Integrity Legal

21st Aug 2009

For those who opt to take up an expatriate lifestyle the issue of Thai visa status can be a crucial one. One’s Thai visa status is determined by the category of visa that is initially issued. Therefore, if a Thai consulate outside of the Kingdom of Thailand issues an applicant a Thailand Business visa, then that entrant’s visa category, and therefore status, is “B.”

In cases where a foreigner wishes to remain in Thailand in order to pursue legitimate educational objectives, then a Thai ED Visa is the category used to remain present in the Kingdom. For “miscellaneous” purposes and for reasons related to filial kinship, the O visa category is the proper Thai visa to acquire. Depending upon the reason for Thailand O Visa issuance, a Thai work permit may or may not be easily obtainable.

The ability to file for a Thai work permit depends heavily upon one’s status in the Kingdom. For instance, the holder of a Thai Education visa generally cannot obtain a Thai work permit. A situation such as this is one where change of status comes into play. A foreigner in possession of a Thai education visa will need to switch to another category in order to apply for a Thai work permit. An interesting corollary to this notion is the Thai F visa category which is a visa for official or quasi-official purposes (this is different from the US F visa, which is an education visa). Those who hold an “F” category Thai visa do not need to obtain a Thai work permit in order to work in the Kingdom because the right to work is inherent in the visa itself.

Visa status conversion can be a somewhat difficult process within the Kingdom. There is always the option of going abroad, obtaining a new visa, and reentering under a different immigration classification, but for those who do not wish to leave the country, this option may be unacceptable.

When changing categories in the Kingdom, the general rule is that the applicant for change of status must have at least 21 days of validity left on their current Thai immigration stamp. Changing status from one category to another can be more difficult depending upon the original category. Generally, the Royal Thai Immigration Police do not prefer to change an applicant’s status from visa exemption to a proper category. In these situations, they prefer that the applicant depart the country, obtain a proper visa, and return for a Thai visa extension at a later date. That being said, conversion from an exemption to a visa category can be achieved, but conversion is done at the discretion of the Royal Thai immigration officer.

It should be noted that change of status is different from obtaining a Thailand visa extension. For those who enter the Kingdom on a 60 day Thai tourist visa, it may be possible to obtain an extension of the visa for thirty days at the Immigration office. However, this does not mean that the applicant has changed visa category, only that they have increased the valid period of their Tourist visa. This is the same for those who enter the Kingdom upon a business visa and opt to extend the visa to have a year’s validity. The applicant remains in “B” visa status, but the validity period is extended.

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