Visa exemption or visa on arrival to Thailand

Unlike other kinds of visas, "visa exempt", "visa waiver", and "visa on arrival" mean you can just arrive in Thailand without any visa in advance, and be quickly given a stamp on the spot when your passport is processed at immigration.

Advantage: Quick and easy, you don't need to apply for a visa at a Thai embassy or consulate overseas.
Disadvantages: They are for a shorter stay, you cannot work on them, and you cannot extend them much if at all.

There are differences between "visa exempt" and "visa on arrival":

  • "Visa exempt" (44 countries) is for 30 days, "visa waiver" (13 countries) is from 14 to 90 days, and "visa on arrival" (21 countries) is for 14 or 15 days.
  • "Visa exempt" stamps can be extended an additional 30 days for a fee. "Visa waiver" and "visa on arrival" may not be extended.
  • "Visa on arrival" must still be approved by the immigration officer. (Actually, all visas must be approved, but it's extremely rare to hear of a "visa exempt" person being rejected.)
  • "Visa exempt" nationals can get an unlimited number of entries per year at airports, or two at borders (land or sea).

It is common to get the phrases mixed up, because "visa exempt" people still get their passport stamped when they arrive, the functional equivalent of a visa. However, believe it or not, in visa terminology, there are technical differences between "visa exempt", "visa waiver", and "visa on arrival". You will see a lot of places on the internet where "visa on arrival" is used when they actually should say "visa exempt" or "visa waiver", but it is understandable and forgivable.

To confuse things even more, Thai government officials in late 2018 started talking about giving "visa on arrival" people "tourist visa" stamps upon arrival for 15 days instead ... or is it sometimes 60 days as with other "tourist visa" stamps? ...

As of early 2019:

Visitors with passports from 44 countries can get "visa exempt": Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Due to bilateral agreements, visitors using passports from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, South Korea, and Peru can travel into Thailand for 90 days without a visa, visitors using passports from Hong Kong, Laos, Macao, Mongolia, Russia, Vietnam for 30 days, and visitors using passports from Cambodia and Myanmar for 14 days.

Visa-on-arrival for 15 days can be applied for by citizens of 21 countries: Andorra, Bhutan, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. You should be aware that visa on arrivals can be denied to some people who seem to not be coming as a real tourist, so if you don't want to risk being turned back onto another flight, then you should get a tourist visa in advance from an embassy or consulate. You should also have your return ticket available and be able to show money available during your trip.

If your passport is not for a country on any of these lists, then you must apply for a different kind of visa, e.g., a tourist or non-immigrant visa, at a Thai embassy or consulate in another country in advance of your trip.

For people from advanced countries, it is rare for an immigration officer to ask to see a return airplane ticket or money to support your stay, especially if you look good, but for some people from certain countries such as India, who seem questionable, it can be a different treatment. People from advanced countries who look good usually pass immigration passport control very quickly and easily.

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.




 > Travelling to Thailand > Visas > Visa exemp or on arrival



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