As Thailand’s largest and favourite island, Phuket has long been capturing the hearts and imaginations of those who travel here. Many people reach Phuket and decide to stay much longer than they planned and these visitors will need to secure the correct Thai visa for their needs.
Although undoubtedly a hassle, sorting out the right visa while staying in Phuket is essential as it will save a lot of trouble later down the line.
Tourists who want to extend their stay can do so for up to nine months at a time by jumping through a few hoops, while long stay visas are also available for people who apply to work or study in Phuket.
Visitors from more than 40 countries–including most of Europe, the USA, Australia and South Africa–will receive a visa exemption stamp (not a visa) valid for 30 days when they fly into one of Thailand’s airports from abroad. Visas of 15 days are granted this same category of tourists if they pass through an overland border crossing.
Visa on Arrival
If you are not on this list, there’s still an option. Residents of another 20 countries will be able to obtain a 15-day visa on the spot when they arrive in Thailand. The cost of this visa is 1,000 baht.
Tourist Visas in Phuket
Visitors from other parts of the world will need to arrange for a 30-day tourist visa in advance, while those who are from one of the countries that are given visa waivers may apply for a tourist visa of 60 days.
In addition, travellers who are prepared to leave the country every 60 days (even if just for a few minutes), will be able to receive three 60-day visas back-to-back, although a double-entry is more the norm. Although it may seem like a lot of messing about for those who simply want to stay put in Phuket for a while, it is also possible to apply for a multiple-entry visa, valid for 12 months.
With this type of visa, it is advisable to carry proof that you have at least 10,000 or the equivalent for every 30 days you will be staying in Thailand, as this is sometimes requested by the authorities on re-entry. Those who make regular visa runs may also be asked to spend 90 days outside of Thailand before they can re-enter the ‘land of smiles’. These stipulations are increasing in frequency and more reason to arrange a non-immigrant visa if you plan to stay in Phuket long-term.
Retirement Visas in Phuket
Anyone who is aged 50 or over is entitled to apply for a retirement visa in Phuket. Successful applicants must be certified by a lawyer or consulate, have a clean record, and either have had 800,000 baht in a Thai bank account for at least three months, or be able to show that they have a regular income of 65,000 per month – pension, bank accounts, stocks, etc.
Non-Immigrant Visas in Phuket
Anyone who wants to live in Thailand for a year or more will need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. There are several different kinds of non-immigrant visas available, which apply to people who wish to conduct certain types of work here, such as teaching or looking after a Thai family member. Non-immigrant visas must be applied for at consulates and embassies outside Thailand and are valid: single, 90 days; multi-entry, 12 months.
While non-immigrant Thai visas are relatively straightforward to obtain (depending on the embassy/consulate) if you have all your paperwork in order, it can be a headache process. It can be a costly and time consuming process, especially for first time applicants. Multiple entry non-immigrant visas in Phuket are used for anyone who wishes to travel in and out of Thailand during their stay. However, conditions tend to change from time to time and often without much warning, and the best way to keep up to date with the situation is by visiting the forum at thaivisa.com.
Types of Non-Immigrant Visas in Phuket
(view the full criteria on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website).
This type of visa is for those who have been offered a job in Thailand, and the most common type of work among foreigners is teaching. Anyone wishing to apply for this type of visa must carry a whole package of paperwork to Phuket’s immigration office, including documents relating to the company and the preferred contract. This visa can be issued for 12 months, providing that application for a work permit is successful. The entire process takes around four weeks.
Retirees and anyone who is taking care of a Thai dependent, such as a child or spouse, can apply for this type of visa. Paperwork, such as a marriage certificate or ID document, must be submitted in order to secure the initial non-imm O visa, and extensions can later be sought within Thailand.
During the last 30 days of your initial visa (single or multi-entry), you can apply for a 12-month extension, which entails showing various documents to prove you are married and cohabiting, or that the child in question has no one else to take care of it. Proof that you have had at least 400,000 baht in your Thai bank account for three months prior to extension, or of a pro-rata monthly income from abroad, is also required. Retirees need to show 800,000 baht savings or a monthly income of 65,000 baht in order to be eligible for consideration.
There are a number of accredited language schools in Phuket, where visitors can take part in either a full time or part-time course. Education visas last for up to a year and can be renewed providing students can prove that they need to continue with their studies.
There are also other types of non-imm visas that have different criteria, including:
This is reserved for journalist work and must be endorsed by an accredited media agency.
Approved through the Board of Investment, this is an investor visa. It can also be used by those who wish to establish a business in Phuket and although there are strict financial stipulations, it is valid for up to three years.
Permanent Residence in Phuket
While the permanent residence visa may seem like the perfect solution for those who want to live on Phuket the rest of their lives, applicants should note that obtaining a permanent residence visa in Thailand is quite difficult for foreigners – even for those who have Thai spouses and children and have lived here for 20 years already. The process can take several years as a large amount of paperwork has to be submitted and only a certain number of visas can be granted each year. In addition to the non-refundable application fee of 5,000 baht, a cost of 97,500 baht must be paid (195,000 if unmarried), while applicants are also given a Thai language proficiency test as part of the requirements.
Overstays and Extensions in Phuket
Extensions can be done at Phuket’s immigration office and tourists are entitled to extend their visa once for a period of 10 days, which costs 1,900 baht. Those who have applied to extend their non-immigrant visa will also be granted a 30 days while the procedure is being completed.
While overstaying your visa may seem like a convenient way to prolong your stay on Phuket, this can be extremely costly as charges run to 500 baht per day. There has been a severe clampdown on those who overstay for long periods of time, which can even result in being detained.
Immigration Department blues
The Tor Mor, as it is known in Thai, is a department of the Royal Thai Police that deals with some 200,000 visa applications a year in the best tradition of government bureaucrats. Few expats can speak positively of their annual visa run-around, which usually involves multiple visits, long queues and blunt staff. Although the department has tried in recent years to streamline and improve their services, a great deal of patience is required when dealing with them. You can expect some rather petty ‘barriers’, which might be smoothed out if you left it all to an expensive lawyer.
Phuket Immigration Department
482 Phuket Road, Talad Yai
Tel: (076) 221 905, Email.
Opening Hours: 08:30 to 12:00, 13:00 to 16:30 (Monday to Friday).
Queues tend to be shortest early in the morning, so try to get there before opening time