Advance Blog

November 16, 2022
Baan Thai

6 Ways to Stay in Thailand for the Long-Term (And How to Decide Which Is Best for You)

So you’ve decided to stay in Thailand long-term. Whether your reasons are for family, work, or you simply love the country, you’re ready to live here more permanently. While you’ve probably heard of some options like Elite, Marriage, and Retirement visas, there may be some unexpected choices you haven’t considered. Either way, you’re unsure of all your options and which one is best for you.

Below are six ways you can stay in Thailand long-term, ordered from most familiar to more unconventional options. Each visa category is broken down by key decision factors, such as benefits, length of stay, requirements and degree of difficulty, and price. If you’re unsure about which option to choose, this article will help you make a decision.

Also, while this article provides in-depth information, it is not 100% exhaustive. Depending on your nationality and circumstances, the requirements, risks, and benefits can differ.  For instance, some countries prohibit dual citizenship, and others require residency to maintain public pension benefits (e.g. Australia). This article is meant to provide a starting point for you to explore your long-stay choices. Baan Thai recommends that you do your research and contact a professional for personalized advice.

#1: Non-Immigrant O Retirement visa

Most expats are likely familiar with Non-Immigrant O Retirement visas, often referred to simply as Retirement visas. As one of the most popular long-term visas available, they allow retirees over the age of 50 to stay in Thailand for one year periods.

Who is it best for?

If you meet the age requirement, want a relatively easy-to-obtain visa, and price is a key consideration, a Retirement visa is your best option to stay in Thailand long-term. Compared to all visas with the exception of Elite, it requires the least paperwork. There is no relationship to establish. Just your age and an 800,000 Baht balance in your Thai bank account. For this same reason, the annual extension process is also much easier than a Marriage visa.

It’s worth noting that Retirement visas come with the least benefits. You can’t work and there is no path to Permanent Residency. This, however, may be a good thing if you’re unsure how long you wish to stay in Thailand. If you may only be here a few years and are looking to enjoy your time without a job, the visa offers more flexibility as you’ve made less of a financial investment and commitment to the country. You can leave Thailand after a year or two without feeling like you wasted money and time with all the costs and challenges of an Elite visa, Permanent Residency, or citizenship.

Benefits

Out of all the long-term stay options on this list, Retirement visas are bare bones in terms of perks. However, there are two major benefits:

  • Price: A Retirement visa (along with a Marriage visa) is by far your cheapest long-term stay option.
  • Ease of obtaining: Retirement and Marriage visas come in second place in terms of easiest-to-obtain option, after the Elite visa.

Ability to work

Work is not allowed on a Retirement visa.

How long does it last?

Retirement visas are typically extended for one-year periods and there is a five year option available requiring more paperwork and expense. Both options can be renewed/extended at the end of the visa’s expiration period.

Requirements & degree of difficulty

Retirement visas require a bit of paperwork. While you must have a bank account and proof of funds and accommodation (like a hotel reservation or apartment contract), the documents you’ll ultimately need will depend on whether you’re applying from Thailand or a Thai consulate/embassy in another country. Outside of the paperwork, the most notable requirements are listed below:

  • Age of 50 or older
  • A minimum of 800,000 Baht in your Thai bank account for two months or longer, or a 65,000 Baht monthly income (can be from a pension)

Note, the five-year Retirement visa has additional requirements, including medical and criminal clearances, a higher minimum Thai bank balance, and an annual income requirement. Also, only specific nationalities are eligible for the five-year visa.

Price

The price of a Retirement visa depends on the type of visa and length of stay, as well as which embassy, consulate, and country you’re applying from. Approximate costs are listed below:

  • 1-year single-entry visa: 2,000 Baht
  • 1-year multi-entry visa: 5,000 Baht
  • 5-year visa: 10,000 Baht

#2: Non-Immigrant O Marriage visa

The technical name for this visa is a Non-Immigrant O Dependent visa. While it can be applied for to stay with a spouse, child, or adopted child, it’s often granted to foreigners wishing to stay with their Thai spouses, hence the popular name Marriage visa.

Who is it best for?

If you’re married to a Thai national, care about price, and are interested in working in the Kingdom, then a Marriage visa is probably your best option to stay long-term. Just like Retirement visas, you will have ongoing immigration obligations, but the financial and time commitments are minimal.

Benefits

The benefits of a Marriage visa are identical to those of a Retirement visa, as you’ll see below:

  • Price: Marriage visas are tied with Retirement visas for the cheapest long-term stay option.
  • Ease of obtaining: If you’re married to a Thai national or have a Thai child and can satisfy the monetary/income requirement, Marriage visas are fairly easy to obtain.

Ability to work

Unlike the Retirement visa, you are allowed to work on a Marriage visa. However, just like any other visa, you’re required by law to obtain a work permit from the Department of Labor.

How long does it last?

A Marriage visa can be extended for one year terms.

Requirements & degree of difficulty

While a Marriage visa requires a lower Thai bank balance than a Retirement visa, the paperwork is much more substantial because you’ll need to prove the legitimacy of your relationship. You’ll need photographs of you and your spouse together, your marriage certificate, a map to your home, and additional evidence of your relationship. You can find the list of documents you’ll need on our Marriage Visa Services page. Also, as part of the application process, Thai immigration will typically visit your home.

The benefit of a Marriage visa is the financial requirement is half that of the Retirement visa and you can get a work permit. The major requirements for this visa are below:

  • A minimum of 400,000 Baht in your Thai bank account for two months or longer, or a 40,000 Baht monthly income
  • Married to a Thai national

Price

The cost of a Marriage visa depends on whether you’re applying for a single or multi-entry visa. Note, multi-entry visas are only available when applying from outside of Thailand. Approximate costs are listed below: 

  • 1-year single-entry visa: 2,000 Baht
  • 1-year multi-entry visa: 5,000 Baht 

#3: Long-Term Resident (LTR) visa

Introduced in September of 2022, the Long-Term Resident visa (LTR) is for “work from anywhere” professionals and wealthy individuals. There are four categories of LTR visas, which include the following: 

  • Wealthy Global Citizen 
  • Wealthy Pensioner
  • Work-From-Thailand Professional (remote worker/digital nomad)
  • High-Skilled Professional 

The below details cover the three most popular LTR visas, which include all of the above except High-skilled Professionals. The latter is a specialty category that only applies to a small group of individuals who work for a Thai government agency, higher education institution, or a specialized training institution in Thailand. 

Who is it best for? 

If you’re interested in making Thailand your second home or are curious to see if you’ll enjoy living in the Kingdom for several years, the LTR visa offers one of the more affordable options on this list. Choosing this visa means you also don’t have to deal with as many immigration obligations.

Benefits

The LTR visa comes with many perks: 

  • No 90-day reports or annual visa extensions: Report to immigration once a year (instead of every 90 days), and stay in Thailand for five years before having to extend your visa. 
  • Airport Fast Track Service: Gain access to the premium lane at airport immigration and save time. 
  • Multiple re-entry permit: The LTR visa is a multi-entry visa. This means you can fly in and out of Thailand as often as you’d like without having to worry about re-entry permits. 
  • Bring family: You can bring up to four dependents under your LTR visa. 

You’ll also receive other benefits depending on which category of LTR visa you obtain, which can include the ability to legally work without having to be employed by a company in Thailand and special tax rates.

Ability to work

All LTR visa classes provide the ability to work. However, to work on an LTR visa, you must also obtain a digital work permit at the One Stop Service Center for Visa and Work Permit in Bangkok’s Chamchuri Square Building.

How long does it last? 

10 years total. However, if you wish to stay for the entire duration, you must extend the visa after five years. 

Requirements & degree of difficulty

Either health insurance or cash reserves for healthcare is required for all LTR visas. You can meet this qualification with either a minimum of $50,000 in medical coverage, social security benefits that cover hospitalization/treatment in Thailand, or $100,000 in your bank account for 12 months prior to your application. 

All other LTR visa requirements vary depending on which category you apply for. Below are the major requirements for each type: 

Work-From-Thailand Professional 

  • Income: Earn at least $80,000 a year for two years prior to your application. Alternatively, you can qualify for the visa if your income is between $40,000-$80,000 for two years and you also have either a minimum of a Master’s degree, have received series A funding, or own intellectual property. 
  • Employment: You’re currently employed by a public company listed on the stock exchange or a private company that’s been in business for a minimum of 3 years and has earned at least $150 million during that period. 
  • Work experience: 5 years minimum experience in your field during the past 10 years. 

Wealthy Global Citizen 

  • Income: At least $80,000 a year over the past 2 years. 
  • Assets: The total value of which must be at least $1,000,000.
  • Investment: Invest a minimum of $500,000 in Thai government bonds, foreign direct investment, or Thai property (e.g. a condo you purchase to live or rent out). 

Wealthy Pensioner

  • Income: At least $80,000 a year for 2 years prior to applying or a $40,000-$80,000 annual income for the 2 previous years and a minimum investment of $250,000 in Thai government bonds, foreign direct investment, or Thai property. 

Price

As long as you meet the qualifications/requirements, the visa cost is relatively cheap compared to other options on this list. Regardless of which category of LTR visa you apply for, the cost is 50,000 Baht. 

If you fall into the Work-From-Thailand Professional group, there is an additional 3,000 Baht fee per year for a digital work permit. 

#4: Permanent Residency 

Like its name suggests, Thailand Permanent Residency (PR) makes you a permanent resident of the country, meaning you can stay here for an unlimited period without a visa. It is a path to truly immigrate to the Kingdom. 

Who is it best for? 

If you envision spending the rest of your life in Thailand, Permanent Residency is your best choice outside of Thai citizenship. What’s more, becoming a Permanent Resident is an important step on your path to citizenship. 

Benefits

While obtaining Permanent Residency is challenging, it comes with many coveted benefits: 

  • Eliminate immigration hassles forever: No longer bother with 90-day reports, annual extensions, or visas. And enter the country as a Thai national, which means shorter lines at the airport. 
  • Freedom to make choices: As your life in Thailand won’t be attached to visa status through marriage or a job, you’ll have more freedom and options. You can change your career, start a business, or even take a sabbatical without impacting your immigration status. 
  • Foreigner ID card: Dealing with banks, borders, drivers licenses, and officialdom becomes much easier with a foreigner ID card (also known as a pink card), which you can get with PR status. 
  • Protect the life you’ve built in Thailand: A continual source of worry for expats is that a change in your personal circumstances that qualified you for a visa (e.g. loss of a job) could force you to suddenly leave the country and uproot your life. With PR, these worries will disappear as your stay isn’t attached to a visa. 

Preparing for Thai Permanent Residency?

The window typically opens in October and closes at the end of each calendar year. To set yourself up for success, download our Thailand Permanent Residency Interview Guide. The guide includes the most common questions asked in the interview, details about the process, and FAQs we often get asked by applicants.

Ability to work

Work is allowed, but you’ll still need to obtain a work permit like you would with the visa options on this list.

How long does it last?

One of the best things about Permanent Residency is that it never expires. You can stay in Thailand forever, with no more visa runs, 90-day reports, or annual extensions. However, losing your Permanent Residency status is possible if you leave Thailand for more than a year or don’t get a re-entry permit before traveling abroad.

Requirements & degree of difficulty

While Thai Permanent Residency is one of the more difficult to obtain long-term stay options, it’s not rocket science. Similar to applying for a Thai visa, there’s a checklist of documents to complete. Requirements will depend on which category of Permanent Residency you apply for. There are four altogether:

  • Business
  • Family
  • Investment
  • Expert

The business category is the easiest as it has the least requirements. The other three categories have the same minimum requirements as business, plus more. The basic minimum requirements include:

  • 3 consecutive years on your current Non-Immigrant visa
  • Paying Thai taxes on an 80,000-100,000 Baht monthly salary to qualify for the business category
  • The ability to carry a basic conversation in Thai for 10-15 minutes (as part of your interview)

Paperwork

If you’ve lived in Thailand for a while, you probably know requirements for different business and government processes can change depending on the branch you visit and the person servicing you. Acquiring PR is no different. You may be asked for more documents in addition to the standard requirements below:

  • Criminal background check from your home country and Thailand
  • Medical certificate that proves you’re healthy
  • Copies of your work permit
  • Proof of personal income tax return for three years prior
  • Proof of your education level for yourself and children who are applying. Degrees and certificates received from education institutes outside of Thailand must be certified by the relevant authority in the country that granted them.
  • Letter confirming employment that must include your position, length of employment, and salary
  • Certified documents from the DOL and Revenue Department covering you and your company’s employment and tax payments
  • Photographs of your residence, workplace, and colleagues

Price

The cost of Permanent Residency depends on whether you’re married to a Thai national. The price is 95,700 Baht for those who are, and 191,400 Baht for applicants applying under the economic/business category; note, these government fees are only paid if your application is approved. Regardless of your marriage status, you will also have to pay a nonrefundable application fee of 7,600 Baht, which brings the total cost to either 103,300 Baht (married applicants) or 199,000 Baht (single applicants).

#5: Thai Citizenship

The ultimate dream for those who love Thailand and wish to make the country their permanent home, Thai citizenship provides you all the unique benefits that only come with a Thai passport, and then some. Below are the most important factors to think about when considering Thai citizenship.

Who is it best for?

If you plan to spend the rest of your life (or the majority of it) in Thailand and can satisfy the major requirements of PR/marriage and a consistent job, then becoming a Thai citizen is probably your best choice. As a Thai citizen, you’ll truly belong here. You can come and go as you please and no longer worry about re-entry permits or how long you’ll be away. What’s more, if you really want to set up a life here and own property or become the majority owner of a company, Thai citizenship is your only option.

Benefits

As a Thai citizen, you’ll have several benefits unavailable to any other option on this list. These are:

  • You can buy and own property (not just a condo) under your own name
  • You can get a job without needing a work permit
  • You can be the majority owner in a Thai company, holding more than 49% of the shares

You also won’t need to renew a visa or apply for re-entry permits, and you can get through airport immigration faster using the Thai queue.

Ability to work

As mentioned above, Thai citizenship is the only option that allows work without the need for a work permit. This will provide far more flexibility and options for you in your career, as you’ll never have to worry about your job being tied to your visa status. What’s more, companies will be more willing to hire you as they won’t have to pay extra costs for your work permit and meet the four Thais to one foreigner employment ratio.

How long does it last?

Thai citizenship is forever. You are now, afterall, officially a Thai national and truly can call the Kingdom your home.

Requirements & degree of difficulty

Becoming a Thai citizen is a complex and discretionary long-term stay option, as the requirements are many and they can vary depending on your gender, whether you’re married to a Thai national, the duration you’ve held permanent residency, and other factors.

Just like with Permanent Residency, requirements can change depending on the government office you visit and the officer servicing you. The below lists are general requirements, and you may be asked for additional documents.

There are three sets of requirements for Thai citizenship: minimum requirements, the point system, and paperwork. Below is an overview of what you’ll need for each group:

Minimum requirements

  • You’re at least 18-years old
  • You’ve held Permanent Residency for at least five years or you have a Thai wife and at least three years of uninterrupted extensions on the same visa
  • You’ve worked in Thailand for at least three consecutive years and earned a minimum salary of 80,000 Baht per month during that period. If you have a Thai wife, the monthly salary requirement is reduced to 40,000 Baht per month.
  • A clean criminal background check from your home country and Thailand
  • The ability to sing the Thai national anthem and royal anthem (this requirement is waived if you’re married to a Thai national)
  • The ability to write and speak Thai

The point system

As part of the application process, you’ll have to score at least 50 out of 100 points in a points based system. Below are the scoring criteria:

  • Age: If you’re between the ages of 40-50, you’ll receive maximum points in this category.
  • Education: The higher the education level, the more points you will be awarded.
  • Monthly income: The higher your income, the higher the score.
  • Type and duration of residence in Thailand: Maximum points are granted to those who have a house registration book and have been a resident for many years.
  • Thai language skills: Your ability to write, speak, and understand Thai.
  • Knowledge of Thailand: Your general knowledge of the country.
  • Personality: Your appearance and manner as assessed by the officers handling your application.

Paperwork

The documents you must submit will vary depending on your situation (whether you’re on PR, married to a Thai national, etc.) and the officers managing your application. In addition to many of the standard documents required for any visa/long-term stay application—like copies of your passport, pictures of yourself, etc.—you’ll also need:

  • Copies of your alien book
  • Copies of your house registration
  • Copies of your work permit
  • Copies of your residence certificate
  • Proof of employment or company ownership
  • Proof of personal income tax return and corporate tax return for three years prior
  • Bank certificate that proves you have a balance of at least 80,000 Baht
  • Certificate of legal age (must be translated into Thai and certified by your embassy)
  • Proof of your education level for yourself and children who are applying. Degrees and certificates received from education institutes outside of Thailand must be certified by the relevant authority in the country that granted them.
  • Letter confirming employment that must include your position, length of employment, and salary
  • Copies of IDs for two Thai nationals who will act as your guarantors (can’t be relatives)

As mentioned, this is a general list of documents that is subject to change. Don’t worry though. The office you apply at will provide a complete checklist of documents you’ll need.

Price

Considering the price of other options on this list as well as the cost of becoming a citizen in countries like the US or UK, Thai citizenship is incredibly reasonable. The application costs are as follows:

  • 10,000 Baht for applicants over the age of 18
  • 5,000 Baht for each child of the applicant
  • 1,000 Baht for the certificate of naturalization

#6: Elite Visa

The Elite visa is for high net worth individuals who don’t mind paying a significant amount in exchange for an easier path to stay in the Kingdom.

Who is it best for?

If you want your stay in Thailand to be as effortless as possible while receiving VIP treatment, luxury benefits, and having little immigration obligations (and budget and return on investment isn’t an issue for you), then the Elite visa is your best option.

Benefits

While the main benefits of the Elite visa are the stay length and lack of immigration duties, the visa comes with many other perks:

  • 5-star airport treatment: You get limousine pickup to and from the airport, use of the Fast Track lane to skip long immigration lines, and access to an exclusive airport lounge.
  • Special promotions throughout Thailand: You’ll receive countless promotions and discounts from participating spas, luxury hotels, resorts, shops, and more.
  • Complimentary luxuries and services: Some classes of Elite visas offer free rounds of golf, spa treatment, and annual health and dental checkups.
  • Government concierge service: Get personal assistance with a driver’s license, opening a bank account, business networking, and more.
  • Access to 24/7 Elite Member support center: The center can assist you with booking services, questions, and emergencies.
  • Come and go as you please: With the Elite visa, you no longer have to worry about re-entry permits as the visa is multi-entry.

While you still must submit 90-day reports, a Thai Elite staff member can handle them for you.

Ability to work

Work is not allowed on an Elite visa.

How long does it last?

Depending on which category of Elite visa you choose, you can stay in Thailand for either 5, 10, or 20 years.

Requirements & degree of difficulty

A big draw of the Elite visa is the incredibly easy application process. There are very few requirements, which consist mainly of:

  • Criminal background check from your home country and Thailand
  • No overstay record in Thailand
  • Payment of entire visa fee upfront

Price

Luxury benefits and not having to deal with immigration comes at a high price. There are eight classes of Elite visas with various stay lengths and perks. Depending on which one you choose, prices range from 600,000 Baht to 2,140,000 Baht.

Recap of your options

Still unsure about which choice is best for you? Here’s a one-sentence summary of each option to help you decide: 

  • Retirement visa: You’re over the age of 50 and want one of the most affordable and easy options, without caring about regular immigration obligations.
  • Marriage visa: You have a Thai spouse, want a cheap and easy-to-obtain visa, and are possibly interested in working in Thailand.
  • LTR: For those who have a good western income, are potentially willing to invest in Thailand, and prefer not to spend the money on an Elite visa while enjoying similar benefits.
  • PR: You have permanent connections to the Kingdom, are interested in citizenship, and envision the country as your long-term home.
  • Thai citizenship: You plan to spend the rest (or majority) of your life in Thailand and want all the benefits of a local, and you’re willing to go through the long process to achieve citizenship.
  • Elite: You want to come and go to Thailand as you please while enjoying VIP service and luxury benefits, and you don’t care about the cost.

Realize your dream: Stay long-term in Thailand

While many of the above options have a long list of requirements that can overwhelm the average expat, the application process doesn’t have to be time-consuming, confusing, or difficult. Baan Thai can simplify everything. We’ve helped countless expats, just like you, make Thailand their home. In fact, I’ve gone through the exact decision criteria outlined in this article, and now I’m lucky to call Thailand my permanent home.

If you’d like help applying for any of the long-term stay options above, contact us today. We can walk you through the entire application process—providing you all documents, clarifying each step, and coaching you through any potential interviews with Thai officials. What’s more, we’ll always be a quick phone call or email away if you have a question or concern. And you’re always welcome to swing by our offices.

Make your dream of staying in Thailand long-term a reality. Get in touch today.

Mark Friedman
Managing Director of Baan Thai
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