Non-immigrant visas in Chiang Mai

This type of visa is necessary in order to gain permission to live full time here either on a work permit, spousal arrangement, religious work, journalist posting, or for investigating business investment. They have to be applied for outside the country, with supporting documentation (a marriage certificate, work offer, etc), and allow you to stay in Thailand for 90 days while you gather the various paperwork and submit it to the local immigration office. A fee applies, the amount depending on the embassy (in the UK, for example, it’s £100).

Many long-term residents use the non-imm visa as a means to say here full time. It’s not difficult to get one issued but converting it to a legitimate 12-month visa involves a paper chase and some strict stipulations, which many never bother to follow through with. By securing a multiple entry non-imm visa, such people are allowed to leave and re-enter the country to obtain a further three months, for a total of 12 months. Because of this ruse, most Thai consulates or embassies in Asia will only issue single entry visas to these so-called ‘visa-runners’.

Over the years the Immigration Department have become increasingly tough on persons living indefinitely in Thailand without following through with the correct application procedure. But this hasn’t stopped thousands of expats without formal employment from doing visa runs. There is endless anecdotal advise, often conflicting and difficult to sift through, on the popular forum

Types of non-immigrant visas for Thailand
(see full criteria on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website).

Non-imm B: is for business and the most common. It can be obtained with a letter of appointment from a company, but visa staff might insist on seeing validation of the company and its staff and books, since only one work permit can be issued in a company for every four Thai staff and two million baht in capitalisation. Converting it to a full 12-month visa is dependent on the successful issuing of a work permit, after which the wad of paperwork has to be re-issued all over again to the immigration department. Reckon on about four weeks and as many trips to the department.

Non-imm O-A: this type of visa is less common and is for retired people and those who are looking after a spouse or child of Thai nationality. Non-imm O visas can be obtained by producing a marriage certificate, or ID document or proof that the child you are supporting has nobody else more qualified to look after it. Applicants also need to have at least 400,000 baht sitting in a Thai bank account for at least three months, while retirees must show proof of 800,000 baht or a regularly monthly income of 65,000 baht. This type of visa can also take several weeks to complete, although it is significantly easier to extend.

Non-imm Ed: this is a popular means at present of staying in Chiang Mai, since you are entitled to a 12-month visa while undertaking a part-time course, such as Thai language or undergraduate studies. Together with a non-imm Ed visa you need an endorsement from your school to have your visa upgraded. We suggest Thai course which is affordable and practical, involving 4 hours study a week with good results. Several other courses and schools are advertised around town, some are more genuine than others in teaching the actual language.

Other types that are less common and with different criteria include;

Non-imm M: for journalistic work, if you are endorsed by an accredited media agency.

IM: investor visa approved through the Board of Investment.

Note!  Non-imm B investment visas are another option for those investigating possibilities to establish a business here and can allow you up-to three years stay, but there are some stiff financial stipulations.

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