Before making any major life changes, such as retiring in Thailand or any other country that has a completely different culture than what you’re used to, it’s best to test the waters first. Visiting Thailand as a tourist is a good way to get an idea of what it would be like to live here. Tourist visas are available from Thai embassies and consulates outside of Thailand and are valid for three months for a single entry visa and six months for a double entry visa.
To apply for a tourist visa, you need the following:
- Passport with a validity of not less than 6 months
- Visa application form
- 1 recent photograph (4x6cm)
- Onward ticket
- Proof of financial means (at least 20,000B per person) (640 USD)
- Visa fee (30 USD)
Tourist visas can be extended for 30 days at a cost of 1,900B (60 USD) at a local immigration office.
If you arrive at a Thai airport without a tourist visa, you will be allowed to stay for either 30 or 60 days, depending which country your passport is from. If you arrive by land, you will only be given 15 days.
Some people try to make ‘border runs’ every 15 or 30 days to extend their stay, which means leaving the country and returning the same day. I don’t recommend that at all. There’s often crackdowns on border runners and you could find yourself unable to re-enter Thailand.
Once you’ve decided to make Thailand your new home for retirement, you’ll have to get a visa that allows you to stay for the long-term. A retirement visa is a popular option if you are over 50 years old.
The requirements for a retirement visa are:
- At least 50 years old
- Proof of financial means by meeting one of the following requirements:
- 800,000B (25,500 USD) in a Thai bank account. After 2 months you can get a letter from the bank to prove this.
- Monthly income or pension of at least 65,000B (2,100 USD). An affidavit of monthly income must be obtained from your embassy or consulate in Thailand to prove this.
- A combination of bank account and yearly income with a total of 800,000B. To support this, and updated bank book or letter from the bank, and a letter from your embassy must be presented.
You first need to apply for a non-immigrant visa from outside of Thailand, and then you convert it to a one-year retirement visa once you are here. Retirement visas need to be renewed every year at immigration. You are not allowed to work on a retirement visa.
If you are planning to FIRE before the age of 50, you won’t be eligible for a Thai retirement visa. There are a few other options available though:
- Thailand Elite Visa
- Education Visa
- Marriage Visa
The Thailand Elite visa program offers five to ten-year memberships that include renewable 5-year visas. The cost ranges from 800,000B to 2,000,000B (25,500 – 64,000 USD) for different levels of membership. While pricey, a Thailand Elite visa may be a good option for early retirees.
An education visa to study the Thai language is another possible way to stay in Thailand, but I don’t consider it a feasible way to stay long-term. There have been crackdowns to make sure students were actually attending classes, which even included verbal tests at the immigration office.
Obtaining a marriage visa is not out of the question for many early retirees. If you are married to a Thai citizen, it’s easier to qualify for a marriage visa than a retirement visa.
The requirements for a marriage visa are:
- Legally married to Thai national. A copy of the marriage certificate to support this claim must be provided.
- Proof of financial means by meeting one of the following requirements::
- 400,000B (12,800 USD) deposited in a Thai bank account 2 months prior to visa application (3 months for renewal)
- Monthly income of at least 40,000B (1,300 USD). A letter from the foreigner’s embassy needs to be shown to verify this income
The days of staying in Thailand illegally for years are long gone. If you are caught overstaying your visa you will be deported and blacklisted from re-entering for up to 10 years. Plan in advance which visa you’re going to apply for to retire in Thailand. There’s no excuse for not being legal.
It’s important to note whatever visa you have, all foreigners have to report their address to their local immigration office every 90 days. This is probably the most annoying thing you will have to do regularly in Thailand. Even if you have been in the country for decades, there’s no way out of it unless you become a permanent resident or Thai citizen.
Click here to find out how much money you need to retire in Thailand.