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Posts Tagged ‘Thailand Retirement Visa’

6th January 2019

As the year 2019 opens, it appears as though the process of obtaining and maintaining a Thai or American visa will be more difficult compared to years past. Although certain aspects of each process may involve increased laxity, flexibility, or efficiency the overall theme from immigration authorities in the United States and Thailand would seem to be one of heightened scrutiny and increasingly stringent enforcement measures.

American Immigration Issues

Some facets of the US visa process look to be improving. For example, the Department of State through the National Visa Center and various Embassies and Consulates abroad are becoming more efficient by shifting away from paper documentation over to a new digitized interface allowing faster processing of supporting documentation for immigrant and non-immigrant visa applications. This blogger can say from personal experience that the new system still has some issues to be worked out, but the overall system would suggest that faster processing times at NVC are likely to be a mainstay in the future.

That stated, the overall process of obtaining a US visa would appear to be getting more difficult especially in light of the current administration’s addition of a National Vetting Center tasked with adding scrutiny to the overall adjudication of visa petitions. Meanwhile, policy changes regarding adjudication of visa applications are likely to have substantial impact upon the amount of denials which are issued by USCIS in coming years. A memorandum which came into effect in September of 2018 allows officers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service to deny visa petitions much more easily compared to times past when a Request For Evidence generally had to be issued before a denial. These developments coupled with creation of bodies such as the DeNaturalization task force and the prospect of a prolonged government shutdown would suggest that matters pertaining to American immigration are likely to prove more difficult moving forward.

Thai Immigration Issues

Meanwhile, as the United States’ Immigration apparatus becomes more cumbersome, Immigration authorities in Thailand do not seem to be backing down from their position regarding immigration and immigration enforcement in the Kingdom. In the lead up to 2019, the overarching policy of “Good Guys in Bad Guys Out” (a policy of encouraging lawful visitors and immigrants to the Kingdom while attempting to discourage travelers with more nefarious motives) manifested itself in terms of enforcement with “Operation X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner“. By the end of 2018 Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn had announced that tens of thousand of illegal aliens had been arrested, deported, and blacklisted from returning to Thailand. In December of 2018 further statements would suggest that although a great number of visa violators have been precluded from remaining in Thailand, the Immigration office’s vigilance will not decrease. Concurrently, the process of obtaining extensions of Thai retirement visas and Thai marriage visas are likely to become more difficult for some people as it will no longer be possible to obtain an income affidavit for such extensions. This comes at the same time as immigration authorities make comments that would indicate prospective increased scrutiny on those using visa services to obtain retirement and marriage visa extensions by dint of funds on account in a Thai bank.

All of the above developments would indicate that immigration matters in both countries will continue to be complex if not downright difficult in the coming year and beyond.

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25th October 2018

It recently came to this blogger’s attention, via a press release from the US Embassy in Bangkok, that the Embassy seems to be in the process of discontinuing issuance of income affidavits pertaining to verification of finances in the context of application for certain types of Thai visa extension. To quote directly from the press release:

As of January 1, 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai will cease to provide the income affidavit for the purpose of applying for Thai retirement and family visas and will not notarize previous versions of the income affidavit.  The Royal Thai Government requires actual verification of income to certify visa applicants meet financial requirements for long-stay visas.  The U.S. government cannot provide this verification and will no longer issue the affidavits.

Those unaware of the importance of these documents should take note of the fact that in the past notarized income affidavits were used in connection with applications for either a Thai retirement visa or a Thai marriage visa. Such documents were utilized in lieu of presenting evidence of a lump sum in a Thai bank account (800,000 THB for a retirement visa, and 400,000 THB for a marriage visa) or proof of a prolonged history of income in a Thai bank account (65,000 THB per month for a retirement visa and 40,000 per month for a marriage visa). These documents were generally issued by the American Citizen Services (ACS) Section of the US Embassy. In the past, a notarized income affidavit from the US Embassy which was legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was sufficient to meet the evidentiary requirements of the Thai Immigration officers adjudicating financial documentation in connection with applications for visa extensions. As seems to be the case in matters pertaining to British income letters, American officials appear to be unwilling to continue issuance these instruments in light of the recent official Thai requests that the veracity of the information in the affidavit be verified rather than merely the authenticity of the signature on the document. It seems that although the Embassy is unable to continue issuing such documentation as it was issued in the past, they will continue to notarize other documentation.

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20th December 2016

Many senior citizen expatriates living in Thailand are familiar with the Thai retirement visa. However, in recent weeks new information has come to light regarding possible changes to the retirement visa category. According to the Bangkok Post, the government in Thailand is willing to allow for a visa scheme which will provide individuals age 50 or older with a visa that could last for a duration of 10 years. To quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

The cabinet on Tuesday extended to 10 years from one the long-stay visa for foreigners aged 50 or more but they must report to immigration police every 90 days. The visa will be valid initially for five years and could be renewed for another five, Col Apisit Chaiyanuwat, vice minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, said.

It should be noted that as of the time of this writing, this blogger has yet to see this new visa scheme implemented in practice. However, it appears by all accounts that the government is serious about eventual implementation. According to the Bangkok Post and other sources the new visa fee will be 10,000 baht for these “extended retirement visas” and the applicant for such a visa will need to be able to demonstrate that he or she has maintained a bank balance of at least 3 million baht in a Thai bank account for one year prior to the application for such a visa. Of keen interest to many expats in Thailand is whether this scheme is intended to supplant the currently existing scheme granting 1 year Thai retirement visas. As of the time of this writing it appears that this newly proposed system will not have an impact on the 1 year retirement visa framework which is already in place, but will instead operate parallel to the current regime.

Meanwhile, while on the one hand the Thai government appears willing to provide more ease to certain individuals staying long term in Thailand, on the other hand the Immigration authorities seem very serious about keeping certain foreigners out of Thailand. According to a posting on the Stickboy Bangkok website, it appears that the era of so-called “visa runs” or “border runs” has finally come to an end once and for all. As noted on that site, it appears that new immigration rules have been promulgated through publication in the Royal Thai Gazette. It appears that the new rules will only allow 2 “border runs” per year. This will effectively put an end to the system of maintaining lawful status in Thailand by simply traveling outside of Thailand via overland border crossings and immediately coming back into the Kingdom.

It should be noted that the apparent ban on border running only applies to exemption stamps (the 30 or 15 day stamps granted to those of certain nationalities who arrive at a Thai border without a visa). It does not apply to multi-entry tourist visas or multi entry non-immigrant visas such as the business visa. It should be noted that the recent changes being implemented regarding border runs and the new enforcement of blacklisting foreign nationals who overstay in Thailand longer than 90 days creates a far less lax attitude toward immigration matters in Thailand.

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5th October 2015

Starting November 13th it will be possible for foreign tourists to apply for and obtain a 6 month Thai tourist visa. To provide more insight into this development it is necessary to quote directly from the Bangkok Post:

Unlike current tourist visas, which offer from one to three entries, the six-month multiple-entry visa will allow unlimited border crossings during the validity period. However, to prevent foreigners from basically living in Thailand on tourist visas, each entry will be limited to 60 days. The new multiple-entry visa will cost 5,000 baht, versus 1,000 baht for a single-entry, 60-day visa, which can be extended in-country for up to 30 days for an additional fee.

As noted above the new tourist visas will be more costly than previously, but the validity period will be longer. Meanwhile, those in Thailand on such visas will be required to adhere to the regulations which are already in place. It would appear that the Thai government is attempting to provide a long term visa solution for those travelers who wish to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time. It should be noted that in recent months Thai Immigration authorities have been cracking down on long term users of Thai visa exemption stamps as well as those attempting to remain in the Kingdom utilizing the Thai Education visa (also referred to as the ED visa). It remains to be seen whether Thai Immigration officers and Consular Officers at the various Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad will be willing to issue multiple Thai 6 month tourist visas, but the creation of this new type of visa should provide a much needed option to longer term tourists.

It may still be possible to obtain a 1 year multiple entry Thai visa from certain countries. Such one year visas are often issued for those wishing to conduct business or work in Thailand (the Thai business visa), stay in the Kingdom with a Thai family member including spouses (the Thai O visa), or retire in Thailand (the retirement visa, also known as the O-A visa). Under certain circumstances a Thai ED visa may still be an option for long term stay, but it has been reported that those staying in the Kingdom on an ED visa to attend Thai language school are being frequently tested on their language capability.

Those who enter the Kingdom in B, O, O-A, or ED visa status may be eligible for a visa extension provided the applicant can provide certain documentation.

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23rd March 2015

Many expatriates in Thailand have been finding it increasingly difficult to obtain a long term (1 year or more) visa in Thailand. This frustration may be due in part to the fact that in 2014 new immigration rules were promulgated and the governmental administration in Thailand went through a transition. Moreover, it would also appear as though Thai Consular Officers abroad have been increasingly less inclined to issue one year non-immigrant multiple entry visas to foreign nationals seeking such documents outside of Thailand. Even 90 day visa applications are being placed under increased scrutiny compared to years past. Whether one agrees with these policies is basically irrelevant  as foreign nationals must acclimate themselves to the notion that staying in Thailand long term is becoming more difficult.

In fact, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence to suggest that remaining in Thailand on an Education visa is not as simple as it used to be. In fact the cost of going to classes has increased for students in various Thai schools. This would appear to be the result of the fact that many so-called “visa mill” schools have been under review or in some cases even closed as they seem to exist only for the purpose of providing long term ED visas to foreign nationals.

Fortunately, all is not completely bleak on this topic. Some genuine schools which offer genuine classes are still able to offer Thai ED visas. That stated, it should be noted that attendance in such classes is being monitored more carefully. Also, if one wishes to conduct legitimate business in Thailand then it is possible to obtain a Thai business visa. However, such applications are being carefully reviewed. The same can be said for Thai retirement visa applications as applicants are finding their financial status reviewed carefully before new retirement visas or new  retirement visa extensions are being issued. Further, it appears that those present in the Kingdom of Thailand on a Thai marriage visa are being subjected to review and in some cases it appears that officers are traveling to marriage visa holder’s homes in order to ascertain whether or not such marriages are in fact genuine. Meanwhile, immigration authorities have imposed new rules requiring digital photographs of those seeking visa extensions notwithstanding the fact that such applicants routinely provide passport sized photos with their application.

In short, it appears that reforms of the Thai immigration system have changed the way in which foreign nationals apply for visas and the result could prove to be a more costly and/or cumbersome process for those seeking immigration benefits in Thailand.

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30th September 2014

The Thailand Retirement Visa

Posted by : admin

With recent changes to Thai Immigration regulations, it has become clear that many long term travelers or prospective expatriates should get their status regularized either in the Kingdom or prior to arrival. While in the past it was possible to remain in Thailand in what were otherwise ostensibly short term Thai tourist visas or thirty day exemption stamps, now it seems that obtaining a long term visa extension is going to be necessary. For those under 50 years of age, this would mean obtaining a Thai marriage visa, a Thai business visa, or a Thai Education visa. However, for those over 50, the Thai retirement visa (often referred to as the O-A visa) could prove to be an effective way of remaining in the Kingdom. One reason this is the case, a retiree in Thailand does not need (and legally cannot get) a work permit in Thailand. The work permit process can be difficult and document-intensive. Meanwhile, a retirement visa, unlike and education visa, does not require that the visa holder attend any type of schooling. Also, for those not married to a Thai the retirement visa is generally a good option since such a visa does not require marriage to a Thai unlike a marriage visa. Retirement visa extensions are issued in one-year intervals and so long as the visa holder has the requisite pension or savings, then the process of obtaining such a visa is rather straightforward. Like any other type of Thai visa, it is expected that the retirement visa holder continually check in ever 90 days to inform immigration of their place of residence. However, for those who leave prior to 90 days, this is not necessary. However, it should be noted that in order to maintain visa status while outside of Thailand, the visa holder would need to obtain a reentry permit.

For those over 50 who work in industries such as the offshore oil business, which only requires the employee to work in given intervals, the retirement could prove to be a substantially better visa option compared to other types of temporary Thai visas as a retirement visa allows the bearer to remain in the Kingdom for a year as well as enter and exit as necessary provided the reentry permits are in order. Those looking at this as an option should bear in mind that the retirement visa holder cannot work in Thailand, but if working outside of Thailand there would really not be any issue as to immigration status in the Kingdom.

When dealing with Thai business visas, the holder of such an extension generally needs to have corporate sponsorship as well as a Thai work permit. Meanwhile, those remaining in Thailand on a marriage visa must be married to a Thai national. Finally, those staying in the Kingdom on an Education visa must be attending a course of study approved by the Ministry of Education. For many, the retirement visa is a much less difficult type of visa to obtain and also does not require a great deal of supporting documentation other than proving the financial ability to support oneself long term while present in the Kingdom.

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20th August 2014

The Thailand Easy Access Card

Posted by : admin

In recent postings on this blog, the issue of immigration crackdowns has been discussed. Specifically, it appears that the so-called in/out 30 day visa run is a thing of the past and those overstaying their lawful immigration status could find themselves barred from reentering the country. Meanwhile, it appears that obtaining one year multiple entry Thai visas is becoming more and more difficult although not impossible where the applicant meets the requirements.

This brings this blogger to a related topic, in the past the Thailand Elite Card program allowed for long term stays in Thailand, but the price was usually not cost effective for the average traveler. It should also be noted that the initial Elite Card scheme allowed for a lifetime visa. Eventually the program went somewhat defunct, only to be re-vamped and reintroduced as a 20 year visa scheme. Those seeking an Elite Card must pay 2 million baht up-front with a yearly 20,000 baht administrative fee. Again, even the current Elite Card cost is not affordable for many. This may be why the Elite Card promoters have implemented a less expensive alternative: The Thailand Easy Access Card. This card allows the holder to obtain what is essentially a 5 year visa rather than a 20 year visa, but the cost is only 500,000 baht up-front as opposed to 2 million, there are other curtailed benefits that come with Thailand Easy Access Card obtainment which are more fully described in a pamphlet issued by the facilitators of the Easy Access card:

As a business traveler who frequently travels to Thailand you truly deserve the exclusive benefits the Thailand Easy Access Membership entitles. Your arrivals will be practically effortless with assistance by our professional Elite Personal Assistants who will be waiting for you at the plane’s door. From your first step into the Kingdom until your departure they will escort and guide you through the airport assisting you with all formalities and immigration procedures. In addition to the exclusive privileges within the airport your private limousine is available to drive you to your destination as quickly and as hassle-free as possible.

Those seeking a detailed breakdown of Easy Access Card benefits are encouraged to click HERE.

Clearly, the Easy Access Card provides benefits besides long term visa status, but for those wishing to remain in the Kingdom of Thailand for a period longer than one year this may be an option. It should be noted that those entering the Kingdom on either an Elite Card or an Easy Access card enter in tourist visa status. Those wishing to enter Thailand based upon marriage should do so on a Thai marriage visa. Retirees may obtain a Thai retirement visa, while those seeking an Education in Thailand should think about the Thai ED visa.

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3rd June 2014

As of the time of this writing, the reader is likely aware of the recent developments in the Kingdom of Thailand. In recent weeks, the political tension that placed Thailand in a political stalemate came to an end with the military taking over the civilian functions of the government. Although these developments may be confusing to those operating within a Western paradigm, such events are rather un-extraordinary when viewed within the framework of relatively recent Thai history. That stated, these developments are unlikely to have a day-to-day affect upon tourists and expatriates in the Kingdom. However, as the situation may lead to regulatory changes in Thailand, one would be prudent to keep an eye upon administrative developments moving forward.

Another issue which is likely to have a very significant impact upon both temporary travelers and long term residents in Thailand is the evolving state of Thai immigration rules. At present, the previous immigration rules are still essentially in effect (although one should note that all Thai immigration authorities have discretion to withhold admission to foreign nationals whom they deem unsuitable and with the recent announcement of upcoming rule changes such discretion may be utilized more frequently in the immediate future). On August 12th of this year the administrative procedures regarding those using multiple 30 day visa exemption stamps will change. After that date it will  likely prove much more difficult for foreign nationals in Thailand to use more than one 30 day exemption stamp within a relatively short period of time as such travelers are viewed as using such stamps to abuse the relative laxity of the Thai Immigration system. Therefore, it appears likely that those wishing to enter on such stamps consecutively will be highly scrutinized at the border with anecdotal evidence suggesting that immigration officials are likely to ask for proof of hotel accommodations and sufficient funds to remain in the Kingdom. The issue of hotel accommodation could prove significant to those who have used such stamps consecutively in the past as many such individuals maintain apartments or condos in Thailand and where that is the case anecdotal evidence suggests that such foreign nationals will be asked to depart and re-enter on a proper Thai visa rather than utilize the 30 stamp.

As a result of these developments and the substantial likelihood that the current administration in Thailand will stringently enforce these  new directives it seems reasonable to assume that the best course of action for those wishing to remain in the Kingdom for a significant period of time is to obtain a long term visa in some non-immigrant category. Currently, the Thai business visa is available for business travelers, while those wishing to undertake educational endeavors in Thailand could obtain a Thai ED visa. Furthermore, those with family members in Thailand could obtain a Thai O visa, while those wishing to simply retire in the Kingdom can opt to seek a Thai retirement visa. A 60 day Thai tourist visa may also be a possibility, but some have noted that usage of multiple Thai tourist visas may prove less feasible moving forward.

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6th December 2013

Notwithstanding the fact that demonstrations in Bangkok were briefly discontinued in order to observe His Majesty the King’s birthday, it appears that demonstrations are set to recommence as of Friday December 6th. It would appear that some anti-government demonstrators have remained in government office buildings as of the morning of the 6th as pro-government activists vow to undertake demonstrations at a later date.

The demonstrations in Bangkok have been a cause for concern especially for businesses which operate in the Thai tourism sector. However, officials in the Thai government appear willing to take measures to maintain tourism numbers in Thailand. The fact that a number of governments around the world have issued travel warnings to their citizenry has been a cause for worry amongst many in the tourism industry. It  was recently announced that notwithstanding the recent demonstrations tourism numbers in Thailand are still holding strong, but should demonstrations continue and tensions escalate there are some who worry that the effects could be detrimental. Hopefully, leaders from both factions can come to an amicable solution and avert a prolonged stalemate, only time will tell.

Meanwhile, various news outlets throughout Thailand are reporting upon recent news about Thai Immigration officials taking a firmer stance regarding the issuance of Thai retirement visas. In the past it was possible to obtain a retirement visa based upon showing a balance of eight hundred thousand Thai baht in a Thai bank account. Furthermore, a retired married couple could both use this balance when making an application for a retirement visa. With the passage of a law amending the Thai immigration rules, officials with the Thai immigration police have announced that future Thai retirement visa applicants must now show that they independently maintain an eight hundred thousand baht bank balance. This means that it is no longer possible for a foreign retired married couple to both obtain retirement visas based upon showing only 800,000 baht. In fact, such a hypothetical couple would now need to show at least 1.6 million baht in a joint Thai bank account or in 800,000 increments in two separate accounts. Officials noted that those maintaining a statutorily defined minimum pension may be eligible to receive a retirement visa provided proof of said pension could be verified by Thai immigration authorities. Those married to Thai nationals could also be eligible to receive Thai marriage visas (sometimes referred to as an O visa) which requires a lower bank balance in order to prove financial ability to support one’s spouse.

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27th August 2013

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the procedures for obtaining a Thai visa extension on an expiring passport have changed. In order to provide further insight into these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the Royal Thai Immigration Police:

According to the New Regulation from August 13, 2013,
when submitting application for Visa Extension if the validity of passport of the applicant is not longer than one year left before expiry,
the extension of stay will be permitted not exceeding the expired date of passport.
After the renewal of your passport of obtaining a new passport,
you have to re-apply for Visa Extension by submitting required document and paying extension fee ( 1,900 Baht).
In case of overstay, the fine is 500 Baht per day.

Clearly, those who have a passport expiring shortly following their Thai visa extension deadline will want to take measures either to renew their passport prior to visa extension renewal or be prepared to possibly pay more visa extension fees following renewal of a passport subsequent to extension.

Thai visa extensions are common among the expatriate community in Thailand as those holding non-immigrant visas such as the Thai Business Visa (categorized by Thai Immigration as Non-immigrant category “B”), the Thai O visa (often used by those who are married to a Thai or maintain a family relationship with a Thai national [in some cases a Thai O visa may be obtained by those who simply fall into the "miscellaneous" immigration category, Thai condominium owners being the most notable case in point]), the Thai Education visa (categorized as the ED visa), or the Thai Retirement Visa (classified as a Thai O-A visa) must obtain extensions in order to maintain lawful presence.

Holders of the Thai Business visa often obtain a visa extension when maintaining long term employment in the Kingdom of Thailand. It should be noted that those employed in Thailand must also obtain a Thai work permit as well as a Thai business visa extension in order to remain in the Kingdom for a long period of time to undertake employment activities. Those remaining in Thailand on a retirement visa, while able to obtain visa extensions, are generally unable to obtain a work permit as employment activities are not permitted while present in the country on an O-A visa. Holders of a Thai ED visa may also be eligible for one or more visa extensions, but are generally not allowed to obtain a work permit, except under very narrowly defined circumstances. Thai O visa holders may be able to obtain a Thai work permit depending upon the reason for the visa’s issuance. Those married to Thais, or those granted an O visa based upon having a Thai child are often able to obtain a Thai work permit.

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