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An Expat Guide To Visas In Thailand

The Kingdom of Thailand has implemented a set of visa and work permit controls for visitors and those who wish to settle there.If you want to enjoy your stay in Thailand, getting your paperwork in order is essential.

Check Your Passport

Your passport’s expiry date must be at least six months after the date you are arriving in Thailand. All the pages must be present, and the passport must be undamaged. If any of these conditions are not met, you may be refused entry into the country.

If you are arriving from a country with high risk of yellow fever, or have spent more than 12 hours in one of those country’s airports on the way to Thailand, you should carry a certificate confirming that you have had the yellow fever vaccination. This is to prevent visitors bringing yellow fever into Thailand.

Do You Need A Visa?

The ministry of foreign affairs of the kingdom of Thailand have produced an easy to read table in English which identifies which nationalities allow visits to Thailand without a visa. It also clearly shows those nationalities who do need to obtain a visa, but can do so on arrival in Thailand.

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Please refer to the table carefully, as there are different restrictions on the number of days you may stay in Thailand, depending on your nationality.

Once you are in Thailand, it is possible to extend your stay for the same amount of time as the original number of days permitted. However, you can only do this once.

If you are travelling to Thailand by land, you can only cross into the country twice in a calendar year. If you need to go more often, you should apply for a visa before you travel.

When To Get A Visa

If your country isn’t listed as exempt on the ministry of foreign affairs’ table, then you will need a visa.

Even if your country is on the table, you can only stay for the number of days listed on the table, or receive one short extension if you decide to prolong your trip. If you enter the country intending to stay longer than the listed number of days, you must obtain a visa before travelling.

As mentioned earlier, you will also need to obtain a visa if you are going to cross into Thailand by land more than twice per calendar year.

The only legal sources of Thai visas are:

– A Thai embassy or consulate
– An immigration officer at a point of entry in Thailand
– An immigration office in Thailand

Be wary of anyone else saying they can arrange a visa for you, even if their business appears genuine. They are likely to charge you a fee for their time or, very worryingly, will be providing false documents which mean you will be in Thailand illegally.

If you are arranging your visa on your arrival in Thailand, the immigration officer may ask you if you have enough funds to support yourself during your stay. Have the proof, such as a recent bank statement, with you.

Work Permits

It is illegal to work in Thailand unless you have received both a work permit and a non-immigration category B visa. This applies regardless of whether you are employed to do well-paid, highly-skilled work in a large firm, or bar work in a tourist area. This applies to full time, part time and even voluntary work, and can include trips to Thailand for conferences and business meetings.

If you are caught working without a work permit, you will be detained and deported, for which you will have to pay substantial costs.

It is a time-consuming process to obtain a work permit, and applications only succeed in a limited number of cases where all conditions are met.

Firstly, you must obtain a non-immigration category B visa, allowing you to reside in Thailand before you arrive in the country. As part of the process, you must prove that you have the resources to support yourself and any accompanying family member. These visas are issued for twelve months only, so you will have to reapply each year.

Secondly, you must obtain a firm offer of employment in an occupation which is acceptable to the office of foreign workers administration. A number of occupations are specifically reserved for Thai citizens only.

You should then make an application for a work permit to the office of foreign workers administration that is closest to your accommodation. You will need to provide the following evidence:

– Your original passport
– Your letter offering employment for an approved occupation in Thailand
– Two passport sized photos
– A medical certificate
– Certificates to confirm your educational and professional qualifications
– Your residential address in Thailand

In addition, your prospective employer must supply the following evidence:

– A letter offering you employment, including job title and salary
– An office map
– The company’s certificate, objectives and financial statement
– The company’s VAT registration and tax statement
– A list of company shareholders
– Photocopy of the director’s passport and other official documents

Once the application and all supporting documents have been submitted, a decision will be processed within seven working days.

When you receive your work permit, check that all the details are correct. It should include your personal details, your occupation and your employer’s details.

You must keep your work permit with you during working hours, so it can be produced on request. You may only work for the employer named in the work permit, and only within the specified occupation.


Instead of applying for the category B non-immigration visa, entrepreneurs should obtain a BA category visa if they are investing in an existing business. Those starting a completely new business must apply for the IB category visa.

You’ll have to gather a lot of evidence, setting out how much you will be investing as well as how many local people will benefit from new jobs you create. To establish your presence as a benefit, you will have to prove that your business will not damage existing local firms.

Once you have obtained your visas, you will then have to formally apply for a work permit.

Bringing Your Family To Thailand

Regardless of whether you are applying for a B category, BA category or IB category visa, you can apply for your family members to come to the country at the same time. This includes your parents, your spouse and any children who have yet to reach their 20th birthday.

Don’t Overstay Your Welcome!

The ministry of foreign affairs has invested in English language websites, meaning the rules about visas are clear.

If you love being in Thailand, make sure you are there legally, and keep an eye on expiry dates for permission to stay. If you decide to extend your stay, you must obtain permission before your visa-free time expires or your current visa expires.

If you don’t, you are staying in the country illegally. When caught, you will receive serious fines, and you may also be detained in a country in which prison conditions are harsh. The authorities will then deport you – you’ll pay the costs for this – and then blacklist you from re-entering the country.

Once all your paperwork is in order, and you have been given permission to legally live and work in Thailand, you can enjoy your new life in a country termed ‘the Land of Smiles’.

Have you lived in Thailand? Share your experiences in the comments below, or answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!

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