If you want to stay long-term in Thailand but don’t qualify for a Non-Immigrant visa and don’t want to (or can’t) pay for the Elite visa, there are a couple of other options available. Of course, if you can find employment in Thailand, either with a Thai company, a school, or get placed there with a foreign company, then that entitles you to get a work permit and a Non-Immigrant B visa which allows you to stay for as long as you remain employed, and with your work permit, you’ll find it easy to open a Thai bank account.
However, it can be tough to land a job in Thailand as a foreigner, in many cases you’ll need to be fluent in both Thai and English, hold a degree as a minimum and find someone willing to take you on as you won’t be able to work self-employed. Traditionally, teaching English has been a popular option, however, the salary has generally not increased in the last 15 years, so your starting salary may not be enough to live on and the schools seem to prefer to use non-native English speakers such as Filipinos who are happy to work for less. Also, there are more and more reports online of western English teachers having difficulties with their employer as employees in Thailand don’t enjoy the same rights and privileges as they do in the west.
There are a few other options you may like to consider:
Volunteering in Thailand
There are many options with regards to volunteer work in Thailand, from conservation work, animal sanctuaries, teaching English and many, many more. There will usually be a minimum length of time to which you must commit, some places will provide free, basic accommodation and food, whereas other places will require you to provide for yourself. There may or may not be a fee or deposit which you will need to pay to secure your place as a volunteer. An excellent place to start is VolunteerWorkThailand.org, which lists places to contact with your offer of volunteer work. Once you have secured a position that you think would suit you, then you can get the ball rolling with your visa application. You will be applying for a Non-Immigrant “O” visa based on volunteer work and will need to submit the following documents to your local embassy:
This visa will entitle you to stay in the country for up to a year, but you must remember that you must report to your local immigration every 90 days and ensure you obtain a re-entry permit before you leave the country otherwise your visa will be voided. Volunteering is a great way to meet people, learn about Thailand and get something interesting on your resume. However, you obviously won’t get paid and will almost certainly be living in shared accommodation with basic food.
Studying in Thailand
Studying in Thailand is another excellent option which allows you to obtain a long-term Non-Immigrant “ED” visa on which you can stay for up to a year. Traditionally, Thai language courses have been popular with foreigners and Muay Thai (Thai kick-boxing) courses are also very popular. Both will qualify you the ED visa. There are also many other courses offered by various Thai colleges and universities, with most institutions offering assistance with obtaining your visa.
It’s a 90-day visa initially, but you can stay for up to a year on an ED visa (your school will provide the relevant documents extend it), then you may be able to renew it if you need to continue your studies. Like with other visas you need to make sure you do 90-day reports and use re-entry permits. Note that if you stop your studies for any reason, your visa will technically become void and you’ll need to leave the country (the school is likely to contact immigration if you stop attending).
To obtain a Non-Immigrant “ED” visa, you must be enrolled on a full-time, recognised course which is a minimum on 100 hours over 90 days (about 8-10 hours per week), and supply the following documents at a Thai embassy in your home country or a neighbouring country:
For medical treatment taking less than 60 days, you can get an “MT” visa, for longer than that you’d need a Non-Immigrant “O” visa based on undergoing medical treatment. With Thailand having several world-class hospitals and clinics and offering great value, it’s a fantastic destination for both elective and cosmetic procedures. Many treatments and procedures in Thailand will be less than half the cost of in the west, and with almost all doctors and surgeons having trained in the west, the standards are excellent.
Using Visa Agents
If you are in Thailand already and want to stay longer, then it’s possible to find a visa agent who can help you secure the relevant visa, but fees can be steep. It should also be mentioned here that trying to obtain an education or volunteer visa with no intention of doing said activities is illegal and foolish in the extreme, if you are caught you will likely be made an example of and can look forward to being detained, deported and blacklisted. The Thai authorities are often undertaking crackdowns to weed out people abusing the visa system.