Pattaya Legal Corner: Which visa is best to retire on?


[email protected]

Q: Which visa is best to retire on?

20 years ago, foreigners could live in Thailand just by renewing a monthly visa at the land border again and again.  Frequent “visa runs” were the norm, but the situation changed radically over time.  Farang were rationed to two entries per year by land and that was long before Covid closed all frontiers in any case.  These days you need a visa fit for the purpose.

Thai embassies abroad issue the year-long O/A visa to applicants over 50, although you can extend it to two years if you are careful about coming and going.  You will need to satisfy the embassy about your income and there is even a 10 year option (O/X) for families.  It is possible to extend annually this visa at Thai immigration offices, but they will likely ask for ongoing medical insurance which is not required for other extensions of stay at present.

A more popular retirement is the annual “O”, another non-immigrant visa, usually issued by Thai immigration when a foreigner has entered with a tourist visa.  As is well known this requires 800,000 in a Thai bank lodged for at least five months – two months prior to application and three months thereafter.  For the remaining seven months, the account must not fall below 400,000.

Growing in popularity now is the five year Elite visa which requires an initial payment of 600,000 baht, but without ongoing checks on your bank account.  The Elite visa is multi-entry and carries a number of perks such as fast track airport immigration and retail discounts. There are several other Elite choices, for example for families or for a 20 year validity and each with their own tariffs.

Of course, there is a lot of detail to be considered.  My office Chang Legal Services is situated next to Jomtien Immigration and specialist staff are always on hand to answer questions without any obligation on your part.  For example, if you are married to a Thai citizen there is another non-immigrant option which requires a lower financial threshold and has the advantage of easily converting into a work permit, if relevant.

You are probably aware that Thailand is currently overhauling its immigration policy.  Entrants will be dealing with the Thailand Pass rather than the Certificate of Entry and applications will be wholly processed online.  Visitors will be issued with a QR code to show at the Thai airport immigration and there will be no prior visa or vignette sticker in your passport.  How all this will affect expats residing already in Thailand is not yet clear.  Just remember that our staff are always up to date and ready to help.

Q:  Can you help with acquiring a Thai driving licence? 

We can indeed.  My company also offers the ID Driver Chang Pattaya Driving School where applicants for both two and four wheel vehicles can be trained.  There is a practical component (learning to drive properly and some extras such as changing a blown tyre) and theory lessons (the Thai highway code) to prepare for the tests. These can be taken can be taken at our school recognized by the Ministry of Transport rather than at the land transportation office situated near the Regents International School.

However, it is necessary for all Thai and foreign driving students physically to collect their driving licence from the designated office.  Of course, we can arrange transport if needed.  Successful trainees will receive an initial two years probationary licence followed by five years provided the driver holds a one year visa.  Renewals must be completed before the expiry of the current licence, although some current holders have been granted extensions until the end of this year because of the interruption to service created by Covid.

We can also help with renewals as well as initial applications.  We have a much shorter program for those but it does include the practical tests of eyesight and dexterity which are obviously mandatory.  We can also assist with arranging an appointment at the land transportation department and can also offer transport there and back, if needed.  Using an agent can help to take the stress out of the proceedings.

Obviously, we are aware of the detail required in applications.  For example, even if you hold a yellow residence book and a pink ID card, you will still need a letter of residence from the immigration bureau.  Medical letters are now required at the renewal stage as well as for initial applications.  If you use an international licence at first application, you will need an English translation unless that language is already printed in the booklet.  As my English manager likes to say, “The devil is in the detail.”