Posted originally on: by . Last modified: November 2 2017.

Thai Visas, Immigration, & staying in Thailand – The Complete Thai Visa Guide for 2017

Visas in Thailand & how to stay Long Term

Visas in Thailand are confusing. The rules are constantly changing, meaning that most things you read and most opinions you hear are normally completely wrong. I’ve had enough. This is a complete easy to understand guide for digital nomads who want to visit Thailand, and I want to keep it updated – all of this information is valid right now, today, in 2017.

Getting a visa to Thailand sounds complicated. If you are from the UK or the USA, this is maybe the first time you have had to think about a visa. Ever!

Thailand doesn’t help this situation, there are lots of different visas and constantly changing rules, and the governments websites are poor.

Bad thai visa advice
Classic bad advice from #nomads – not the visa he got, visa didn’t even exist, from an office that doesn’t exist!

Expats and other nomads don’t help the situation, as what worked for them a few months ago might be different for you.

Blogs don’t help the situation, as they are rarely updated (and thus incorrect), or written from one persons perspective.

Forums, like ThaiVisa, are full of old men who don’t understand the world, and think what they say is gospel because they did something 7 years ago. Information there is frequently wrong and confusing, where you also have opinions going round as fact. Avoid avoid avoid avoid that place!

So this is why I have put together this guide to explain everything easily – the ultimate guide to getting a thai visa and staying in Thailand.

If you are from the UK, USA, or another of the 52 countries that get a free visa exemption on arrival (list below), everything in this article applies to you. Countries outside of this, I have tried to detail out as much as possible, and the rules are similar, you just may get less/more days when renewing stuff.

If you have a question, post it below in the comments, but make sure you have read this guide first! This guide will be updated whenever rules change.

Contents of the Complete Thai Visa Guide:

Tourist Visas in Thailand
Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver aka “tourist visa” aka “visa on arrival”
VOA – Visa on Arrival aka “the real visa on arrival”
SETV – Single Entry Tourist Visa aka “60 day tourist visa”
METV – Multiple Entry Tourist Visa aka “6 month multi entry visa”
Tourist Visa Hacks
How to extend your stay in Thailand
How to stay in Thailand Long Term
Common Visa Questions

2 Minute Overview of Tourist Visas in Thailand

As of April 2017, your tourist visa options when visiting Thailand by air are as follows:

Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver Entry

This is when you arrive in Thailand without a visa, but you are from one of the 52 countries that Thailand allows to enter without prior documentation (this includes UK, USA and most of Europe). You will get a stamp in your passport when you arrive and can stay for 30 days. There is no payment required.

Some people refer to this method of entry as “Tourist Visa” or “Visa on Arrival” – this is wrong and confusing. You don’t get a visa in your passport with this type of entry, just an entry stamp telling you when you need to leave.

Find out more on Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver

Visa on Arrival

This is for when you arrive in Thailand without a visa, but you are from one of the 19 countries that can purchase a visa on arrival (this list includes China and India). The visa is 2,000 THB (£45/$60) and allows you to stay for 30 days. A visa is put in to your passport and then stamped with an entry stamp telling you when you need to leave.

Find out more on Visa on Arrival

Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) aka “60 day tourist visa”

You need to apply for the Single Entry Tourist Visa in advance of your visit (outside of Thailand, anywhere).

Its typically a 2 day application – apply one day, pick up the next day, and costs around £40/$60. Once you are given the visa, you need to travel to Thailand within 3 months to activate it. You get a visa put in your passport, so when you arrive in Thailand, you will get a stamp to use the visa as soon as you arrive, and you can then stay for 60 days.

If you want to leave Thailand during the 60 days, your remaining days are forfeit, unless you get a Visa Re-Entry Permit.

Find out more about SETV

Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV) aka “6 month multi entry visa”

The METV is a new visa since October 2015, and something you need to apply for in advance (outside of Thailand, in your home country).

Its typically a 2 day application – apply one day, pick up the next day, and costs around £125/$150. Once you are given the visa, it’s valid for six months. You get a visa put in your passport, so when you arrive in Thailand, you will get a stamp on the visa, and you can then stay for 60 days. You can leave and enter Thailand as many times as you want, as long as your entry is before the visa “Enter Before” date, each time you enter you can stay for 60 days.

You can only stay for 60 days on any entry stamp, so even though the visa is often called a “6 month visa” this means it can be used for 6 months, it doesn’t give you the ability to stay in Thailand completely for 6 months.

Find out more about METV

Thai Visas in More Detail

Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver aka “tourist visa” aka “visa on arrival”

Visa Waiver Entry
Visa Waiver stamp – Arrive 12th October, leave on or before 10th November. Next to it, departure stamp for 17th October.

What is Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver?

A Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver is when you arrive in Thailand without a visa, but you are from one of the 52 countries that Thailand allows to enter without prior documentation. You will get a stamp in your passport when you arrive and can stay for 30 days. There is no fee or payment required.

The full list of countries that can use Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver entry is as follows, and includes the UK and USA:

Argentina
Australia
Austria
Bahrain
Belgium
Brazil
Brunei
Canada
Chile
Czech Republic
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
Indonesia
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Japan
Korea
Kuwait
Laos
Liechtenstein
Luxembourg
Macau
Malaysia
Monaco
Mongolia
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Oman
Peru
Philippines
Portugal
Qatar
Russia
Singapore
Slovak Republic
South Africa
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Vietnam

Some people refer to this method of entry as “Tourist Visa” or “Visa on Arrival” – this is wrong and confusing. You don’t get a visa in your passport with this type of entry, just an entry stamp telling you when you need to leave.

Tourists entering on Visa Waiver / Visa Exemption can get their 30 day stay extended by visiting an immigration office and applying for a 30 day visa extension.

Visa Exemption entry at Thai land border

Thai immigration wants regular visitors to Thailand to have a visa in advance when crossing by land. So if you want to just turn up at a land border without preparing, this is where the trouble starts. A land border is essentially any way of getting in to Thailand that is not an aeroplane.

Since January 2017, if you are resident of one of the 52 countries that get a free visa exemption on arrival (list aboveyou can only get this twice per calendar year. After this, you will be refused entry.

To repeat: You can only enter Thailand TWICE a year at a land border without having a visa in advance.

If you have a SETV or METV visa in advance, then crossing a land border is the same as arriving by plane and poses no problems.

For example, if you go to the Thai Embassy in Laos and get an SETV, then come back in to Thailand through the Laos/Thailand land border, you will get in just fine and get a 60 day stamp entry. Or if you have an METV, you can drive to a border in Thailand, go over, turn around and come back in and activate another METV 60 day stamp entry. The problems happen at land borders when you DON’T have a visa.

How many Visa Exemptions can I use?

By land entry, you can have 2 per year – see above. By Air, there doesn’t seem to be consistently firm rules.

A Thai visa service that deals with visas every day say that when travelling by air “people using OUT/IN method to extend their stay” – so flying out the country, spending 1-2 days away, the coming back to Thailand – “might be questioned after SIX visa exempt entries. There is no specific period given and there is no rule on how many visa exempt will be issued for one person“. But six entries in one year seems to be enough to make immigration say “what is this person doing?“.

The Royal Thai Consulate in Cardiff states “Those who enter by air can only enter 3 times over a 6 month period (with a visa exemption)”.  This is the first time I’ve seen this rule published, and the number seems low – if you’re a tourist hopping around Asia for a few months you might go through Thailand a few times.

Regardless, it is clear that any rules that do exist are designed to prevent people staying long term on something designed for tourists. So I think the general rule must be that using Visa Exemptions repeatedly after each other will likely give you some trouble.

VOA – Visa on Arrival

Visa on Arrival
Which way for Visa on Arrival again? I am sure the Chinese tourists will still go the wrong way…

What is Visa on Arrival?

A Visa on Arrival is for when you arrive in Thailand without a visa, but you are from one of the 19 countries that can purchase a visa on arrival. This country list does not include UK or USA and a majority of Europe. The visa is 2,000 THB (£45/$60) and allows you to stay for 30 days. A visa is put in to your passport and then stamped with an entry stamp telling you when you need to leave.

This is the full list, and includes China and India:

Andorra
Bulgaria
Bhutan
China
Cyprus
Ethiopia
India
Kazakhstan
Latvia
Lithuania
Maldives
Malta
Mauritius
Romania
San Marino
Saudi Arabia
Taiwan
Ukraine
Uzbekistan

Tourists entering on Visa on Arrival can get their stay extended by visiting an immigration office and applying for a visa extension. Some passport holders may get less than 30 days extension.

SETV – Single Entry Tourist Visa aka “60 day tourist visa”

Single Entry Tourist Visa SETV
The Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) is an essential part of being a nomad in Thailand

You need to apply for the Single Entry Tourist Visa in advance (outside of Thailand, anywhere).

Its typically a 2 day application – apply one day, pick up the next day, and costs around £25/$40. Once you are given the visa, you need to travel to Thailand within 3 months to activate it. You get a visa put in your passport, so when you arrive in Thailand, you will get a stamp to use the visa as soon as you arrive, and you can then stay for 60 days.

If you want to leave Thailand during the 60 days, your remaining days are forfeit, unless you get a Visa Re-Entry Permit.

You can extend your stay – normally 30 days – by applying for a visa extension at a Thai immigration office.

How to get a Single Entry Tour Visa for Thailand

You can apply for an SETV from any country outside of Thailand that has a Thai Embassy/Consular/Official office (directory here). The requirements for getting an SETV varies slightly from country to country. If you prepare for the following requirements you shouldn’t have an issue:

  • Completed application form with 3 passport/visa photos
  • Current passport with 6 months validity before the visa date application
  • Photocopy of relevant passport information pages
  • Return/onward air flight information in and out of Thailand / Print out of booking
  • Accommodation details of your stay in Thailand / Print out of booking
  • Exact cash to pay SETV fee in local currency

Note: The visa application forms available for download on the Thai Embassy websites are normally out of date. Use them as a guide to prepare your answers, but expect to fill out a new form when you arrive at the Embassy.

A Single Entry Tourist Visa costs £25 ($40 USD or around 1000 THB). Applications are typically done over 2 days – apply one day, pick up the next. Some Embassies offer same day service (like Los Angeles) but this is an exception rather than a common rule, so plan two days to get it.

Some Embassies allow you to post in your application, I would advise only doing this in your home country, being stranded abroad without a passport isn’t great.

How many SETVs can I use?


There are no published rules. There is lots of hearsay. Rumours like; some Thai Embassies will not give you a new SETV if you have a few already in your passport; that immigration will question you when you have more than a few in your passport; that you can be banned after having six SETVs. None of them are official.

Like anything in Thailand, its about interpretation. Just because an immigration officer asks you questions doesn’t mean it’s because of having too many visas, and if it is, perhaps they are just interested, it’s their job. And so what about some questions?

When you have more than 5 or 6 SETVs in your passport, immigration may ask you some questions, like “why are you spending so much time in Thailand?” and “Are you working here?” – they want to know you are not working for a company illegally and taking a job away from a Thai person.

A lot of people come to Thailand and work illegally in schools or bars, and they don’t want this. That is what they are interested in – taking jobs away from local Thai people. If you are self-sufficient, and not taking jobs away from Thai people, there really should not be any issue.

I’ve meet people on visa runs who have had warnings like “you need to get a long term visa next timebut this is after using SETVs consistently for 8 years. And then I watch them get another visa without problems and clear immigration at the border. I have met others who have never had issues in 10+ years of getting visas.

As there are no official rules, it also depends on who you deal with. One immigration officer could tell you something different to the next. But you don’t often hear many horror stories – like with entry to the USA or UK – so if you get refused, chances are you could try again at another office or entry point and have zero issues.

Double and Triple Entry Visas

Double and triple entry visas are no longer available. You may see them written about in forums (thats a great clue to tell you the person knows nothing), even on official forms in Embassies, but they are absolutely not available any more.

The double and triple entry visas were replaced by the Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV) in around October 2015. Since then double and triple entry visas are no longer available.

How do I stay longer on an SETV?

A Single Entry Tourist Visa allows you to stay in Thailand for 60 days. If you want to stay longer, you can get a 30 day visa extension at an immigration office.

METV – Multiple Entry Tourist Visa aka “6 month multi entry visa”

Multiple Entry Tourist Visa
The Multiple Entry Tourist Visa lets you come and go easily in to Thailand for 6 months

The METV is a relatively new visa introduced in October 2015, and something you need to apply for in advance (outside of Thailand, in your home country or a country of permanent residence).

Its typically a 2 day application – apply one day, pick up the next day, and costs around £125/$150. Once you are given the visa, it’s valid for six months. You get a visa put in your passport, so when you arrive in Thailand, you will get a stamp on the visa, and you can then stay for 60 days. You can leave and enter Thailand as many times as you want, as long as your entry is before the visa “Enter Before” date, each time you enter you can stay for 60 days.

You can only stay for 60 days on any stamp, so even though the visa is a “6 month visa” this means it can be used for 6 months, it doesn’t give you the ability to stay in Thailand completely for 6 months. This is really important.

The main difference between an METV and an SETV is that if you want to leave Thailand, you can, and when you come back in, your visa is stamped again and you get another 60 days. You have a full 6 months to come and go in to Thailand from the date of visa issue, and at any point during that 6 months you can get a 60 day stamp.

The beauty of an METV is that to activate a 60 day stay you only need to cross a border – so you can go to a land border, cross over, get a stamp and come back in, and stay for another 60 days. Or you can fly to another country, get back on a return flight, and get another 60 days. Just make sure you do that before the 6 months is up, as long as its a day or hour before, you can activate another 60 days.

The downsides to an METV are numerous, but one of the major downsides is the “Enter Before” date, which is normally set 6 months from the issue date. This means the METV is wasting days as soon as you get it. The SETV can be used at any point within 3 months of issue, but the METV needs to be used straight away to get the maximum time possible.

You can extend any METV entry stamp by 30 days by applying for a visa extension at a Thai immigration office.

How to get a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa for Thailand

Multiple Entry Visa RequirementsThe conditions for getting a METV varies slightly from country to country. You need to apply for an METV in your country of residence. The requirements are normally:

  • Completed application form with 3 passport/visa photos
  • Current passport with 6 months validity before the visa date application
  • Photocopy of relevant passport information pages
  • Return/onward air flight information in and out of Thailand / Print out of booking
  • Accommodation details of your stay in Thailand / Print out of booking
  • Original bank statement showing £5,000 in your account (for at least 6 months) or print-out stamped by the bank
  • Letter from UK employer addressed to Thai Embassy or if self employed, self-assessment and company registration document or student identification
  • Exact cash to pay METV fee

Yes, you read that right. You need to show £5,000 in a bank for the last 6 months, and have a letter from your employer to get an METV.

Is METV worth it?

It might be. If you have your own company, and can write yourself an employment letter, and you have £5,000 sitting in the bank for 6 months, you’ve saved your official bank statements and you’ve not gone paperless, and you’re in your home country, and you want to stay (almost) in Thailand for 6-8 months, it could be worth it!

Any savvy business man does not leave money in a poor performing bank account and invests it, so the £5K for 6 months is a bit of a joke. I have heard of some exceptions to the 6 months of £5K rule – someone with £20K in the bank, someone with an ISA investment of more than £5K – but I have equally heard of unbending immigration officials not accepting anything other than verified bank statements showing the amount.

Not many people I know bother to get an METV. Most people rely on SETV + 30 day extension, and then have a holiday to a nearby country to get another SETV, then repeat. It gives more freedom. Most can’t understand why one entry is £25 but a multiple entry is 5x time that but only lets you stay 3x as long.

Personally, I prefer the freedom and quickness of SETVs. Each gives a maximum stay of 3 months (60 days + 30 days extension) and thats a good amount of time to be in one place, they are easy to get with just the bare minimum of information, and as long as you follow the embassy rules, you just don’t hear of people getting refused for them. It also gives you the freedom to go to other places and change your travel plans, which means you can normally stay in Thailand “longer” as a result. With METV you are constantly watching the calendar to see if you can fit in another trip out the country to activate your last visa before it expires so its not a waste of money.

Getting an METV not in your home country

You have to apply for the METV in your home country or a country where you have permanent residence status. So if you have UK passport, get it in the UK. If you are German, you have to go to Germany. If you hold dual nationality, either place works.

Is it possible to leave Thailand, and go to Malaysia or Cambodia to get an METV? No, it’s not! The METV may be an option you can select on their forms, but it will not be given to you. The forms are for nationals/PRs of that country.

People on forums say it is possible to get an METV outside of your home country, but I’m calling bullsh*t on it. I’m open to being proved wrong with certifiable evidence, but right now, if you want an METV, go to your home country to get it.

How do I stay longer on an METV

Just before your 6 month multiple entry visa runs out, do a border run, or fly out and in to Thailand again to activate a new stamp. As long as you do this before midnight on the day your visa expires, you will be granted another 60 day entry. After the 60 days, you can extend for another 30 days at immigration.

How to use METV to stay in Thailand for 9 months

To get the real benefits of a multiple entry if you want to stay longer in Thailand, this is a simple way to utilise your METV to stay as long as possible in Thailand.

February 26th – Apply for a METV.
February 27th – Pick up METV (Date of Issue: 27th Feb, Enter Before: 27th August).
March 1st – First enter Thailand and activate METV, get 60 day stamp.
April 30th – Extend 60 day stamp at immigration for 30 days.
May 30th – Border Run – go to land border, cross over, come back. Get 60 day stamp.
July 29th – Extend 60 day stamp at immigration for 30 days.
August 26th – Border Run – go to land border, cross over, come back. Get 60 day stamp.
August 27th – METV expires.
October 26th – Extend 60 day stamp at immigration for 30 days.
November 25th – Leave Thailand.

So stay from start of March until end of November, 267 days == 9 months. Of course instead of doing a border run you could go to a nearby country and stay there a few days. The important part is making sure to get a new stamp just before your METV expires.

Use websites like Time and Date to calculate your days and when you need to book flights.

Tourist Visa Hacks

Immigration is serious business. Never lie to an immigration official. However, there are some services out there that let you apply the rules of immigration in ways that may be more flexible…

Showing an onward flight

It just needs to be a ticket out of Thailand – it can be a cheap ticket from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur that you never use. This site is amazing for finding the cheapest air tickets. Plan your flight so you can do a visa run at 59 (SETV) or 89 days (with a visa extension) after you arrive.

You can also use fake/temporary onward flight services – like FlyOnward or OnwardFlights – however customer service is spotty, tickets have time limits, and for the cost, you may be better off just booking a real flight. I’ve recently discovered a free onward flight generator via Expedia – https://onward.flights/

Showing Accommodation

Book a hotel room that you can cancel. I find this site to be the best for this. Book a room that can be cancelled, print out the confirmation email, and then cancel it later at zero charge.

Showing £5,000 in the bank

Are you really going to Thailand with zero savings? If you are going as a digital nomad looking to start a business, expect to be spending £500-£1000 per month – so having £5,000 won’t last too long. Don’t go without funding – so I encourage you to save the £5K and genuinely have this.

But if you want a hack – its at the discretion of the immigration officer that you have “proved you have funds” so if you can show a large amount of money in your account and have a good reason of why you have it, meeting this requirement shouldn’t be an issue.

Letter from your employer

If you have your own company, you can write yourself a letter stating you are employed and receive a salary. Get your assistant to sign it. If the company is newly incorporated, you won’t have filed account for 1-2 years, so there is actually no way for immigration to check the details of how the business is operating.

Here is a sample letter with the sort of wording you want to include:

Employer Letter for Thai Visa
Type out your own employer letter on company paper, or make it look half official

Want me to upload the Word Document I used to construct this letter? Leave a comment and join the mailing list, if there is enough demand I will upload it.

How to extend your stay in Thailand

So you’re already in Thailand, but you want to stay longer. Here’s what to do:

Extending a Visa Stamp aka “30 day extension”

30 day visa extension
Most of these people are here for long term visas, don’t worry! You’ll be in and out in 90 mins

All Thai entry stamps can be extended inside Thailand by going to an immigration office. This costs 1,900 baht (£40/$60) and normally takes a few hours to get after filling in some forms and providing photos.

Residents of the 52 countries listed (in Visa Exemption/Waiver section) can get their stamp extended by 30 days. This means on a Visa Exemption entry you can stay for 60 days (30 + 30), and SETV and METV for 90 days (60 + 30), before you need to leave the country.

If you not from a country that is listed in the Visa Exemption/Waiver section, you may only get a 7 or 14 day extension of your visa stamp. Check before applying and paying with the immigration information desk.

Getting an extension refused is rare, but it can happen. In this case, you will only be given 7 days extension. There is no appeal.

Application for extension of stay NOT approved! Get 7 days extra only…

You can extend a Visa Waiver/Exemption stamp, SETV stamp or METV stamp by 30 days just once each time. If you leave Thailand, come back and get a new stamp, you can then also extend that stamp by 30 days.

If you have used the 30 day extension but still need more time in Thailand, you can apply for an additional “emergency” 7 day extension. This also costs 1,900 baht (£40/$60) so is an expensive way to get more days.

Top tip: For a simple 30 day extension, there is NO NEED to go to the visa office at 6am and wait for 3 hours for them to open so you are first. Rock up at 10.30am, you’ll have it before lunch, or turn up at 3pm and you’ll get it before they close. Most government offices are on lunch 12-1 and close at 5, give yourself 90 minutes to get the extension.

Visa Re-Entry Permit

If you’ve spent time getting an SETV, but suddenly need to leave Thailand for something, instead of wasting your 60 days or so + 30 day extension opportunity, you can apply for a visa re-entry permit.

The re-entry permit allows you to carry on your existing stamp when you come back in to the country. You can apply for a visa re-entry permit at the airport or immigration office, – it costs 1,000 baht (£25/$30), and is sometimes a hassle to get if the queue is long

Because of the cost and potential inconvenience, its sometimes easier to just go and get a new SETV from the country you are visiting.

Doing a Visa Run – Go to another country

Visa Run from Thailand
Queueing is just part of life when it comes to getting visas sorted in Thailand.

This is when you go to another country to get a new visa, and spend a few days in that country. A visa run means you are going to get a new visa – so from Thailand this typically means going to Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, Bali, Hong Kong or any country outside of Thailand that has a Thai Embassy/Consular/Official office (directory here).

Once you are in the country, you just follow the procedure for getting an SETV, then head back to Thailand. Easy.

Did you know the average visa run takes 12 hours to plan? Want to save that time? Check out Plan My Visa Run to get a full itinerary and up-to-date visa information for any visa run for just $39.

Doing a Border Run – METV or a quick 30 days

Border Run
Being cramped in a bus for 9 hours lets you make new buddies for life LOL. This was the last ever time I took a bus.

A border run is when you just go to a border and come back. It’s typically done by bus to a land border. Get somewhere, turn around, come back.

Border runs used to be wildly popular, as a land border could be close to where you live, and by going across and coming back, you could get a new entry stamp and stay for 30 days. But no more. Since 2014, the Thai government is really cracking down on this, so border runs have become less and less popular – even to the extent of generating headlines like “Visa Runs Are Now Illegal“.

Border runs can still be useful – but really only useful in 2 instances:

1) If you have a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa. If you have an METV, you can go to any border, cross over, turn around and come back in with a fresh 60 day stamp. No issues.

2) If you are desperate to stay in Thailand, and you’ve already done a 30 day extension, you can go to a land border, cross over and come back in to get a 30 day visa exemption / visa waiver. Bare in mind you can only do this twice in any one year, and the chances of you not being let in because of how you dress, or how much money you have, or something equally as petty, greatly increase. 30 days is of course from the perspective of being a resident of one of the 52 countries that get a free visa exemption on arrival (list above), other nationalities may get shorter/longer.

How to stay in Thailand Long Term

Thailand Digital Nomad Visa

There is no digital nomad visa for Thailand! And sites that claim that there are and that want to help you are trying to make money out of you! Never use companies like that.

Getting most visas as a digital nomad is ridiculously easy, millions of people do it every year. You don’t need an agent to do the paperwork, stand in line or anything else. You will save pretty much zero time, agents typically cost a lot extra, and sometimes, things even take longer using a visa agent. I know numerous people who have said “I need paperwork by this date” to their agent, who then messes it up, causing people to rebook multiple new flights and lose a lot of money. So any of the visas we mention here, go to immigration or go direct, don’t use agents.

Learn Thai Visa

Learning Thai can be a good way for you to stay for 6 months, 1 year, or even multiple years. You have to pay to attend any school – typically 20,000 – 35,000 baht (£450-£800) per year.

You normally have to attend at least 2 sessions per week, normally 4 hours per session, plus home work. Normally the learning year is not a full year, and you will get a a few months break inline with the school holidays, but your visa is still good during this time.

Learning Thai will make your life easier in Thailand, but as you have to attend school you don’t have any freedom to move areas or take holidays. It’s hard to find a good school and good teachers, and worst of all, Thai immigration know people use “learning Thai” as a way to stay longer, so now try to test you when you go to immigration offices to renew your visa (every 90 days).

With the 90 day reporting, the need to go to the school regularly, and being stuck in one place, I would choose an area like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, or maybe Phuket, as they have immigration offices, international airports, and coworking scenes. Try to attend the school for a taster session or meet your teacher first, one year is a long time to be stuck with someone who sucks.

Self Defence Visa (Chiang Mai only)

Self Defence Visa Chiang Mai
Hi Mum, err.. Yeah, everything is fine in Thailand… Very friendly!

The Self Defence Visa (or hand-to-hand combat visa) is only available in Chiang Mai, but as many digital nomads want to be there, I am including it in this general guide.

The self defence visa in Chiang Mai is almost too good to be true – you stay for a year, you get fast track 90 day reporting at immigration, you can have holidays when you want with a re-entry permit attached, you don’t have to go to classes, and there are no tests for you to do, and if you do go to classes, you learn how to protect yourself! Including firing guns!

The Self Defence Visa is run by the Military Police, which is a good thing in Thailand right now. It’s also pretty affordable – 33,000 baht per year (£750) and I believe can be done for 3 years.

More Info: Hand to Hand Combat

IGLU Business Services

IGLU Thailand Visa
If these girls are EVER at IGLU I would be very very surprised

IGLU is a great solution for nomads who are seeking a stable, fully legal solution to work in Thailand, with extra perks for their business – albeit at a cost.

IGLU essentially employs you. You pay IGLU (from your remote job, or from your clients, or from your company elsewhere), they take a cut, and then they pay you the rest as a wage. Out of their cut includes your tax to the Thai government, free use of the IGLU coworking spaces, your visa and free healthcare.

You need to put through a minimum of $2,500 USD per month (£2,000) through IGLU, they take 30% ($750/£600) and you get the rest, and this is with a minimum 1 year contract.

The people I know who do this issue $2,500 USD every month to IGLU from their own company, and thats the money they bring in to Thailand to live on, leaving the rest off-shore, re-invested or bought in to Thailand after 1 year as savings (tax free). They become official tax residents of Thailand, removing tax burdens from their home country.

IGLU have coworking spaces in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, and seems to predominantly attract developers. They also offer outsourcing, so if you want to bootstrap a project and get a cheap team working with you, they might be worth speaking to.

More Info: IGLU

Elite Visa

Thai Elite Visa
The Thai Elite Visa, proving once again that money can bring happiness

Offering visas from a minimum of 5 years, all the way up to 20 years, the Thai Elite Visa lets you stay for one whole year every time you go through immigration. But as you’re Elite, you won’t ever need to go through immigration – you get met at the airport every time you arrive and walked through in a couple of minutes, straight to a free limousine to take you home.

You also get access to airport lounges while you wait for planes, a government concierge to help you wish any other things you need (driving licence, hospital help etc), and 24/7 support. And that’s just the basic package! Longer packages include free golf club memberships and spa days.

Costing 500,000 THB (£11,000) for 5 years (£2,200 per year) or 2,000,000 THB (£45,000) for 20 years (£2,200 per year), when compared with paying for IGLU its a steal, and the amount of time you save when compared to a learning thai visa, getting an Elite Visa for long stays in Thailand starts to make sense!

More Info: Elite Visa

Other ways

Retirement Non-Immigrant Visa O – If you are over 50, it’s well worth looking at Thailands retirements visa options. Not gonna dwell on retirement stuff here though.

Business Non-Immigrant Visa B – A business visa is possible to get – from 3 months to 3 years – it just involves jumping through hoops, and you may need to be doing business or have a working relationship with an existing Thai business, or start a subsidiary company in Thailand to qualify. All quite long winded, will only apply to the people who love bureaucracy, as there is tons involved.

Volunteer – There are some NPOs that allow foreigners to volunteer for them. For one day a week helping out, they will give you a  Non-Immigrant Visa O.

Get married – Um…. Yeah, get married to a local, get a visa, then…

Get a job – Um…. Yeah, get a local job, like an English teacher, you’ll get a work permit and Non-Immigrant Visa B which will let you stay.

Common Visa Questions

Can I get a visa for Thailand in Thailand?

You cannot get a tourist visa for Thailand in Thailand. Once you are in Thailand, you can extend your current visa or you have to leave the country. Even if getting a long term visa (such as Education Visa, or Self Defence, or Non Immigrant B working visa) you still have to LEAVE the country to activate it in virtually all cases.

How do I deal with Thailand Immigration at borders?

Chances are that Thai immigration will ask you zero questions, ever. If they do, the answer you need to give is probably “Tourism“.

If you want to ensure easy passage through immigration I would recommend you:

  • Have funds to support yourself. From immigrations perspective a suitable amount is 20,000 baht per person. So carry 20,000 baht or the equivalent in your currency (£500 / $700), or have bank cards available (although this may back fire if you can’t withdraw the money before immigration!). A print out of bank records is also a good idea to have as an alternative.
  • Have a flight booked out of the country. As long as you have a flight out at some time it’s fine,  immigration dont mind as long as they know they will definitely get rid of you at some point.
  • Never overstay on a visa. Overstaying in Thailand is serious, but like anything in Thailand, it is as serious as the money you have to spend. If you overstay your visa, you need to pay a fine of 500 baht (£10) per day. Sometimes they let you off. If you overstay more than a few days, that’s pretty bad, and this could effect you entering Thailand forever. Official rules.
  • Don’t abuse Visa Exemptions/ Visa Waivers. As discussed, you can have 2 of these at a land border per year, and (maybe) 6 by air per year. But even then, you could be “blacklisted” for less (have encountered one person who is banned from getting Visa Exemptions to enter Thailand now) – so get a visa in advance! If immigration thinks you are abusing the system, they could ban you from entering without visa for life, so if you think you have too many, you probably have too many.

Where can I find Thai visa application form?

Every embassy or consulate has their own forms – See a directory of Thai Embassy/Consular/Official offices.

To get an SETV or METV from the UK, here is the visa application form.

What is the 90 day Thai tourist visa?

There is no such thing as a 90 day tourist visa. This is most likely to be referring to an SETV (60 days), combined with a visa extension (30 days).

Can I get a Thai visa online in the UK?

No, you can get an SETV or METV in person or by post from London, or in person from Hull. There are no eVisa services for Thailand.

How can I leave Thailand without messing up my Visa?

Get a re-entry permit. The re-entry permit allows you to carry on your existing stamp when you come back in to the country.

Do I need a Thai visa?

Here are some common scenarios I see with visas and questions:

I am going for a yearly visit of under 60 days, or a few short visits every year. You don’t need a visa in advance, just get the Visa Exemption/Waiver every time.

I want to visit Thailand for a few weeks, then go to Cambodia, then back to Thailand for a few more weeks before I head home. You don’t need a visa in advance, just use the Visa Exemption / Visa Waiver.

I want to stay in Thailand for 3 months. Get a SETV (60 days) and a 30 day extension.

I want to stay in Thailand for 6 months. Get a SETV (60 days) and a 30 day extension. Leave the country, get another SETV, go back to Thailand and then get another 30 day extension.

More Resources

The Thai Visa Advice Facebook group is one of the better online resources for your questions with a few solid responders.

What have I missed? Does something not make sense? What are YOUR experiences of getting a visa for Thailand? Let me know in the comments… But if you have a question, make sure you have read the guide first!

About the Author:

Hi, I’m James, a location independent entrepreneur! I travel the world while working on my own businesses, as well as helping friends and people I meet make more money. Follow my journey on Twitter or Instagram.