Thailand, along with Indonesia, is the world’s most popular destination for digital nomads. There is a reason for that. Who hasn’t dreamt of working in an actual tropical paradise, where the beaches are pristine, the food is delicious, everything is cheap, and the culture is rich? Welcome to Thailand.
In this article, we'll explore the Thailand Elite Visa, a special long-term visa program that makes it possible to live hassle-free in the Land of Smiles.
It is without a doubt the easiest way to stay in Thailand long-term, hassle-free. This visa allows you to stay in Thailand between 5 and 20 years, come in and out of the country whenever you want, how many times you want, and it has very few requirements.
Does Thailand Have a Digital Nomad Visa?
Thailand doesn't offer a specific digital nomad visa per se but the Thailand Elite Visa is often considered the best way for digital nomads to live in the country long term without hassle.
It offers extended stay options between 5-20 years and certain privileges that can be beneficial for remote workers.
What are the Benefits of the Thailand Elite Visa?
- Long-Term Stay: The Elite Visa allows stays of up to 20 years, providing stability for your remote work lifestyle.
- Hassle-Free Application: A streamlined process makes obtaining the visa relatively simple and quick.
- Extended Stay Options: With options ranging from 5 to 20 years, you can choose the length of stay that suits your lifestyle.
- VIP Services: Enjoy VIP services at airports, such as skipping the immigration lines, assistance with government agencies, and more.
- Healthcare Benefits: Access to annual health check-ups and medical consultations.
- Golf & Spa Privileges: Complimentary access to selected golf courses and spas across Thailand.
- Exclusive Discounts: Enjoy discounts at various dining, shopping, and entertainment venues.
- Educational Support: Some packages offer assistance with education visas for accompanying children.
- Almost No Requirements: When you apply for the Thailand Elite Visa, there are no requirements such as income reports, employment status, salary demands, or education requirements. They just do a criminal background check and make sure you don’t have any overstays in Thailand.
Who Can Apply for the Thailand Elite Visa?
This section is usually filled with a long list of requirements for most visa categories. This is the beautiful part about the Thailand Elite Visa. Almost anyone holding a foreign passport can apply.
You need to pass their criminal background check, and you cannot have any overstays in Thailand on your record. Additionally, you must not have an active volunteer or education visa while applying for the Elite Visa.
How to Apply for the Thailand Elite Visa
Step 1: Decide if you want to use an agency or apply yourself
There are two ways to apply for a Thailand Elite Visa: Doing it yourself on the Thailand Elite website or through a authorized Thai Elite Visa agency.
If you do it through an agency, you’ll get help from an elite visa expert who can explain all the nuances and details of the different packages in perfect English. Then you just send them the documents, and then sit back and wait, while they handle all the paperwork for you. For free.
The best part is that a authorized agency doesn’t charge you a single dollar. They receive their commission from the Thai Elite Club for every member they sign. I personally used and highly recommend HH Premium, an authorized Thailand Elite Visa agency based in Chiang Mai.
Using an agency also benefits you after you’ve received your visa, as they can help you with driving license services, connect you with real estate brokers, help set up a Thai bank account, etc.
If you decide to use an agency, just make sure they are on the list of official authorized Thai Elite agencies.
Step 2: Choose a membership
Thai Elite has many different packages, that range in what they offer and how long they are valid. Read and compare these programs on the Thai Elite Official webpage.
Step 3: Create an account with Thai Elite
Now it’s time to create an account on the Thai Elite website. Later you can log in and follow your application process and see what stage you’re in.
Step 4: Fill out and submit the application
Submit your application and the required documents.
Step 5: Wait for the membership approval
The wait period is anything between 4 and 8 weeks. It could take longer under special circumstances but the norm is between 4 and 8 weeks.
Step 6: Payment
Now you’ve been accepted into the Thailand Elite. It’s time to formalize this by paying the membership fee. This will activate your membership.
You will be able to choose between many different payment options, such as credit card, bank transfer, PayPal, and Transfer Wise. You must make the entire payment at once. Monthly installments are not possible.
Step 7: Wait for payment verification and membership activation
Yet another waiting period. After your payment has been verified your membership will be activated. This one is much shorter though. About 1-2 weeks.
It’s important to note that membership in the Thailand Elite Club and the Thailand Elite Visa are two separate things. At this point, you are an active member of Thailand Elite Club and approved for the visa, but you do not yet have a valid visa. This will happen in the next step.
Step 8: Get your visa affixed
If you’re not already in Thailand it’s time to book a ticket and fly to Bangkok. Now that you’re a Thailand Elite member, make sure to contact the member center and let them know your itinerary. They will send someone out to meet you when you step off the plane, and take you past the immigration lines and straight into a special room reserved for diplomats and Thailand Elite visa members.
Here you will receive your membership card, and get your visa officially affixed in your passport.
The visa stamp received will be valid for 1 year. Even if you have a 5-20 year visa, you will need to renew the stamp at least once per year. This can be done by flying in and out of the country, or by visiting the Immigration Bureau.
Step 9: Enjoy your time in Thailand
Now you’re all done. Enjoy your new hassle-free life in Thailand!
Documents Required To Apply for the Thailand Elite Visa
To apply for a Thailand Elite Visa you need to submit the following documents:
- A filled-out Thailand Elite application (available on their website after you sign up). Your signature needs to match the one in your passport!
- A passport photo of the main page. Your passport needs at least 1 year validity.
- A passport photo of the signature page
- A passport-size photo.
How Much Does the Thailand Elite Visa Cost?
There are about 4 variations of the Thai Elite Visa:
- 5-year visa (cost: 900,000 THB)
- 10-year visa (cost: 1,500,000 THB)
- 15-year visa (cost: 2,500,000 THB)
- 20-year visa (cost: 5,000,000 THB) - By invitation only
You can also get the 5-year visa and whenever you want during that 5-year window you can pay 400,000 THB to upgrade to the 20-year visa.
See the latest and most accurate information about membership plans and packages on the Thailand Elite official website.
Timeline for Applying for the Thailand Elite Visa
Application takes about 4-8 weeks to get approved. Then you have to pay the membership fee and the payment verification takes another 2-4 weeks.
The total application time is about 3 months.
What If I’m Not Eligible for the Thailand Elite Visa?
Since almost anyone is eligible for the Thailand Elite Visa if you’re rejected it usually is because you have overstays on your record, didn’t pass their criminal background check, or you might have wrongfully used some other visa type in the past (for instance getting an education visa while not actually studying).
If you fall into any of these categories, getting any type of visa in Thailand will be difficult. All you can do is wait and try reapplying once a year.
With that said, it’s worth noting some other visa types that are available. Especially two types of visas: Smart Visa and Retirement Visa.
Unlike the Thailand Elite Visa they both have different, and more difficult requirements, but they are cheaper to obtain, and if you do qualify for any of them, they might be a better option.
1. Thailand Smart Visa
The Thailand Smart Visa is a special visa introduced by the Thai government to attract professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, and investors in targeted industries to work or invest in Thailand.
The goal of this visa program is to support Thailand's economic development by bringing in talent and investment in sectors that are deemed important for the country's future growth.
The Thailand Smart Visa has 5 different types, all explained below. Unlike the Thailand Elite Visa, they all have additional and different requirements:
Smart T (Talent) definition and requirements
This visa is for highly skilled professionals in the targeted industries. To apply you will need:
- Being a science and technology expert
- Salary ≥ 100,000baht/month
- Employment contract with remaining validity of ≥ 1 year
- Employing companies have to be in targeted industries
Smart I (Investor) definition and requirements
This visa is for investors in technology-based business in the targeted industries. To apply you will need:
- A minimum direct investment of 20 million baht
- Investing in companies using technology in manufacturing or delivering services and being in the targeted industries
Smart E (Executive) definition and requirements
This visa is for senior executives in technology-based companies in the targeted industries. To apply you will need:
- Being holder of Bachelor’s degrees or higher with work experience ≥ 10 years
- A salary≥ 200,000 baht/month
- Employment contract with remaining validity of ≥ 1 year
- Being a high-levels executive
- Working for companies using technology in manufacturing or delivering services and being in the targeted industries
Smart S (Startup) definition and requirements
This visa is for technology-based startup entrepreneurs in the targeted industries. To apply you will need:
- A deposit of ≥ 600,000 baht which has been held for at least 3 months
- Health insurance
- Participating in an endorsed incubation, accelerator program or a similar program/or obtaining joint venture with or being endorsed by a relevant government agency
- Must set up a company in the targeted industries in Thailand within 1 year with at least 25% ownership or being a board member
Smart O (Other) definition and requirements
This visa is for spouse and legitimate children of Smart Visa holders. To apply you will need:
- Must be the legal dependants (spouse and children) of Smart visa holder Type " T ", " I ", " E " and " S " (except those who are granted only a 6-month visa)
- Children must be under 20 years old (Except children of Smart “T” holders who are over 20 years old can apply for Smart “O” under certain conditions).
- Spouses and children must have an additional amount of deposit of no less than 180,000 Baht per person or equivalent required in a bank account in Thailand or in the country of his/her nationality or residence, which has been held for at least 3 months. (Only for Smart "S" followers)
- Having health insurance covering the entire period of stay in Thailand for the applicant as well as spouse and children. (Only for Smart "S" followers)
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2. Thailand Retirement Visa
The Thailand Retirement Visa, often referred to as the "Non-Immigrant O-A" or "Non-Immigrant O-X" visa, is designed for foreign nationals who wish to retire in Thailand. This visa allows retirees to stay in Thailand for an extended period without the need to leave the country frequently. There are many requirements for this visa type:
- The applicant must be at least 50 years old.
- The applicant should not have a criminal record in Thailand or their home country
- The applicant must meet certain financial requirements.
- For the Non-Immigrant O-A visa: A bank deposit of at least 800,000 THB in a Thai bank account for at least two months before the visa application, or a monthly income or pension of at least 65,000 THB. Alternatively, the applicant can have a combination of the bank deposit and annual income totaling at least 800,000 THB.
- For the Non-Immigrant O-X visa (long stay, 10 years): A bank deposit of 3 million THB in a Thai bank account. After one year, the balance should not be less than 1.5 million THB.
Duration and Extensions
- The Non-Immigrant O-A visa is initially valid for one year but can be renewed annually.
- The Non-Immigrant O-X visa is valid for 5 years and can be renewed once, allowing a total stay of 10 years.
- Applicants for the Non-Immigrant O-A visa are required to have health insurance coverage from a Thai insurance company with a minimum coverage of 400,000 THB for inpatient treatment and 40,000 THB for outpatient treatment.
- For the Non-Immigrant O-X visa, the health insurance requirements are more stringent.
- Retirees on this visa must report to the local immigration office every 90 days to verify their current address.
No Work Allowed
- Holders of the retirement visa are not allowed to work or generate income in Thailand.
- If retirees wish to leave Thailand and return without losing the validity of their retirement visa, they must obtain a re-entry permit before departing.
- The application for a retirement visa can be initiated at a Thai embassy or consulate outside of Thailand. Once the visa is granted, the retiree can enter Thailand and complete the remaining formalities at the local immigration office.
Paying Taxes As A Digital Nomad In Thailand
Below are some general guidelines on how to pay taxes in Thailand:
For Thailand Elite Visa Holders:
Elite Visa holders are exempt from paying taxes on their foreign income
For Smart Visa Holders:
Smart Visa holders who work in Thailand and earn income are subject to Thai personal income tax on their earnings. If they are tax residents (i.e., stay in Thailand for 180 days or more), they will be taxed on their worldwide income. However, if they are non-residents, they will be taxed only on their Thai-sourced income.
For Retirement Visa Holders:
Generally, retirees do not work in Thailand, as the Retirement Visa does not permit employment. However, if they have other sources of income in Thailand (e.g., rental income), they may be subject to Thai personal income tax on that income. Pensions or retirement funds received from abroad and brought into Thailand in the same year they are received are typically not taxed.
If a retiree is considered a tax resident in Thailand and brings foreign-sourced income (e.g., pensions, dividends) into Thailand in the year it's earned, it might be subject to Thai tax. However, if the income is brought into Thailand in a subsequent year, it's generally not taxable.
About The Author
Faddy is a digital nomad who traded corporate neckties for hunting Wi-Fi signals and a never-ending search for the perfect cup of coffee. Traveling from one country to another, he explores cultures, and adventures, and maybe spills coffee on his white t-shirts now and then (more like daily). If you're looking for Faddy, or want to learn more about him, just follow the fresh coffee aroma or find him on the following channels:
- Website: https://faddythenomad.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/faddythenomad/
- X: https://twitter.com/faddythenomad
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