Thailand Visa Requirements
There are many different kinds of visas for Thailand, with various requirements. Separate pages on this website focus on different kinds of visas and requirements for each, whereas this page covers requirements and issues which are in common for all visa types, so that the information below does not need to be repeated on the other pages.
There are two ways to enter Thailand:
Short stay visa duration can sometimes be less if crossing a land border instead of arriving by airplane. In the past, it was common for hoardes of people to extend their stays by a "visa run" to the border, to just step over and step back in, whereby businesses operated buses for this. The government clamped down long ago on how many times you can do that.
For longer stays, the most common types of visa are:
There are actually many additional types of visa, but they are uncommon, so I would rather limit the length of this basic introductory page.
Of the above visa types, you can work only on a non-immigrant B or non-immigrant O visa, and you must have a work permit issued by the Ministry of Labor, which is entirely separate from Immigration, the Royal Thai Police, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Applying for visas and extensions
Visa regulations are subject to change, of course. For example, the military government of the 2006 coup started disallowing back-to-back tourist visas, then the democratically elected civilian government of 2008 relaxed that and even started offering free visas to encourage tourism, but the military government of the 2014 coup tightened up regulations again as regards intending "long stay tourists", which includes requiring immigration officials to perform stricter inspections of long stay visa applications.
For getting a longer stay visa outside Thailand in advance of your trip, i.e., a 60 day tourist or 90 day non-immigrant visa (plus both are extendable once inside Thailand), you can either visit a Thai embassy or consulate in any country, or mail your passport and application to them (preferably by registered mail, and with a self-addressed and stamped return envelope). For some kinds of long stay visas, it may be either required or easier to apply within your home country than to apply in Thailand's neighboring countries.
At most embassies and consulates, visa applications are accepted only in the morning.
It is strongly recommended that you email (or call if there's no reply to your email) to double check that a particular embassy or consulate you wish to visit will be open, and able to process your visa application on time and mail or hand it back to you before your travel date. Just checking national holidays might not be enough. (Many stories about this, special closures and delays.) Also, you can double check about the application requirements, as embassies and consulates have been known to have outdated information on their websites.
If you have any official Thai government personal documents which you are using for your visa application, such as a Thai marriage certificate and wife's Thai ID card, I recommend you get certified translations before you travel to a Thai consulate, because some consulates (especially smaller ones) may not accept documents in Thai by themselves! I found this out the hard way when I visited a Royal Thai Consulate-General in a US city. None of the people I dealt with there could read Thai, and they initially tried to reject my application. Of course, once inside Thailand, translations from Thai to English are generally not needed, but consulates overseas are often staffed with locals who process applications. Our company's translation division has done translations for this. However, you might want to first check to find out whether or not a translation is necessary. Nevertheless, it's good to have translations handy in your personal notebook for copying anytime in the future.
You should make sure your passport is not about to expire, nor the passport of anyone traveling in your party, and has more than 6 months validity left before your entry date into Thailand; otherwise, you can be denied entry. It's 6 months validity required in most of southeast Asia. While you can get a new passport in Bangkok from your local embassy, southeast Asian countries generally will not give visas (and some won't allow entry) for passports about to expire.
If you go to a Thai embassy or consulate in some neighboring countries, you might be surprised to see a hopelessly very long queue of people from places like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and some countries in Africa known for many troublemakers inside Thailand, far too many people to process that morning. If you are from an advanced country, then you can just walk around all these people and go to the front of the line. Indeed, when I first encountered this, eventually a security guard instructed me to do so, and a member of the consulate staff told me to do this every time I come, just bypass all those people. I later found out that many of those in the queue come day after day, a crowd showing up long before the embassy or consulate unlocks its gate, and then race each other to try to get a place in line close enough to the front to see an officer that day. Many were turned away after morning closing time, never seeing an officer that day.
Visas are often denied to nationals from countries near Thailand from which there are many impoverished illegal workers (e.g., Bangladesh, India) and many criminals (e.g., Nigeria) when the particular individuals and/or their paperwork look questionable. However, for people from advanced countries who look good, it's usually quick and easy at embassies and consulates.
Once you're inside Thailand, for visa extensions and 90 day reporting (see below), long stay expats on non-immigrant visas generally deal with the immigration office within each's registered residential jurisdiction (for example, if you live in Pathum Thani province, then you go to the immigration office in Pathum Thani), whereas tourists can go to any suitable immigration department anywhere in Thailand.
A One Stop Service Center for visas, work permits, and re-entry permits was established in 1997, which is intended to simplify and streamline visa extensions and some work permits, and to help with investment. It is located in Bangkok on Rama 4 Road near the Silom business district, at Chamchuree Square Building, Floor 18, Patumwan, Bangkok. However, if interested, you should first learn the basics on the internet before you go there.
Many people have made this grievous mistake:
If you have a non-immigrant or tourist visa and you plan to exit and re-enter Thailand within your visa expiration date, then you must get a re-entry permit in your passport. If you don't, then exiting Thailand cancels your visa.
For example, I have heard of people who went to all the trouble of getting a non-immigrant B business visa and work permit, and later then extending it from 90 days to 1 year, quite a lot of paperwork, time, and effort, and then mistakenly thinking they can exit and re-enter for the rest of that year, without realizing that their original visa is a single entry visa. If they exit without a re-entry permit, then the next time they try to enter, they find out that their non-immigrant visa is no longer valid, and they must start all over again. Their work permit is tied to their visa, so their ability to work legally is affected, too.
The solution is quick and easy. You simply go to immigration while still inside Thailand and get either a multiple re-entry stamp for 3900 baht, or a single re-entry stamp for just 1 trip for 1000 baht, before you exit.
It is possible to apply for a non-immigrant multiple entry visa your first time at a Thai embassy or consulate such as in your home country overseas, but over the years many Thai embassies and consulates, especially those neighboring Thailand, have taken on a policy that they will issue only a single entry visa for 90 days, which you must then extend inside Thailand. Most people apply for the re-entry permit after extending their visa to one year, usually on the same day they get their visa extension. Some business people have obtained a 1 year multiple entry non-immigrant B visa in their home country but are permitted to stay only up to 90 days per entry. This saves business people a lot of time and effort. Whatever you get, analyze it carefully.
90-day reporting of residence
Any foreigner staying in Thailand for 90 days or longer without exiting must report their current address to immigration around 90 days after entering, and again every 90 days after their previous report.
Basically, you just go to immigration, fill in a short form, and hand it together with your passport to an officer there who handles those matters. They type into the computer and print out a little sheet which you keep with your passport, which tells you your next due date which is 90 days later. (Previously, it was all just hand written sheets, but now it's computerized.) They might staple it to a page inside your passport.
If you exit and re-enter Thailand, then you do not need to report to immigration for another 90 days since your last entrance, because you filled out your Arrival Card with your current or destination address in Thailand already when you entered.
Note: If you go to immigration to extend a visa or any other reason, that does not count as 90 day reporting of your address. The 90 day reporting of address is an entirely separate matter. It goes entirely by that little sheet of paper in your passport.
Failure to report every 90 days can result in a substantial fine. It is a hassle, but it is the law.
A "visa run" is a quick exit from Thailand and then a re-entry, for those who are unable to extend a visa within Thailand for whatever reason.
For example, foreigners who have no visa in advance and arrive on "visa exempt" status can stay a maximum of 60 days (stamped 30 upon arrival then can extend for another 30 days at an immigration office but just once extension is allowed). Somebody else might have a non-immigrant visa but fail to meet some criteria for extension.
It can be by taking a bus to the border, stepping over into a neighboring country at an immigration checkpoint, and then re-entering. More commonly, it's taking a flight.
Whether or not you are allowed back into Thailand (or even into the neighboring country) depends on the country of your passport and the policy of the Thai government towards visitors from your country. For most advanced countries, there is no problem, but some nationalities such as Indians, Pakistanis, Nigerians, and some others might be denied re-entry upon return.
The duration of your next visa at a land border might be less than what you get by flying in. For example, they might give you only 14 days from a land border, but 30 days at an airport. This policy has varied over the years and by country.
Some people travel to a Thai embassy or consulate at a capital or other major city of a neighboring country to apply for another tourist or non-immigrant visa, the same as the one which just expired. Some Thai embassies and consulates in neighboring countries have been reluctant to grant back-to-back visas, but they often do. It depends a lot on your nationality, history, and situation.
Overstaying your visa by just 1 day can be very serious now. According to the new laws, if the police catch you on the street overstayed by just 1 day, you can get deported and blacklisted from returning to Thailand for 5 years! (Whether or not they would actually do that is another matter, but they could if they want to.)
As part of the military government's efforts to clean up things, police and Immigration officials have been pushed to more assertively catch and arrest overstayers. Some people in the media have alleged that there are even quotas, and hard pushing of officers.
Notably, I have known of people who have applied for an extension of a non-immigrant visa, but when it was not ready on time, their Immigration officer said to come back after a few days and not worry about the fact their visa will be expired. If this happens to you, do NOT follow their direction. Insist that they stamp your passport with a temporary extension (for example, another week or two) so you don't overstay. They are known to have given in to this request. You can just show them the rules. If you are caught by ordinary police on the street far removed from the officials at your local Immigration office, that can become a very different story.
Applications for non-immigrant visa extensions are reviewed by multiple officers up the chain according to different schedules and often an offsite officer somewhere else must also approve an application. It can take weeks before final approval. With the extra scrutiny of applications, it would not be surprising to have backlogs. There have been a lot of changes which stress Immigration, not only of foreigners from well developed distant countries, but also due to the recent systems to legalize hoardes of migrant laborers from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and elsewhere.
Technically and personally, the civil servants and the system seem to work well, but it can be an overworked bureaucracy at times, so you should be patient ...
... but you should plan in advance for visa extensions, and not wait until the last moments before your visa expires to apply for an extension.
Some people have just ignored their visa expiration date and stayed in Thailand illegally. In the old days, this was fairly common, when you could overstay for many years and just pay the maximum fine of 20,000 baht at the airport, without being blacklisted. Some people calculated that paying the fine was cheaper than the cost of flights and hotels of visa runs over time. Now those days of peaceful overstays are history.
After the second military coup of 2014, Immigration started getting increasingly assertive in finding overstayers. A tough blacklisting rules set was drawn up for long time overstayers. There was a general increased computerization of police and government systems already ongoing, which started to be rolled out in 2014 anyway, a continuation of modernization which preceded the coup, but it was further developed and utilized under the military government.
For example, Immigration created a website for hotels to be able to log into and immediately register foreign guests. It became mandatory for hotels to either use the login system when the guest arrives, or else send an email right away.
If a longtime overstayer turns up at the airport with an outbound flight ticket, then they just pay the fine and can be blacklisted for a shorter time than for overstayers who are caught on the street. If you're caught on the street, then you go to an immigration detention center, which in Bangkok is overcrowded and very unpleasant to stay in, from all accounts I've read and heard about. Provincial detention centers may vary. You must wait to be brought to court where a judge sets the fine (which is typically much less that what you would pay at the airport otherwise, a reduction from 20,000 baht to typically a few to several thousand baht), then you are kept in immigration detention until somebody buys you an outbound ticket which must be back to your home country, not to a neighboring country, plus pays a fee to immigration to transport you to the airport and escort you onto the airplane. If there are connecting flights to your home country via an intermediate country, then your passport may be held by airline authorities to make sure you board those connecting flights.
The current rules are as follows:
The fine for overstaying is 500 baht per day, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. (Of course, 40 days adds up to 20,000 baht.)
If an overstayer is not caught on the street and arrested, then there are two ways they can exit the country. One is to turn up at the airport with an outbound airplane ticket and the fine money, and essentially turn themself in such as when they go through passport control for exiting Thailand. The other way, if they are long overstayed but don't have the 20,000 baht fine, is to turn themselves in at an Immigration office whereby they will be put into immigration detention,(essentially like a jail), brought to court whereby a judge will typically reduce their fine dramatically, then be brought back to immigration detention and kept there until they or somebody produces an airplane ticket plus a fee for Immigration to transport them to the airport and escort them onto their flight out.
For overstayers who turn themselves in:
under 90 days overstay = no blacklist
However, if they are caught, arrested, and prosecuted, then the blacklisting is different:
less than 1 year overstay = blacklist for 5 years
Yes, there's a dramatic difference in the blacklisting for people who are caught on the street and prosecuted.
Immigration detention is crowded with people from poor countries who tried to live illegally in Thailand.
Our company has some experience with this, e.g., being asked to find a "missing person" and eventually finding them in immigration detention for a long time despite their embassy reporting that they had no information related to the person ... I don't want to name countries or anything like that (this was a Caucasian country's embassy in Bangkok... but that's all I'll reveal here).
The Thai officials at the Bangkok Immigration Detention Center were very nice and helpful to my staff and myself when we were trying to help somebody in immigration detention.
Also, some foreign embassies are better than others. There are also some United Nations, NGO, and church people who try to help some people, including contacting relatives and raising money for airplane flights. You can find some amazingly good people in and around there trying to help the needy and disadvantaged, which gives me more faith in humanity.
You are not allowed to have a mobile phone or other electronic communication device within immigration detention. If you are an overstayer and plan to turn yourself in, or if you are caught, then you should contact family and friends well in advance, or immediately, before you lose access to your phone.
This is not a jail for hard criminals, it is a detention center of people who have overstayed their visas. If they are wanted on criminal charges, too, then they are transported elsewhere.
There are also some criminal overstayers in Thailand ...
You can't blame the Thai government for wanting to control its borders, as Thailand is a fairly rich and friendly country in the world in the eyes of people from many poorer countries, so it attracts a lot of illegal migrants who become overstayers.
In decades past, Thailand has previously housed hundreds of thousands of refugees along its borders due to civil wars in Cambodia and Myanmar. Eventually, donor and NGO fatigue set in ... but I digress. There are no refugee camps in Thailand for refugees from far away countries, so people from Syria, Somalia, etc., tend to be scattered around Thailand.
Suffice it to say that Thailand has its own illegal migration problems which it needs to deal with somehow, and there are no easy solutions.
Register with your Embassy or Consulate
It is also a good idea in general to register at your embassy with contact information of family and friends in case you turn up in a hospital or any other situation where you are unable to contact your relatives or friends yourself. For many embassies, you can submit this information online. You should do so either in advance of your arrival to Thailand or as soon as you can upon arrival. Don't wait until it's too late.
Also, carry in your purse or wallet the contact information for friends and relatives, and also give a copy to people who know you.
Otherwise, how could the embassy find somebody to contact, if you are incapacitated, you don't have contact information of friends and family on you (or they can't find it), and they don't have the PIN code for your phone?
Disclaimer: The Thai government revises visa policies fairly frequently. The information on this website is how I understand it as of early 2019, but I could well be wrong so don't rely on this, and you'd better check with the Thai government's official immigration officers and websites for the latest ... and even they may be wrong or different from actual practice at a particular time.
The intention here is to try to help people understand about visas, in a carefully organized way. I have seen a lot of visa writeups which were information thrown onto web pages in sometimes confusing ways.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website at www.mfa.go.th is the best place to start on the web for detailed current information. Their Consulates subpage has information on passport visas, but I suggest you call your particular consulate first and verify because I've found that this information sometimes changes without notice, and different embassies and consulates may have different attitudes and practices. Their Diplomatic Missions Abroad subpage has a list of embassies and consulates around the world, most of which have their own separate websites.
This section does not cover getting a visa for your Thai girlfriend to visit your country. That's a matter between you and your own government's embassy or consulate, not an issue with the Thai government (besides your girlfriend getting her Thai passport), and is discussed within the Culture section. Here's a shortcut.
> Travelling to Thailand > Visas > Visas, general
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