What are your entry options as a tourist to Thailand?

Many people often mistakenly use the term 'tourist visa' when referring to their entry status in Thailand. It's important to clarify that there is only one type of tourist visa, which allows for a stay of 60 days. If you receive only a 30-day stay, it does not indicate that you hold a tourist visa. Instead, your passport country may have an exemption agreement with Thailand, allowing entry without a visa. Let's clear up this confusion so that you can make more informed decisions in the future.

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Clarification of terminology 

Methods of legal entry into the Kingdom of Thailand include Visas, Visa exempt entry and Visas on arrival.

  • Tourist Visas : are either applied for online or in person at a Thai consulate or embassy outside of Thailand. It is allowed you to stay in Thailand for a period of 60 days. It is an actual visa.
  • Visa exempt entries : a method of entry limited to 30 days for most eligible countries that have a bilateral agreement with Thailand, it is a stamp applied by border control, it is not a visa. 
  • Visa on arrival : this is a 15 day permissible stay and is only available to passport holders from 17 listed countries. They will get visa arrival stamp when entering Thailand by immigration.

Commonly travelers state that they have a visa on arrival, when in fact most have a visa exempt entry.

60 day Tourist visa 

The 60-day tourist visa for Thailand allows visitors to stay in the country for up to 60 days for tourism purposes. This type of visa is typically issued to tourists who wish to explore Thailand's attractions, culture, and natural beauty. It's important to note that the requirements and application process for obtaining a tourist visa can vary depending on your nationality and the Thai embassy or consulate handling your application. Typically, applicants need to provide a valid passport, a completed visa application form, passport-sized photographs, proof of onward travel, and proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay in Thailand.

The 60 day (90 days with an in country extension) visa can be applied for at a Thai consulate or embassy in your home country and also online via the e-visa service, e-Visa applicants are no longer required to submit passports and supporting documents in person at the Royal Thai Embassy/Consulate-General. It is important to note that you are only able to apply if you are currently not in Thailand and in the countries where e-Visa services are available, the USA being one of the supported countries. Beginning March 19, 2024, Thailand will make the e-Visa system available at 48 Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates-General. After the e-Visa application has been approved, a confirmation e-mail will be sent to applicants, which must be printed out for presenting to airlines and Thai immigration officials when traveling to Thailand.

A Single Entry Tourist Visa allows foreign nationals one entry into Thailand for tourism, leisure, or medical reasons. People can enter either by air, land, or sea, the cost varies and is almost always required to be paid in US dollars, it varies from country to country but is generally $40 to $50.

The visa has a 3-month validity from the time of approval. This means that people have 3 months to use and enter Thailand from the date their visa is approved. People often confuse validity and the time they can spend in Thailand. Validity is how long you have to use or utilize the visa. When arriving in Thailand, a permit to stay stamp will be placed in your passport for 60 days, so a visitor can arrive on the last day of their valid time frame and still receive the full 60 days permit to stay.

When applying for a visa online, applicants need to create an account and apply as individuals. Once the account is created, individuals will need the following documents:

  • A current passport in good condition with no less than 6 months validity 
  • Travel booking confirmation in and out of Thailand. Thai immigration officials or airline staff may ask for your onward/return ticket.
  • Proof of accommodation in Thailand, e.g. hotel booking, invitation letter from family or friend in Thailand
  • Financial evidence, e.g. bank statements, proof of earnings, sponsorship letter (equivalent to 20,000 Thai Baht for individuals or 40,000 Thai Baht for families.)
  • Confirmation of legal residence in the country where you apply for the visa (if applicants are not nationals of these countries) e.g. long stay visa, residence permit, BRP card, driving license

Single Entry Tourist Visas are for tourism, leisure, or medical purposes only. Foreigners cannot earn income, study long-term, or conduct volunteer activities while in Thailand if they have entered with a tourist visa.

It is an immigration requirement that travelers arriving in Thailand have cash, in Thai baht or another major currency of no less than 20,000 baht (for an individual) or 40,000 for a family, this is a rarely enforced immigration requirement but occasionally there are purges and travelers may be refused entry, there are no ATMs as you disembark and make your way to border control, the law states you should be carrying cash.

Requirements for application are the same should you opt to make an in person or online application for a tourist visa, both single entry and multiple entry TR (Tourist visas) are available TR-Multiple Entry visas are valid for 6 months from the date of issuance.

The processing lead time is stated as 15 working days, bear in mind that Thailand observes at minimum 18 public holidays per year, with “rollover” days if these public and religious holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the stated 15 working days could easily be a month.

30 day visa exemption stamp

Passport holders of 64 countries can use this method including the USA and UK. Note that the Thai government regularly changes requirements so it is advisable to check with your local embassy or consulate, some countries were permitted a 90 day visa exempt entry these are currently Argentina, Brazil, Chile, The Republic of Korea and Peru.

U.S. citizens carrying a tourist passport and in possession of an onward or return airline ticket (or proof of booking) do not require a visa to enter Thailand. The passport must have at least six months validity remaining to be allowed entry.  Upon entry, Thai immigration officials will place an immigration stamp in the passport permitting a 30-day stay in Thailand if arriving by air or land. This time limit may subsequently be extended for an additional 30 days by paying a 1,900 baht fee to the Thai Immigration Bureau office (located in most cities in Thailand).

This method can be used to initiate a subsequent stay of 60 days, exemption stamp (30 days) plus an extension of stay (30 days), only one extension is permissible using this method, you must exit Thailand’s border before midnight on the 60th day as stated in your passport (extension date).

In the past a method known as “border bounces or border runs” was commonplace and largely unpoliced however Thai immigration have clamped down on travelers using short stay methods to enable longer stays, should you find yourself with the note (I/O) in your passport it is likely your next admission will be refused or at least scrutinized.

As with most things in Thailand cash or access to funds will smooth your stay and enable a longer stay, its is unadvisable to attempt to bribe officials however tempting, rather use your funds to demonstrate you are in fact a tourist, travel the country and neighbouring nations.

Visa on arrival 

The list of countries and territories which are entitled to apply for visa on arrival:

  • Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Taiwan, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu

Passport holders from only the 17 countries and territories listed above may apply for visas at the immigration checkpoints on arrival for the purpose of tourism and will be granted permission to stay in Thailand for a period not exceeding 15 days.

Qualifications and required documents:

  • Must be citizens of countries and territories listed above
  • Passport must be genuine and has more than 30 days validity
  • Purpose of tourism, not exceeding 15 days
  • Must have a confirmed return ticket usable within 15 days
  • Must notify the address in Thailand that can be verified
  • Submit one 4×6 cm. headshot photo (taken no longer than 6 months)
  • Having proof of means of living expenses (20,000 Baht per person or 40,000 Baht per family, in cash.
  • Not under section 12 of Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (A.D.1979)
  • Visa fee of 1,000 Baht must be paid in cash and is non-refundable

These countries listed above are the most frequently targeted for the archaic law regarding having 20,000 baht in cash on arrival.

Unfortunately, the visa on arrival cannot be extended.

How to get a 30 day extension

Tourist visas are typically issued for 60 days, but can be extended for an additional 30 days at a time. The Visa exempt entries are 30 days and can also be extended once by an additional 30 days using this method.

  • Visit the Immigration Bureau in the city where you are staying. These offices can be found in major cities throughout the country, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. You will need to bring your passport, one passport-sized photo, and the fee for the extension.
  • Fill out the necessary forms. These can usually be found at the Immigration Bureau or can be downloaded online. Be sure to fill them out completely and accurately, as any errors could delay the process. (in blue pen)
  • Submit your application and pay the fee. You can get it done in one day.

Government offices such as Thai immigration close for lunch for one hour every day, are closed on Saturday and Sunday and all government holidays.

Keep in mind that the process of extending your tourist visa or visa exempt entry in Thailand can vary depending on the location and the time of year. It is always a good idea to plan ahead and allow extra time for the process. Also, immigration officers like most Thai officials you will encounter act independently and rules and regulations tend to vary from office to office and official to official.

If you're planning to stay in the country for 90 days, applying for a tourist visa is necessary. For shorter stays, a visa exemption may suffice if your passport country allows it. Extending your visa within Thailand can be completed in just 2-3 hours and is simpler than doing a border run. If you need assistance whether applying a tourist visa or visa extension, feel free to reach out to us.

However, be cautious about frequently conducting border or visa runs, as this may result in denial of entry. It's essential to carefully consider your options. Whether you're planning a short or long-term stay in Thailand, you can rely on us for assistance with your plans.

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