Retirement to Thailand

Retirement to Thailand seems to becoming more and more popular. Whether its the current economic climate or some other reasons that are responsible …

Retirement to Thailand

Retirement to Thailand seems to becoming more and more popular. Whether its the current economic climate or some other reasons that are responsible for this trend, I’m not sure. But what I am sure about is the fact that many people embarking on this life changing experience are actually not that well prepared.

Now that is fairly easy for me to say given that I made the move to Thailand in 2008 with the intention of retiring there. As it happened, slightly disillusioned with life in the Kingdom, I returned to the UK in 2011 to care for my mother who has severe dementia.

Now, some 14 months later, I have been contemplating returning to Thailand to resume my retirement, given that sadly my Mum has had to go into full time nursing care. While considering my options I got to thinking about my move to Thailand in 2008 and the mistakes I made, mistakes that were largely down to my inexperience and lack of forward planning.

That’s not to say that I didn’t plan, in fact before I finally left the UK I had actually visited the country five times, staying as long as a month on my longest visit. But and its an important but, I was visiting as a tourist, on holiday, which is very different to moving to Thailand on a permanent basis. True I saw quite a lot of different places, but mostly from the comfort of a nice hotel with charming Thai staff.

So if I was going back to resume my retirement in Thailand what would I do differently from 2008 or what advice would I give to someone else just setting out on the journey.

Broadly speaking I think my advice would fall under a few broad headings including Thai Visa, housing, where to live, the cost of living and some things to avoid. Today’s post looks at some visa options for retiring to Thailand.

Retirement to Thailand — Visa Options

Back in 2008, I got a multi entry Non Immigrant O visa from the Royal Thai Consulate in Hull, UK. Which if used effectively can still give you up to 15 months in the country. I considered this the best option at the time, when incidentally the rules on the issue of this type of visa varied slightly to what they do now.

I figured that the visa gave me a degree of flexibility should I discover that I was finding it difficult to settle or indeed wanted to travel around other Asian countries using Thailand as my base.

However this flexibility comes at a price, because with this type of visa you need to exit and re-enter Thailand at an international border every 90 days, even if you don’t plan on traveling. I knew this before I left the UK but did not realize the inconvenience and cost that can be associated with making “border runs” as the process is termed by expats in Thailand. Depending where you settle, border runs can cost you 5000+ Baht and take a couple of days.

After participating in a couple of expensive and tiring border runs I decided that I needed to explore putting my Thai retirement on a more permanent basis by applying for a “retirement extension” to my O Visa at my local Thai Immigration checkpoint. A successful applicant is not required to leave the country every 90 days, but instead either reports in person or by post to their local checkpoint in Thailand.

Of course a retirement extension comes at a price, the extension itself is only 1,900Baht, with the real cost being in the small print so to speak. In order to qualify, you need to be over 50 years of age, and have either 800,000 Baht in a Thai bank account OR an income of 65,000Baht a month OR a combination of the two to achieve the 800,000 threshold. On first application if using the money in the bank route the money needs to have been on deposit for two months (three on subsequent renewals) . Often referred to as seasoning by expats living in the country.

The holder of a Thai visa retirement extension wishing to leave the country also needs to purchase a re-entry permit in order to retain their visa status, with a single permit at 1900 Baht and a multi exit permit priced at 3,800 Baht.

In my own case I used the combined route to qualify for my retirement extension, which required evidence of income and evidence of bank savings. Not difficult to obtain, with an embassy letter for income, costing around 2000 Baht and a letter from my bank with statements attached costing 200 Baht, but still an added expense and inconvenience. That said an extension, relevant evidence and a single re-entry permit cost around, 6000 Baht once a year compared to 15,000+ Baht for border runs.

So what Visa advice would I give now for someone contemplating retirement to Thailand?

Buy a single entry Non-Immigrant O visa in your country of domicile, if you have firm plans, perhaps know where you will be living and meet all the qualifying conditions. Incidentally a single entry (£50 UK) costs a third of the multi entry version and you can apply for a retirement extension after 60 days in Thailand. Clearly you need to get relevant funds in place within 30 days of entry if you are using the bank deposit route as a basis for your extension.

Consider a multi entry Non-Immigrant O visa if you want more time to review your options, but be prepared for border runs every 90 days.

There are other visa options for Thailand, remember this article is targeted at those contemplating retirement to Thailand, who are not married to a Thai national. Although if they were married to a Thai national the visa choice would be the same, but the conditions for extension would be different.

Look out for future articles on housing, where to live, the cost of living and some things to avoid based on my own experience of retirement to Thailand.

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