If you are aged over 50 and are retired with either cash in the bank or a pension, then you have access to arguably the easiest way to stay in Thailand long-term, which is to obtain a Non-Immigrant O-A visa based on retirement from your home country and then to complete yearly extensions once in Thailand.
Obtaining a Non-Immigrant Visa
The first step, assuming you are not in Thailand already, is to contact your local Thai embassy and apply for a Non-Immigrant visa. You will need to supply the following documents:
A non-Immigrant “O-A” visa allows you to enter the country for a period of up to one year, and when the visa is close to expiring, you will need to attend your nearest immigration office to obtain a retirement extension. You may find it easier to obtain an “O” visa instead of an “O-A” as less documentation is required, but that only allows you to enter for 90 days before you will need to apply for your extension (if applying in your home country, you’ll get an O-A visa). If you are already in Thailand, perhaps on a tourist visa, you’ll need to head to a neighbouring country’s Thai embassy and apply for a Non-Immigrant “O” visa and then re-enter the country.
Once you’ve entered Thailand on your Non-Immigrant visa, you can relax until you are in the last 30 days of its validity and then you will need to start gathering your documents, but you will need to open a Thai bank account as soon as possible to avoid any headaches further down the line.
Opening Your Thai Bank Account
One important point to note is that to obtain a retirement extension to a Non-Immigrant visa, you will need to provide evidence that you have had a minimum of 800k Baht ($26,475) in a Thai bank account in your name only for no less than 2 months. Therefore, if you are arriving on a Non-Immigrant “O” visa, the first thing that you need to do is open an account with a Thai bank. Many Thai banks will ask for a work permit before offering an account to a foreigner, however, if you are retired you should be able to open an account more easily, but you may still have to try several branches before you find one willing to open one for you. This stems from the Thai culture of “saving face” which means that it is easier for them to turn you away rather than say that they don’t know the procedure. But if you are persistent, you will certainly find a branch willing to open one for you, some good banks to try are Bangkok Bank, Kasikorn Bank and Krung Sri (Bank of Ayuthaya).
A quick note here – although for financial proof you are also allowed to use either 800k on deposit or regular income of at least 65k a month, as embassies have stopped providing income affidavits, the lump sum deposit method is far easier and there have been anecdotal reports of some immigration offices now only accepting this method.
Bear in mind that Thailand, despite being reliant on tourism, as a country they still have a fairly poor grasp of the English language, and bank workers, in general, are not expecting many foreign customers so they may not have any staff who can speak English, let alone any other foreign languages. For this reason, you should head to some larger branches in places where there are lots of foreigners, such as Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya. More rural locations almost certainly will not have anyone who can speak English with any real ability and ultimately this will result in them not wanting to deal with you to avoid embarrassment.
Not only is it essential to have a Thai bank account to get the retirement extension, but it will also save you a small fortune in ATM fees. If you use your foreign bank card in a Thai ATM, there is an unavoidable 220 Baht ($7.29) fee for every transaction, plus your bank at home will almost always add on a foreign transaction fee and possibly give a substandard exchange rate, meaning that every time you use the ATM it will cost you $20-30. With your Thai bank account, the only charges you will have to pay is 20 baht ($0.66) if you withdraw money from an ATM in a province other than the one you opened your account at. Otherwise, it’s free, however, most banks charge a yearly 200 baht ($6.60) for your ATM card.
So, once you have opened your Thai bank account and transferred a minimum of 800k Baht into it, you need to wait 2 months before trying to obtain your retirement extension. It should be noted that if your balance drops below 800k at any point during the two months, even by a penny, your application will be rejected, so it’s highly advisable to transfer 800k plus 2-3 months living expenses, or more if you can afford it. You should be aware that although it’s easy to transfer money into a Thai bank, transferring it back to your home country can be problematic as they will ask for documentation about where the money has come from, which you probably won’t have.
Applying For Your Retirement Extension
At this point, you now have a Thai bank account with a minimum of 800k Baht in it for 2 months and are in the last 30 days of your Non-O or OA visa validity, so you need to prepare the following documents to take to your local immigration office to apply for your retirement extension:
Once you have submitted all the documents, they will be examined and if everything looks good, you’ll be given an “under consideration” stamp and given a date to come back and collect your extension usually in around four weeks. Note that this is considerably easier than applying for an extension based on marriage, with the caveat that you need more money in the bank and mandatory insurance.
Re-Entry Permits and 90-Day Reporting
There are a few points to note about being on a retirement extension. If you plan to leave the country, you must always apply for a re-entry permit beforehand or your visa and extension will be voided. This can be done at an immigration office or the airport, the fees are 1000 baht ($33) for single-entry and 3800 baht ($126) for multiple-entry. You are also required to do 90-day reports to your local immigration office either online, by mail or in person. And you will need to do TM-30 reports if you stay anywhere other than the address you gave upon returning to your residence. Failure to comply with these reporting requirements will result in you being fined upon your next visit to immigration.