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Thailand draws us in with its gorgeous beaches, bustling cities, exciting jungles, historic landmarks, delicious food, amazing people…the list goes on. And its foreigner-friendly visa application procedures make it easy to understand why Thailand is at the top of so many expats’ lists. If you’re planning a short stay, a longer visit, or even to live and work—or retire—in Thailand, this guide is here to help.

Read on to learn more about different types of residences in Thailand for long-term travelers, digital nomads, semi-retired travelers and retirees, and more! And to skip to the right visa option for you, click on a link below:

Comprehensive Guide to Thailand Tourist, Residence, Digital Nomad & Elite Visas - Frayed Passport

Photo by Miro Alt

Temporary Residence in Thailand

Thailand has worked hard to position the country as an attractive destination for foreign investors, entrepreneurs, and highly skilled foreigners. The government has therefore introduced new residence visa schemes with the goal to attract more talented people into Thailand—and not just tourists.

Thailand Visa Types

Thailand has a relatively large pool of visa options. Thailand visa holders are classified into four broad categories: Tourist Visa, Privilege Entry (Elite) Visa, SMART Visa, and non-immigrant visas. Let’s look at each of these categories in detail.

Thailand Tourist Visa

The Tourist Visa (TR) is Thailand’s most popular and one of the easiest visas to get for the country. The tourist visa allows you to stay in Thailand for up to 60 days. If you wish to extend your stay for more than that, you have to convert your tourist status to non-immigrant status.

Thailand Tourist Visa Requirements

US nationals and those of some other countries are not required to obtain a tourist visa before they arrive in Thailand, depending on how long they’re staying. If you’re a US Citizen, then you can travel in Thailand for up to 30 days without a pre-approved tourist visa, which you’d have to apply for before you land in-country, and that lets you stay longer than 30 days. You’ll also need your passport (valid at least six months after arrival in-country) and an airline ticket showing what date you will be leaving Thailand.

Thailand COVID Travel Requirements

As of July 2022, travelers entering Thailand no longer need to register on Thailand Pass. COVID restrictions have been greatly lifted:

  • You don’t need to show proof of medical insurance (including coverage for COVID).
  • There is no mandatory hotel quarantine.
  • You don’t need to show proof of vaccination, but unvaccinated travelers—including children—need to get an RT-PCR/Professional ATK COVID-19 test 72 hours before traveling. While you don’t need to upload proof of positive or negative test status, the airline that you’ll travel on will check for vaccination or test result proof.

Thailand Special Tourist Visa (STV)

In October 2020, Thailand introduced the Special Tourist Visa (STV), which is an option for those who would like to stay longer in Thailand. The program has been extended until September 30, 2022. The Thai government created this visa type to help revive its tourism industry that was badly hit by the pandemic. Currently Thailand is issuing the regular 60-day tourist visa as COVID travel restrictions change.

Thailand SMART Visa

Thailand SMART Visa program was introduced in 2018 to attract highly-skilled workers and investors working in specific industries. The SMART Visa holder is granted up to four years in residence and a work permit exemption.

At this time, digital nomads and remote workers who don’t have an employment contract with a Thai organization, or through an agreement with an overseas organization and a Thailand-based one—are not eligible for the SMART Visa. Read on to learn about the Thailand SMART Visa, and how you can qualify.

Thailand SMART Visa Categories

Currently, the Thailand SMART Visa program includes five categories:

  • Talent
  • Investor
  • Executive
  • Startup entrepreneur
  • Spouse and legitimate children of SMART Visa holders

We’ll look at the individual requirements for applying to Thailand’s SMART Visa program, but along with that, you’ll need to put together some general information, including:

  • The appropriate visa application for the SMART Visa category for which you’re applying
  • A copy of your passport
  • A notarized and clear criminal record issued by the police authorities in your country
  • A medical certificate declaring that you have no prohibitive diseases outlined by the Thai government. The certificate must be notarized and the issuance date has to be no longer than three months prior to application.
  • Depending on the visa, copies of your academic certificates and anything else that proves your expertise in your field. This can be endorsements, publications, or research projects and awards.
  • Proof of previous employment (if applicable)
  • If you’re not submitting the application yourself, then you’ll need to include a power of attorney

Let’s take a closer look at the SMART Visa Categories.

Thailand SMART T (Talent) Visa

The Thailand SMART Talent Visa is for high-level professionals in specific industries related to science and technology. This is a maximum four-year renewable visa, and no re-entry permit is required. Your spouse and children are also granted permission to stay as long as you’re in Thailand, and your spouse can work with no prior permit required. Your 90-day reporting to Immigration is extended to one year on this visa, and as a bonus, you can fast-track service at certain international airports in Thailand.

You must meet the following criteria to receive a Thailand SMART Talent Visa:

  1. You have to have a minimum income of no less than 100,000 Baht/month (a bit more than $2,700/month). If you’re an expert with an employment contract with a startup, or if you’re a retired expert with an endorsement from a relevant organization, your income must be no less than 50,000 Baht/month (about $1,370/month).
  2. An employment or service contract with a Thai entity that works in one of the country’s targeted industries. The contract must be valid for at least an additional year from the date of your application.

You can find the detailed requirements for the SMART Talent visa here.

You can also find the complete list of documents required for the talent visa here.

Thailand SMART I (Investor) Visa

The Thailand SMART Investor visa is for investors who are willing to invest in the targeted industries in Thailand. This is a maximum four-year renewable visa, and no re-entry permit is required. Your spouse and children are also granted permission to stay as long as you’re in Thailand, and your spouse can work with no prior permit required. Your 90-day reporting to Immigration is extended to one year on this visa, and as a bonus, you can fast-track service at certain international airports in Thailand.

You must meet the following criteria to receive a Thailand SMART Investment Visa:

  • Direct investment in a Thai company, either individually or via VC, for at least 20 million Baht (over $550,000)
  • Direct investment in a company endorsed by relevant Thai agencies as an incubator or accelerator, for at least 5 million Baht (over $137,000)

You can find detailed requirements for the SMART investor visa here.

You can also find the complete list of documents required for the investor visa here.

Thailand SMART E (Executive) Visa

The SMART Executive visa is for foreigners who are executives in technology-based companies in one or more of Thailand’s targeted industries. This is a maximum four-year renewable visa, and no re-entry permit is required. Your spouse and children are also granted permission to stay as long as you’re in Thailand, and your spouse can work with no prior permit required. Your 90-day reporting to Immigration is extended to one year on this visa, and as a bonus, you can fast-track service at certain international airports in Thailand.

To qualify, you need to:

  1. Have a minimum income of at least 200,000 Baht/month (over $5,500/month)
  2. Hold a Bachelor’s or higher with a minimum of 10-year work experience in relevant field
  3. Hold a senior management role within your organization
  4. Have an employment or service contract with a Thai entity that works in one of the country’s targeted industries. The contract must be valid for at least an additional year from the date of your application.

You can find the detailed requirements for the SMART Executive visa here.

The complete list of documents for the executive visa can be found here.

Thailand SMART S (Startup) Visa

The Thailand Startup Visa is for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Thailand’s targeted industries. This is a maximum two-year renewable visa, and no re-entry permit is required. Your spouse and children are also granted permission to stay as long as you’re in Thailand, and your spouse can work with no prior permit required. Your 90-day reporting to Immigration is extended to one year on this visa, and as a bonus, you can fast-track service at certain international airports in Thailand. If you change your job while working in Thailand under this visa, you’ll need to report additional endorsements from a qualifying entity.

To qualify for a SMART Startup Visa, you have to:

  1. Establish a startup in Thailand certified as a targeted industry by the government
  2. Hold a minimum of 25% of the company’s capital, or hold the director position of that company
  3. Deposit at least 600,000 Baht (over $16,500) in a Thai bank—and you must have held that bank account for at least three months prior to deposit
  4. If you’re bringing a spouse or children, you’ll need to make an additional deposit of at least 180,000 Baht (almost $5,000) per person in a Thai bank account that you’ve held for at least three months prior to deposit
  5. Provide proof of health insurance that covers your entire stay for you and any accompanying family members

You can find more details about the Thailand SMART Startup visa here.

The complete list of documents for the startup visa can be found here.

Thailand SMART O (Other) Visa

The SMART Other Visa category is for the spouse and children of a SMART Visa holder. Under this category, you as the spouse of a SMART Visa holder can work in Thailand without a work permit. Similar in some ways to the other SMART Visa types, there’s no re-entry permit required, 90-day reporting to Immigration is extended to one year, and can there’s fast-track service at certain international airports in Thailand. As well, you and your children can stay and work in Thailand with no work permit needed by a Thai company. If your SMART Visa holder spouse happens to change their job, you’ll need to get additional endorsements from qualifying entities.

To qualify for a SMART Other Visa, you have to:

  1. Be a legal dependent of a SMART Visa holder type T, I, E, or S—in this case, both spouses and children qualify as dependents
  2. As the child of a SMART Visa holder, be under 20 years old (although there are exceptions for children of SMART “T” visa holders)
  3. For spouses and children of SMART “S” Visa holders specifically: Hold an amount of deposit by your SMART Visa sponsor of at least 180,000 Baht (almost $5,000) per person to a Thai bank account  that has existed for at least three months prior to deposit
  4. For spouses and children of SMART “S” Visa holders specifically: Have proof of health insurance for the entire family that covers the period of your stay

You can find more details about the Thailand SMART “Other” Visa here.

The complete list of documents for the “Other” Visa can be found here.

Thailand Elite Visa

The Thailand Elite visa program is designed to attract global high-net-worth individuals who want to live in Thailand. As a Thailand Privilege Card member, you’ll be able to stay in-country as a resident, uninterrupted, for up to 5, 10, or 20 years depending on the program you sign up for. A few benefits you’ll get (depending on the membership you opt into) include:

  • Options to upgrade to higher-level programs
  • Immigration service and assistance with official needs like opening a bank account, obtaining a driver’s license, etc.
  • Expedited immigration and passport control processing
  • Airport lounge access
  • VIP greeting and escort through airports
  • Complimentary short-haul limo transfer 24 times per calendar year from international flights to your hotel or home (available only in certain locations)
  • 10 t0 24 complimentary spa treatments per calendar year
  • 10 to 24 complimentary 18-hole golf rounds per calendar year
  • Complimentary annual hospital checkup

To qualify for the Thailand Elite Visa, you must have a foreign passport, have no overstay record in Thailand, have no record of imprisonment, have never declared bankruptcy, and have never been declared a person of unsound mind.

Thailand Elite Visa Packages and Costs

In this section, we will discuss the different packages the Thailand Elite Visa program offers.

Thailand 5-Year Elite Visa (Elite Easy Access)

In addition to the standard benefits of the Elite visa, this elite visa package gives you five years’ residency and an option to upgrade to the Elite Ultimate Privilege option; there’s no minimum age limit for this visa type. The Elite Easy Access visa costs 600,000 Baht (about $16,500), with no annual fee.

Thailand 5-Year Elite Visa for Families (Elite Family Excursion)

The Thailand Elite Family Excursion Visa is a five-year Elite Visa that allows you to add family members to it. This costs 800,000 Baht (about $22,000) for two people total, with no annual fee—additional family members can be added for 300,000 Baht (about $8,200) each.

Thailand 10-Year Elite Visa for Families (Elite Family Alternative)

The Thailand 10-year Elite Visa for families offers a five-year visa that is renewable for another five years. This costs the same as the Elite Family Excursion Visa for two people, though additional family members

Thailand Elite Privilege Access Visa

The Thailand Elite Privilege Visa offers you a 10-year residence (five years base with option to extend another five years) with more perks. It costs 1 million Baht (about $27,500) with no annual fee, and you can add family members for an additional fee of 900,000 Baht (about $24,800) per person.

Thailand Elite Superiority Extension Visa

The Thailand Elite Superiority Extension visa offers you a 20-year residence. It costs 1 million Baht (about $27,500) with no annual fee.

Thailand Elite Ultimate Privilege Visa

The Elite Ultimate Privilege visa offers a 20-year residency with more extras, and members must be over 20 years old to apply. This visa costs 2.14 million Baht (about $59,000).

Thailand Elite Family Premium Visa

The Thailand Elite Family Premium Visa is available to family members of Elite Ultimate Privilege Visa holders. Benefits are the same as the Elite Ultimate Privilege Visa, and costs 1 million Baht (about $27,500) with an annual fee of 10,000 Baht (about $275).

Thailand Elite Visa Application Process and Forms

Once you’ve decided which Thailand Elite Visa package is best for your interests, you’ll need to fill out and send the relevant visa application form along with a copy of your passport and a personal photo.

The process can take one to three months. Once you’ve passed the background check and your application has been approved, you’ll receive detailed bank transfer instructions. The amount you will transfer will depend on which Thailand Elite Visa package you’ve chosen. When the bank transfer is complete, you’ll receive your membership card and your visa details.

To apply for the Thailand Elite Visa program, you’ll need to send copies of the required documents to an authorized agent.

Thailand Digital Nomad Visa

Most digital nomads use the tourist visa to travel around Thailand, and there are conditions to being able to work remotely in the country. We’ll go over those in the next section.

There is news that Thailand has been developing a special visa program for digital nomads and remote workers, with the hope of attracting longer-term travelers who want to live and work in the country for up to 10 years. The cost for this visa type would be 10,000 Baht per year (about $275) and would include a work permit—we’ll update this article as we learn more.

Thailand Long-Stay Non-Immigrant Visas

Despite the SMART and Elite visa types being long-stay visas available for Thailand, they’re not categorized as non-immigrant visas. That is, the SMART visa is a category of its own, and the Elite visa is under the “Privilege Entry” category.

In this section, we will discuss Thailand’s regular non-immigrant visa schemes. The country’s most common non-immigrant visas fall into four categories:

  1. Study
  2. Business or work
  3. Retirement
  4. To join family in Thailand

Thailand Student Visa

If you plan to study or pursue an internship in Thailand, then you’ll need to obtain a Non-Immigrant Student Visa (NON-ED). This allows a 90-day stay in Thailand, and cost $80 for a single entry, or $200 for multiple entries, and you can apply to extend your stay. It usually takes a week or two to process this visa type. The application is relatively straightforward, and you can learn more about the Thailand Student Visa and application requirements here.

Thailand Business Visa (Employment)

Foreigners who enter Thailand with the intention to work—even as travel bloggers or freelancers—must obtain a work permit. This honestly is a bit of a gray area in that the Thai government didn’t consider online work while developing the rules around visas and work permits, and it can be expensive, time-consuming, and not really worth the red tape to obtain if you’re a self-employed online worker and only planning to stay a month or three.

We don’t explicitly advocate skirting the rules, so let’s talk about the Business Visa, and then how you can get a work permit from there.

To apply for a work permit in Thailand, you first need to apply for a Non-Immigrant Business Visa from your country of residence (you cannot apply for this visa type while in Thailand). Even a volunteer needs a Thai work permit. In addition to the B Visa, there also are Business Approved Visas (B-A) and Investment and Business Visas (IB)—but you’re more likely to need just the Business Visa (B).

You can apply for an initial 90-day Non-Immigrant B visa and choose the “Working” category. Your employer will have to submit an application on your behalf, though if you are a freelancer or otherwise self-employed, there are services that can help walk you through the process of getting a work permit on your own. There is a fair amount of paperwork involved here, and it can be a bit confusing to know what exactly you should submit if you’re a freelancer who’s never had to report things like shareholder lists, business tax information, and so on—so in the case of getting a Thailand Business Visa, you may want to check out services that specialize in navigating the bureaucracy.

With a Thailand Business Visa, you can stay up to 90 days, with the option to extend for one year from your first date of entry into Thailand.

Thailand Work Permit

After you’ve been issued the 90-day Non-Immigrant Business Visa for Thailand, you can start applying for a work permit, which takes about a week to process. If you’re employed by a company either outside of or within Thailand (and not applying as a freelancer or otherwise self-employed), both you and your employer must complete different parts of the application for a work permit. There are restrictions for employers within Thailand for applying for work permits—for example, the types of industries that are allowed (so as not to take jobs away from locals) as well as the number of employees they can get work permits for.

Your employer will need to submit information such as a shareholders list, application for VAT, financial statement, letter of employment with salary information, and more. As an employee, you’ll need to submit some basic information such as passport, signed letter of employment, and working address while in Thailand.

If you’re self-employed, it’s not quite as straightforward. There isn’t a freelancer option for Thailand work permits, and you don’t necessarily want to set up a Thai company, which can be prohibitively expensive (you need to employ at least four Thai citizens per foreigner, for example) and not worth the effort. Many digital nomads, remote workers, semi-retired travelers, and retirees opt to just carry out their work under the radar while in Thailand. You can read some stories and advice here to help figure out what you’d like to do as a digital nomad in Thailand.

As with the Non-Immigrant Business Visa, you may want to work with a service or legal firm that understands the ins and outs of work permit applications for Thailand so that you don’t miss any steps.

Thailand Retirement Visa

Thailand offers two visa options for retirees: a one-year retirement visa (Visa O-A) and a 10-year retirement visa (Visa O-X). Learn more about Thailand Retirement Visas here.

Thailand 1-Year Retirement Visa (NON O-A)

You can apply for a one-year Thailand Retirement Visa if you want to stay in Thailand for more than 180 days—it’s valid for one year, and you can renew annually. As with most other visa types, you must report your residential address every 90 days to your immigration office (by mail or in person) or have a service do this for you.

To be eligible for this visa type, you must:

  1. Be at least 50 years old as of your application date
  2. Meet certain financial requirements, such as a security deposit of 800,000 Baht (about $22,000) to a Thai bank account, a monthly income of 65,000 Baht (about $1,800), or a combination of the two
  3. Have no criminal record anywhere
  4. Obtain Thai health insurance with an annual coverage of at least 40,000 Baht (about $1,100) for outpatient treatment and 400,000 Baht (about $11,000) for inpatient
  5. Be free of certain diseases
  6. Not have any type of employment while in Thailand on this visa

Thailand 10-Year Retirement Visa (NON O-X)

Thailand offers a 10-year retirement visa to nationals of select countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and others. This is a five-year visa with the option to extend an additional five years. To qualify, you must:

  1. Be at least 50 years old as of your application date
  2. Be from one of the approved countries
  3. Meet certain financial requirements, such as a security deposit of 3 million Baht (about $82,500) to a Thai bank account, or an annual income of 1.2 million Baht (about $33,000)
  4. Obtain Thai health insurance with an annual coverage of at least 40,000 Baht (about $1,100) for outpatient treatment and 400,000 Baht (about $11,000) for inpatient
  5. Be free of certain diseases
  6. Report to Thailand immigration each year
  7. Not have any type of employment while in Thailand on this visa

Thailand Family Visa (NON-O)

Thailand offers a non-immigrant Family Visa to parents, spouses, and children (under 20, unless unable to support themselves due to mental or physical needs) of Thai nationals or foreigners residing in Thailand. This is not extended to other relationships, such as siblings.

A single entry visa will grant you a three-month stay, while a multiple entry visa will be valid for one year—you can also apply for an extension. Learn more about the Family Visa, including required documents, here.

Comprehensive Guide to Thailand Tourist, Residence, Digital Nomad & Elite Visas - Frayed Passport

Photo by Olivier Darny

Thailand Permanent Residency

If you’re ready to make the lifelong move to Thailand, then Permanent Residency is an option. This opens you to a lot more options and freedoms within Thailand that you wouldn’t have as a non-immigrant visa holder. For example, you don’t have to get a visa extension, you can buy property and get work permits more easily, you can get a high-level position with a Thailand-based company, and more.

It can take about a year from application to approval, and only 100 Permanent Residence offers are given per year to each nationality—so the process can be very competitive.

Your basic qualifications for Thai Permanent Residency are that you must:

  • Have spent three consecutive years in Thailand on a non-immigrant visa
  • Have a valid work permit spanning three years’ minimum from the date of your application
  • Earn 30,000 Baht per month (about $825) if married to a Thai spouse for at least five years, or 80,000 Baht per month (about $2,200) if single

You can apply for permanent residency under four categories:

  • Investment
    • To qualify for Permanent Residency through investment, you must invest at least 3 million Baht (about $82,500) into a Thai company
  • Business or work
    • You must have had a Thailand Work Visa and Work Permit for at least three years, have worked for your current company for at least one year and can show that you have an Extension of Stay based on your employment, and you must have a monthly salary of at least 80,000 Baht (about $2,200) for the past two years, or an annual income of at least 100,000 Baht (about $2,800) for the past two years
  • Family member of a Thai citizen
    • You must be an immediate family member (parent, child, or spouse) of a Thai citizen
  • Expert or academic
    • To qualify for this option, you must hold a Bachelor’s degree or be employed in your current position for the past three years
  • Other categories defined by Thailand Immigration

If you’re interested in citizenship, you’re eligible to apply after having lived as a Permanent Resident in Thailand for five consecutive years.

Thailand visa rules are constantly changing, so make sure to check with the Embassy of Thailand to understand the most current application requirements, costs, and eligibility rules. We will keep updating this post as well with new information!

About the Author

Nahla is a freelance writer with a business background that comes from working in the IT industry for over 12 years. She has a BA in English Literature and writes about a variety of topics. When she’s not working on a project, she’s either reading, working out, or hanging out with good company. She often spends her out-of-town time hiking. You can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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