The ongoing saga of retirees with an “O” type visa or extension

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Thailand is reopening, but debates continue about retiree expats wanting to return.

Asean Now has been conducting a vigorous debate about worried retirees in Thailand, based on a recent article in Pattaya Mail. That piece highlighted the concerns of some Pattaya-based expats who feared they would have difficulty returning to Thailand if they went abroad. Everyone agrees that “O/A” visa holders are ring-fenced with extra insurance requirements on an ongoing basis whether they leave the country or not. Let’s leave them in peace, or perhaps in pieces, for the moment.



The main bone of contention appears to be whether expats holding the “O” type annual extension of stay will be subject to extra insurance requirements when applying abroad for the Thailand Pass permission to return here. Of course, everyone now knows about the US$50,000 Covid insurance required of all foreign entrants, available to anyone under 100 years old on several websites, notably http://covid19.tgia.org/


The online debate in Asean Now appeared to reach a consensus that these “O” retirees, armed with their re-entry permit, would not require additional insurance cover. However, the website of the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington DC puts it this way. Under a general heading about new rules starting on November 1, 2021, the text reads, “Longstay visa holders for retirement, “O”, “O/A” and “X”, or who currently hold a re-entry permit for such visas, require outpatient treatment not less than 40,000 baht and inpatient treatment 400,000 baht.” That certainly looks like a separate burden from the US$50,000 Covid insurance needed for Thailand Pass and sounds like the old “O/A” general medical insurance rule reincarnated.



It is certainly true that other embassy websites do not state the situation clearly for “O” expat retirees with a valid re-entry permit. Maybe it’s some kind of mistake, but it certainly worried two Americans who featured anonymously in the Pattaya Mail article. I also tried to find the latest details from the Thai embassy in London, but the relevant section was unobtainable online for several hours. It may be back by now. Months ago, UbonJoe – who is easily the best commentator about visas in Thailand – wrote that embassies tend to interpret visa rules in their own way. Whether Thailand Pass has ended this practice is not yet known.



Several contributors to the Asean Now debate stated separately that embassies do not award “O” visas based on retirement since that privilege is left to the immigration bureau here in Thailand. Whilst it is true that embassies do not give “O” 12-months visas based on retirement, many do offer 90 days “O” visas specifically for retirees. For example, Thai embassies in Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and Holland all have sections specifically on this point, although they speak of 400,000 and 40,000 baht required insurances and refer readers to http://longstay.tgia.org/ not to be confused with their other site referred to in paragraph two above. This is the Thai insurance consortium which has age limit exclusions to obtain general medical cover and hospitalization. So we are back to square one.



As many commentators have pointed out, Thai insurance rules for foreigners – especially retirees – are not exactly crystal clear. Indeed. There appear to be overlapping regulations which in some cases even predate the Covid pandemic. To repeat the obvious: things need sorting out nationally. We can all agree on that.