Retiring to Thailand has been a popular option for many foreigners. The affordable cost of living means they can make their pensions and savings stretch further, while the welcoming people and warm culture make for a highly conducive atmosphere. To take advantage of these benefits, it is necessary to follow the proper procedures when it comes to immigration and understand the terms that apply. For some people immigration rules can seem stringent and chaotic, however with the right information and professional advice, retiring to Thailand can be quite an enjoyable experience. Here we will look at some of the key factors involved in acquiring a retirement visa, how long it will last, and how to keep it valid.
What is a Retirement Visa?
The Thailand Retirement Visa is offered to foreigners that are over the age of 50 years and meet the requisite financial and other requirements. This visa does not permit the holder to work in the Kingdom. The application for the visa may be made from the applicant’s native country or country of permanent residence through their Royal Thai consulate or embassy. It is also possible to apply for this visa when already in Thailand. Where the Retirement Visa is applied for abroad, it is referred to as the Non-Immigrant O-A (Long Stay) Visa. When it is applied for while in Thailand, it is called the Non-Immigrant O (Long Stay) Visa.
What are the requirements for a Retirement Visa?
1. Valid passport with at least 12 months remaining to expiry
2. The applicant must at least be 50 years old or more
3. Should at least meet one of the below financial requirements:
- Have a minimum of THB 800,000 in a Thailand bank account that must have cleared a minimum of 2 months before making the visa application
- Have a minimum monthly pension or income of THB 65,000
- Have a combined annual pension, income, and bank savings that total at least THB 800,000
To support this application, you will need to prove the aforementioned requirements using a bank book or passbook, with a bank letter that confirms the monies are deposited and were cleared a minimum of 2 months beforehand. To verify your income, you will need a confirmation letter from your embassy in Thailand. Where such a letter is not available, you may submit a bank statement for the last 12 months that confirms regular deposits of the minimum THB 65,000 income or pension into your Thailand bank account.
Depending on which country you are applying from, you could be requested to provide additional documentation such as a police clearance certificate, medical certificate, and annual health insurance. This is more common when seeking to obtain a Non-Immigrant O-A (Long Stay) Visa while abroad than when going for a Non-Immigrant O (Long Stay) Visa while in Thailand.
Some embassies and consulates are not able to issue retirement visas. You need to check with the embassy in your country to verify if they can process this visa, or if you will need to travel to Thailand on a 90-day non-immigrant visa instead, then make the application. You can only make the application after having completed a 60-day stay on this visa and within 30 days of its visa stamp expiry.
You will need to be on the last month of your current permit to stay in Thailand to apply for a Non-Immigrant O-Long Stay Visa. You should also provide clear proof of residence in Thailand for the time you have been here. You may provide evidence such as utility bills or a rental agreement in your name.
How long does a Retirement Visa last?
Both the Non-Immigrant O (Long Stay) Visa and Non-Immigrant O-A (Long Stay) Visa will allow you to remain in Thailand for a period of up to a year or 12 months. It can then be renewed annually with no limit on the number of times you renew and no need to depart the country during this time. You can renew while still in Thailand and as early as 45 days before your current visa is due to expire. All that will be required is that you keep being able to meet the visa requirements.
This means you will need to provide the same evidence as to when you first made your application for a retirement visa but ensure it is updated. This includes proving you have enough funds to support your stay via existing income and current bank balances. You will again need to provide completed immigration forms (TM47 form), valid passport, and passport-sized colour photos. A renewal fee is also applicable. Be sure to also provide your TM6 departure card.
What happens after the Retirement Visa is approved?
Holders of retirement visas are required to undertake 90-day reporting. This means that they must report to the local Thai immigration office on their current address. This may be done in person, through the mail or via an agent with power of attorney. Online reporting is also available, but only from the second reporting.
If you have already left the country before this reporting was due, you will not get in trouble. You will restart the clock upon re-entry for your next 90-day reporting. Reporting should be done anywhere between 14 days before to 7 days after the reporting date. Failure to report can lead to a fine and possible arrest. Keep in mind that renewing your retirement visa does not alter your reporting date.
Note that if intending to leave and return to Thailand during the validity period of the visa, you will need to acquire a re-entry permit. The retirement visa is a single entry even with an extension of stay. If you depart the country without a re-entry permit, it will invalidate your extension of stay and you may lose your visa. A re-entry permit can be obtained from your local immigration office about a week before when you plan to travel. It is a square stamp that is placed on your passport to show your visa is protected.
Foreign visa holders are also now required to obtain a Certificate of Entry (COE) from the Thai embassy or consulate in the country they are travelling from. It is to be presented to airline officials at the point of departure and again during arrival in Thailand.