An increasing number of foreigners are now living in Chiang Mai, and for good reason. Chiang Mai has been rated among the top 10 most liveable cities in Asia. It has a laid back atmosphere, enjoys a mild climate most of the year, and, above all, is affordable. 

The Northern Thais are agreeable people and don't mind sharing their city, particularly if it helps the local economy. More than 40,000 foreigners from dozens of countries have settled in Chiang Mai, enjoying a well-established network of services, schools, shops and social circles. English is commonly spoken and plenty of locals have become accustomed to ‘farang’ expectations. In this section we cover the essentials for those planning to live in Chiang Mai. Even if you’ve already settled you’ll find our directory of services useful.

Visas for staying in Chiang Mai and Thailand
Get the right visa; you'll be glad you did!
Whether you intend to visit Thailand for a holiday, or stay permanently in Chiang Mai, a visa of some sorts will be needed. For many nationals a visa waiver is issued upon arrival, though those wishing to reside here for more than a couple of months need to go through the visa rigmarole.

Securing the correct visa in Chiang Mai is important to save you costly visa runs or fines, but there are several options open to expats. We’ve outlined the various visas available for staying in Thailand. Tourist visas can give you up to six months; beyond that, a non-immigrant visa is required, certainly if you wish to work. Taking a course, such as Thai language or TEFL, also opens the opportunity to obtain a long-stay visa.

Visa waiver
These are issued upon arrival and are good for 30 days, unless you arrive overland, in which case only 15 days are given. More than 40 nationalities qualify, including citizens of the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Ireland, EU countries, Switzerland, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, Canada, and others.

Visa on arrival
Visitors from a further 20 countries are permitted to enter Thailand without pre-arranging visas, and are issued with a 15-day tourist visa, costing 1,000 baht when they arrive.

Tourist visas in Chiang Mai
Those who are not from one of 60 countries mentioned above can apply for a tourist visa, allowing them 30 days stay in the country. Nationals from 36 of the countries given visa waivers can also apply for a tourist visa enabling them to stay up to 60 days in the country. Prices vary at different embassies but cost £28 in the UK, for example. A tourist visa can also be extended once by local immigration (at their discretion) giving you a further 30 days to remain, costing 1,900 baht. Multiple entry tourist visas are also available, allowing you up to three entries (60 days each), amounting to half a year. 

Note! Persons entering the country on these visas may be asked to prove funds of 10,000 baht (equivalent) per 30 days of stay, although in practice this mostly applies to those leaving overland and immediately re-entering Thailand. Furthermore, those who repeatedly apply for tourist visas at consulates near Thailand might be refused for up to 90 days.

Retirement visas in Chiang Mai
Retirement visas are issued to persons over 50 who have no criminal record, a health certificate, and are able to show either 800,000 baht equivalent that has been in their Thai bank account (for three months prior to application), or proof of 65,000 baht monthly income, as certified by a lawyer or local consulate.

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