Everything You Need to Know About the Thai Retirement Visa
Are You Thinking About a Thai Retirement?
Have you ever thought about a Thai retirement? Thai you say … Isn’t that short for Thailand?
Do you mean that place in Southeast Asia with fiery food, a warm climate, squiggly writing, Buddhist temples, those crazy three wheeled tuk-tuks, friendly folks, and incredibly beautiful women…You mean I can actually retire there?
Absolutely. After all, who doesn’t want to retire to a place where winter is not allowed? Sure, there are a number of places around the world that fit that basic description. But if you desire a destination that welcomes foreigners, is surrounded by crystal clear waters, has a tropical climate that forbids the wearing of heavy clothing, whose cost of living is more than affordable and has all the modern amenities that one could ever hope for, the Kingdom of Thailand makes perfect sense.
When you retire to Thailand, whether you choose to assume the mantle of an up-country Udon Thaini gentleman, or seek to surround yourself with the tropical paradise that is Phuket, or fancy the big city buzz of Bangkok, or simply want to live the laidback lifestyle of a beach-bum in Jomtien, or revel in the wild ways of world renown Pattaya Beach, it is, well … entirely “up to you”, as they like to say here in the Land of Smiles.
One thing however, that is most definitely not up to you…provided you wish to legally live in the Kingdom of Thailand for more than 90 days is that you must be in possession of a valid Thai retirement visa…
What is a Thai Retirement Visa?
All foreigners entering or living in the Kingdom of Thailand must have a valid visa. Therefore, Thailand offers a whole host of visa options to arriving foreigners. Each of which is issued for a specific purpose, i.e. tourism, education, work, marriage, etc.
But, I probably should inform you that Thailand technically does not have, nor has it ever issued a so called “Retirement Visa”. The term retirement visa is actually just a nickname for what Thai immigration authorities refer to as a “Non-Immigrant ‘O’or ‘A’ Long Stay Visa”.
This type of visa allows the holder to remain in Thailand for a period of one year. However, unlike most other Thai visas, the O/A visa can be renewed annually without having to exit the country as long as the applicant still meets all of the Thai government’s requirements for the O/A visa every 365 days, which is precisely the length of time the visa is valid.
Because the majority of O/A visa holders within the Kingdom are retirees, the O/A Long Stay Visa has come to be known unofficially as the “Retirement Visa”. Therefore the two names are more or less interchangeable.
The O/A or retirement visa however, is not issued exclusively to retirees and pensioners. It can also be issued to anyone who meets this visa’s requirements and wishes to reside in Thailand for a period of 90 days up to one year.
How Long Does a Thai Retirement Visa Last?
The Thai retirement visa lasts for one year. However, it can be renewed year after year without having to leave Thailand as long as the visa holder continues to meet all of Thailand’s immigration authority’s requirements.
The best time to start thinking about renewing a retirement visa is approximately three weeks to a month before its expiration date.
If you wait until the last minute and a problem or technicality arises your visa may expire before that problem can be solved. If that should happen, then you will be forced to exit Thailand to secure a 3 month non immigrant visa, after which you have to reapply for a new Thai retirement visa.
Must I Be in Thailand to Apply for a Thai Retirement Visa?
The answer is no you do not. It is possible to apply for a Thai retirement visa from a Royal Thai Embassy or a Royal Thai Consulate General in your native or resident country.
It is also possible to apply for a Thai retirement visa at a Thai immigration office after you have arrived in the Kingdom of Thailand.
The basic requirements for applying in both locations are largely the same; however, the details and documentation required to do so differ between a Thai immigration office inside of the kingdom and a Thai embassy outside of the country. The requirements for each are listed elsewhere in this article.
What Type of Visa Must I Have Before I Can Obtain a Thai Retirement Visa?
If you are planning on getting a Thai retirement visa or any other type of long stay visa after you have arrived in Thailand, Thai immigration authorities have always require that you enter the country holding a 3 Month Non Immigrant Visa.
This type of visa must be obtained at a Royal Thai Embassy or a Royal Thai Consulate General in your native or resident country before leaving it for Thailand.
This visa can then be converted into a Thai retirement visa before it expires at any Thai immigration office inside of Thailand as long as the applicant can meet all of the Thai retirement visa’s requirements.
Contact the Royal Thai Embassy or Royal Thai Consulate General in your native or resident country for the exactly details on how to obtain a 3 month non immigrant visa as they differ from country to country.
Should I Use a Lawyer or a Professional Visa Service?
In Thailand, especially in the capital city and the resort areas that attract so many foreigners, there are numerous professional visa services and law firms that specialize in obtaining all types of visas for Thailand’s foreign visitors.
The advantage of using a lawyer or a visa professional is that they will handle virtually every aspect of the visas acquirement for you.
In some instances all you must do is deliver your passport, passport photos and all of the necessary documentation, and then sign all of the forms, which they will fill in for you, as well as the photocopies, which they will make for you.
After paying their fee, all you need do is return to their office at the time they tell you to pick up your passport, which will now have a one year retirement visa firmly affixed to one of its pages.
Other firms will carefully ensure that all of your paperwork and passport are in order and then accompany you to the immigration office. Once there, all you will likely do is smile and sign precisely where you’re told to sign and say thank you when your passport is returned complete with your new retirement visa.
Whatever option of service the legal or visa firm offers will smooth out any bumps that may be encountered along the way and make the entire visa application process a lot less stressful for you.
The downside to using a professional lawyer or visa service is that the service they provide will substantially increase the overall cost of obtaining a Thai retirement visa.
In addition, you will never really learn how to do apply for the visa yourself should you ever need to in the future.
Therefore, it is once again, really “up to you” as to whether or not you take advantage of the convenience these professional visa services offer or simply do it yourself.
LOVE PATTAYA THAILAND hopes that clears things up and shows that there’s a reason so many people choose to retire in Thailand. If you are already out here and considering it, why send us an email and let us know how you’re getting on through the process.
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