Here’s a roundup of some of the most frequent questions raised by Pattaya expats about their personal visa situation during the coronavirus pandemic. Updated on 26 September 2020.
- I have a one-year retirement extension of stay with a multiple re-entry permit expiring early next year. Can I leave Thailand and return before the due date?
Sorry not possible. Re-entry permits can’t be used. You can certainly leave the country but would not be allowed to return to Thailand without a certificate of entry and a new 90-days non-immigrant visa issued by the Thai embassy in the country you visited. But foreigners with visas or extensions of stay based on retirement are not at present included on the list of approved categories for entering Thailand which are mostly work and business related. The embassy would not accept your application to have a seat on a repatriation flight. Most scheduled flights remain cancelled. Land borders remain closed to foreigners.
- Surely there must be exceptions? After all I have lived in Thailand for many years.
Outside Thailand, you would need to apply to return to Thailand in a separate category (not retirement) which is recognized by the Thai authorities. But if you are married to a Thai – of the opposite sex as gay civil unions/marriages are not yet operational here – you would be eligible to apply for embassy-approved entry provided you can provide the heap of paperwork required including proof of married status, top-class medical insurance, Covid-19 clearance and proof of advance payment in a Thai quarantine hotel. Another possibility would be to apply for an Elite visa online from anywhere in the world as the Thai government has now included those supposedly-wealthy holders as eligible provided they have the additional paperwork too. However, the Elite visa will cost you 500,000 baht for a five-year permission of stay and embassies are still awaiting final clearance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Could be quite a delay. The Orient can’t be hurried.
- I have read that the Thai government is introducing a Special Touristy Visa for long-stayers, so is that a possibility for me?
The final details have not yet been published but the STV will be a 90 day visa which can be renewed in Thailand twice for a similar period (90+90+90) to a maximum of 270 days. But applicants must be travelling on a charter plane or in a private jet, undergo two weeks’ quarantine here, provide medical insurance to the value of US$100,000 and have an assortment of Covid-19 clearance documentation. Additionally, the government previously announced that applicants must be nationals of countries which have a good track record in combatting the virus. But no detailed announcement has yet been made. The STV is not issued by embassies but by the Thai authorities in Bangkok and must be applied for through a long-stay company based here. Clearly the STV is not designed for individual travellers in your situation.
- Will I need medical insurance to renew my one year retirement extension of stay early next year if I don’t leave the country?
Provided the original non-immigrant visa which started your retirement process is an “O” or “B” type the answer is no. That information is in your passport. But 5 percent of retirees here started the process with an “O/A” type visa issued by a Thai embassy abroad. They are required to have medical insurance on an ongoing basis with minimum cover of 400,000 baht (in patient) and 40,000 baht (outpatient). The company issuing the insurance must be a Thai one from an improved list. There is no indication at present that the government intends to extend the insurance requirement to the 95 percent currently exempted. But you have to remain in the country to benefit.
- I own my own condominium and have a yellow residence book. Doesn’t that entitle me to extra visa privileges?
It has recently been suggested by the government that the purchase of a new condominium unit(s) worth at least 10 million baht may be the basis of a long stay visa or even permanent residence. But it’s just speculation at the moment. In any case the purchase would need to direct from the developer rather than a third party. The “yellow book” is simply proof that you are resident at that address and does not bestow any visa or residence privileges.
- When will retirees be able to resume normal travel?
It’s likely that that they will be given priority over the short vacationer, but all depends on the future of the virus in Thailand. It’s that pesky issue which will determine who can enter, on what basis and with what documentation. Everyone probably has to accept that passports on their own won’t mean much in the future of international travel. The world war two expression “show me your papers” has never been more true than it is today and will be tomorrow.