Best guide to Thai visas and visa runs (2017)

Intro

This guide has been compiled using numerous online sources (official and unofficial) as well as my own experience living in Thailand for many years. The goal is to simply help you save time looking for the same answers that I have been looking for in the past. I provide you with detailed information on different types of tourist visas, how to extend your stay in Thailand and how to plan for visa runs (if you need it!). I see that a lot of questions are being repeated over and over again. My goal is to compile everything I know in one place. I wish there was a guide like this years ago. Enjoy!

Accuracy of information

I understand that keeping up with Thai Immigration policy changes may be challenging, so I track changes on sources of information which I have used (official websites of Thai government and numerous Thai embassies). I also check and follow latest reports of people who have been dealing with immigration officials. Despite all of it, I realize that it is difficult to be 100% accurate, 100% of the time. If you find any information to be inaccurate or outdated please reach me at contact [at] onwardtravel.io or via contact form.

Thai tourist visas & visa exempt entry

In this section, you can find information on three different types of visas and a visa exempt entry. All four serve tourism purposes only. I do not address any other types of Thai visas at the moment. The guide would simply be too long!

Tourist Visa Exempt Entry (VEE) [1/4]

VEE or ‘visa waiver’ is granted at Thai immigration checkpoints (airports and land borders) either for 14, 30 or 90 days depending on your country of citizenship. It is the quickest form of getting into Thailand because there is no application or paperwork required. Also, it is granted free of charge. Basically, if you are on the list of countries which are eligible for VEE that is good news!

Word of clarification Visa Exempt Entry (or VEE) is widely referred to as ‘visa on arrival’. Contrary to popular belief, Visa Exempt Entry is NOT a visa on arrival or a visa of ANY kind. It is a visa waiver. In practice, what it means for you is that if you are eligible for a VEE (can check the list of countries below) then you don’t have to apply for a tourist visa prior to coming to Thailand. You also do not need to apply for a visa on arrival when you get to a Thai immigration checkpoint. VEE means that all you’re gonna get is an entry stamp like the one below, and that’s it!
Left picture: Visa Exempt Entry Right picture: Visa on Arrival

Price: free

Validity: Visa Exempt Entry is immediately valid upon receiving it

Extension of stay: It is possible to extend stay on VEE for additional 30 days. For more information see our section Extension of stay in Thailand

Time to process: There is no formal application process for a VEE, so there is no processing time. When you arrive at an immigration checkpoint (land or air) immigration officer may ask a few questions about plans in Thailand. Then you will get a stamp in the passport detailing the date you arrived in Thailand and when you should leave.

Countries eligible for 14-day VEE:  Cambodia (arriving by air or land),  Myanmar (arriving by air only). Source: Department of Consular Affairs, list of countries eligible for Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme

Countries eligible for 30-day VEE (arriving by air or land):  Australia,  Austria,  Bahrain,  Belgium,  Brazil,  Brunei Darussalam,  Canada,  Czech Republic,  Denmark,  Finland,  France,  Germany,  Greece,  Hong Kong,  Hungary,  Iceland,  Indonesia,  Ireland,  Israel,  Italy, Japan,  South Korea,  Kuwait,  Liechtenstein,  Luxembourg,  Malaysia,  Monaco,  Netherlands,  New Zealand,  Norway,  Oman,  Peru,  Philippines,  Poland,  Portugal,  Qatar,  Singapore,  Slovakia,  Slovenia,  South Africa,  Spain,  Sweden,  Switzerland,  Turkey,  United Arab Emirates,  United Kingdom,  United States of America,  Vietnam. Source: Department of Consular Affairs, list of countries eligible for Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme

IMPORTANT: For the countries eligible for 30-day VEE there is an official limit of two Visa Exempt Entries in a calendar year when traveling to Thailand by land (except for  Malaysia). Source: Visa exemption regulation issued by Ministry of Interior dated 26 May 2016 posted by Thai Embassy in Sweden

Countries eligible for 90-day VEE (arriving by air or land):  Argentina,  Brazil,  Chile,  Peru,  South Korea. Source: list of countries eligible for Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme posted by Department of Consular Affairs

Requirements for VEE: According to the information listed on Ministry of Foreign Affairs a person traveling to Thailand should have a passport valid for at least another 6 months, round-trip air ticket and at least 10,000 Baht per person or 20,000 Baht per family. In practice, Thai Immigration rarely enforces those requirements when a foreigner enters Thailand on VEE for the first time. One thing you have to remember is that in addition to Thai immigration requirements, you should think about your airline requirements. Airline check-in counter might require a round-trip ticket. Honestly, it’s just good to always have it to avoid any unpleasant surprises!

Thai Visa on Arrival (VOA) [2/4]

If you are not eligible for Visa Exempt Entry, then you may be eligible for a Visa on Arrival (see country list below to find out). The good thing about Visa on Arrival is that, as the name suggests, you get it “on arrival” at Thai immigration. Therefore, you don’t need to apply for it before going to Thailand (as opposed to Single Entry Tourist Visa for example). One thing that I have to mention is that smaller land checkpoints may NOT be granting Visa on Arrival at all. If you will be traveling through a less known route then make sure to check the list of air and land entry points where you can safely obtain VOA.

Visa on arrival issued on 3rd of Sept. Passport page also shows entry date (also 3rd of Sept.) and date of departure (5th of Sept.)

Price: 1,000 – 2,000 baht (Thai government periodically decreases the standard cost of VOA from 2,000 baht down to 1,000 baht)

Countries eligible for 15-day VOA (21 countries):  Andorra,  Bhutan,  Bulgaria,  China,  Cyprus,  Ethiopia,  Fiji,  India,  Kazakhstan,  Latvia,  Lithuania,  Maldives,  Malta,  Mauritius,  Romania,  San Marino,  Saudi Arabia,  Taiwan,  Ukraine,  Uzbekistan,  Papua New Guinea. Source: list of countries eligible for VOA since December 2016 posted by Department of Consular Affairs (in Thai)

Requirements: You can refer to VOA requirements section on the website of Thailand’s largest international airport (Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok). If you meet them, then you should have no problems entering Thailand wherever VOA can be obtained (click here to see where you can obtain VOA). Alternatively, you can see Singapore’s Thai Embassy section on VOA requirements that is regularly updated. However, Singapore’s embassy does not mention proof of accommodation such as hotel reservation which may be enforced by immigration officers.

Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) [3/4]

This visa allows staying in Thailand for a period of 60 days. It has to be applied for from outside of Thailand at one of Royal Thai Embassies or Consulates.

Price: ca. 35 USD or ca. 1,200 baht (price is different depending from which Royal Thai Embassy you will be getting your SETV. Each embassy lists prices for visas on their website).

Single Entry Tourist Visa that has been issued on 14th of July and used on 29th of July 2017

Validity: SETV is valid for 3 months after issue. This means that you will have 3 months to enter Thailand, and we then will be able to stay 60 days from the day of entry. Example: SETV was issued on the 14th of July, 2017 and the date stated under “enter before” is 13th of October, 2017. In this case, passport holder can enter Thailand between those two dates and we will be permitted to stay in the country for 60 days from the date of entry.

Extension of stay: Yes, it is possible to extend stay on SETV for additional 30 days. For more information see our section Extension of stay in Thailand

Time to process: SETV can be processed within 1-5 working days depending on Thai Embassy where the application is being submitted.

Countries eligible: Every passport holder can apply for a SETV in their home country. If you’re applying for a SETV outside of your home country, you will need to check if a particular Thai embassy can issue a SETV to non-residents. Taiwan and Singapore will issue SETV only to their residents. So even if you apply your application will get rejected. Other countries in Asia such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Hong Kong or Cambodia do not have that limitation.

Requirements: Different Thai embassies have different requirements. Some may require more documentation than others i.e. proof of finances, round-trip ticket to Thailand, travel plans. Be sure to check the website of a Thai Embassy where you will be applying for a SETV. Lastly, every Thai embassy reserves the right to ask for additional documentation which is not listed on their website.

SETV requirements examples

Below table shows exemplary requirements for a Single Entry Tourist Visa from three different embassies – UK, U.S, and Sweden (for SETV requirements within South East Asia see the section “How to plan a visa run?”).

  UK (London embassy) U.S (Los Angeles embassy) Sweden (Stockholm embassy)
Visa fee "25 GBP" "40 USD" "300 SEK"
Passport validity"A current passport with validity of over 6 months beyond the date of application" "Your actual Passport or Travel Document. (Passport or Travel Document must not expire within 6 months and contain at least ONE completely empty visa page)" "valid for at least 6 months and containing at least TWO completed empty visa pages"
Proof of onward travelItem not addressed *"1 copy of airline ticket (confirmed onward ticket – showing flights into and out of Thailand. Either paper ticket or confirmed e-ticket is acceptable. Itinerary is NOT accepted.""Copy of reservation of airline tickets, showing arrival and departure dates for Thailand"
Proof of personal financesItem not addressed *"1 copy of applicant’s recent bank statement (reflect at least $700 per person, $1,500 per family). *If using Online Bank Statement, it must show applicant's name and balance" Item not addressed *
Proof of employmentItem not addressed *Item not addressed *Item not addressed *
Photographs"Two (2) recent (2 x 2 inches) photos of the applicant""2 photos (Passport photo, 2” x 2”, color, front-view, taken within 6 months, and write your name and last name on the back of each photo)""Two photographs, size 3.5cm. x 4.5cm. and front view, MUST be taken within the last 6 months and MUST NOT be your homemade photographs"
Embassy link Royal Thai Embassy in Los AngelesRoyal Thai Embassy in LondonRoyal Thai Embassy in Los Stockholm

* Item not addressed – this means that the relevant embassy did not mention anything about a particular item on their official website. However, all embassies reserve the right to request additional documents (rarely enforced).

Multi Entry Tourist Visa (METV) [4/4]

On November 13th, 2015, Multi Entry Tourist Visa was introduced to replace double and triple entry tourist visas. Requirements to get METV are stricter than for Single Entry Tourist Visa. However, the benefits that METV provides can compensate the potential hassle. I encourage you to check all the details below, but also section that includes a table that compares SETV with METV in detail.

Multiple Entry Visa as shown by “M” under No. of entries

Price: ca. 150 USD (price depends on the Thai embassy which is issuing METV)

Extension of stay: It is possible to extend stay on METV for additional 30 days. For more information see our section Extension of stay in Thailand.

Validity: METV is valid for 6 months from the moment it is issued (unlike SETV which is valid from the moment of entering Thailand). During the 6 months period, METV allows for unlimited entries to Thailand but no visit should exceed 60 days.

Time to process: METV can be processed within 1-5 working days depending on Thai embassy where the application is being submitted.

Countries eligible: Nearly every passport holder can apply for a METV, but it depends on where the application is being processed. Most Thai embassies require the applicant to be a citizen or a permanent resident of the country where the embassy is located.

Requirements: They differ depending on Thai Embassy and passport holder nationality but they are stricter than requirements for SETV. One requirement that is often hard to meet by applicants is proof of cash balance in last 6 months that is equal or higher to ca. 200,000 baht or equivalent in local currency (if an applicant does not meet this requirement it may be possible to request Thai Embassy to consider other liquid assets that are easily converted to cash as a proof of cash balance). Below are a few examples of requirements for METV from three Thai embassies.

METV requirements examples

Below table show sample requirements from three different embassies. All information has been literally copied & pasted from websites of relevant embassies.

  UK (London embassy) U.S (Los Angeles embassy) Sweden (Stockholm embassy)
Fee"125 GBP""200 USD""1500 SEK"
Passport validity"A current passport with validity of over 6 months beyond the date of application.""Your actual passport (must have been valid for at least three months and will not expire within six months from time of travel to and from Thailand and have some blank visa pages) - include a copy of the "picture-page" of the passport""at least 9 months and containing at least TWO completed empty visa pages."
Proof of onward travel"A photocopy of the confirmed air ticket to Thailand.""Copy of airline tickets (e-tickets or itinerary showing confirmed flights) - tickets should show multiple entries""A copy of a reservation of airline tickets, showing arrival and departure dates for Thailand"
Proof of personal finances"Original bank statement of the applicant showing a balance of least £5,000 (for 6 months) or a print out with official stamp of the bank.""Bank statement showing a minimum of US$7,000""A bank statements showing deposit account (CASH ONLY) with an amount of atleast 57 000 SEK (200 000 baht) in the past 6 months"
Proof of employment"A letter from the applicant's employer (in the UK and addressed to the Royal Thai Embassy). - If you are self-employed, your self-assessment and a company registration document are required.""Letter from employer verifying employment""An employment certificate in English from an employer mentions the applicant's job position, salary, purpose of visiting Thailand, and the date when the applicant is expected to return to work. For self-employed, Please submit business license or business regirstration indicating the applicant's name..."
Photographs"Two (2) recent (2 x 2 inches) photos of the applicant."2 photos (Passport photo, 2” x 2”, color, front-view, taken within 6 months, and write your name and last name on the back of each photo).""Two photographs, size 3.5cm. x 4.5cm. and front view, MUST be taken within the last 6 months and MUST NOT be your homemade photographs"

VEE vs VOA vs SETV vs METV

The table below compares all three types of visas, and a visa exempt entry. It does not exhaust all differences but helps to answer most common questions.

 VOA (Visa on arrival)VEE (Visa exempt entry)SETV (Single Entry Tourist Visa)METV (Multiple Entry Tourist Visa)
ValidityImmediately valid after obtaining at the airportImmediately after receiving at the airportValid for 3 months after issuingValid immediately after issuing
Extension of stayVOA is not extendableYes, possibleYes, possibleYes, possible
Cost1,000 to 2,000 bahtfreeca. 35 USDca. 150 USD
Time to process5 to 120 minutes (depending on the queue and citizenship)VEE is granted immediately1 - 5 working days depending on embassy1 - 5 working days depending on embassy
How long can I stay in Thailand without leaving the country?15 days30 days60 days60 days
How long can I stay in Thailand without leaving the country if I extend my stay?VOA is not extendable60 days (30 + 30)90 days (60 + 30)90 days (60 + 30)
How many times can I apply for an extension of stay?VOA is not extendableOne timeOne timeMultiple times *
How many days can I stay in Thailand in total with an extension or extensions (METV)15 days60 days90 days270 days **

* Multiple times – Yes, you can stay apply for an extension of stay multiple times, but effectively it will be not more than three times in total. See an METV example in FAQ section.

** 270 days – You can stay in Thailand using METV for 270 days only in theory. In practice, it will be a few days less. See an example of how you could get most out of your METV in FAQ section.

Extension of stay in Thailand

If you want to stay in Thailand longer than your passport stamp indicates, the chances are you can. Anyone with Visa Exempt Entry (VEE), or Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) or Multi-Entry Tourist Visa (METV) can apply for an extension of stay for additional 30 days (cannot extend your stay using Visa on Arrival).

Extension of stay allowed to stay for another 30 days from 5th of Jan. until 3rd of Feb.
Wording clarification: the process of extending a stay for 30-days is widely referred to as “visa extension”. However, that term is incorrect and misleading for two reasons: 1) it’s possible to extend a stay in Thailand without having a visa (when using a Visa Exempt Entry) 2) no visa is ever extended in this process.

If you decide to apply for the extension, then I advise not to wait until last moment. There is no official timeline for when you can apply earliest (technically, it’s subject to the discretion of Thai immigration office). In practice, you shouldn’t have a problem applying two weeks before, and definitely, no problem applying for it a week before you’re expected to leave the country.

IMPORTANT: Extension of stay will allow you to stay for an additional 30 days counting from the last day until you are permitted to stay (visible on the passport stamp). Therefore, it does not make a difference if you apply for the extension of stay one week or one day before you’re supposed to leave the country. In both cases, the effect will be the same. In a rare case scenario, if for some reason your application is denied, you will get a 7-day extension instead of 30 days.

Thai visa extension process – how does it look like?

The process to get an extension of stay is quite straightforward. It looks very similar in all Thai immigration offices. You would need to:

  1. Gather everything that’s necessary for the application process (see section below “Thai visa extension requirements – what is needed?”)
  2. Go to a Thai immigration office closest to where you stay
  3. Check with an immigration officer that you have done #1 correctly
  4. Get a queue ticket number and wait until your number gets called
  5. Submit your application and pay 1,900 baht
  6. Wait until your number gets called (again)
  7. Receive your passport back

That’s all. In reality it’s simple and immigration officers will be able to help if needed.

Thai visa extension requirements – what is needed?

  1. Passport (valid for at least 6 months)
  2. Single passport photo 3.5cm x 4.5cm or 4cm x 6cm (both sizings should be accepted with no problem; background color can be white or blue)
  3. 1,900 (cash only)
  4. Filled application of TM7 form (download here or obtain a free copy at immigration office)
  5. Photocopy of the following passport pages: main page (your details), page with latest entry stamp to Thailand, tourist visa (if you have one)
  6. Photocopy of departure card (in case the departure card has been lost, you will need to get a new one from the Immigration office)

Every photocopy needs your signature! Also, it will help to bring our own pen (black ink) as they can be sometimes scarce at an immigration office.

How to prepare before a visit to Thai Immigration office?

Timing

If we want to avoid long queues or the risk of being turned away, it’s best to visit Thai immigration office from Tuesday to Thursday in the morning soon after it opens. All offices have 1-hour lunch break from 12:00 until 1:00 pm. Thus, if you were to apply sometime before the lunch break, you are at risk of losing one hour, or worse – being turned away if there is a lot of applications.

Dress code

Every Thai immigration office shows the same appropriate dress code. It’s best if we adhere and avoid excessively casual wear (shorts, tank-top, flip flops).  Not only we will be respectful of the government agency and process, but it will also help our interaction with the officer(s).

Dress code is displayed as a standing banner in front of every Thai immigration office

Passport photo & photocopies

Close to every immigration office there will be a possibility to withdraw cash from an ATM, do photocopies of documents and have the passport photo taken. However, if you want to save money and time it might make sense to have at least the passport photo taken before. In case you lost your departure card (happens often to me) then you can request a new one at the immigration office.

Thai Immigration offices – where to apply for the extension of stay?

There are a number of places where a tourist visa and visa exempt entry can be extended for 30 days. The list below does not mention all locations but only the most frequented ones.

Bangkok Immigration (Chaengwattana immigration) – visa extension

Visa extension can be done at Bangkok Immigration, otherwise known as Chaengwattana immigration. It is a large government complex that includes several government agencies.

Immigration office in Bangkok is located in a vast Government Complex but it is easy to get around once inside

Address: Chaengwattana Government Complex Immigration Building B Floor 2, Chaengwattana Road (Soi 7), Laksi, Bangkok 10210 (Google maps link)

Operating hours: Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm but closed for a lunch break from 12:00 – 1:00 pm. The office is closed on weekends and holidays.

How to get there: You can get BTS to Mo Chit station or MRT to Chatuchak Park station.  From there, you can take a taxi which should cost between 100 and 150 baht. Most taxi drivers will know the address, especially when you show passport and say “thai visa” or simply say “Chaengwattana”. It will take up to 30 minutes depending on the traffic. Please note that the taxi driver may attempt to drop you off at the main road where the Government Complex is located, and not specifically at the Immigration Building B. If so, you will have to walk for 10-15 min or take a motorbike taxi for 30 baht.

Time to process: Process should not take more than 2 hours if you come shortly after 9 am or might take 2-4 hours if you come at 11 am (therefore you would run into lunch break). If you to have your application processed quickly, try not arrive much later than 9 am.

Phuket Immigration – Visa extension

There are two Immigration offices in Phuket – one in Patong (opened on June 13th, 2013), and one in Phuket town (main office). It’s possible to get extensions of stay in Thailand in both locations.

Phuket Town Immigration

The immigration office in Phuket is not far from Saphan Hin public park. When using the parking pay attention not to park on designated spot for immigration officers!

Address: 482 Phuket Road, Talad Yai, Phuket Town; (Google maps link)

Operating hours: Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm but closed for a lunch break from 12 noon – 1 pm. Unlike in other immigration offices, one in Phuket down does not accept payments after 3:30 pm. The office is closed on weekends and holidays.

Time to process: It has been reported that extensions were successfully done even in 10 minutes, but to be on safe side you should plan an hour. To fasten the process, office recommends coming in from Tuesday to Thursday when the queues are smaller.

IMPORTANT: It has been reported that Phuket Immigration has been requesting additional documentation if the applicant is staying in a residential building such as a condo. You can read more in a blog post reporting on a successful visa extension in Phuket town

Patong Immigration – Visa extension

Patong immigration office opens at 10:00 am, not 8:30 (unlike other immigration offices)

Address: Thawewong Rd (200 meters north of Bangla Road; Google Street view); (Google maps link)

Operating hours: Monday – Friday from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm but closed for a lunch break from 12 noon – 1 pm. Office closed on weekends and holidays.

Time to process: It has been reported that extensions were successfully done in less than an hour.

Pattaya (Jomtien) Immigration – visa extension

In low season it’s possible to find a parking spot at Immigration office parking area. If not, try to park in Jomtien 2nd road and walk down Soi 5.

Address: Soi 5 Moo 12 Jomtien Beach Road Nongprue, Banglamung Chonburi 20150; (Google maps link)

Operating hours: Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm but closed for a lunch break from 12 noon – 1 pm. The office is closed on weekends and holidays.

Time to process: Pattaya immigration tends to get quite busy. It has been reported that application can take up to 2 hours. It is recommended to come in the morning from Tuesday to Thursday to avoid long queues.

IMPORTANTJomtien immigration asks to provide additional documentation related to your accommodation in Thailand. If you’re staying in a condo, a rental agreement will be needed. If you’re staying in a hotel/guest house then a receipt will be needed. I’ve never extended my stay at Jomtien but I heard about this requirement from forums, and I confirmed this information with Jomtien immigration officer by calling them at their official number: + 66 38 252 754.

Chiang Mai Immigration – visa extension

The immigration office is located at Promenada Mall. The mall is about 10 minutes out of the old city. Depending on where you’re staying, this may be a bit far. But nevertheless, a Song Thaew should take you there rather easily. Simply say “Promenada Mall” and you’ll be on your way.

Chiang Mai immigration office is located just underneath Tom N Toms coffee

Address: 71 Moo 3 Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai Immigration is located in Promenada Mall. (Google maps link)

Operating hours: Promenada Mall where Chaing Mai Immigration is located does not open until 11 am, but the visa office is open from 8.30am until 4.30pm Monday to Friday. There is a 1-hour lunch break from 12:00 until 1:00 pm. The office is closed on weekends and holidays.

Time to process: Come as early as possible to process the extension in under an hour. Some people reported that coming later than 11 am may result in being turned away.

Hua Hin (Prachuapkhirikhan) Immigration – visa extension

Since June 2014 the main immigration office in Hua Hin is located at the beach front, which is accessible by turning down Soi 19 or Soi 35 off Phetkasem Road. On May 2017 a new One Stop Service has been opened in Blue port Mall which processes tourist visa extensions. Below you can find information on the main Hua Hin Immigration office.

Immigration office in Hua Hin is not easy to find for some, but it offer plenty of parking space

Address: 17/26 Hua Hin 21 Alley, Tambon Hua Hin, Amphoe Hua Hin, Chang Wat Prachuap Khiri Khan 77110; (Google maps link)

Operating hours: Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm but closed for a lunch break from 12:00 – 1:00 pm. The office is closed on weekends and holidays.

Ko Samui (Surathani) immigration – visa extension

On 19th September 2016, Ko Samui immigration office has moved from Nathon into the new location in Maenam.

The immigration office in Ko Samui should be easily found with help of road sign on Moo 1 street which points where to turn.

Address: 333 Maenam Road, Soi 1 Moo 1, Tambon Maenam, Amphoe Koh Samui, Suratthani 8433, (Google maps link)

Operating hours: Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm but closed for a lunch break from 12:00 noon – 1:00 pm. The office is closed on weekends and holidays.

Time to process: Extending stay at Ko Samui immigration should be faster than other Immigration offices and can even take as little 10-15 minutes. Nevertheless, it’s always recommended to come in early.

Visa Run Thailand

“Visa run” refers to leaving the country shortly before it becomes illegal to stay inside it for the purpose of coming back soon after. The objective of Thai “visa run” is to simply prolong a legal stay in Thailand. For the purpose of this chapter, I limit the concept of “visa run” to leaving Thailand and re-entering either on Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) or Multi Entry Tourist Visa (METV) or Visa Exempt Entry (VEE).

Acceptance of never-ending changes

The Thai government is known for frequently making changes to its’ immigration policies. Thai embassies located around South East Asia also tend to change their requirements often for tourist visas. What changes can you face?

  • an introduction of new types of visas
  • change in requirements for currently available visas
  • increase or decrease of visa fees
  • updating the list of countries which can obtain a visa exempt entry (or the length of granted stay)
  • other

This can affect anyone’s current or future plans – both, positively and negatively. I must stress out that some changes might not be communicated, therefore relevant information found online may be wrong or outdated (including official government websites). What’s important is that you should not get frustrated, but instead, just accept the fact that this simply may happen. If you don’t want to be caught too often by unpleasant surprises you should always check the website of relevant Thai embassy that you want to visit. In addition, you should google search for latest “visa run” concerning a given embassy i.e. “Malaysia Penang visa run”.

Where to find the best information on “visa runs”?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single source of information with regard to Thai immigration and requirements for Thai tourist visas that have proved to be accurate over time. That’s why best sources of information are most recent first-hand experiences of tourists i.e. various blog posts, forums (Thaivisa subforum, Reddit sub forum)

How to plan a visa run?

Once you decide that you need to do a “visa run”, there are some things to consider (how long to stay) and a bit of research to do (destination and consideration of visa run agency).

Quick visa run or visa holidays?

There are two approaches to doing a “visa run”. First is to come back to Thailand the same or the next day. This will definitely save you money and time. The second approach is to make holidays out of the “visa run” by allocating extra days for it. You could arrange a new SETV via an agent who would take care of the process while you travel. Alternatively, you could simply apply for the visa on the same day you arrive. Then you can and pick the passport with a new visa it up shortly before leaving for Thailand. This way you could also make time to explore the country which you wish to visit.

Destination

If you need a new SETV you should consider the SETV requirements of Thai Royal Embassy that you wish to visit (keep in mind that different embassies in a single country will have different requirements i.e. Vientiane and Savannakhet in Laos). If you want to plan well and don’t want to be caught by too many surprises, then you should at least check: how long it will take to process new visa, when the embassy is closed (check for public holidays) and operating times (visa application time & pick-up time is different). You should also consider potential visa costs to reach the destination country, and whether or not you need to apply for a visa earlier (i.e. when going to Vietnam).

Common visa run destinations

If you are wondering where to do a “visa run” for a SETV, below are a few common destinations and a comparison of requirements from relevant official websites. Penang in Malaysia is a common “visa run” destination, but the embassy does not list any requirements on their website. Embassy started requiring proof of onward travel in 2017. If you plan on going there, I advise to call them ahead and ask directly over the phone (they don’t seem too keen to reply to e-mails). See Penang Thai embassy contact details here.

Details Laos (Vientiane) Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) Cambodia (Phnom Penh) Malaysia (Penang)
Visa fee"1000 BHT""40 USD" "40 USD"** No specific information found
Application submission (time)"8.30-11.30 hrs""8.30-11.30 hrs""08.30–11.00 hrs"
** No specific information found
Visa pick-up"13.30-15.30 hrs""13.30-15.00 hrs""15.00-16.30 hrs" ** No specific information found
Time to process"2 working days" "Two working days"* Item not addressed** No specific information found
Passport validity* Item not addressed"Passport or travel document with validity not less than 6 months""Passport (valid for no less than 6 months" ** No specific information found
Proof of accommodation* Item not addressed* Item not addressed* Item not addressed** No specific information found
Proof of finances* Item not addressed"Evidence of adequate finance (20,000 Baht per person...""$1000 per person"** No specific information found
Proof of onward travel* Item not addressed"Evidence of travel (air/bus ticket IN and OUT Thailand)""Travel tickets in and out of Thailand"** No specific information found
Link Royal Thai Embassy, Vientiane, Lao PDRRoyal Thai Consulate-General, Ho Chi Minh City, VietnamRoyal Thai Embassy, Phnom Penh, CambodiaRoyal Thai Consulate-general, Penang, Malaysia

* Item not addressed – this means that the relevant embassy did not mention anything about a particular item on their official website. However, all embassies reserve the right to request additional documents (rarely enforced).

** No specific information found – Unlike websites of other embassies listed in the table, the website of Royal Thai Embassy in Penang does not contain unique information specific to the embassy. Instead, it links to general tourist visa requirements listed on Department of Consular Affairs in Thailand.

Individual trip vs visa agency

If you don’t want to do a visa run yourself, you can arrange it through a visa run agency which specializes in this field. It’s certainly an option for people who have never done a visa run before. Below is a list of trusted agencies with good reviews that have been in the business for at least few years:

Successful Thai visa run

Succesful “visa run” means: a) getting a new visa abroad (not needed if you decide to enter via Visa Exempt Entry) and b) going through Thai immigration back into Thailand. Obtaining a valid tourist visa does not guarantee to pass through Thai immigration successfully. Whether or not you will be able to do a successful “visa run” depends on your Thai immigration history. There are two things to consider. First, the more Thai visas you have in your passport, the harder it will be to get a new SETV from any Thai embassy. Second, the more times you come into the Thailand the higher the risk that you will raise the attention of an immigration officer. FAQ below can help understand what are the limits when it comes to how long you can actually stay in the country.


FAQ

Below is a list of the most common questions related to Thai tourist visas. If you have more questions or something isn’t clear, drop me a message via the contact form or post one in comments.

General

How do you keep information on this page up to date?

You can find the answer to this question in “Accuracy of information” section at the beginning of the guide. I recommend double checking key information and not relying on onwardtravel.io as the single source of information. If you find anything in this guide to be inaccurate or outdated please do not hesitate to reach me using contact form

When are Thai public holidays?

You can refer to this link of where you can see all Thai public holidays in 2017.

VEE and VOA

What’s the difference between Visa on Arrival and Visa Exempt Entry (visa waiver)?

It is a different type of official authorization that allows a passport holder to enter Thailand. Passport holders from certain countries are entitled to Visa Exempt Entry (VEE) when entering Thailand. It is free of charge for 30 days and no documentation or paperwork is required. Passport holders from other countries (which are not on that list) MAY be eligible to apply for Visa on Arrival which grants 15 days for a fee.  Check whether or not you are eligible for Visa Exempt Entry here or for Visa on Arrival here.

How many VEE can I get?

Officially, there is no limit to how many Visa Exempt Entries you can get (if you’re eligible for VEE). Unofficially, things may get difficult after six.

How many VOA can I get?

Officially, there is no limit to how many Visa on Arrival you can get.

SETV and METV

Where can I apply for a SETV?

You can apply for it in Royal Thai Embassy in your home country. If you want to apply for a SETV outside your home country, then reach out directly to a Royal Thai Embassy. I can save you some time and say that: Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Cambodia and Hong Kong will issue a SETV to non-residents. Singapore and Taiwan will not. You can see an official list and website links of all Royal Thai Embassies and Consulates here.

Where can I apply for a METV?

You can apply for METV at a Royal Thai Embassy in your home country or in a country where you have a permanent residence.

How many SETV or METV can I get?

There is no official limit set on a number of SETV or METV anyone can get. However, all Thai embassies impose unofficial limits on passport basis. A given embassy might warn you that they will not issue any more visas to you. The warning can be either verbal i.e. “This is the last visa we can give you” or written in a form of a red stamp in your passport (see picture below). You could then get a visa from a different embassy or get a new passport, as embassies don’t link passport history.

It states: “mark: The holder of this passport travels to Thailand under a tourist visa several times which may result in the refusal of a visa in the future”. Noone likes to get this in their passport.

How many SETV or METV can I get if I intend on getting new passports?

There is no limit.

How many SETV or METV can I get using a SINGLE passport?

As I said earlier, there are no official limits. But generally, you shouldn’t be able to get more than 3 visas from a single embassy using the same passport. Sometimes, you can get more if you don’t do back-to-back visas. What do I mean? For example, an embassy in Laos might issue 3 back-to-back visas. They will then give you a warning that you cannot get any more visas from them using the same passport. What sometimes happens is that you can get more than 3 visas from the same embassy IF you were using different embassies throughout the year i.e. Laos, then Malaysia then maybe Vietnam and then you repeat the cycle.

Can I improve my chances of getting a SETV?

Theoretically, all requirements for obtaining a tourist visa from any Royal Thai Embassy should be listed on their website and be accurate. Practically, requirements may not be listed or be inaccurate. Also, every embassy reserves the right to ask for additional documents from an applicant. For the reasons stated above you will always improve your chances if you have all documents that an embassy reserves the right to ask for:

  1. Proof of travel i.e. inbound and outbound tickets out of Thailand
  2. Proof of accommodation i.e. reservation for a hotel (few days is often sufficient)
  3. Proof of finances – i.e. bank statement for last 6 months showing our savings

How can I stay in Thailand for 270 days using METV?

METV is valid for 180 days since the day it has been issued. So, in theory, you can stay in Thailand for 270 days using a 30-day extension. How? Let’s look at the following example: you were issued a METV on 1st of September 2017 (it will expire after 180 days on February 3rd, 2018) and you already travel to Thailand two days later, on 3rd of September. At Thai immigration, you are given an entry stamp that allows you to stay in the country for 60 days only. Two months later, not wanting to overstay, you decide to apply for an extension of stay for 30-days. A month later (by end of November) when your extension of stay is about to run out, you will, however, have to leave the country. You then leave Thailand to any neighboring country and you come back the same day. You will get a new stamp that will once again allow you to stay 60 days only. You repeat the process and apply 2nd time for a new 30-day extension. Finally, you leave and come back to Thailand on February 2nd. Here’s the thing: you will be granted 60 days stay even though your visa expires a day later on February 3rd. And yes, you will be able to extend your stay again for the 3rd time, for 30 days. Effectively, if you planned it right according to the example above, you could be in Thailand for 268 days. Two days missed was the period between receiving visa AND coming to Thailand. Of course, you do not have to extend your stay in Thailand the first and second time, but that would mean leaving Thailand every 60 days instead of every 90 days. My only personal comment on the scenario is that an immigration officer might turn you around if you decided to do same-day border crossing, so I would allocate extra one or two days outside of Thailand on the last, final border run.

How long can I stay in Thailand using a combination of VOA and VEE and SETV and METV?

Some people stay in Thailand for many many years doing just that. Some people get stopped and denied entry by immigration officers after re-entering the country for the fourth time. Unfortunately, there is no good answer to this.

30-day extension of stay

What is an extension of stay?

Those who are staying in the country using a tourist visa (SETV or METV) or a Visa Exempt Entry, can apply for the 30-day extension at a Thai immigration office. The 30-day extension allows (as the name suggests) to stay in Thailand 30 days longer. It is counted from the last day a passport holder is permitted to stay in the country (not from the date of application for the extension). For more information see this guide’s section of Extension of Stay in Thailand and the official section on ‘Visa extension’ on the website of Immigration Office in Bangkok (the source does not mention Visa Exempt Entry, but it is possible to extend them for 30-days)

Where can I apply for an extension of stay?

You can see a list of locations in this guide’s section “Thai immigration offices – where to apply for an extension of stay?” I have not included all locations in Thailand, only the main ones.

What are the requirements for an extension of stay?

All the requirements are listed in this guide’s section “Thai visa extension requirements  – what is needed?

How to fill out the TM7 form (required for an extension of stay)?

TM7 form is quite straight forward but there are three things in the form that are often asked about:
  • Reasons for extension – people often stay in Thailand longer to explore the north, the beaches in the south, learn Muay Thai, get to know the Thai culture better
  • Number of days – maximum extension we can get is 30-days (some countries such as India will get 7-days) therefore a request for more than 30 days i.e. 33 days shall still result in 30-day extension
  • Address – if anyone is unsure about Tambol/Khwaeng (Subdistrict) and Amphoe/Khet staff at Immigration Office will help fill these in.

When can I apply earliest for an extension of stay?

Thai Immigration does not specify this. In practice, you should be fine applying for it up to two weeks before you are supposed to leave Thailand based on the entry stamp you received in your passport.

When can I apply latest for an extension of stay?

If you want to avoid overstaying in Thailand, thus being in the country illegally, you can apply for it on your last day which permits you to stay based on the entry stamp in your passport. If you decide on doing so, make sure to arrive at the Thai immigration office soon after it opens to avoid the slightest risk of being turned away (if for example there is a big queue).

Can I apply for an extension of stay if I overstayed?

You can, but you will have to pay 500 baht fine for each day of overstay. Also, you will get the 30-day extension from the date until you were permitted to stay in the country. So if you overstayed by 3 days, then you will have to pay 1,500 baht for overstay (on top of the 1,900 baht for the extension) and your stay will be effectively extended by 27 days (30 days less of the 3 you overstayed).

What if I want to apply for an extension of stay but Immigration Office is closed on the day I am supposed to leave the country?

In the majority of cases, you will be able to apply the next following working day for the 30-day extension not having to pay overstay fee of 500 baht for 1 day of overstay.

How many times can I extend VOA,  VEE, SETV, METV?

You can extend only ONCE for 30-days: Visa Exempt Entry (VEE), a Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV). You can extend multiple times a Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV). You cannot extend visa on arrival (VOA).

Re-entry permit

What is re-entry permit?

Re-entry permit allows re-entering Thailand using a Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV). It does not extend the date until which you are permitted to stay in the country. Purpose of re-entry permit is simply not to lose a visa when leaving Thailand. There are two types of re-entry permits: 1) single re-entry allows to re-enter Thailand once and costs 1,000 to 1,200 baht 2) multiple re-entry permit (3,800 baht) allows for multiple re-entries which effectively turns a SETV into METV with a shorter lifespan. Let’s give an example. Let’s say that you were allowed to stay in Thailand for 60 days on SETV until 15th of May. You want to leave Thailand on 28th of March so you applied for a single re-entry permit. You come back to Thailand on April 10th, and you can remain in the country until 15th of May.

Where can I get a re-entry permit?

You can obtain a re-entry permit at a local immigration office or at any of Thai international airports. To be on the safe side I recommend applying for a re-entry permit at a local immigration office.

Thai visa run & Thai Immigration

What is a visa run?

Please see our section “Thai Visa Run

Do I break the law by doing a visa run?

No.

Should I do a visa run myself or through an agency?

This is a matter of personal preference. Some people are doing runs themselves, while others use agencies. For more information see section [SEE SECTION]

Can I cross the border and come back the same day with new VEE?

It is possible and people do so. Chances of doing so successfully decrease over time with each new VEE. Please remember that as of December 2016, if you are eligible for 30-day VEE you have an official limit of two visa exempt entries in a calendar year when traveling to Thailand by land (Malaysia is excluded from this regulation).

Should I re-enter Thailand via land or air?

Re-entering Thailand via land is considered a safer option. This is because if anyone gets denied entry at an airport he/she would either face deportation to the home country or might be given the option to fly back to the country from which the person flew from. Also, the likelihood of getting an official denial of entry (in passport & immigration system) is lower.

Why would I be denied entry into Thailand?

Thai immigration can deny an entry based solely on Section 12 of Chapter 2 (Entering and Departing the Kingdom) of Immigration Act, B.E. 2522 (1979). If for some reason you will be denied entry, you will receive a stamp in your passport stating the reason why. Immigration officers may refer to any paragraph from Section 12, but below two are most often cited:

  • paragraph 12.2 Having no appropriate means of living following entrance into the Kingdom“. This may happen when you are attempting to enter Thailand on a tourist visa (SETV or METV) or on visa exempt entry (VEE) and you don’t have enough cash. If you want to enter on a tourist visa you may be requested to show 20,000 baht in cash (or 40,000 if traveling with a family) or equivalent in any major currency. If you are attempting to enter on visa exempt entry, then you may be requested to show 10,000 baht in cash (or 20,000 if traveling with a family) or equivalent in any major currency.
  • paragraph 12.3 Having entered the Kingdom to be employed as an unskilled or untrained laborer, or to work in violation of the Alien Work Permit Law.” which can be cited if you do not make strong enough case against the suspicion of working illegally. This may happen if you have been staying in Thailand more than several months using VEE and tourist visas. If that’s the case, carrying financial statements showing your funds overseas will be helpful.

Source: unofficial translation of the entire document, and officially stated information of part of the document on the site of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Visa information)

Do I really have to carry 20,000 baht when I want to enter Thailand?

In July 2017, there have been cases reported that tourists were denied entry because they did not possess 20,000 baht (or equivalent) on them when entering the country. You can read the story here in Independent.co.uk or here in The Straits Times. You can read an interview with Thailand Immigration on the site of Royal Thai Embassy in Singapore. Here is a relevant excerpt from the embassy’s site: Notification of the Ministry of Interior dated 8 May 2000, holders of tourist visa must be able to prove that they have adequate finances equivalent to at least 20,000 Baht per person or 40,000 Baht per family.” Therefore yes, it is advisable to carry sufficient amount of cash that meets the requirements of Thai Immigration. Likelihood of enforcing this requirement increases for people with a history of multiple entries to Thailand.

Does the money required has to be in Thai baht or can it be any other currency?

No, it does not have to be in Thai baht. It can be an equivalent to the requested amount in any major currency such as United States Dollar (USD), Euro (EUR) or British Pound (GBP).

Is it possible to withdraw the money if I need it?

ATM machines may not be available to withdraw the money when you need it.

I have many tourist visas and visa exempt entries – will it help pass through Thai Immigration if I get a new passport?

Thai Immigration will hold your passport history in their computer system. If you will use new passport at entry or departure from Thailand your historical passport information will be available to the officials. Getting new passport can help in obtaining new tourist visas from Thai embassies.

What is the likelihood of me being denied entry to Thailand with SETV or METV?

It’s impossible to speculate. If there is no suspicion of you working in Thailand illegally or you can present “appropriate means of living” then it should be OK.

What is the likelihood of being denied entry to Thailand with VEE?

It’s impossible to speculate. It is better to have a valid tourist visa if you have a history of multiple visa exempt entries into Thailand.

What are the consequences If I overstayed in Thailand?

Consequences differ depending on how many days you overstayed, and whether or not you were arrested while overstaying (i.e. at document verification at a police checkpoint) or you willingly surrendered to authorities (i.e. you want to leave the country via airport). For each day of overstay, you will have to pay 500 baht and the maximum is 20,000 baht if you overstayed for 40 or more days. For further details and consequences please see the official document of Order of Minister of Interior No. 1/2258

Others

I lost my departure card – what should I do?

This happens quite often and is not a reason to worry. You will be able to obtain a new card at Thai immigration checkpoints such as an airport or border crossing. If you want to apply for an extension of stay at Thai immigration office then you will be able to request one there. There are no consequences for losing a departure card and there is no cost involved in getting a new one.

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