Turn Your Love of Thailand Into Your Full-Time Retirement Destination

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The late great chef and author Anthony Bourdain famously said: “All of the things I need for happiness: Low plastic stool, check. Tiny little plastic table, check. Something delicious in a bowl, check.” This rings so true for those of us who enjoy the street food of Southeast Asia, and especially the heat and complex flavors of Thailand.  If you’re reading this article, you’re thinking about winding down the daily work routine and imagining a life in Thailand.  It is certainly within your reach.  This article provides the fundamentals about realizing this aspiration, and some tips on how best to make it happen.    

Why Thailand?

Thailand is the choice for many retirees for a host of reasons. Yes, the cost of living here can be much more accommodating than in most Western countries.   And yes, there is the availability of world-class medical services.  We shouldn’t forget the jai di (good hearts) of the Thai people in this land of smiles.  Yet, there is something more…the wide variety of lifestyles and environments as you travel the country.  Beaches abound in the South, verdant valleys and mountains explored in the North and immersing yourself in the energy of a world-class metropolis, Bangkok, in the heart of the country.  Thailand is also a hub and terrific jumping-off point for the rest of Southeast Asia, India, and beyond.  So, you’re over the age of fifty and focusing on the possibilities.  Let’s talk about the path to get here.  

What does Thailand offer for those looking to make Thailand home in retirement? 

For those looking for a post-work life in Thailand, there are essentially three options:  A “retirement” (age-based) visa, a spousal/family visa, or an Elite (fee-based) visa.  This article focuses on the age-based visa available for those 50 years or older.  We’ll discuss family and Elite visas in future articles.

“Retirement” Visa Basics 

The “retirement” visa is really shorthand for a visa based on age and is available to those 50 years of age or older.  The actual name is Non-Immigrant “O” or “O-A” visa (we’ll just call these “Non-O” in this article to make it easier on your eyes).  The “O” visa is initially issued for 90 days and may be extended in Thailand for one-year periods.  The “O-A” visa is issued for a one-year term, and can also be extended for one-year periods.  We set out the additional requirements for a Non-O-A visa below to help you make a more informed decision.

To get started, you may apply for a Non-O visa through the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate-General in your home country.  A Non-O visa is issued for a ninety-day period, and you may apply for a one-year extension at the Bureau of Immigration in Bangkok, or the provincial office of the Bureau of Immigration where you reside.  Alternatively, you can enter Thailand lawfully (e.g., under a 60-day Tourist Visa) and apply for the Non-O visa at the Bureau of Immigration office in Bangkok. 

As with most countries’ immigration requirements, Thailand wants to ensure that you will be able to support yourself financially once you move here, and you will have the means to address the health issues that may arise.  Here are the basic Non-O visa requirements:

  • You are age fifty or older.
  • You demonstrate financial capability to support yourself in the Kingdom through either a deposit in a Thai bank of B800,000 (about US$25,000) for a period of at least two months prior to the extension, or proof of monthly income of B65,000 (about US$1900/month) over a period of one year that is transferred to a Thai bank account.  Generally, proof of income is in the form of Thai bank statements covering the one-year period.
  • A health insurance policy as of the writing of this article with coverage of at least US$50,000, but that does not need to include a specific coverage certificate for Covid-19 health related expenses.  The health insurance coverage requirements are in flux, so you should confirm current insurance requirements when you apply for your visa or entry to the Kingdom through the Thailand Pass program. (See our article on Thailand Pass Basics for more information.)
  • You establish your place of residency in Thailand to the Thailand Immigration Bureau on form TM-30, and then confirm your place of residency every 90 days on form TM-47.  This continued reporting may be available online.
  • If you intend to travel outside of Thailand during the one-year term of our Non-O visa you will need a single Re-entry Permit or a multiple Re-Entry Permit. (Please see our article on Re-Entry Permits for more information.)
  • For Non-OA Visas only (a one-year term at issuance) you must apply through the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate-General in your home country, pay an enhanced fee, and your application must include the results of a criminal background report from a law enforcement agency (e.g., US FBI) and the results of a medical examination confirming you are free from certain communicable diseases.  

As ever, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at Hello@BTISolutions.co.

Wishing you all the best,

Your Baan Thai Immigration Solutions Team

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Mark Friedman

Managing Director of Baan Thai
Mark is a member of the California Bar and a 1987 graduate with honors from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.

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