Known around the world as one of Asia’s most desirable locations, Thailand has long been a hotspot for retirees looking to escape the expense of the West and enjoy their retirement in a warm, hospitable, and naturally beautiful country. Offering a mix of modern city life and charming beach and rural living, Thailand is one of Asia’s most popular countries for Western retirees. Thailand is also known for being a relatively cheap vacation spot, which draws visitors from all around the world to fill up Bangkok, Koh Samui, and Phuket hotels year after year.
Thanks to its relatively straightforward and simple retirement visa system, Thailand is also one of the easiest countries to retire to for expatriates aged over fifty. Official retirement visas – known as Non-Immigrant Retirement Visas to officials – are easy to qualify for and ideal for expatriates and retirees that plan to stay in Thailand.
Age Requirements For Thailand Retirement Visas
There are a few simple qualifications required to acquire a long-term retirement visa for Thailand. The first is a simple age requirement – applicants must be aged above fifty years at the time of their visa application, and must have ceased to work in their home country. For most retirees, the age requirement is not an issue.
For retirees aged under fifty years, perhaps those retiring early or expatriating to live off of their assets, a variety of different visas are available for Thailand. One of the most popular amongst under-50 expatriates in Thailand is the Non-Immigrant O and B class visas, both of which are available from most Thai consulates.
Note that all applicants, regardless of age, must submit the documentation from a complete health exam. This can be acquired from a hospital within Thailand or from a foreign hospital. If the documentation is provided in English you may be required to translate it to Thai – this policy differs between different Thailand consulates.
Income Requirements For Thailand Retirement Visas
Retirees planning to stay in Thailand long-term are required to show a bank balance of upwards of eight-hundred-thousand Thai baht – approximately $25,000 United States Dollars, or a monthly income of upwards of 65,000THB – approximately $2,000 US Dollars. As the average monthly pension of retirees from Western countries exceeds this cut-off point, the income requirements for Thailand visas are generally a non-issue.
However, if you do not qualify for this income restriction, a variety of alternative visa options are available. The first is, as mentioned above for underage retirees, the Non-Immigrant O visa, available at most Thai consulates. This visa allows for a one-year stay within Thailand that can be renewed every three months in the country.
The second option, and one that’s frequently used by retirees uninterested in using the correct visa, or unable to meet the requirements, is a tourist visa. Tourist visas are available for two months at a time, with a one-month extension possible within Thailand. A triple-entry tourism visa, then, gives access to Thailand for up to nine months at a time, although working within the country on this visa is prohibited.
Acquiring Thailand Retirement Visas From Inside And Outside Thailand
Acquiring a Thailand retirement visa is a relatively simple process. You will need a copy of your bank balance, a collection of bank statements from the prior three to six months, as well as documents proving your net worth, in the case that you wish to use non-cash assets to prove your suitability for the visa.
You will also need to provide proof of your identity for the Thai authorities, which can include – depending on your nationality – a passport, a birth certificate, an ID card of some sort, and any documents pertaining to a name change, if you have ever changed your name. You will also need to show a marriage certificate if you have a Thai spouse and you are applying for a retirement visa due to the relationship.
Where To Apply For A Thailand Retirement Visa
Thailand retirement visas can be applied for at all Thai consulates and embassies, but not all consulates will necessarily follow the same procedures. Thai expatriates will be quick to tell you that the process for visa applications – and the results of these applications – differs dramatically from one embassy to the next.
Reports indicate that the strictest standards for retirement visa applications can be found at the embassies closest to Thailand, particularly those that are popular with short-term visitors to the country. Expatriates have reported being rejected for Thai visas from consulates in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, Phnom Penh, and even as far away as Hong Kong.
Positive reports have been issued for Thai embassies and consulates in European countries, particularly regional cities in the United Kingdom. Thai consulates based in Japan and Korea have both been reported to offer long-term retirement visas that aren’t tied to such stringent standards as the embassies located closer to Thailand.
Note that it is not possible to apply for a retirement visa from within Thailand, nor is it possible to ‘upgrade’ your tourist visa to a retirement visa from within Thailand. You must travel outside of the country to apply for your visa, typically to one of the embassies listed in the above paragraph.
Reporting Requirements And Restrictions Of Thai Retirement Visas
A Thailand retirement visa is not a magical ticket to restriction-free life in Thailand, although it is a significantly more flexible and useful visa than the average long-term tourism visa. Several rights are granted to retirees in Thailand that aren’t available to tourists, including the ability to open a Thailand-based bank account, the ability to acquire a Thailand drivers’ license, and the ability to study at Thai universities.
However, holders of a retirement visa are required by law to report to their local immigration office every three months, just as holders of Non-Immigrant O class visas must. The visa is then extended for three months at every ‘check in,’ allowing retirees to extend their stay in Thailand as they wish. If you move to a different area of Thailand, for example, a new province, you must notify the immigration office.
Finally, holders of Thai retirement visas are restricted from owning property and a variety of businesses in the country. Retirees may not open a business in Thailand without applying for a secondary business visa and work permit, as well as having at least fifty percent of the company owned by Thai nationals or corporations.
Retirement visa holders are also restricted from owning houses or land in Thailand. However, all visitors to Thailand, including tourists with no long-term visa, are able to purchase condominiums, apartments, and other residences that do not include the purchase of Thai national land.
While Thailand is far from the most open country in the region for retirees – a title that would undoubtedly go to Singapore of Hong Kong – its combination of a great climate, beautiful geography, and a friendly populace make it a favorite for Western retirees seeking a break from the rat race. Because of this, the few ‘hoops’ that you may need to jump through in order to earn long-term residency and retirement in Thailand are almost always worth the end result.