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Posts Tagged ‘Thailand Retirement Visa’

6th August 2019

It appears that as of July 25, 2019 the Immigration authorities in Thailand have begun accepting petitions for permanent residence. For those unaware, it should be noted that Thai Immigration authorities tend to only open the “window” for PR applications for a few months to allow applicants an opportunity to file their petitions. Those seeking permanent residence in Thailand may apply based upon the following categories: investment, working/business, humanitarian, experts, and extraordinary circumstances on a ad-hoc basis. Those who obtain permanent residence are able to have their name listed in a blue Tabien Baan (also known as a House Book). Furthermore, individuals with permanent residence in Thailand no longer need to deal with 90 Day reporting nor do they ever need to renew a Thai visa as their status is considered permanent. Those seeking Thai PR should note that there are quotas on the number of residence books which will be allocated in a given year. These quotas are based upon nationality.

Meanwhile, it appears that as of the time of this writing the Thai Immigration authorities have yet to implement recently announced regulations pertaining to health insurance for retirement visas in the Kingdom. In a recent article in The Phuket News it has been noted that Thai Consular Officers and Embassies and Consulates abroad and Immigration officials in the Kingdom have yet to be ordered to begin evaluating insurance policies for those seeking retirement visas and/or retirement visa extension. To quote directly from the The Phuket News:

Phuket Immigration Police Chief Col Kathathorn Kumthieng confirmed to The Phuket News this week that his office has yet to receive an order instructing his office to start enforcing the mandatory health insurance requirement, approved by the Cabinet on April 2.

It remains to be seen exactly when the retirement visa insurance scheme will be fully implemented. However, it appears imprudent to presume that these proposed rules have been abandoned even if they have yet to be implemented.

Meanwhile, many foreign nationals in Thailand are increasingly irritated by the increasingly enforced TM.30. For those unaware the TM30 form is used to comply with the Immigration Act provisions requiring foreign nationals temporarily present in Thailand to report their address to Immigration officials. There appears to be some confusion whether TM30 rules apply to those in the Kingdom who maintain a yellow house book. Some foreign nationals in Thailand are calling for TM30 to be scrapped in favor of a more efficient and up to date system. Although rules regarding the TM 30 have not been enforced for many years, if not decades, the Immigration Bureau in Thailand began enforcing the law on residence reporting in earnest earlier this year with the result that many foreigners have been asked to file TM30, or pay fines, before being allowed to extend a Thai visa. This has caused a great deal of consternation which recently has come to a head in the form of a petition requesting that the Thai government reevaluate its TM30 policies. How exactly this initiative plays out remains to be seen, but there are valid arguments in favor of streamlining the TM 30 process.

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20th June 2019

In the past 18 months it appears that there has been a major shift in the institutional paradigm of both the American and Thai immigration systems. For example, notwithstanding the fact that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has recently announced that more petition categories will be processed digitally moving forward, it appears that the increasingly complex nature of immigration forms and procedures is actually slowing down the overall US visa process. This news comes closely on the heels of the announcement that all International USCIS offices will be closed. In recent announcements, March 2020 is the deadline at which all international operations of USCIS shall cease. For readers in Thailand it should be noted that this announcement will also impact the USCIS Bangkok Field Office, although the exact date of closure remains to be seen. In anticipation of the upcoming office closures USCIS recently made the following announcement (quoting directly from the official USCIS website):

Beginning July 1, USCIS will no longer accept Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status at international field offices by mail or in person.

Seemingly in anticipation of questions raised by relevant parties living abroad, the announcement went on to note:

In very rare circumstances, a U.S. embassy, U.S. consulate, or USCIS international field office may accept a Form I-407 in person if an individual needs immediate proof that they have abandoned LPR status.

It is worth noting that the announcement makes special mention that I-407 surrenders at Embassies and Consulates will only be accepted under “rare” circumstances, it seems logical to presume that as a practical matter it will not be possible to file an I-407 form abroad after July 1, 2019. As can be seen from the information above, undertaking matters which pertain to American immigration is becoming increasingly arduous. It does not appear that the US immigration process is going to become less difficult to navigate any time in the near future.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, authorities are rolling out changes to rules regarding certain long-stay visa categories. Most notably, Ministry of Public Health officials have announced that an insurance regime will be brought into effect which will require foreign retirees in Thailand to obtain insurance as part of the application process for a Thai retirement visa. There is still some confusion regarding whether these new insurance regulations will pertain only to those who file a retirement visa application abroad or whether these new regulations will also apply to those seeking an extension of stay in retiree status in the Kingdom. Presently, all commentary on that topic is speculation as the new regulations have yet to be fully finalized.

Meanwhile, those seeking Thai visas from Laos have seen the Thai Embassy in Vientiane begin processing visa application appointments online. This has resulted in the number of applications processed diminishing as the appointment system effectively “caps” the number of applications which can be lodged in a given day. The upshot of this is that the Thai Consulate in Savannakhet has seen an increase in their case load. Laos is a popular destination for those in Thailand wishing to undertake a “visa run” or “border run” in order to prolong their lawful status in the Kingdom. The fact that the number of applications processed in Vientiane has diminished has resulted in the number of applications processed in Savannakhet rise.

After being granted lawful status in Thailand, the authorities appear increasingly concerned that foreign nationals are reporting their whereabouts in Thailand. A harder line regarding filing of the TM30 notice of residence has resulted in the number of fines being levied for failure to file being increased. Meanwhile, the added complexity of TM30 compliance has added a new layer of difficulty to the overall immigration process. In short, immigration matters in both Thailand and the United States are arguably becoming more byzantine. For this reason, it may be prudent for those wishing to navigate the immigration system to retain the services of a legal professional in order to achieve success in obtaining and maintaining lawful status in either jurisdiction.

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13th May 2019

The topic of retirement visa regulations has been of intense concern for some expats living in the Kingdom of Thailand. At first there was speculation that the income affidavit regime might come to an end in the context of retirement and marriage visas. Eventually, those speculating that income affidavits would no longer be provided by many Embassies in the Kingdom would be proven correct. Then, at the beginning of 2019, Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn (then Immigration Chief) promulgated rules with respect to financial requirements for those wishing to remain in the Kingdom in O-A retirement visa status or O marriage visa status. Shortly, thereafter, the Tourism Authority in Thailand announced an insurance scheme which would provide medical coverage for those temporarily in the Kingdom on tourist visa status. Members of the administration of this blog began to wonder if this insurance scheme was a precursor to a possible new requirement for Thai retirement visa insurance.

It appears, that such speculation is no longer necessary as Thai authorities have recently announced that insurance will soon be a prerequisite for Thai retirement visa issuance. To quote directly from The Nation’s website:

HEALTH insurance has been made mandatory for foreigners aged 50 years and above seeking long-term stay in Thailand. The insurance policy must offer up to Bt40,000 coverage for outpatient treatment and up to Bt400,000 for inpatient treatment…According to Nattawuth, the new rule applies to both new applicants for the non-immigrant visa (O-A) [retirement], which offers a stay of up to one year, and those wishing to renew their visa. Each renewal is valid for one year.

Clearly, authorities in Thailand have been concerned about the issue of uninsured retirees in the Kingdom as evidenced by the relative alacrity with which this policy has been implemented. This recent turn of events has left many to ponder whether they may use their own insurance which was obtained abroad. It appears that overseas insurance will be considered acceptable so long as the coverage comports with that mentioned in the quotation above. However, readers of this blog should note that exact regulations regarding how immigration officers should adjudicate overseas insurance have yet to be promulgated.

The past year has seen a tremendous change in Thai retirement visa law. It remains to be seen how these most recent developments will impact the expatriate community in Thailand, but we will update this blog or our other various media organs as the situation progresses.

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8th February 2019

In recent days news regarding the changes in the approach to enforcing the rules regarding retirement visas has been a major topic of discussion among the expat community in Thailand. To provide some background it should be noted that in late 2018 new policies were promulgated by the American, British, and Australian Embassies regarding the issuance of income affidavits (also referred to as income verification letters). In the past, the American Citizen Services section of the United States Embassy in Bangkok, for example, would notarize documentation signed by Americans regarding their income. This notarization did not authenticate the veracity of the statements in such documentation, but instead merely attested to the signer’s identity and true signature. Thai authorities viewed this documentation as valid so long as the document was translated and legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2018 it was announced that income affidavits would no longer be issued by the foreign missions noted above. Thereafter, there was speculation regarding how income and/or assets would be verified for purposes of retirement visa issuance moving forward.

A clue regarding the direction on enforcement policy initially appeared when the head of Thai Immigration Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn made comments regarding the need to be cautious about utilizing the services of certain types of Thai visa agents. Then in recent days major news broke that immigration authorities would be granted a certain level of discretion throughout 2019 regarding adjudication of retirement visa applications based upon income. This was to allow retirement visa holders to more smoothly transition into the new regime. Concurrently, a significant change was announced with respect to those using a lump sum amount of money in a bank account as evidence of financial ability to support a retirement visa. In the past, it was theoretically possible to simply deposit funds into an account for a relatively short period of time (as little as a day supposedly) and use the funds in the account as the basis for issuance of the retirement visa. New rules coming into effect March 1, 2019 would preclude this practice. Beginning in March, those seeking a retirement visa based upon a bank account must show 800,000 THB in a Thai bank account, said funds must have been on hand in the account for the 2 months preceding a Thai retirement visa application. Thereafter, the funds must remain in the account for another 90 days following the issuance of the retirement visa (presumably this is to be proven at the applicant’s initial 90 day report). After the initial 90 days, funds may be drawn down to 400,000 THB, but 400,000 THB must remain in the account until 2 months prior to a subsequent application for renewal at which point the balance must exceed 800,000 THB and the cycle begins again. At this time, it is unclear what steps Royal Thai Immigration Police personnel will be taking to scrutinize individuals’ finances and enforce these changes, but any new regulatory changes will likely be observable in the early days of March.

It seems possible that some time in the relatively near future further rule changes could come into effect. In fact, discussion about future requirements with respect to health insurance has made many wonder whether this may eventually become a requirement for those wishing to retire and live long term in the Kingdom.

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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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