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Visas for working, retiring or starting a business on Samui

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Samui is a popular place to retire, but many younger people or those on early retirement start a business on Samui and it entitles them to reside in Thailand indefinitely.

The official retirement age for visas is 55 and you can stay indefinitely, provided you can prove that you have sufficient annual income to sustain yourself. Starting a business is a bit trickier and you will need to invest a minimum of 2 million baht and employ at least five Thais to qualify for a work permit. The investment amount is even higher if you wish to apply for a simple ‘investor’s visa’. Be warned that the paperwork for securing a work permit is enormous and even then, the immigration department will insist on a fresh wad of paper (essentially covering exactly the same details) before they issue you with a visa.

Work permits
This is first prize for those wishing to stay here long-term, as it doesn't require frequent renewing, nor hefty financial stipulations, but the red tape run around is incredible. Naturally, you have to have a job offer from a company that meets the stipulated criteria for employing foreigners. There also has to be a plausible excuse why they can't hire a Thai for the job. It is the company's responsibility to apply, and at least 15 documents (including detailed statements about the company's position) are required, along with a fee and a health certificate from you. This can take up to two months and you need to be in possession of a non-immigrant B visa. Incredibly, once the work permit is issued, you then have to carry out the whole rigmarole again to satisfy the Immigration department before they will give you a one-year visa. In all, the process can take several months and cost more than 10,000 baht in various fees. There are also hefty stipulated minimum salaries set (scaled according to your nationality) in order to qualify.

Because of this, some companies, particularly language schools, are reluctant to offer permanent jobs complete with work permit (besides, there need to be four Thai employees for each foreigner), and many employees have to resort to three-monthly visa runs, which are widely undertaken.

Be aware that once you have a work permit you will still be fleeced of 1000 baht for a re-entry permit every time you leave the country.

Business owner
As a business owner, you have the right to secure a work permit or one year, renewable non-immigrant B visa. Quite a few foreigners choose this option if they are serious and have the money required. Thai law states that a company cannot have more than 49 per cent foreign ownership. Furthermore, the founding charter must bear the signatures of seven directors: these can be of any nationality as long as the share agreement places the majority of ownership in Thai hands. The benefits of a company are that it can own property (land) and it overcomes several of the obstacles concerning rights of foreigners here. However, you need to find a trustworthy partner and for many this is usually a Thai wife or husband. Strangely, foreign women married to Thai men enjoy more rights than their male counterparts.

Retirement visas
People over the age of 55 wishing to stay here may apply for a retirement visa, but they need to prove they have sufficient money to remain here. According to the Immigration department this is 40,000 baht per month (on which you can live very comfortably here). You will also have to show at least 200,000 baht in your bank account, but they usually only check this once a year.

Permanent residence
This is granted to people who have been living here for more than five years or have a wife and family to support, however the one-off fee of 195,000 baht is rather ridiculous and renders this option largely unreasonable to most. In addition, you have to show you have an income of at least 40,000 baht per month and a bank balance of 200,000 baht, not to mention a mountain of paper work.

Although there are laws in place and the Thai immigration get tired of all the foreigners invading their country, money lines pockets easily in Thailand and the system is completely porous to those who don't mind entering into 'the system'. We don't encourage it, if your intentions here are genuine, then there are legitimate options open to you. It’s also worthwhile hiring a visa agent to ‘take care’ of everything for you.

This is page 3 of 3. Go back to Page 1: Non Immigrant and tourist visas

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This page last updated: 29 August 2006
This site last updated: 17 June 2005

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