appointment of Big Joke, Thai immigration signaled an end to corruption. A big claim. The Thai immigration Facebook page posted a sign saying “No Tips Please”. The sign isn’t aimed at tourists, but at officials who were asking for “tea money” from tourists.
As of writing, four immigration officers at Don Mueang airport have been transferred over bribes after a Chinese tourist was made to wait for 6 hours, having refused to pay 200 baht for a “fast track service”. As a westerner, I feel we don’t face this discrimination as regularly. However let’s face it, it’s a positive overall sign that rules and regulations are being enforced correctly.
Using A Visa Agent
Visa agents have always been a bit of a grey area. In my own case, I’ve used a visa agent in the past when I didn’t have the time to research what documents are required. I did this for my first Non-B visa.
There is also a black market for visa agents who were pushing paper at immigration offices. A small portion of expats were using these types of service, which is one thing however ordinary expats have also been getting caught up in problems. Innocently, not knowing that they used the wrong service!
A crackdown on illegal visa agents has already begun and foreigners have been deported for using false documents at Chaeng Wattana.
It’s easy to get tricked into these situations, if you are using or thinking about using a visa agent. I highly recommend you take a look at a Facebook group called “Thai Visa Advice”. The group offers 100% free visa related advice. And they will firstly help you in completing your own visa and secondly they will tell you what documents are required.
At the end of the day, for some of us, visa agents are a boon. If you wish to continue using a visa agent, execute a little caution and do a bit of research and make sure you hand over legitimate documents.
Thai immigration have always been quite relaxed on their own visa rules regarding entry and exit. However there’s been a shift in the wind. Thai immigration are now enforcing pre-existing rules more strictly.
Many of us will have at some point used back to back tourist visas or even back to back visa exempts. In the past (10 years ago), you could almost get away with using tourist visas indefinitely. That is changing, and there’s been an uptick in the number of reported denials of entry.
For the denials of entries we have data on, the expats were using a tourist visa or visa exempt and did not have the 3 proofs. The 3 proofs being
- 20k thb or any other major currency in cash (Bank statements etc are not accepted).
- Proof of accommodation.
- Proof of onward travel.
An interesting fact, the proofs are technically required on all visas with the exception of the Thai Elite visa. In reality, I’ve only ever known of the proofs being enforced on Tourist visas or visa exempts.
I always like to err on the side of caution and whether you have a Non-O, Non-OA, Non-B visa, I personally take the 20k thb proof in cash, which is the proof most commonly asked for.
There’s been some bad news when it comes to income affidavits with numerous embassies stating that over the next few months they are either stopping, or changing the income affidavit service.
For those of us who are on retirement or marriage visa, this unfortunately may leave us with only one option. Money in the bank. In the case of a Non-OA visa this is 800k in a Thai bank account and 400k thb in the case of a Non-O.
Below are the relevant links for the US, UK, Australian and Danish citizens. I unfortunately do not have information regarding other embassies. But I highly recommend that you research. And please do leave a comment so that we can keep this article up to date for everyone.
I’m Going On Holiday, What Does It Mean For Me?
It’s good news! If you are a legitimate tourist using a tourist visa or visa exempt, you should have no worries at all.
There are rumors floating around in the Thai parliament right now about relaxing visa requirements for legitimate tourists. Even talk of a new type of Multi Entry 2 month tourist visa.
If this new visa became a reality, it would be great news for expats. To quickly touch on what a Multi Entry (ME) visa is. A ME visa allows you to enter and leave a country an unlimited number of times before the expiration date of the visa. Each time you enter you will get stamped in for an allotted period of time, 2 months in this case. Meaning if you come back to Thailand 1 day before the expiration of the visa, you would still be able to spend 2 months in Thailand.
This is great news if you’re looking to visit many countries in Asia and greatly reduces friction caused by getting new tourist visas or visa exempts.
I’m Married To A Thai Woman, What Are My Options?
Being married to a Thai woman opens up two main avenues. The first is the well known 400k thb in a Thai bank account left to mature in a bank account for 2 months prior to an application or obtain an affidavit of income from your consulate stating you get 40k thb or more income per month. It’s also possible to use an amalgamation of the 2 methods above.
If you do not have 400k thb or cannot obtain an income affidavit, you can still apply for a 1 year Non-O visa based on marriage with a Thai national from the following embassies, Seoul, Savannakhet and Ho Chi Minh.
All 3 of these embassies have no financial requirements and will issue a 1 year Non-O ME visa with the following documents:
- Visa Application Form.
- Passport and Copies.
- 2 Photos.
- Wife’s ID Card and Copies.
- Original Marriage Certificates and Copies.
- Tabian Ban (real) and Copies.
- 5000 Baht Visa Fee.
We touched on what an ME visa is above however with a Non-O ME visa you will have to do a border run every 90 days. If you time your border runs correctly, you can get 15 months out of a 1 year (12 month) visa.
I find the Non-O ME visa is superior if you plan on travelling in and out of Thailand regularly. With a Non-O visa obtained via 400k thb in the bank, you will also need to purchase a re-entry permit!
I’m Retired, What’s Changed?
The biggest change for retired expats is the news from multiple embassies, US, UK, Australian and Danish, which have stated they will stop issuing, or change their income affidavits.
Depending on how the situation plays out, this may force expats that rely on pensions etc as part of the monetary requirement to put 800k thb in a bank account. I highly recommend researching information based on your embassy and obtaining an income affidavit for your next year as soon as possible.
There has also been mention, seemingly misleading, information floating around the Thai immigration will no longer accept an affidavit of income. This time, no policies have changed.
Unfortunately right now, we will have to wait and see how things play out, and whether new services are offered to help meet the financial requirements of a Non-OA visa.
I’m Looking To Work In Thailand
To work in Thailand you’ll need to get a Non-B or Non-O visa and a work permit. Non-O visas can be obtained through marriage. You will need a company to help you obtain a Non-B visa.
Let’s touch on teachers first. Working as a teacher in Thailand has definitely become more difficult over the years. Difficult meaning, you will actually need a degree.
Thailand is simply trying to attract quality teachers with real qualifications, if you don’t have the qualifications it’s very difficult. The situation is strange though, Thailand hasn’t significantly increased wages of foreign teachers and in today’s climate other Asian countries offer better working opportunities overall.
Don’t let that put you off though, if you want to come and spend some time in Thailand and have a degree, there’s nothing holding you back. Head on over with a Tourist visa and talk to a few schools!
For those of you who aren’t teachers, take a look at this link which breaks down which jobs you cannot do:
In Thailand, the idea is that a foreigner is not allowed to do a job that a Thai citizen could do, like building, agriculture, sales, agencies etc. With that in mind, there’s still many jobs you can do. And by far the most popular are computer related jobs like online marketing, programming, content writing etc.
If you have the opportunity, I would advise getting a job with a BOI company. BOI companies have more clout and have more flexible rules. They can do this because they want the best employees.
Thailand Is Changing – And The Future Is Still Bright
Full circle, Thailand is changing. However the overall outlook for expats and tourists alike is positive. There are negatives of course, surrounding affidavits of income. This issue is still developing and it remains unclear as to whether embassies will provide a new service to fill the gap.
I believe we can agree that Thailand is trying to clean its act up in regards to corruption with its immigration and look more attractive to tourists. The changes currently being made are a step in the right direction. We recommend you keep a close eye on developments over the next few months. And I will update as new Thailand Visa News comes in.
Thailand Visa News Links: