How to get a resident permit in Thailand

Permanent residency in Thailand
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Updated 2022-05-06 14:54

Thailand is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The country's friendly climate, stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage make it a highly attractive destination for visitors from all around the world.

But Thailand is more than a popular vacation spot. Some expats, having visited the country a few times, fall in love with the country and make the decision to move here for good.

So, is moving to Thailand a good idea? And if so, what are your options for a long-term stay?

Why move to Thailand?

There is a multitude of reasons why you may want to make Thailand your home.

A lot of people flock here for the country's famed laid back lifestyle. A warm climate, beautiful beaches and friendly people make life in Thailand pretty much ideal.

The idyllic scenery is backed up by an attractively low cost of living. Thailand is a popular destination for downshifters as it offers all the benefits of modern living — but at a lower cost. Even in big cities, rent is very affordable and daily expenses are easy to manage even on a modest income. According to numbeo.com, for instance, the cost of living in Bangkok is 48.49% less expensive compared to life in New York.

Good to know:

*Downshifting is a movement that became popular in the early 90's and includes a shift from a stressful but financially rewarding career towards a more fulfilling lifestyle that may bring in less income but allows for more free time and less pressure.

Depending on where you plan to settle in Thailand, you will have access to a variety of amenities. Big cities like Bangkok offer all the benefits of city life: from a developed infrastructure to exciting nightlife. If you are looking for some peace and quiet, smaller cities, resort towns and islands come with a slower pace and an even lower cost of living.

Thailand may not be the world's most obvious destination when it comes to building a career. However, it does offer lots of options for work — especially for new graduates and those looking to make a change. English teaching is one of the most popular jobs for new expats — and a foot in the door in Thailand's job market.

While a lot of people move to Thailand for a variety of different reasons, there are two groups that seem to have taken a particular liking to the country: retirees and digital nomads.

Retirement in Thailand is a popular option for a lot of foreigners for a variety of reasons, including a lost cost of living and the option to apply for a retirement visa. In fact, in 2018 alone, the country issued over 80,000 retirement visas and the 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index also ranked Thailand as the 11th best country for retirement in the world.

Digital nomads are another group that find Thailand a highly attractive destination. Good internet, low cost of living and relatively simple visa procedures make the country a great place for remote workers. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Koh Lanta are among the top destinations for digital nomads in Thailand.

Good to know:

Due to the popularity of the country among digital nomads and freelancers, the government of Thailand is currently considering the introduction of the so-called “digital nomad visa”, which will allow independent professionals to stay in the country for a period of up to five years. The details of eligibility and implementation of the visa are still being discussed as of 2022.

Is it possible to become a resident in Thailand?

Yes, it is possible to become a resident in Thailand — provided you meet certain criteria

established by the immigration authorities. Becoming a permanent resident in Thailand has many advantages, as you won't need to keep applying to extend your stay in the country. It also gives you more freedom to buy accommodation, and it makes getting a work permit easier too.

The Residency Permit never expires, but can be revoked, and you can apply to become a naturalized Thai citizen after having PR status in Thailand for ten consecutive years.

You will be required to apply for a Certificate of Residence at the Thai Immigration Bureau, which grants permanent residency to a maximum of 100 people of each nationality per year, and the whole application process can take up to a year.

How to get a residency permit in Thailand?

To apply for PR status, you need to have had a Non-Immigrant Visa in Thailand for at least three years before submitting your application. This will involve showing evidence of three consecutive one-year visa extensions. Applicants will also need to prove that they have had a valid work permit for those three years and that they earn a monthly income of at least THB80,000 if they are single.

You will also need to justify that you wish to live permanently in Thailand for one of these main purposes:

  • Investment (you will need to show proof of having THB3-10 million invested in Thailand)
  • Business/Employment
  • Family (this applies if you are married to a Thai citizen or a foreigner with a residency permit)
  • Academic/Expert
  • Retirement

Any other reasons are at the discretion of the Thai immigration authorities.

Note that the list of the criteria of application depends on the category in which the application is made.

What documents are needed to apply for a residency permit in Thailand?

The opening date for applications varies each year and is announced by the Minister of Interior. Once the announcement has been made, applications for permanent residency can be submitted up until the last working day of the year.

You will be required to apply in person at the Immigration Bureau, where the officials will take your fingerprints to check that you have a clear criminal record. An application should contain a detailed and precise explanation of the reasons why you are requesting a residency permit. The clearer you can make this information, the quicker the relevant officials can make their decision.

Immigration officers will grant applicants a 180-day extension of stay from the date they receive the submitted application, and applicants will be granted another 180 days after that until the results of the applications are released by the Immigration Commission.

You will need to submit a completed TM.13 application form to the Immigration Bureau, along with the following documents:

  • Your passport
  • Proof of entry into Thailand
  • Your work permit (if applicable)
  • A photo taken within the last six months (4x6cm)
  • THB 7,600 as an application fee.

Once the application has been reviewed, applicants will be invited for an interview with the immigration officers, where they will be tested on their understanding of the Thai language, among other things. If applicants do not turn up for this interview without a good reason, their application will be canceled.

If your application for permanent residency is approved, the fee for the residence permit is THB191,400. You will be issued a blue residence book, and you will then be required to register your place of residence in Thailand and obtain a certificate of residence. A week after receiving this certificate, you can then apply for a certificate of alien identification at your local police station. This is basically a foreigner's ID card, and you must re-register at the police station every year.

Where to submit the documents for permanent Thai residency:

In Bangkok:

Contact at Sub-division 1, Immigration Division 1, The Government Complex, Building B, 2 Floor, Counter D, 120 Moo 3, Chaengwattana Road, Thungsonghong Sub-District, Bangkok 10210

In other regions: contact at local or nearby Immigration Office

Click here to download the application forms.

How to apply for the Thai Elite Visa

In addition to the traditional way of obtaining a Thai residency, there is also the fast-track option, known as the Thai Elite Visa. As you may have guessed from the name, this type of visa is available to those who have the means to pay for convenience.

So, what is a Thai Elite Visa?

The Thai Elite Visa was introduced by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports in 2003 with the aim to attract investors and wealthy visitors to the country and give the expats living in the country an additional option for organizing their long-term stay. The Thai Elite Visa is classified as a Privilege Entry Visa and allows foreigners to stay in the country for five, ten or twenty years.

Currently, there are seven different varieties of the Thai Elite Residence Program — their main difference is in the length of stay allowed and the number of people it is valid for. All Thai Elite Visas come with a set of extra perks that include:

  • Express immigration pass at the airport
  • Airport pick-up
  • Access to executive lounges
  • Access to a 24-hour contact center
  • Complimentary spa services

How to apply for the Thai Elite Visa?

  • You can apply for the Thai Elite Visa both from Thailand or from abroad. In most cases, the process will go as follows:
  • You will need to send a copy of your passport and application form to an accredited Thai Elite Visa agent.
  • The agent will then initiate the process by working with the Thailand Elite Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Bureau. They will need to perform a criminal background check and look into your immigration history. Depending on where you come from, this process may take from one to three months.
  • Once you've passed the background check and your application has been approved, you will need to transfer the Thai Elite Program membership fee. The cost of the Thai Elite Visa ranges from THB 600,000 (for a 5-year residency permit for one person) to THB 2 million (for a 20-year residency for a family). Once you've selected your residency program, you can make the payment via a bank transfer.
  • Once your transfer has come through, you will receive a membership ID and further instructions on how to receive your physical visa. There are several options for that:

You can receive your Thai Elite Visa at the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country.

You can also pick up your Thai Elite Visa upon arrival in Thailand, right at the airport.

Important: note that this option isn't available during the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

If you are already located in Thailand, your visa may be issued at the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok.

The Thai Elite Visa application process may take from three weeks to two months — depending on your country of origin and other related circumstances.

Useful links:

Immigration Bangkok Thai Permanent Residence Visa

Thai Embassy Thai Permanent Residency

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.