Integrity Legal

1st Dec 2009

There are many who dream of retiring in beautiful Thailand with its sunny skies, temperate climate and beautiful beaches. For many, retirement in Thailand is akin to retirement in paradise, but under Thai immigration rules, “retirement,” does not begin until an individual reaches fifty years of age. Recently, this author has been questioned by many regarding the age requirement of the Thai retirement visa. In many western countries “early retirement,” is a common occurrence. In Thailand, this is not so common and the Thai Immigration regulations reflect this cultural difference. Fortunately, there are alternatives to the retirement visa that can be used in a similar manner.

Many people in their late forties go into retirement or semi-retirement in Thailand. The benefit of a retirement visa from the standpoint of some is the fact that this visa does not require regular “border runs” or “visa runs.” This is mostly due to the fact that Thai retirement visas are similar to Thai visa extensions. When one is granted a visa extension in Thailand, the person is allowed to remain in the Kingdom for the uninterrupted period noted in their passport. Therefore, if one is granted a 1 year extension, then that individual may remain in Thailand for an entire year without leaving. The visa holder must check in with Royal Thai Immigration once every 90 days, but otherwise there are no further requirements.

For those under 50 wishing to remain in Thailand, obtaining a visa extension can be very difficult. For the Business visa holder, one must have a valid work permit as well as a sponsoring company in order to be granted a visa extension. An O visa holder must have a bona fide reason for extending the underlying visa. In many cases, showing kinship with a Thai national is enough to get a Thai visa extension. However, this does not guarantee extension application approval. As extensions can be difficult, many look to the retirement visa as a way of remaining in the Kingdom. However, there are no exceptions to the age requirement and therefore pursuing such a visa would be futile for someone under 50.

In many ways, a Thai business visa is a superior travel document as it is more flexible than the retirement visa because it does not “pigeon hole” the visa holder into only one activity. There is no prohibition on Business visa recipient’s remaining in the Kingdom unemployed. Instead, the visa holder need simply maintain lawful status and avoid becoming a ward of the state. If these requirements are met, then the business visa holder can remain in the Kingdom long term.

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