An everyday expense it may not be but a valid and relevant entry permit which legally sanctions a foreigner either a ‘Temporary Stay’ or a ‘Long Stay’ in Thailand is arguably the most fundamental overhead that needs to be factored into any cost of living calculations. Officially, in order to be admitted into the country, every foreign visitor must obtain an appropriate visa before landing on Thai soil, or qualify to receive a visa exemption upon arriving in Thailand, or be eligible to apply for a Visa On Arrival.
Granted at an international airport or international land border crossing, a visa exemption allows a single ‘period of stay’ in Thailand not exceeding whichever of 14, 30 or 90 consecutive days (as governed by your nationality and the purpose of your stay) and is entirely without charge.
Altogether different, a Visa On Arrival is issued to nationals of specific countries at designated ports of entry into Thailand, permits a single ‘period of stay’ of not more than 15 successive days and, until the 28th February 2017, has been halved in price to 1000 baht per applicant.
Good for a ‘period of stay’ of up to 60 consecutive days per entry and available only at a Royal Thai Consulate-General or Consular Section of a Royal Thai Embassy outside of Thailand, the application fee for a single-entry tourist visa is currently free until the end of February this year but after which will return to the standard charge of 1000 baht (or equivalent in local currency) whereas that for a multiple-entry tourist visa remains at 5000 baht (or equivalent in local currency).
Equally restricted to issuance by a Thai diplomatic mission overseas and expressly for those planning to study in Thailand, a single-entry non-immigrant education visa costs 2000 baht (or equivalent in local currency) exclusive of tuition fees and authorises an initial ‘period of stay’ not exceeding 90 consecutive days.
Popularly labelled a ‘retirement visa’, a non-immigrant “O-A” visa is also only obtainable from a Royal Thai Consulate-General or Consular Section of a Royal Thai Embassy outside of Thailand, allows an initial ‘period of stay’ equal to 90 days and, as long as the application requirements are satisfied in full, costs either 2000 baht (or equivalent in local currency) for the single-entry version of the visa or 5000 baht (or equivalent in local currency) for the multiple-entry format.
For those with the financial wherewithal, the crème de la crème of Thai entry permits, the multiple-entry ‘Privilege Entry Visa’ (formerly known as the ‘Elite Visa’) is a freely available benefit to those who enrol in any of the various ‘Thailand Elite’ programs; obtainable in advance from any Thai diplomatic mission or upon arrival at whichever of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, Chiang Mai or Phuket international airports, the visa confers an uninterrupted ‘period of stay’ of 12 months per entry, is valid for five years and, provided your ‘Thailand Elite’ membership hasn’t lapsed in the meantime, renewable at no extra charge.
With the exception of those admitted into Thailand on a Visa On Arrival as well as ordinary passport holders granted a visa exemption by means of a bilateral agreement (specifically, citizens from Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Hong Kong, Laos, Macau, Mongolia, Myanmar, Peru, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam), to remain in Thailand beyond the ‘period of stay’ set on your entry permit requires the timely application of a visa extension (officially referred to as an ‘extension of temporary stay in the Kingdom’ or TM.7). Those who enter the country either on a standard 30 day Tourist Visa Exemption or hold a tourist visa proper, can apply for a one-time visa extension affording an additional 7 or 30 days stay (in accordance with your nationality). Those in possession of an education visa must apply for one or more visa extensions for either of one or more additional 90 day periods or the complete year. Bearers of a ‘retirement visa’ or ‘Privileged Entry Visa’, similarly, will receive the full year’s stay upon successful application of a visa extension. Regardless of the type of Thai entry permit or the number of extra days granted, though, the fee every time you lodge an application for a visa extension is 1900 baht and submitted at the Chiang Mai Immigration office on the ground floor of Building A at Promenada Resort Mall.
Normally, as soon as the holder of a single-entry education, tourist or ‘retirement’ visa departs Thailand, the ‘period of stay’ or ‘extension of stay’ previously given will be cancelled and any unused days forfeit. Nevertheless, should the person bearing a single-entry visa want or, in the case of an emergency, need to leave Thailand for a short period of time after which they’ll then return, it’s possible to apply for a Re-entry Permit -before exiting the country- which will safeguard their existing ‘period of stay’ or ‘extension of stay’ from being rendered null and void upon departing Thailand. A Re-entry Permit is available as either single-entry for 1000 baht or multiple-entry for 3800 baht.
What are your experiences applying for a visa at the different Thai Consulates or Consular Section of Thai Embassies around the world? What are your experiences applying for a visa extension or a Re-entry Permit at Chiang Mai Immigration? How much do you spend on border and/or visa runs per year? We’re all ears so leave us a comment below!