What is the best Thai Visa for someone wanting to stay in Thailand? Is it the Thai Elite Visa, Thai Retirement Visa, Thailand Marriage Visa, or a Non-immigrant Business Visa? This featured article will offer a comprehensive look into the world of Thailand visas for foreigners wishing to live in Thailand.
I have been working in the field of Thai immigration for the last 13 years. I started out working the night shift in the Bangkok headquarters for Thailand’s largest network of law offices. My responsibilities were to chat with visitors online and receive telephone inquiries to guide foreigners regarding which was the best Thai Visa for their travel to Thailand. I received calls and chats from nearly every country in the world. Each night I would consult with people from around the world who desired immigration advice for their upcoming long stay in Thailand. Nowadays, I lead the customer service team for Thai Immigration in the Bangkok law firm. I often speak to 15 to 20 people a day offering immigration advice for entering Thailand.
It is interesting to note that Thai visa issuance policies change almost on a monthly basis. When I am home at night I will often read the forums and blogs trying to stay on top of the latest experiences of persons who have made visa applications for Thailand at the Thai Embassies and Consulates around the world. About ten years ago it was commonplace for foreigners to obtain a 1-year multiple-entry Thailand visa by post within their home country using an invitation letter from a Thai Company. However, Thai Embassies restricted that practice, first in the UK, then in Australia, and finally in the US for the 1-year Thai Visas.
Thai Elite Visa
The Thailand Elite Visa is a long-term visa given to the Thailand Privilege Card members. It is categorized under Tourist Visa (Privilege Entry Visa “PE”) allowing residency in Thailand along with benefits for a period between 5, 10, or 20 years depending on the chosen package in exchange for a membership fee.
- The Thai Elite Visa is a 5-year renewable multiple entry visa with an extendable 1-year length of stay per each entry.
- The Thai Elite visa holder can have an uninterrupted stay in Thailand without the usual need to leave the country every 90 days as with the other visa types.
- The Elite Visa holder will be represented by the Thai Elite staff on the 90-day reporting as required by Thai Immigration.
- Thai Elite Visa holders will receive expedited immigration formalities and passport control processing when arriving in Thailand
Thai Elite Applicant/Elite Member Qualifications
The applicant/member must have and maintain to have the following qualifications:
- Holder of a foreign passport
- Being allowed to stay in Thailand in accordance with the immigration laws, which means the applicant has no overstay record in Thailand
- No age limit is required for this program apart from the Elite Ultimate Privilege (Premium Package) which requires to be at least 20 years old
- Not having been sentenced by a judgment to imprisonment in any country except for an offense committed to negligence
- Not having been adjudicated bankrupt
- Not having been declared as a person of unsound mind, incompetence, or quasi-incompetence
The application for the Thai Elite Privilege Card membership and the Thai Elite Visa may take 1 to 3 months.
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Thailand Elite Visa Cost
The Thailand Elite Visa cost is based on the membership program. There are different membership programs available for Thai Elite Visa, each varying in validity, benefits, and cost, as follows:
1. Elite Easy Access
- Thai Elite Visa validity of 5 years
- It costs 600,000 Thai baht with no annual fee
- You have an option to upgrade to Elite Superiority Extension or Elite Ultimate Privilege
- No age restriction; members can be any age
2. Elite Family Excursion (minimum 2 persons)
(This membership no longer accepts new applications starting June 16, 2023)
- Thai Elite Visa validity of 5 years
- It costs 800,000 Thai baht with no annual fee (2 persons)
- For additional family member there is a fee of 300,000 Thai baht
3. Elite Family Alternative
- Membership validity of 10 years
- The Elite Visa validity of 5 years and renewable for another 5 years
- It costs 800,000 Thai baht with no annual fee (main applicant)
- For additional family member there is a fee of 700,000 Thai baht
4. Elite Privilege Access
- Membership validity of 10 years
- The Elite Visa validity of 5 years and renewable for another 5 years
- It costs 1,000,000 THB with no annual fee
- For additional family member there is a fee of 800,000 Thai baht
- No age restriction; members can be of any age
5. Elite Superiority Extension
- Membership validity of 20 years
- It costs 1 million Thai baht with no annual fee
- The Elite Visa validity of 5 years and renewable for another 5 years (4 sets of 5-year multi-entry visa)
6. Elite Ultimate Privilege
- Membership validity of of 20 years
- It costs 2.14 million Thai baht with annual fee of 21,400 Thai baht
- The Elite Visa validity of 5 years and renewable for another 5 years (4 sets of 5-year multi-entry visa)
- Members must be over 20 years old
7. Elite Family Premium
- Applicable only to family members of Elite Ultimate Privilege members
- Membership fee of 1 million Thai baht with an annual fee of 10,000 Thai baht
- Membership and Thai Elite Visa validity will be based on the membership and visa validity of the Elite Ultimate Privilege family member
- Visa is renewable after 5 years (4 sets of 5-year multi-entry visa)
How to Apply for Thai Elite Visa
1. Application for Membership and Background Check
You can apply for the Thailand Elite Visa whether you are in Thailand or abroad. All you need to do is to send a soft copy of your passport and application form to an accredited Thai Elite Visa agent. Then, the agent will work with the Thailand Elite Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Immigration Bureau to do immigration and criminal background check. The process may take 1 month for most nationalities and up to 3 months for special countries.
2. Transfer of Elite Membership Fee
When the applicant has passed a background check and the application has been approved, the applicant will be instructed to transfer the membership fee. The membership fee ranges from 600,000 Thai baht to 2 million Thai baht depending on the membership package the applicant has applied for. The payment for the membership fee can be made through a bank transfer.
3. Elite Membership Acceptance
After completing the payment or bank transfer, the applicant will receive the Membership ID and instruction on how to receive the visa.
4. Thailand Elite Visa Issuance
The Thai Elite member can affix the Thai Elite visa at the Thai embassy or consulate in his/her respective country. If it is not convenient for the applicant to collect the visa from the Thai embassy, it is also possible that the applicant obtains the Thai Elite Visa upon arrival in Thailand at Suvarnabhumi Airport or Phuket Airport. In case the Thai Elite member is in Thailand, the Thai Elite agent may arrange the visa issuance at the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok.
Thailand Elite Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Thai Elite Visa?
The Thai Elite Visa is a special visa introduced in 2003 by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports that aims to attract affluent visitors, businessmen, investors, and expats to stay in Thailand long-term. It is a visa classified as a Privilege Entry Visa that is valid for 5 years with multiple entries without having to deal with so much paperwork or visits to the immigration office. The Thai Elite Visa holder will be allowed to stay in the country for up to 1 year on each visit.
How long is the Thai Elite Visa application process?
The Thailand Elite Membership and Thai Elite Visa application process may take 4 weeks to 3 months depending on the nationality of the applicant and in case of immigration or criminal record of the applicant.
Do any Thai Elite application documents need a notary stamp or to be certified?
No. It is not required for the Thai Elite Visa application forms and copy of passport to be notarised or to be certified. A scanned copy sent through email or photocopy of these documents is sufficient.
What is the passport validity that is required for this Elite visa process?
Ideally, you need to have at least 5 years remaining in the validity of your passport. However, in case you have less than 5 years, the Thai Embassy or Immigration Bureau will affix the Thai Elite Visas based on the expiration date stated in your passport. The remaining validity of your visa will then be affixed to your new passport. It is also good to note that you need to have at least 3 blank pages in your passport.
Do I have to appear in person for the Thai Elite application?
No, it is not required to personally appear during the Thai Elite membership application. You will be represented by a sales agent during the membership application. However, your presence is required during the issuance of the visa whether it is at the Thai Embassy abroad, at Suvarnabhumi airport, or at the Bangkok immigration office.
What are the required documents for application for the Thai Elite Visa?
The required documents for the application for the Thai Elite membership are a copy of the profile page of your passport, a colored ID photo with white background, duly accomplished Thai Elite Visa application form, and copy of proof of relationship for any family member applying with the main applicant.
Is there an income requirement to hold the Thai Elite visa?
There is no income requirement to hold the Thai Elite Visa. The applicant only needs to pay the membership fee which will range from 600,000 Thai baht to 2 million Thai baht. Although there is no income requirement, one of the requirements to qualify as a member is that the applicant has not been adjudicated bankrupt.
How does the Thai Elite visa differ from the Thai Retirement visa?
The Thai Elite Visa differs from the retirement visa in such a way that the financial requirement or membership fee is non-refundable. The financial requirement for a retirement visa is deposited in the visa holder’s bank account as his/her own savings. The retirement visa must be renewed every year whereas the Thai Elite visa does not need to be renewed every year. Both Thai Elite Visa and Retirement Visa require 90-day address reporting.
Do I have to pay income taxes in Thailand as a Thai Elite visa holder?
The Thai Elite Visa is a privilege visa which falls under the special tourist visa or privilege entry category. The Thai Elite Visa holder does not need to pay income taxes especially when the income was derived abroad. There are instances where a Thai Elite Visa holder may voluntarily pay income tax in Thailand.
Can Thai Elite Visa holders buy real estate in Thailand?
Just like other foreigners, Thai Elite Visa holders can own condominiums in their own name. If applicants wish to acquire land and build a house, they can obtain a long-term lease on the land (for up to 30 years). They will need to apply for a construction permit to build the house in their own name. This way applicants can own the house and have a secured long-term lease on the land.
Special Privileges for Direct Sign-Ups!
In addition to the benefits offered by the Thailand Elite Visa Program, Siam Legal (Thailand) Co., Ltd. offers an exclusive Gift Voucher to all who have signed-up for the promotion and have directly applied for the Thailand Elite Visa Program with us!
Free 1 Night Stay at Marriott Hotels
Pay 1 Night and Get 2nd Night for Free
8,000 THB Food Vouchers
50% Off Food Vouchers
All privileges mentioned above and more are included. Sign-ups through the SL-registered Partners or Sub-agents are not eligible for the Special Privileges.
Meet Our Thailand Elite Visa Team
Type of Long-Term Thai Visas for Foreigners
Here are other types of long term Thai visas available to foreigners who wish to live or move to Thailand:
Thai Retirement Visa
This type of long term Thai visa is popular among retirees aged more than 50 years old. There are 3 types of retirement visa, namely:
- Non-immigrant O visa extended into a Retirement visa
- Non-immigrant OA visa valid for 1 year
- Non-Immigrant OX visa valid for 5 years
Both the non-immigrant OA and OX are issued only by the Thai Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence. The applicant must meet the financial requirement of 800,000 THB savings in their bank account for the Non-Immigrant OA visa and 3 million baht for the Non-immigrant OX visa, or the required monthly income, together with the criminal record check, medical certificate, and health insurance.
For the Non-immigrant O visa, it is valid for 90 days and it can be issued by the Thai consulate or embassy from the country of residence or it can be issued in Thailand. Once the applicant receives this visa, he/she must open a bank account in Thailand and transfer the required funds of 800,000 THB. After 2 months, the applicant may convert to a retirement visa which is valid for 1 year. This type of retirement visa does not require a criminal background check, medical certificate, and health insurance. The extension of stay will be issued at the local immigration office of the applicant.
Buy Travel Insurance to Enter Thailand.
Thai Marriage Visa
The Thai marriage visa is best suited to foreigners who are married to a Thai national. The marriage must be registered or reported in Thailand in order to obtain the visa. The application starts by obtaining the non–immigrant O visa from the Thai embassy or consulate abroad or in Thailand. After obtaining the non-immigrant O visa, the applicant may convert this visa into a 1-year marriage visa at the local immigration office. The applicant will be required to meet the financial requirement of having 400,000 THB savings in a Thai bank account or having 40,000 THB monthly income transferred into a Thai account or verified by the foreign embassy of the applicant. The marriage visa is valid for 1 year and it can be renewed annually in Thailand.
Thai Business visa
The non-immigrant B visa can be issued based on two purposes of stay:
- Foreigners who wish to set up or conduct business in Thailand should apply for a Thai Non-Immigrant B visa under the “business” category. The applicant will be required to have a sponsorship from a Thai business partner or Thai entity. The visa holder may stay in Thailand for a maximum of 90 days per entry.
- Foreigners who intend to work in Thailand should apply for an initial 90-Day Non-Immigrant B visa from their home country under the “employment” category. The applicant will be required to present a WP3 letter from the Labour Department when applying for the visa. After arriving in Thailand, the work permit application takes place during the initial 90 days given through the initial visa. Once a valid work permit is obtained, the applicant then applies for the one-year extension of stay inside Thailand and it can be renewed in Thailand every year.
Thai SMART Visa
The Thailand SMART Visa is a new type of visa specially designed to attract highly skilled manpower, investors, executives, and startup entrepreneurs wishing to work or invest in the following targeted industries in the Kingdom of Thailand. There are 4 categories of the SMART Visa namely:
- SMART Talent Visa (T) which is available to science and technology experts who earn 200,000 baht per month and are employed by one of the ten targeted industries.
- SMART Investor Visa (I) which is available to investors who make a direct investment of 20 million baht into companies that use technology in their manufacturing process or deliver services. These companies also must be in one of the ten targeted industries.
- SMART Executive Visa (E) which is available to senior managers that have at least a Bachelor’s degree, ten years of work experience, and are earning a minimum of 200,000 baht per month. Similar to the SMART T and I Visas, senior managers must be employed by companies in one of the ten targeted industries.
- SMART Startup Visa (S) which is for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Thailand. To be eligible for this visa, you must deposit 600,000 baht in Thailand, have health insurance, and set up a company in one of the ten targeted industries within your first year.
Each of these four SMART Visas comes with a list of benefits, such as maximum 4-year permission to stay, one-year check-ins at immigration (instead of every ninety days), work eligibility for spouses and children without the need for work permits, and no re-entry permits. The interested applicant for these visas should get in touch with the BOI Thailand or Thailand Board of Investment.
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How to Enter Thailand During COVID-19?
Due to the travel restrictions put in place by the Thai government since March last year, it would be difficult to enter Thailand during this pandemic. The situation is still unstable so the government policies on the visas are changing and this causes confusion to the foreigners both visitors or long-term expats in Thailand. To be able to ease the confusion, I have created the web pages: COVID-19 Guide for Travelers to and in Thailand and Can you enter Thailand now during the COVID-19 Crisis? that may provide up-to-date information to travelers stranded in Thailand and those who wish to travel to Thailand.
Recently, I also added the Thailand Special Tourist Visa page. I remember a woman in Tokyo who checks our page every day to get new information about her being able to enter Thailand and there’s also a lady who has an elderly father stranded in Thailand and was so scared that he may not be able to extend his visa amnesty. Having the opportunity to answer people’s questions and provide them the correct information and comfort during this difficult time is a rewarding experience and a great opportunity.
The visas I have enumerated on this page would allow you to travel and enter Thailand with ease during this time or even after this pandemic. Should you be interested in any of these Thai visas or you seek professional advice on which visa is best suited for you, please do not hesitate to contact us. You may ask your question on the web form above or on the comment section below.
Other Thai Elite Visa Pages
Senior Immigration Consultant
Siam Legal International
Is it ok for me to travel to Thailand with a Tourist Visa – (60days) 2-4x in a year?
If so, will I be allowed to extend per trip as well?
It is not a problem to do it 2x. However if you will do it 4x in a year, that will make immigration officer doubt that you are a genuine tourist.
Can I open up a Thai bank account easily if I have a Thai Elite Visa
Yes, Thailand Elite Visa holders can easily open a Thai bank account. Which Thailand Elite program are you interested in?
Is it legal to work on a Elite Visa as a digital nomad in Thailand? I’m registered abroad and also pay taxes there. No business with Thai people.
It is acceptable to be on Elite Visa and continue working for a company abroad. You cannot work for a Thai company nor deal with Thai clients.
Does the Elite Family Excursion (minimum 2 persons) include my husband? We have no children, so can myself and my husband purchase this visa to come together?
Yes, the application has to be you and your husband. You can apply for the background check at the same time and you can get the visa sticker at anytime you wish after you have received the Welcome Letter.
With 5 years Thailand Elite Visa, how many times can I leave and enter Thailand?
Regarding your inquiry, the 5-year visa sticker is valid for multiple entries. Technically, there is no limit on the number of times you can enter and exit Thailand within this 5-year period. Each entry will allow you to stay for a maximum of 1 to 2 years without the need to leave Thailand.
Hello, I would like to apply for the Elitevisa but I have a 5 day overstay on my passport, can I still apply?
Yes, it is possible to apply for the Elite Visa as long as the overstay has been cleared already and you have paid the overstay fine and left Thailand. You can apply for the Elite Visa while abroad or when you return to Thailand.
Thanks a lot for sharing this article as I find it amazing and it has been very useful
For the Thai Elite Visa, once obtained, do I automatically get permanent residence status in Thailand? If not, then what are the requirements?
No, the Thailand Elite Visa is a long stay tourist visa valid for 5 years allowing you to stay in Thailand for 365 days each time you enter Thailand within the duration of your visa.
Thanks Rex for a very informative site!
Will see you wonderful people as soon as Thailand open ! choke dee! 🙏
Thank you so much for your kind words. Have a good day.
Thanks for share the useful information about Thai Elite Visa.
You’re welcome. Have a great day.
My brother was deported from Thailand due to a minor drug offence and was banned for 2 years but that expires soon and he intends to move back to Thailand. He already has an elite visa so can he just arrive at the airport and enter on his elite visa or does he also need some other type of permission to re enter?
If the Elite Visa has already been affixed in his passport, he may apply for the COE or Certificate of Entry to Thailand through this page:
My wife and I are planning to use a Thai Elita Visa to come to Thailand and make it our home. Are we allowed to do some volunteer work such as helping the soi dogs and helping elderly people?
Rob and Cindy
Yes, you will be allowed to do some charity work but please make sure that you cannot do some activities that requires a work permit. There is a fine line between charity work and volunteer work. I recommend for you not to get too involved in case too much involvement will require a work permit.
Please give me a sugestion.
If the expat is holding the Thailand Elite Visa and they would like to work in Thailand. What should they do for this matter? They have to cancel the Thailand Elite Visa along with benefits and apply for the Non Immigrant B visa and Work Permit? or they can still hold their Thailand Elite Visa and just apply for Work Permit?
If the Thai Elite Visa holder would like to work in Thailand. There is no need to cancel the 5 year visa. He or she just need to leave Thailand, obtain a new Non Immigrant B visa and use it to enter Thailand. While in Thailand he or she can apply for a work permit. If this person wishes to stop working, he or she can leave Thailand and return to Thailand and use the remaining validity of the Thai Elite Visa.
I’m thinking to apply to the Elite Thai Visa, should I be able to enter in Thailand currently under this visa ?
Yes, the Thai Elite Visa holder or members were added to the list of foreigners allowed to apply for the COE and permitted to enter Thailand. We will send you an email on how you can sign up for the membership.
I am opening a Private School in Thailand. I have Thai business partners and investors in Private Limited company. Can performance requirements in contract require the civil courts to order me provided with a work permit Visa, during pandemic
I have a n “O”(retirement) visa issued in Thailand. Do I have to re- apply for a Certificate of Entry and an O-A visa in order to re-enter Thailand? Thank you
it depends on the location where you are flying from. If you are in the UK, there was a report that Non Immigrant O retirement was issued a certificate of entry. If you are in the US, it was strictly stated that they would only issue a certificate of entry to those with non-immigrant OA visa, so if you do not have it, you may have to apply for this Non immigrant OA visa. I recommend to check with the local Thai embassy in your city or country.
Can we apply still for 1 Year non immigrant visa at the moment?
Yes, you can apply for the 1 year non immigrant B, O or OA visa from Thai embassy. You may check this page for the list of visas that you or the applicant may apply:
What is the fastest period of time that a Thai Elite Visa could be issued?
Thank you for your message. Regarding your inquiry, the fastest time to complete the membership application and the application of the of the Thai Elite Visa is 1 month. There are factors that you have to consider when applying for the membership for Thai Elite: the nationality, immigration record in Thailand for the past 3 years and the working hours of the Thai Embassy where the Thai Elite visa will be lodged.
Have a good day.
Please advise the fees and waiting time to receive each of the following visa types:
1.) One Year Non-Immigrant Visa
2.) Business Visa
3.) Thai Elite Visa
My nationality is South African and I would be seeking employment with schools teaching English and Business English.
Any other advice would be welcomed.
Good day. Regarding your inquiry, here are some of the information that you may need:
1. Thai Elite costs 500,000 THB and the processing time is 1 to 3 months.
2. Business Visa does not cost much but you need to have a Thai business partner to sponsor your application.
3. 1 Year non immigrant visa does not cost much but you need to be a condominium owner, have a Thai wife or perhaps a retiree.
Based on your information, you may look for a job in Thailand and then you may apply for the Non Immigrant B visa for employment and also apply for the Certificate of Entry from the Thai Embassy in Pretoria.