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Non-immigrant O visa (marriage)

Changing from an O-A visa (retirement) to an O visa (marriage)

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I usually try to stay away from the more specialised topics that require regular monitoring to stay in touch, but I recently had to apply to change from my current non-immigrant O-A Visa (retirement) obtained in Australia to a non-immigrant O (marriage) the reasons for which I will explain below. I thought I would share my experiences for anyone thinking of following the same path.

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Building in Thailand eBook

When my wife and I bought some land in Isaan, which is a region in the north east of Thailand, and then started to build our house I started to record the daily events of construction life. For twenty six weeks I wrote a weekly blog update about all the aspects of the build and included as much detail as possible for others who might be thinking of going down the same path. I was surprised by the number of readers I attracted as a result of writing on this subject, many of whom followed the entire build from beginning to end. 

Based on this continued interest I thought I would revisit my original words and bring them all together under the one heading in the form of an eBook. Included in this process has been some extensive updating and expansion of many of the original posts and the addition of the many COMMENTS, which are designed to expand your knowledge and save you time or money or both!

Read more HERE and find out how to obtain the eBook.

I am loving your book – just on my second read at the moment, to make sure that I didn’t miss anything first time around (which actually it turns out I did!).  

Just a note of thanks at this point ……. I am a fairly methodical sort of bloke, but there are many issues which your book highlights which I just wouldn’t have thought about – or if I had, I may well have assumed they were “standard” building practice [U-bends, drain positioning, barge-board alignment] – if it hadn’t been for your excellent descriptions!!  I will probably still “miss” something – that’s the nature of building/design – but thanks to you, it shouldn’t be anything too mission-critical.

The income from my eBook pays for the upkeep of this blog, which is otherwise commercially free unlike so many others.

 This post will be in two parts. Part 1 will give a bit of background on both the O-A and O visas for those of you who are confused about the terminology. I have only ever had an O-A (retirement) myself so all I have done is pull together information available on the internet, not being an expert myself.

Part 2 relates to the process I went though last week (21 February 2020) to lodge an application to change my visa from the O-A to an O visa (marriage). Here I can point to being an expert because this is exactly the steps I went through to get the package lodged. Please note that each Immigration office seem to make their own interpretation of the rules, so although my experience at Nong Bua Lamphu might have a broad similarity elsewhere you need to check at your local office before lodging the application to ensure a smooth process.

PART 1:

I had a number of reasons for changing my visa type. Firstly, I used to qualify for the O-A visa based on a minimum of 800,000 baht lodged in a Thai bank. I maintained that minimum by bringing money over from Australia on a regular basis to meet my living expenses. With the ever increasing strength of the baht, which reduced the exchange rate to a ridiculous low, I stopped transferring money from ‘home’ and instead relied on money that I already had in Thailand. The outcome is that my 800,000 baht has been reduced and I no longer qualify on that basis. Secondly, the introduction of compulsory health insurance for all O-A visas including those being extended (you only get one visa and then every year that visa is extended for another year) required me to look at changing. I have 1.2 million hospital coverage at a cost of around 35,000 baht per annum. If I met the new 400,000 baht hospital and 40,000 baht outpatient requirements it would more than double my premium while reducing the cover I really want – hospital! Not acceptable. Thirdly, there is a possibility that I will support a new business to be run by my wife Gaun, and an O-A visa is only for retirees and NO work is allowed. Even volunteering for free is a bit iffy according to some Immigration offices. With an O visa (marriage) I have the option of applying for a work permit if necessary.

I am only covering the O-A and O visas here, not the other options, because this post is specific in its purpose and doesn’t intend to be a general visa information resource.

So let’s tackle definitions. I have taken the following words from a recent article published in the Bangkok Post and you can read this at the source HERE

The Non-Immigrant O Marriage Visa

Pursuant to Section 34 (15) of the Thai Immigration Act, immigration officers may issue visas to those seeking temporary stay in Thailand for “Other activities as prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations”. This is the enabling legislation for the visa category colloquially referred to as the O visa. O visas may be issued to foreign nationals who are married to Thai nationals. The terms of initial visa issuance at a Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad will vary depending upon the rules of the specific post, but the rules for extension of stay in Thailand with such status are relatively fixed. Namely, the applicant for extension must show 400,000 THB in a Thai bank account for a specified period of time or recurring monthly income of 40,000 THB per month. Thai O marriage visa may act as a platform for a Thai work permit application. An O visa may be available for those who exclusively support Thai children as well, but the terms of issuance and extension will be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

The Non-Immigrant Retirement Visa

There is an ongoing debate as to whether the retirement visa is an O visa or an O-A visa. In fact, there is a distinction being made by some between an O-A (which is supposedly only issued at an embassy or consulate outside of Thailand) and an O visa extension based upon retirement (which is supposedly only issued in Thailand). It is this author’s opinion that all retirement visas are inherently the same as they are all issued pursuant to the aforementioned Section 34 (15) of the Thai Immigration Act.

Before expounding further, it should be noted that in order to obtain and/or extend a retirement visa an applicant must show 800,000 THB as a bank balance or 65,000 THB in monthly recurring income for one year prior to application. In recent months the requirements for obtaining and extending a Thai retirement visa have been in a state of flux. First, approximately 14 months ago, many embassies (including the US, UK, and Australian) in Bangkok stopped issuing affidavits regarding income for their nationals which could be used as evidence of an ability to meet financial obligations for retirement visa issuance or extension. This has resulted in applicants for retirement visas needing to show funds on hand in a bank account. Further, Thai authorities recently announced that medical insurance will now be required for those who wish to obtain and/or extend their retirement visa. There remains some ambiguity especially with regard to those who were in Thailand and extending their retirement status prior to the enactment of this rule. It appears from the statutory language on this topic that Thai Immigration officers will retain discretion to allow retirement visa extension without medical insurance coverage, but that discretion will be exercised on a case-by-case basis and it is not prudent to pre-suppose that those seeking retirement visas moving forward will be accorded deference with respect to this discretion by immigration officers. Instead, this discretion seems aimed at equitably dealing with those who obtained their retirement visa before the medical insurance rules were enacted and are now too old or infirm to obtain coverage.

 My reading of this and alternative often confusing information posted in various forums and other resources is as follows:

  1. An O-A can only be obtained outside of Thailand and will only be issued on the basis of retirement NOT marriage.  I won’t cover the specific requirements as they are easy to find online and are outside the scope of this post,
  2. A O visa can also be obtained outside of Thailand but for the purpose of this article you have the choice of applying based on marriage to a Thai national or retirement. The Bangkok Post article states that you can only get an O (retirement) visa INSIDE Thailand but other forums say that both are available and there lies the problem of writing about this subject. 
  3. The only two differences I can see between an O-A (retirement) and an O (retirement) is that firstly the O is only issued for a maximum of 90 days while the O-A is for 12 months. With the O visa you can then reapply within Thailand and be granted a 12 month O visa. Secondly, if you travel outside of Thailand within the initial 12 months and have a re-entry permit then the expiry date of an O-A visa is extended by 12 months when you return, if that’s within the initial 12 month period. I don’t believe this oddity is available to the O visa but am happy to be corrected. 

Now my interpretations may be incorrect, and if so please let me know in the comments. As I said before this isn’t intended to be a point of visa reference other than the aspect I can talk about with authority and that is my experience of lodging the O (marriage) visa application.

 

 The other confusing aspect is the broad range of opinion about the regulations and process of changing from an O-A visa to an O visa. Some forums state that you have to leave the country to in effect cancel your current visa and then return on a 90 day O visa and then apply to extend. An example from ThaiVisa here:

It is not possible to change non immigrant visa categories while in the country.

They would have to leave the country to get a single entry non-o visa and then apply for a new extension of stay. Or they could leave the country to get a 30 day visa exempt entry and apply for a 90 day non immigrant visa (category O) entry at immigration.

 The writer of this comment who sets himself up as an expert, then changes this advice in other replies to questions on this topic, so who knows. I think the main problem to answering questions on-line is that each Immigration office follows the process as broadly determined by the Department of Immigration but then individually determined by the senior police officers in that location. I am here to tell you that in theory (because I have lodged but not yet been approved) you CAN change from an O-A (retirement) to an O (marriage) without leaving the country providing you meet the requirements of the new visa (wife and money basically!)

So, what are the specifics for lodging a new O (marriage) visa at the Immigration office in Nong Bua Lamphu (northern Isaan)?

PART 2:

I want to emphasise again that no one can write broadly about any bureaucratic process in Thailand as a whole and be correct. You MUST check with your local office and find out what their particular needs are. However, what I provide below will be on the required list of most offices I suspect in one way or another. So let’s get started. Here is the list of requirements helpfully provided in a brochure by the Nong Bua Lamphu office in Thai and English. They have done a pretty good job with the translation this time although there are a couple of areas that are misleading and I will point them out below come the time. My misinterpretation of these two aspects had me making a return trip to both the bank and our local Amphur office, a 60 km round trip. I hope I can save you the same experience.

 

The Thai version.

And this might be more helpful to you 🙂 A PDF version at the end of this post.

I will be working through the list of requirements outlined in this brochure as they applied to me and give you pointers you might find helpful. Firstly please note that you will require two copies of EVERYTHING. I made the mistake of only providing one set of photos – duh!

 These match the numbers in the brochure above:

 

  1. You can download a copy of the TM 7 form HERE. I have also included PDF files at the bottom of this post. The TM 7 is straightforward to fill in with no hidden surprises. Any local photo shop can make the correct sized photographs for you. I got a set of six done for 60 baht.
  2. If you have been through the visa extension process then photocopying all the relevant pages in your passport will be no mystery. I am not going to go through this on the basis that most people can get that bit right. The TM 6 is better known as your departure slip, and it will be stapled in your passport. The arrival stamp will be on that form plus in your passport, or it is in mine, so copy both. 
  3. You will obviously have a valid visa otherwise you’ve got problems! That is verified by the copies you have made of the relevant passport pages.
  4. If you are working here or are relying on an income to meet the requirements then points 4 or 5 are aimed at you. Mine application was based on money in the bank (list item 6) so I make no comments on these two items.
  5. See above.
  6. Bank records. The English version of this, if not the Thai, is misleading. It doesn’t make it clear that TWO items are required here. First is a certificate from the bank, what the instructions above refers to as “a letter of verification’  and second a bank statement showing sufficient funds in the account for at least two month prior to application. These are two different documents and although the instructions above do make reference to both it confuses everything by referring to the letter of verification as a ‘bank statement’ in brackets afterwards. The verification is NOT a bank statement – it is a certificate. I was mislead and only got the statement first time around (100 baht from Bangkok Bank) and not the certificate (another 100 baht). Banks rip you off worldwide.
  7. I formally married Gaun in Thailand so I have a Thai certificate. I can’t comment on the other requirements listed. This has to be the certificate supporting a ‘real’ legal marriage, not anything associated with the community village wedding you might well have enjoyed at some time in your relationship.
  8. Straightforward. Remember two copies of everything. The registration book is the blue book all Thai people have listing everyone who is permanently residing at that address.
  9. I thought the two photos were separate to the photos that I attached to the TM 7 form, but in my case anyway, they’re not. No need to to provide four photos is what I’m saying, only the two which should be glued to the spaces on the TM 7 forms.
  10. Only provide if the children are actually yours – not step-kids. Not applicable in my case thank God.
  11. The big surprise is that I doubt anyone in Thailand has EVER got the 100 baht change that should be given from this fee 🙂 I think the 1,900 baht has been set specifically to be a under the radar tea money bonus. If the fee was say 1,800 baht then maybe we’d start giving the correct money or maybe that ‘exact money’ threshold would be 1,700 baht. I doubt the fee will ever increase to say 2,200 baht because 800 baht retained is too evident as corruption and farang would be more likely to provide the exact amount and those 100 baht’s would be lost to the office 🙂
  12. I am sure this is one of those requirements that made sense 20 years ago but is just plain stupid now. Why do they need a hand drawn map (and don’t just print out a Google Map route). In the days before Google Maps and widely used GPS coordinates a hand drawn map made sense. These days why not GPS? What other purpose does a hand drawn map have????? Why bureaucrats never revisit procedures to see if they are still relevant or can be made more simple is a question we all ask no mater what the country. Anyway – hand drawn map it is. 
  13. Two lots of photos as listed. There’s no point asking the ‘why’ question even if it’s just in your head. These things will only make you frustrated. Just do what’s required and move on.  I only provided one set of photos, which was dumb, and had to get a second batch, although the police officer was prepared to overlook it. I submitted them loose and the officer then attached them to sheets of A4 paper, so I suggest that’s what you do too.
  14. No other documentation was asked for in our case.
  15. Marriage Certificate update. Now this was confusing. Unfortunately the Thai version tells you exactly what’s needed but the English wording is so general as to be useless. What Immigration is after is a verification that you are still married and the form that they are looking for (or were in the case of Nong Bua Lamphu) was this form shown below. My phonetic spelling of Gaun’s interpretation of the name is ‘kor ror’. Evidently a copied version of this original form stamped and dated by the Amphur is sufficient. I hadn’t realised that this was what they wanted and had a completely different form stamped by the Amphur office, and that was rejected by Immigration so we had to drive the 30 km back to Si Bun Ruang to have another go. By this time Gaun had picked up on what was needed and we were good to go. 

The Name and number in the top right corner refer to this version of the form (2), which is used for marriages conducted inside Thailand. I believe if outside the name is the same but the number is 22.

And finally there’s the witness. This has to be someone outside your wife’s family. We used a neighbour and friend called Bun, with a thank you bottle of Hong Tong delivered to her later that evening 🙂

Your witness will need two copies of their Thai ID card plus their house book, neither of which I had because that wasn’t on the list! I wish I could have time-travelled and read this post before going to Immigration. I would have saved myself a lot of time.

The witness is mildly interviewed by the police officer concerned and the answers noted on a form he/she completes. Bun was asked how long she has known us and how many toilets and rooms in our house. I believe that was to verify that she knew us well enough to have been inside our house. The reality is that Thais aren’t keen to get into anyone’s house so luckily Bun’s guesses were close enough. She was also asked if Gaun and I argued or if there was any physical abuse that she knew of. I don’t know if these were a list of questions on the form the officer was completing, meaning if these question are standard, or maybe each office does its own thing. Anyway, make sure your witness has some idea what your house looks like.

Once you have provided everything, your passport is stamped that your application is under consideration and a date is set to advise you of the outcome one month after the expiration of the original visa extension. The officer said that he would phone us when the answer came through. I have heard of cases where an official actually makes an appointment to visit you in your home, but nothing was mentioned in our case.

I hope you have found this useful. Please make the effort to correct anything I may have got wrong or add your own experiences for the benefit of other readers.

Thank you for reading and please leave a comment. It’s the only payment I ask for.

Tony

TM 7 Form PDF

A downloadable PDF for you.

Immigration brochure - list of requirements

A downloadable PDF for you

18 Comments

  1. Peter

    Hi Tony,
    Thanks for the latest blog that you had shared on the visa. Yup and agreed with you for foreigners to understand Thai immigration regulation and requirements is headache and we have to go extra trip to settle the issue. We this I thanks you whole heartily as this blog will give a much needed information For those wish to retire in Thailand especially with Thai spouse. Much appreciated.
    With the convid-19 going on and now I am unable to travel to Thailand with Thai Spouse. I need to get convid-19 free cert and health insurance to cover Convid-19, plus 14 days quarantine under own account.
    I hope in near future able to visit you and family and appreciate the beautiful garden.
    Best regards,
    peter

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      Thank you, Peter.

      I hope that we get the opportunity to meet at some time when things return more to normal.

      Tony

      Reply
  2. Bob & Soun

    Hi Tony,
    Great article and very clearly outlines the processes involved, but also gives the important details. As discussed before, our friends in Khon Kaen have just gone through the process, and I gave them a lot of your advice mate – helped a lot. They have successfully completed and provided all the doucments, and are now awaiting the visit or call too.
    Take care mate – hope the smoke is not too bad for you all.
    Bob & Soun.

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      Thank you Bob and Soun. For some reason comments aren’t notified by email, which they are supposed to be, so I missed your kind words. I am so pleased that post proved useful.

      The smoke is still bad by ‘normal’ standards, but where it is coming from is a mystery as the sugar harvest is finished. We are getting some regular rain. Not much but a hopeful sign for a better monsoon season maybe.

      We are in a self-imposed lockdown with a stock of supplies to keep us out of public areas a much as possible for a couple pf months and we’ll see what the world looks like then. I hope you are both safe and well. Social distancing is pretty easy on the golf course 🙂

      Cheers. Tony

      Reply
  3. Jim Busby

    Sorry to hear about the continuing Thai Visa BS and conditions, especially the reduced medical coverage with exaggerated premiums. Welcome to Thai/America not for free healthcare. Sounds like your witness Bun could have used a complimentary copy of Tony’s Ebook; Building in Isaan :-). I hope everything works out for the good in the end. Great write up mate.
    On another note, I wish your readers who left comments here, would try to be as likewise kind to leaving comments on the many other posts you have done since re-starting your Tony in Thailand blog. All you ask is for a kindly comment to help you feel this is once again a worthwhile adventure on your part. To the above readers who have never posted comments on other stories, please try to do so. Tony’s efforts are greatly appreciated and I for one enjoy his layout in TinT, over FB anyday. So come on please.
    Jim

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      Any country is free to apply whatever regulations they like. However, I hate it when restrictions make no sense (why hit a target group that is least likely to skip hospital bills OA Visa holders being retired, with 65,000 baht a month income or 800,000 baht in the bank and are committed to living in Thailand), and then apply that to people who are limited in their ability to alter life decisions. We had to provide a second witness when the police visited us at home. Jan, the lady building the new shop. Gaun made sure she saw inside the house 🙂

      Thank you for your push for more comments. The aspect I find even more frustrating than no comments, which I accept, is when I get a reader asking for information via a comment. I always give a detailed answer if I can and then nothing! No thank you or any follow-up at all. It’s funny that the principles of politeness seems to be suspended on-line. It’s not a big incentive to do it for the next question. Occasionally I get someone like Steve, see comments on this post, who said he would let me know how his application went in Australia and then actually did! Most unusual and gives me hope. Oh well, it’s a choice on my part so ‘up to me’ as a Thai lady would say 🙂

      Reply
  4. Steve

    Hi Tony,

    As promised here is the update on obtaining a NON – IMMIGRANT VISA type O for a spouse of a Thai national here in Australia.

    After reading everything i could on the internet about this type of visa and how to obtain one here in Australia i printed out everything that i thought would be required and filled out the forms, but was still uncertain on a couple of points i decided to go to the Thai Consulate in Sydney to talk to them so that i could get everything organised and make sure that i don’t miss anything when the time comes to apply. The Address of the consulate in Sydney is 131, Macquarie Street Sydney.
    Anyway with my wife and all paper work in hand we go into Sydney and arrive at the consulate, the office is on the 8th floor of the building.
    Upon arriving at the reception desk i explained to the young lady behind the desk that i required information on obtaining a 12 month multi entry marriage visa, her reply was you want to apply for a marriage visa please take a ticket from the machine and when your number is called please go to the window indicated. We were no 1 for the visa i wanted so did not wait very long at all, on arriving at the appropriate window i explained what i required the guy behind the desk said oh you need to go to desk no 5 or 6 round the corner this took me back to the reception desk which doubled as the visa desk, so back to the same young lady that i had spoken to when we walked in. I again explained that i had printed out what i thought was required but wanted to confirm what is required as i had not had a police clearance or medical up this point as it was not clear if this was a requirement.
    She then handed me a check list and we went through it with the paper work i had printed out 10 minutes later she said that will be $300.00 and you can collect your passport on Monday with your visa. By the way as all things Thai you have to pay in cash, but it was actually very easy and straight forward. The following is the list of requirements:

    1. Passport or travel document with minimum validity of 6 months
    2. Visa application form fully completed
    3. Recent passport -sized photograph (3.5 x 4.5 cm ) of the applicant
    4. Proof of Australian Residential address ( Drivers Licence }
    5. For non-Australian, proof of an Australian Electronic Visa
    6. Copy of airline ticket indicating the date of arrival to and departure from Thailand
    7. Copy of visa the visa or work permit of spouse or parent who is currently working in Thailand
    8. Proof of your relationship, such as marriage certificate or birth certificate
    9. Confirmation letter from your spouse or family member and Thai ID card

    Item 7 above we obviously did not have as my wife is Thai so the letter and ID card was enough. We also married in Australia and our Australian marriage certificate was excepted. It was only 1 copy of each document required.

    I did say that when this visa is about to run out i would be renewing it in Thailand as i intend to move later in the year, her reply was quite amusing, she said it would be easier to obtain a retirement visa as a marriage visa is much more difficult in Thailand.
    But with your information on how you obtained yours Tony i am sure we can get through it.

    Hope the above is of help to others.

    I will be traveling to Thailand at the end of this month so we will see how the visa works.

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      Much appreciated Steve. Thank you very much. I will extract your words from comments and add them into the main body of the post. I am pleased to hear it all went smoothly for you. Good luck.

      Cheers.

      Tony

      Reply
  5. Steve

    Hi Tony,

    Great information on obtaining a marriage visa as always.

    I will be applying for a marriage visa myself in a few months, but will be applying from here in Australia if you are interested i can let you know what the process is like from this side so that you can keep your readers informed and up to date.

    Love the blog by the way so keep it coming.

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      Thanks a lot Steve.

      I would be interested, as would others, so please send the information though when you can.

      Cheers.

      Tony

      Reply
  6. Brian Stump

    Question: is there an immigration office in Nongbualamphu? It would sure be easier than going all the way to Udon Thani (I live in Si boon rhuang).
    I probably should figure out my visa options. I have to fly back to the US every 3 months to pick up medications (bloody insurance) so I haven’t really bothered. Getting married to my fiancée in a few weeks after 3 years. Guess I will ask when I get back there in a few days. It’s always an adventure.

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      Hi Brian.

      Yes, Immigration opened an office in NBL last year. If you turn left from SBR onto highway 210 (the dual road) and pass the big Tesco Lotus on the right you will see Immigration on the left just before the traffic lights that go to the huge government centre. Another way of saying it is after you pass Tesco you will soon see a small old petrol station on the left. Shortly after that there’s a new three storey high building with orange highlights and one of those shops is Immigration. If you click this link https://tinyurl.com/sdh7lxo you will see a photo of the building. Hard to miss!

      Tony

      Reply
  7. Russell London

    Good Morning Tony, That is certainly a comprehensive review of what is required. There is a fair bit to it for sure. Because of the requirements of the ‘OA’ visa now, it looks to be worth doing. I understand exactly what is needed so thankyou kindly. They certainly asked some strange questions!

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      I think it is for as long as it lasts. I am pleased the post was helpful. As you saw already from Facebook the police did call Gaun to drop in and interview a second witness a few days after we lodged the application. Nothing had been mentioned about this aspect in the interview we had in the office, although others has mentioned it in forums. NO big issue but good to know.

      Cheers.

      Reply
  8. Mike

    As always, a pleasure to read your insights and information Tony, even if not immediately applicable. Regarding the hand drawn map request, the last 3 or 4 yearly extensions I’ve done at Udon and Nong Bua have included a printout from Google maps. Not a problem

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      Interesting Mike. I may have misinterpreted what the officer was saying but he seemed to indicate a hand drawn map. My mistake obviously as you have had multiple experienced using Google Maps, which is one step in the right direction. I am still not sure why GPS coords aren’t the way to go but whatever rocks their boat id fine by me (except the insurance).

      Thanks.

      Reply
    • Robert Cullearn

      Hi Tony, a call to me before your trip to immigration could of saved you a lot of time, What are friends for. The questions they ask the witness are the same, they also asked the witness if I drank. When I went to NBL they’d just been opened a few months and the officer had a check sheet next to him and was ticking it off.

      Reply
      • Tony in Thailand

        We covered it pretty well apart from those two issues.

        Smoother next year.

        Reply

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