Moving To Thailand – Choosing the Right Visa

I’m starting up a new series of articles where I document my journey of moving to Thailand, Pattaya specifically. I’ll cover a range of topics from planning, logistics, visas, finding a condo, and all the other bits and pieces that go along with relocating to a different country. Hopefully, these articles will be helpful to others looking to make the same journey.

Picking the best visa for living in Thailand

Before I could pick the best visa for me, I needed to define my goals. It is easy to decide you want to live in Thailand, is another to figure out what you plan on doing for an entire year. More goals were pretty simple. I want to live in Thailand for a full year, but no less than six months. I’d like the freedom to travel around Thailand as well as other countries in South East Asia.

I’m not old enough for retirement, so the retirement visa is out. I really only have three main choices:

  • 6 Month Tourist Visa (METV)
  • 60 Day Tourist Visa
  • Education Visa

The Thailand METV – 6 Month Tourist Visa

When I first started looking into this the METV or 6-month tourist visa seemed like the best option for my situation. It would allow me to travel around Thailand and exit and reenter the country as often as needed, at least every 60 days so that I could further explore the region. And if you time your last entry right and add on a 30-day visa extension, it could give you 9 months in Thailand.

I meet the requirements, but the one down side is the employment letter. Immigration requires a letter from your company verifying employment. Unless you have a sabbatical or a work from anywhere agreement, what company do they think is going to let their employee take off on vacation for 6 months? It is kind of ridiculous.

This is certainly a sticking point for me and I’m sure many others. I do own my own small business, so I’ll need to look into whether or not that will suffice. I wonder if I’ll have to write a letter for myself.

This visa is nice if I can get approved. However you can only get it from your home country, so after the initial 6 – 9 month period was up, I’d need to look at other options.

60 Day Tourist Visa

This Thailand tourist visa does what it says on the tin. You can stay in Thailand for up to 60 days, then you need to leave the country. A 30-day tourist visa extension is available as well from immigration once in the country.

With this visa I could stay for 2 – 3 months, then travel outside Thailand visiting other places like Vietnam, Laos, and the Philippines. I would then need to apply for another 60-day tourist visa in a neighboring country. This isn’t too big a deal, and would also work well to me my needs to explore and travel.

The main downside is that it is up to the discretion of the consulate and immigration officials if I will get a new visa each time. This could get harder as I get more visas in my passport and I imagine I’d need four of these to make it through the year.

Add to that, it makes it harder to use Thailand as a base of exploration and get a better deal on renting a condo for a year. Plus, the uncertainty of being able to get back would not make me comfortable leaving things in an apartment rental if I wanted to visit Vietnam for two weeks, as an example.

If I can’t rent a long term condo, this could increase my costs.

Thai Education Visa

The education visa was actually the first visa option I looked into when planning to move to Thailand for a year. I liked the idea of being settled in one place and actually living for a while. I thought learning Thai would be difficult but fun. The class load didn’t seem too stressful, leaving plenty of time for other activates.

The downsides are same as the upsides. You are stuck in one place for the duration of your classes and you’ve got to attend a set number of classes/hours every week. Both of these limits the amount of travel you can do in and out of Thailand.

On the plus side, you get to stay in Thailand for 90 days at a time and don’t need to leave Thailand to renew your visa. You can get either a 6-month or 1-year visa. The costs aren’t bad for studying Thai in Pattaya, averaging 25,000 baht for 1 year. About $750 USD a year, or $62 USD for each month of classes.

I still have some more research to do, as I’d like the ability to possibly relocate to a new location within Thailand after 6 months, Pattaya to Chiang Mai or Bangkok. I also need to know if there is a break between semesters that I could use to travel back to my home country and visit family.

While I’m not completely sure which visa is right for me quite yet, I’m heavily leaning toward the either the 6 Month METV or the Thai education visa. I’ll continue to look into it and post more information and updates as things progress.

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