Visa options for retirees heading for Thailand

Visa options for retirees heading for Thailand

Visa options for retirees heading for Thailand

Checking all Thailand’s visa options for those over 50 years of age is the best way to ensure a trouble-free retirement.

Thailand is a perennially popular destination for expat retirees due to its tropical weather, low cost of living, established expat communities and inexpensive housing options. However, over the past few years, many changes in visa options and requirements have taken place, giving additional choices over the basic ‘retirement extension’. Most of the new visa options seem to be aimed at wealthier expatriates and many not be suitable to pensioners relying on a basic state pension.

The traditional one-year extension of stay granted to expats over the ago of 50 is still the most popular as well as being generally trouble-free. The financial requirement is either a deposit of 800,000 baht (£1860) in a Thai bank account for at least three months before the visa application is made. There’s a financial option in that the amount can be made up of capital plus the annual total of a pension. 90-day reports to a local immigration office are required, and holders of this and other retirement-based visas are prohibited from working or volunteering.

The new kid on the long-stay visa block is the 10-year retirement visa, again aimed at those over 50 years of age. Paperwork requirements are complex and include possession of a comprehensive, expensive private medical insurance policy purchased in Thailand as well as a positive police report from the expat’s home country. Existing overseas-based health insurance policies are not allowed, and the visa itself needs to be renewed after its first five years. Financial requirements are a Thai bank deposit of three million baht (£69,800) or proof of $100,000 (£23,255) in monthly income, and the deposit must be maintained in full for three months before an application is made. Comments on local expat forums suggest this visa will be available in 2018.

The third option is the Elite Visa, issued not by the Thai government but by the Thailand Privilege Card Company, a subsidiary of Thailand’s Tourism Authority. There are several options for applicants of any age, with the cheapest allowing a five-year, non-renewable stay and costing 500,000 baht (£11,628). The 20-year version is a multiple 5 year visa allowing a stay of 20 years and costing one million baht (£23,255), and the ‘Elite Ultimate Privilege visa costs twice as much and offers a complimentary golf and spa package, an annual health check and unlimited concierge services at Thai airports.

Viewing the options available, with the exception of the original so-called 'retirement visa', it’s obvious that Thailand is looking to attract long-stay expats with fat bank balances who may not realise they can’t get Thai citizenship or permanent residency and will always be ‘guests’ in the country with very little in the way of rights. However, those able to comfortably afford the top-tier Elite visas might be able to purchase citizenship including a second passport in a choice of attractive destinations including EU member states.

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