Changes to Thai Visa Requirements

17 February 2019

The theme of this blog has mostly to do with my experience of living in Thailand, from Phuket to Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and now in the Isan region of the northeast. Although I have written posts on some of the bureaucratic aspects of Thailand as they related to my circumstances I have never put myself forward as a ‘top of the list’ expat information source. To keep up to date on changes in the range of various topics available would take more time than I have to spare. 

Having said that there have been some important changes to long-term visa requirements made recently and I thought that as a service to my readers I would raise them as something you should take into consideration, if you haven’t heard about them elsewhere, which I am sure many of you have. I have tried to pull together the best of what I could find online but don’t reply on my post for the latest facts. Do your own research to find the best information for your circumstances. Also keep in mind that often each Immigration Office seems to have its own interpretation of the rules so be prepared to be flexible.

I will throw some photos in the post for no reason other than to break up endless words.  

Background

In this post I will only deal with the Non-Immigrant Visa O/O-A for reason of marriage (which I will call a Marriage Visa – and yes I know this is not strictly correct) or retirement (which I will call a Retirement Visa because I can!) The financial qualifications for these category of visas is either based on monthly income or money held in a Thai a\bank or a combination of the two.

In simple terms the ‘marriage’ visa requires an income of 40,000 baht a month or 400,000 baht in a bank. The ‘retirement’ visa has a higher threshold being 65,000 baht a month income or 800,000 baht in the bank.  There are other basic requirements such as how long deposits are to be in the bank and I will cover that aspect below thanks to ThaiVisa. Additional information online like this example HERE. Changes have been made to BOTH the income verification and the bank deposit requirements so either way you need to be informed.

 

The problems started to appear last year when the online expat community got word that Thai authorities were cracking down on the income side of these visa requirements and some embassies that previously provided uncorroborated statements of income, either a letter or in the case of the Australian embassy witnessing a statutory declaration, gave notice that as they weren’t able/willing to do the work to verify stated income, they were pulling out of providing support for expat citizens in this area. Notices such as those from the Australian and British embassies below started to make an appearance:

Can I request a certified copy of my Australian income statements to use as evidence of my income?

Thai authorities have advised that certified copies of Australian income statements do not meet their requirements as evidence of income. To renew or apply for a retirement visa, Thai Immigration have advised that you must demonstrate having funds or income in a Thai bank account; please contact Thai Immigration to clarify the visa requirements for Thailand;   www.immigration.go.th or (02) 141 9889

or:

The decision was made by the British Embassy following a meeting with immigration in May in which they confirmed that they expect the embassy to verify all sources of income of British Nationals requesting an income letter.  Consular officers are not verification experts and therefore cannot fulfil (sic) this requirement. We also cannot verify income from every income source in every country of the world. Thai Immigration is able to verify the income in a Thai bank account, therefore British Nationals should show evidence of minimum funds for their visa type by showing a Thai bank statement and/or bank book. This is not a new requirement and has always been an option for foreigners renewing retirement and marriage visas in Thailand.

The Thais were also looking at tightening up on the bank deposit criteria too, which at the time I didn’t see as widely discussed online. I guess most expats are relying on income rather than the deposit route as the basis for their visas. This is also covered below. 

What are the new rules?

It’s not all bad news for people who have genuine financial resources as required by Thailand. For those who don’t and have been here using false income statements it’s not a good outcome. I have always used income for my ‘retirement’ visa and this required an annual trip to the embassy in Bangkok, one of my least favourite cities. The new rules allow us to prove income using bank statements and overseas pension verification so that annual trip to Bangkok is no longer required (for us Aussies anyway – I think most other embassies were happy to do it all by post as they confirmed income via a letter not a physically witnessed statutory declaration like the Australian embassy).

The bank deposit changes for retirement visa require you to maintain some of the money in the bank after the visa is extended, which for genuine people shouldn’t be a problem. I heard that some Visa Agents would make the required deposit for their client for the minimum period prior to the extension application, for a fee of course. Maybe these latest changes are to discourage this activity and from the Thai point of view why not?

The following words are not mine but from the ThaiVisa forum, which because of the number of expats using it is a great resource for technical aspects of life in Thailand as long as you don’t get caught up in the general rubbish topics posted by farang with nothing better to do. Thank you to Robert Cullearn (Facebook HERE) for posting it, which is how I found it. The original ThaiVisa post is HERE in  in case you wanted to follow any subsequent comments.

After a lengthy meeting with senior Immigration officials from Regional 4 district, regarding clarifications of the amendments to Order 138/2557 and the new Order 35/2562, I can confirm the following;

2.18 Marriage extensions.

Funds deposited in a Thai bank.

400K deposited in a Thai bank for 2 months prior to the date of application.

Passbook or bank statement + bank letter as proof.

After the extension is granted you can withdraw part or all funds.

Income method.

1). A minimum income of 40K per month deposited in a Thai bank from overseas for the previous 12 month period. Local passbooks or statements may not confirm overseas payments.

You can request statements (at your local bank branch) for detailed statements from their HQ, itemising foreign transactions as Bahtnet or Foreign TT deposits. Takes approx 5 days to process. + Bank letter.

According to TI, all bank HQ’s are already aware of Immigrations requirements for detailed statements showing overseas transfers, which your local branch may not be able to confirm or supply.

2. A certified letter of income from your Embassy

2.22 Retirement extensions.

Funds deposited in a Thai bank.

For the very first application, must prove 800K deposited in a Thai bank for 2 months prior to the date of application, then 3 months after being granted permission.

You can then withdraw up to 400K, but must leave a remaining balance of 400K throughout the year.

For subsequent applications, must prove 800K deposited in a Thai bank for 3 months prior to the date of application, then 3 months after being granted permission.

You can then withdraw up to 400K, but must leave a remaining balance of 400K throughout the year.

Income method.

1). A minimum income of 65K per month deposited in a Thai bank from overseas for the previous 12 month period. Local passbooks or statements may not confirm overseas payments. You can request statements (at your local bank branch) for detailed statements from their HQ, itemising foreign transactions as Bahtnet or Foreign TT deposits. Takes approx 5 days to process. + Bank letter.

According to TI, all bank HQ’s are already aware of Immigrations requirements for detailed statements showing overseas transfers, which your local branch may not be able to confirm or supply.

2). A certified letter of income from your Embassy.

Combo method.

Funds and income totalling a minimum of 800,000 per annum.

There is no minimum balance of funds required.

Same seasoning conditions apply as for funds in the bank method. (First application 2 months prior, then 3 months after. Subsequent applications 3 months prior, then 3 months after.)

The important factor for the combo method is that funds deposited and income must not fall below the 800,000 requirement for the year.

Funds deposited of 300K + income of 50K per month.

Funds and income total 900K per annum.

After the seasoning period you can withdraw 100K.

Income of 50K x 12 = 600K + 200K funds = 800K.

 

Funds deposited of 500K + Income of 40K per month.

Funds and income total 980K per annum.

After the seasoning period you can withdraw 180K.

Income of 40K x 12 = 480K + 320K funds = 800K.

 

Funds deposited of 600K + income of 60K per month.

Funds and income total 1,320K per annum.

After the seasoning period you can withdraw 520K.

Income of 60K x 12 = 720K + 80K funds = 800K.

 

For this year only Immigration will use their discretion, depending on the application type, to determine if foreigners are working towards the requirements for 2020 and will give subsequent clarification of requirements expected in 2020.

Immigration will check at your next application date if you have complied with the seasoning periods for the previous year.

Failure to comply with seasoning periods, inadequate funds in the bank, inadequate incomes, or a combination thereof, may result in a refusal of your new extension application.

Hopefully, this may clear up some of the many misunderstanding and various interpretations abounding on the forum.

I came across this memorandum relating to visa income verification in the current year, which might be useful:

I am changing both to the bank deposit route this year (extension due in March) and also moving from retirement to marriage visa. In case you haven’t picked up on it the marriage doesn’t require you to maintain the deposit in the bank post extension (according to the above). I have permanent funds here to qualify for either but from this example it seems as if the retirement visa is going to get harder to obtain over time while the marriage is (currently) the easier option.

Permanent Residency

Continuing in my tradition of using other people’s words rather than do the hard work myself you might be interested in knowing about the option to apply for permanent residency. It’s not an easy path, and depending on the number of people applying each year, it may not be actually be available to you but I thought it was worth adding to this topic. An introduction to this visa option from this website HERE is below and here’s another, which says much the same thing HERE.

There are a lot of inquiries from foreigners who are constantly on a trip to the Land of Smiles as to how they can apply for Thai Permanent Resident status.

Obtaining status as a Permanent Resident (PR) in Thailand has many advantages. It allows you to live permanently in Thailand, with no requirement to apply for an extension of stay. You can also have your name on a house registration document, and you will be able to buy a condominium without making a bank transfer from abroad. Getting a work permit is also made easier once you have PR status.

In addition to this, you can be eligible to become a director of a Thai public company, as well as eventually apply to become a naturalized Thai citizen. You will also be able apply for an extension of stay and Permanent Resident status for your non-Thai family members.

Compulsory Medical Insurance

The other change that could well make an appearance, which I think will cause more problems for some than the income/deposit requirements, is all about compulsory private medical insurance for all long term visa holders. The following is extracted from this website HERE. As you know some expats can’t get insurance because of pre-existing conditions, the costs become exorbitant as we get older and in Thailand certainly medical insurance cuts out at 70! Unless there is some flexibility in the final conditions I believe this will cause all sorts of problems for us all.

Expats living in Thailand will have to compulsorily arrange health insurance, according to new proposals from the government.

Once it comes into effect, foreigners with the one-year Non-immigrant Visa “O-A” (Long Stay)  will be required to have Thai insurance policies covering their entire stay in Thailand with minimum Bt40,000 out-patient medical bill coverage and minimum Bt400,000 in-patient medical bill coverage.

Those already having overseas insurance policies that meet the minimum requirement would be exempted from subscribing to Thai insurance policies. They will be able to apply for long-stay visas using their foreign insurance policies, he said.

Expatriates on the so-called ‘retirement visa’ already have to keep 800,000 baht in a separate bank account for at least three months prior to their annual visa renewal.

Many Thai insurance companies refuse to cover those over the age of 60 and for those over 75 there’ is even less chance of being able to find an insurer willing to take them on, however healthy they may be. Concerned expats  fear they will either be unable to be covered or will not be able to afford whatever the insurers themselves decide is the actual premium.

Details and guidelines pertaining to the amendment were being jointly formulated by the Public Health Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Immigration Bureau, the Office of Insurance Commission, the Thai General Insurance Association, and the Thai Life Assurance Association. At the next stage, it would be forwarded to the Cabinet for approval as a formal policy, he added.

The amended criterion is aimed at ensuring health protection for long-stay visa holders – mostly elderly foreigners – and also benefit the public and private hospitals in the country, local news outlet The Nation reports.

The criterion under the Immigration Act 1979 was approved by the Medical Hub Committee, Dr Kittisak Klapdee, adviser to the Minister of Public Health, said. 

Kittisak was assigned by Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn to join Tourism and Sport vice minister Ittipol Khunplome at the Medical Hub Committee’s second annual meeting, which approved in principle the amendment of the criteria for one-year long-stay visas.

Once again please take the information I have provided as a heads-up about the issues that I know of currently applying to this topic. I don’t have the knowledge to personally verify the correctness of this post. However, I think I have done enough to make you aware of the changes that are underway and those that might yet happen. You can’t just sit and relax expecting that your next visa extension is going to be the same as your last. Be active in keeping up with the news on this subject because your life in Thailand, or planned retirement here for those still at ‘home’, depends on it. 

I will report back on my own visa extension when it happens next month. If it doesn’t come through then expect a change in location for this blog 🙂 

Can I ask that if you are reading this and have helpful observations and advice to offer others would you please make the effort to leave a comment. I am sure they will be appreciated. The very simple question process you have to go through to leave a comment is to stop the masses of spam comments that get dumped on the site if I don’t ask genuine readers go through this process. My general spam blocker stops literally thousands of potential messages every year!