How can I stay long term in Thailand without working?
Thailand has long been one of the most popular tourist and expat destinations in the world. Many people fall in love with Thailand and look for ways to stay as long as possible or even live/retire there.
Since the 1st of November 2021, Thailand has reopened to vaccinated tourists from 63 (at the time of writing) countries without the need of undergoing quarantaine. Now that conditions for entry have been reduced, many people who have faced strong lockdowns and restrictions in their home countries are looking to come to Thailand for longer periods of stay.
However, it is not possible to simply decide to stay in Thailand long term without considering your Visa options. The following Visas and extensions of stay are the best options for those who are looking to stay in Thailand for a longer period of time.
What are the best ways to stay in Thailand on a long term basis?
The following Visas and extension of stays are the most common ways to stay in Thailand for an extended period for people who are not working in Thailand. Please note that if you plan to work in Thailand, you need to obtain a specific type of Visa and a work permit. Please see our article to see the best options of living and working in Thailand:
Thailand boasts a wide variety of Visas which can satisfy the needs of most travellers and all budgets. While there are many options, each has their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, the tourist Visa is relatively easy to obtain, but it only allows you to stay in Thailand for a short amount of time and there are limits to the amount of times you can extend it. The Thai Visa Elite on the other hand allows you to live in Thailand worry free for periods of up to 5 years, but it is expensive and not everyone can afford it.
Thailand Elite Visa
The Thailand Elite Visa is a long-term visa which allows the holder to reside in Thailand for periods of 5, 10 or 20 years (depending on the program chosen). Please note that Thailand Elite visas require the payment of a membership fee.
- The Thai Elite Visa is a 5-year renewable multiple entry visa with an extendable 1-year length of stay per each entry. More expensive packages allow the holder to renew every 5 years as opposed to yearly.
- The Thai Elite visa holder can stay in Thailand without having to leave the country every 90 days as required by some of the other visa types.
- The Elite Visa holder does not need to do their 90 day report themselves, the Thai Elite staff will take care of it for you.
- Thai Elite Visa holders will receive special VIP/Fast Track immigration and passport control upon arriving in Thailand.
The Thailand Elite Visa is one option for legally staying long term in Thailand. The Thailand Elite also removes many of the immigration hassles related to the extension and renewal process that other types of Visa experience.
The Thailand Elite is a membership program with membership fees starting from 600,000 THB for the 5 year Elite Visa. While this may seem a lot, if you prorate the fee, it would equate to 120,000 THB per year (3,620 USD per year) to come in and out of Thailand worry free.
The following options are available for the family members under the Thai Visa Elite program.
Elite Family Excursion (minimum 2 persons)
- Valid for 5 years
- Cost: 800,000 Thai baht with no annual fee
- For additional family members there is a fee of 300,000 THB
Elite Family Alternative
- Valid for 10 years
- The Elite Visa validity of 5 years and renewable for another 5 years
- Cost: 800,000 THB with no annual fee
- For additional family members there is a fee of 700,000 THB
Elite Privilege Access
- Valid for 10 years
- The Elite Visa validity of 5 years and renewable for another 5 years
- Cost: 1,000,000 THB with no annual fee
- For additional family members there is a fee of 800,000 THB
- No age restriction; applicants can be of any age
Elite Family Premium
- Applicable only to family members of Elite Ultimate Privilege members
- Membership fee of 1 million Thai baht with annual fee of 10,000 Thai baht
- Membership and Thai Elite Visa validity will be based on the membership and Visa validity of the Elite Ultimate Privilege Visa holder.
- Visa is renewable after 5 years
Digital Nomad Visa
Thailand has been a hotspot for Digital Nomads for a long time, with Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phang Nga being particularly popular. However, currently there are no legal ways for Digital Nomads to work in Thailand. Since Digital Nomads will be working in Thailand, they should, in practice, obtain a work permit. However, since they cannot obtain the correct Visa (Non-Immigrant B) to do so they can’t get a Work Permit.
The Thai Government has announced plans to provide a special Visa especially for Digital Nomads, allowing them to legally work in Thailand. However, there is no confirmed date for the release of this Visa.
There are some potential options available to Digital Nomads though. For example, opening a company in Thailand or using the SMART Visa. For more information about how you can come to Thailand as a Digital Nomad, why not book a consultation with our Visa expert to discuss everything you need to know.
Also, don’t forget to follow Thai Visa Belaws to stay up to date with all the latest developments for Digital Nomad Visas.
Tourist Visa with extensions
A Thai Tourist Visa will initially grant you a stay of 60 days in Thailand (or multiple entries of 60 days when on a multiple entry visa). Each entry of 60 days can be extended for an additional 30 days. If you have a multiple entry tourist visa and plan your entries carefully (doing a day trip out of Thailand and reentering to get another 60 days) you can theoretically stay in Thailand for 9 months or so using this Visa. However, it is important to remember that it is at the immigration officers discretion as to whether they will let you extend your Tourist Visa or not. This is due to trying to reduce the number of people who abuse this Visa by living in Thailand rather than being a tourist. In practice, the Tourist Visa combined with its extensions and border bounces (trips in and out of Thailand to get a new entry stamp) is not suitable for stays longer than 4 to 6 within a one-year period.
Due to COVID-19, the land borders between Thailand and neighbouring countries are closed and flying in and out of Thailand may not be possible due to quarantine and travel restrictions (except for Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore who have been added to Thailand’s list of ‘Safe Countries’). Follow our page Thai Visa Belaws to stay up to date on all the lastest news for entering Thailand. Thai Visa Belaws can be found here
If you are Over 50 years old, the Non-Immigration O (or OA) Visa, also known as the ‘Retirement Visa’ is available to you as either a single or multiple entry Visa. This is a long term Thai visa that entitles the holder a stay in Thailand for 1 year . The Retirement Visa can be renewed every year without having to leave Thailand. Please note that multiple entry visa holders have to leave the country every 90 days.
To be able to apply for a retirement visa, the following criteria must be met:
Applicant must be 50 years of age or over
Must meet any of the financial requirements:
- Security deposit of THB 800,000 in a Thai bank account for 2 months prior to the visa application
- Monthly Income of 65,000 THB
- Combination of security deposit and annual income with a total of 800,000 THB
For more information about how Belaws can help you obtain a retirement Visa, please click here.
If you have children enrolled in a Thai school (foreign or Thai national) you will be able to apply for an extension of stay based on their attendance. However, it is important to note that if you only have one child enrolled in a Thai school you can only apply for one guardian visa, for both parents to receive the Visa you must have two children enrolled in School.
If you are married to a Thai national, it is possible to apply for a Non O Visa based on marriage. If you apply for a Visa from an embassy or consulate outside of Thailand, you can get a Multiple Entry Non O or a single entry Non O which is valid for 90 days.
Both the multiple entry and single entry Visas can be extended in Thailand for a period of 1 year. Through extending your Non O Visa, you will receive an extension of stay based on marriage as opposed to a new Visa. You can renew the yearly extensions each year and stay in Thailand indefinitely if you meet the criteria.
In order to qualify for the Marriage Visa extension, applicants must be able to satisfy the following financial requirements:
- Have at least THB 400,000 in a Thai Bank Account. The balance must be in excess of THB 400,000 for at least 2 months prior to the Visa application; or
- Have a monthly income of at least THB 40,000.
Please follow this link to learn more about the marriage Visa and how Belaws can help you obtain one.
Thai investment Visa
Foreign investors can obtain a special investment visa which allows them to stay in Thailand long-term. Eligibility for the Investment Visa is based on the following criteria:
At least one (or a combination of the criteria list below) with a value of at least 10 million baht.
- Purchase or lease of a condo.
- Maintain a balance in a fixed-deposit account in a Thai bank.
- Purchase and own Thai government and/or state enterprise bonds.
The investment visa can be renewed yearly and much like the other visas available in Thailand, investment visa holders are required to do 90 day reports. Holders may also work in Thailand but they must obtain a work permit.
Family members of the investment Visa are also eligible to ‘piggy back’ the visa and live in Thailand as well.
Volunteer Visas are issued to applicants who wish to visit Thailand and undertake volunteer work in a non-government organization in Thailand. Volunteer Visas come in the form of a Non-Immigrant O Visa. This can be obtained from either an Embassy/Consulate in your country of residence or at an Immigration Office in Thailand.
Non-Immigrant O Visas are issued for an initial 90 Days. Once you have obtained your Visa (and have arrived in Thailand for those who applied outside the country) you can apply for an extension of stay based on volunteering. These extensions of stay are valid for 1 year.
It is important to note that volunteer visa holders need to apply for a Work Permit from the Thai Labor Department in the province where the NGO or the charitable organization they will be working for are located. Obtaining a Work Permit is essential and must be done as soon as possible.
Please note that this is not a tourist Visa and you have to actually undertake work with the charity/foundation you are enrolled with. Thai Immigration are very aware that some people use Volunteer Visas as a way to stay in Thailand long term.
Education Visas allow the holders to live in Thailand and attend classes in order to learn Thai. Education visas can be a good way for you to stay in Thailand for 6 months, 1 year, or even multiple years. You have to attend a school which has been approved by the Ministry of Education in order to support an education visa. You also have to pay the school in order to attend, typically this costs 20,000 – 35,000 THB (approx £450-£800) per year.
Once enrolled in the school you normally have to attend at least 2-4 classes per week. Sessions normally last between 2-4 hours each.
Please note that if you don’t turn up to your classes, you run the risk of your Visa being cancelled. Therefore, this is not a good option if you want to do a lot of travelling.
In order to obtain this Visa you need to apply to an approved school and obtain all the required documentation. You then use this documentation to apply for a Non O Visa based on Education from a Thai Embassy/Consulate. You will receive an initial Visa of 90 days but this can be extended once you arrive in Thailand.
Please note that this is not a tourist Visa and you have to attend classes. Thai Immigration are very aware that some people use “learning Thai” as a way to stay in Thailand long term, as a result the immigration officer may try to test your Thai language skills when you go to the immigration office to renew your visa (every 90 days).
Important information regarding Re-entering Thailand
Please note that if you have a single entry Visa or an extension of stay obtained from a Thai immigration office, you will need to purchase a re-entry permit if you are planning to leave Thailand temporarily and come back. If you leave without getting a re-entry permit, your single entry visa or extension of stay will become invalid.
This does not apply to multiple entry Visas.
What if I want to work in Thailand?
Foreigners who enter Thailand are not permitted to work (regardless of the Visa they hold) unless they have applied for and received a valid work permit. Those who wish to work in Thailand must also hold the correct type of Visa, a Non-Immigrant B Visa, to be eligible to apply for a work permit.
A work permit is a legal document which clearly states a foreigner’s position, occupation, or job description and the name and details of the Thai company they will be working for. It also acts as a license to perform a job/occupation for a foreigner in Thailand.
If you are married to a Thai national and hold a Non-Immigrant O based on this marriage, you can also obtain a work permit. Unfortunately, the Thailand Elite, Tourist, Retirement and Education Visas do not allow you to obtain a Work Permit. Holders of these Visas would need to apply for a Non-Immigrant B Visa first, which can be done inside Thailand.
Thailand heavily relies upon tourism to sustain their economy which means there are plenty of options available for anyone who would like to stay for a longer period of time.
Thai Visa Belaws understands that the application process can often be confusing, this is why our Visa expert is available to help you identify and apply for the best visa for your situation.
In order to provide the most accurate and reliable advice for your needs, Thai Visa Belaws offers a Visa Consultation Service with our Visa expert. During this consultation our Visa expert will assess your current situation and needs and provide a solution for the most suitable Visa or extension. Our Visa expert has helped numerous clients and has a vast amount of experience and can help you come to a desirable outcome.
Please click here to find out how Belaws can help you obtain the best Visa for your needs.
Please note that this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
The purpose of this call is to provide with you the necessary information to obtain a Visa for Thailand and outline how Thai Visa Belaws can assist you.
Thai Visa Belaws offers the following Visa services in Thailand: Visas (new applications and renewals), Work Permits and Extensions of Stay.
Based on your current situation and your future plans, we’ll advise you on the best options available to you.
The service is provided by a Thai immigration expert fluent in English.
Web conferencing details provided upon confirmation
To our newsletter for all the latest legal news
in South East Asia, Belaws updates and
special promotions on our services.
To our newsletter today for all the latest legal news in South East Asia,
Belaws updates and special promotions on our services.
We are open: Monday – Friday
9 am – 6 pm (UTC+7)