Here are some newsy updates, but remember that local immigration offices have some discretion in interpreting the national framework.
The rumours that all farang with a one year retirement extension would be required to have a policy to cover hospital bills proved to be unfounded. The only people affected are those with an original non-immigrant “O/A”, the long-stay visa issued by the Thai consulate or embassy in their own country: they are less than 5 percent of the total. There is no sign that elderly farang with annual extensions issued by Thai immigration, based on an original non-immigrant “O” or “B” visa, have cause for concern.
In general, immigration check points at Thai land borders tend to be stricter than those at airports. For example tourists wanting a new 30 days on arrival can only cross by land into Thailand twice in a calendar year. Even then, you may be asked to show evidence of your funds and/or your return air ticket back home. Entering Thailand by air does not have the same limit, but officers have discretion to ask frequent visitors what they are doing here. Again, best not to enter Thailand with a single journey air ticket time after time, or you may be taken to one side.
Elite visa popular
After years of being virtually ignored, the 5 to 20 year Thai elite card visa is currently in favour. You pay non-refundable cash of between 500,000 baht and one million baht and can stay in chunks of three months before visiting an immigration office or leaving the country. It is proving popular with those, notably Chinese and Indians, who can’t find another visa route to stay longtime. It is multi-entry by definition but, contrary to some reports, you can’t work or buy freehold land.
Definition of working
Thailand has a sweeping definition of working illegally under its strict alien labour laws. Any kind of remuneration is banned and even working for free can be deemed out of order. Of course, there are exceptions in practice – acting as a translator at the court or helping out the Thai police are two obvious examples. But working as a teacher, no matter how informally, or helping out at the dive shop or whatever is not OK without a work permit. Don’t forget too about the well-used immigration hotline number where errant folk can be secretly reported.
Bonus for marriage
Foreigners who marry a Thai but do not want to be in Thailand all year round – perhaps because they are working abroad – have an alternative to the annual marriage visa. They can enter Thailand with or without a visa and, when that permitted time has elapsed, they can obtain an extra 60 days at the immigration office of the area where their home is. Documents required include personal ID of both parties, marriage certificate (translated into Thai if necessary), and house registration and family paperwork. To give a simple example, a British guy could obtain 30 days on arrival, extend a further month at immigration and then produce the above paperwork for the additional 60 days. Most immigration offices require the presence of both parties when the application is made.
The need to report your address within 24 hours of arrival in Thailand, unless your hotel does it online, has not yet disappeared in spite of some vague promises from on high. However, most immigration offices are being flexible – no massive fine if you are later than 24 hours, for example, or exemption altogether if you have a one year visa. If you are staying in a hotel, there will be a paper trail that you have been registered online. So you should ask for a copy of that receipt if you have any need to visit an immigration office during your stay.