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Visa information for Samui

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There are several different visa types which are issued and which allow you to stay in Thailand. It is possible to retire here, or to obtain the right to live here if you are investing in a business. Many others get by on temporary visas.

Tourist visas
Nationals of most countries are automatically issued a 30-day visa upon arrival in Thailand, and you can leave and immediately re-enter as often as you like, thus extending the visa for a further 30 days. Many people have been conducting this ruse for years and the immigration department isn’t too fussed. However, since 2004 the border points that people typically hop over to renew the 30 days have been questioning those who have crossed more than three times. Usually they just ask you for proof of at least 20,000 baht to sustain yourself for at least 30 more days.

Tourist visas allow you to stay for 60 days but they must be issued outside of the country at a Thai consulate or embassy and usually cost about the equivalent of $10. If you should overstay your permitted period you will be ‘fined’ 200 baht per day upon exit, up to a total of about 20,000 baht and may be denied re-entry if the period was significant. You can also get a single 10-day extension at a local immigration office for 1,900 baht.

Non-immigrant visas
This is the most popular and realistic way of remaining long term in Thailand. With a non-immigrant visa you can remain in Thailand for up to three months at a time and this can usually be extended several times, theoretically allowing you the right to stay here for up to a year. Typically you could apply for one of these in order to study full-time, take up a job, investigate starting a business, and a number of more obscure excuses. In each instance you need a plausible excuse with verifiable paperwork in order to apply. If you have a letter from a prospective employer, the immigration authorities may issue you a single entry visa, advising you to up-grade to a work permit. Obviously a single entry visa will last no more than three months if you need to leave and re-enter the Kingdom to extend it. Make sure you get a multiple entry visa (which costs more).
There are several types of non-immigrant visas; the most common include:

Type B:

for conducting business or employment

Type M:

for journalists accredited as press representatives

Type O:

if you are a taking care of dependents or are retired (over 55).


investors who meet the Board of Investment requirements


education study or observation

If you’re after a non-immigrant B visa allowing you to stay for three months and renew for a further three months (twice more), you need to go to the nearest Thai consulate. If you are already in Thailand, then the nearest ones are;

Ventiane, Laos


which is notoriously slow and you often need to bribe your way to the front of the queue.

Penang, Malaysia


is so fed up with visa-runners that you’d better make sure you have all your paper work in order to avoid a run around.

Rangoon, Myanmar (Burma)


which isn’t a popular option, though most people we’ve heard of going there have had few problems.

Phnom Penh


which is the closest to Bangkok, though the razing of the Thai embassy there in January 2003 has created disorganisation.

Kuala Lumpur


which seems to be efficient and is a seamless task, with few hiccups.

Visa services

There are many companies offering to help you secure a long-stay visa or work permit (by means fair or foul) and often it’s worth paying the fee (about 20,000 baht) to let them ‘get on with it’. As we have experienced ourselves, even an honest and legitimate attempt to secure a work permit through the correct channels can be frustrated by unreasonable obstacles (read: ‘bribe me’), and these visa services usually know who the right people are to ‘buy bottles of whisky’ for, saving you the red tape chase.

Details on work permits, business visas and retirement visas for living on Samui follow.

This is page 2 of 3. Go to Page 3: Visas for working, retiring or starting a business on Samui

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This page last updated: 29 August 2006
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