We spend a large portion of each year in Thailand and are often asked by many of our readers interested in staying for long periods, the process for obtaining a Thailand retirement visa. Read on and we will explain the process from a firsthand account.
- Searching for the best quality of life
- Do you need a visa for Thailand from Australia?
- Can you retire in Thailand from Australia?
- Why Retire in Thailand?
- Thailand visa requirements for Australian citizens
- How to get a Thailand retirement visa
- Can I apply for a Retirement Visa when in Thailand?
- Last thoughts on Thailand Retirement Visas for Australians
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Searching for the best quality of life
For many Australians nearing retirement, neighbouring Asian countries, with their low cost of living and high quality of lifestyle have become an attractive option. Top of the most desirable places to live in retirement for expats from a recent leading retirement magazine placed Thailand as the number one choice for retirement overseas.
For an increasing number of Australians getting close to retirement there comes a time when thought is given on how best to enjoy life in the future. Whether that means more travel at home, or abroad or taking the plunge and moving full time to another country.
While we have met expats that have chosen the path of retiring to Thailand, we have met many that like ourselves, have chosen to live part of the year in Thailand and the rest either back in Australia or travelling further afield.
The Thailand retirement visa allows those that qualify, to reside in Thailand for periods of up to one year, which can be renewed annually providing certain conditions are met. Eligibility requirements can and do change, so it’s a personal choice as to whether this type of visa will suit. However, having said that we know many Australians that have chosen this visa and have been residing in Thailand either full or part time for many years.
We have also met many other likeminded people from countries such as the UK, America and Europe just to name a few, that also reside in Thailand under the Thailand Retirement Visa arrangements.
Flight time from the eastern states of Australia to Thailand is approximately 9 hours so it’s quite normal for Australians living in Thailand to return to Australia to visit loved ones. Alternatively, friends and relatives often visit those living here.
Do you need a visa for Thailand from Australia?
Under Thailand entry requirements the Thailand visa on arrival, as it’s commonly called, allows for stays of up to 30 days. The proper terminology is actually a Thailand visa exemption. Either way the outcome is the same and it allows citizens of various countries to stay for up to 30 days.
The Thailand tourist visa, for stays longer is also an option if visitors wish to stay for longer than the normal visa exemption period. It’s also possible to extend the visa exemption from within Thailand, but as the purpose of this article is specifically concerning the Thailand Retirement Visa we will not go into that option.
Can you retire in Thailand from Australia?
Yes, many Australians choose to retire in Thailand from Australia each year. Although everybody has their own reasons for doing so, the motivation for many is the low cost of living and high level of services. Providing the Thailand Visa requirements are met Australians are able to stay in Thailand and either purchase property such as a condo or house or rent a residence.
In relation to property ownership as a foreigner some restrictions do apply, especially to house ownership and our advice is to contact one of the many real estate agencies for guidance should this be an option you are considering. Thailand also has many legal firms catering specifically to expats and property ownership.
Many expats in Thailand choose to rent either a condo or house and the prices and style of accommodation vary depending on the location and level of comfort required.
When in Thailand we choose to live in the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and have over the course of our time in Chiang Mai rented many condos. For an example of a modern one-bedroom condo in the heart of the city check our video below.
Why Retire in Thailand?
Thailand has much to offer and provides a standard of living comparable to many western countries. From stunning beaches with that small community feel, to large cities with every amenity westerners are familiar with and is home to thousands of nationalities from around the world.
For a comfortable retirement in Thailand the cost is much lower than Australia. To live in a city such as Chiang Mai as a couple with a starting monthly budget of $2500 to $3000 AUD would provide a relaxed lifestyle. This is assuming your renting, not living in your own condo or house.
Bangkok or the tourist beach areas would require more given the higher cost of rent. Although we have heard reports of people advising that it’s possible to live on a much lower income, most expats we meet are requiring a certain level of comfort and monthly entertainment.
It’s possible to live in Thailand and eat out every night of the week at restaurants without breaking the bank. Even cheaper, is the food from markets and street stalls. On the whole it’s a safe country for expats and although not the national language, English is widely understood in the popular expat destinations.
The geographical location of Thailand ensures that for the most part the climate is warm to hot which is appealing to many expats escaping the brutal cold climates of the UK and Europe. The country also has a rich heritage with many temples and significant cultural sites to visit.
Neighbouring Asian countries are easily accessible and it’s not unusual for many expats living in Thailand to visit the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam etc or even Hong Kong and China for a quick getaway.
For those looking to Asia for retirement it’s hard to beat and no wonder it’s regularly voted as the top retirement destination for expats.
Thailand visa requirements for Australian citizens
For up to date information on the Thailand visa requirements for Australian citizens the Thai Embassy website has information on the various Visa’s available including the Thai retirement visa, the Thailand work visa and other Thailand visa application forms.
The Thailand retirement visa known as the Non-Immigrant Visa Category “O-A” (Long Stay) visa, has the following conditions which need to be met.
Purpose of Visit:
This type of visa is issued to applicants aged 50 years and over who wish to stay in Thailand for a period of not exceeding 1 year and employment of any kind is strictly prohibited.
Eligibility as follows:
Must be aged 50 years and over on the date of submitting the application.
Must not be a person prohibited from entering the Kingdom as prescribed by the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979).
Must not have a criminal record in Thailand or in Australia or the country of his or her residence.
Must have the nationality of or permanent residence in the country where the application is submitted.
Must have no prohibitive diseases as indicated in the Ministerial Regulation No. 14 B.E. 2535 (1993) i.e. Leprosy, Tuberculosis, Elephantiasis, drug addiction, alcoholism and third step of Syphilis.
Must have an amount equivalent to at least 800,000 Baht (approx. $35,000 AUD) in a bank account or proof of income with a monthly salary of no less than 65,000 Baht (approx. $2,800 AUD) or a deposit account plus monthly income of no less than 800,000 Baht per year.
When the visa is initially applied for from your home country, the money is probably in your home countries bank account. This is to be expected and is fine. However, when you renew the visa in Thailand you will need to have the 800,000 Baht in a Thai Bank account or be able to provide the proof of income.
The initial visa is issued for a period of 12 months with Multiple entries, which basically means you can leave and return any time within the 12 month period. At the end of the 12 months the visa can be renewed for a further 12 months according to the current eligibility requirements in place at the time of renewal.
How to get a Thailand retirement visa
We obtained our retirement visa for Thailand from Australia in 2015 and chose to apply for the visa for each of us. The process was straight forward and took a couple of months.
We followed the instructions provided on the Thai embassy website by downloading the Thailand visa application form and completing the steps. As well as the application form a doctor’s certificate is required for each applicant which can be obtained by your local GP. You also require official Bank statement as the proof of funds. A police name check is also needed, and we applied for this document online.
Once all documents for each applicant are gathered you then need to have everything bound together and signed by either a Notary Public or JP. One original set and two copies of everything is needed. In our case we opted to have the documents signed by a Notary Public.
This added additional costs but gave us piece of mind that we had complied. It is however possible to use a JP and if we were to do it again would probably choose that option to save costs.
You are then required to send the completed sets of documents together with your passport, return self addressed envelope with postage paid and application fee (currently $275 AUD per application) to the Thai Embassy in Canberra. In our case the whole process went smoothly, and we received our passports back with the official Visa.
While the process does appear at first glance a little complicated it’s actually not that difficult providing you follow all the steps in exact accordance with the information on the Thailand embassy website. However, for anyone wanting to use a company to assist there are a number of private Visa firms that can help.
Can I apply for a Retirement Visa when in Thailand?
While this option is technically possible, it would not be our recommendation as the process can be much more complicated. From information we have received it can be done by first obtaining a 90-day visa from your home country prior to arriving in Thailand, then during the last 30 days apply for the visa.
You would then need proof of residence, and funds in a Thai bank account. Both of these steps add a level of complexity, as it can be difficult to open a Thai bank account on a Thai tourist visa or get a long-term lease. It’s not impossible but it certainly would not be as easy as doing it prior to arriving in Thailand.
For anyone considering this option our suggestion would be to contact a visa company within Thailand that specialises in Thai immigration for guidance.
Last thoughts on Thailand Retirement Visas for Australians
We hope this guide on the retirement visa has been helpful and you now have an understanding on how to apply for Thailand visa and the process involved. Have you visited Thailand? Perhaps you had problems retiring in Thailand. If so, let us know good or bad. We would love to hear from you.
The details outlined in this article are based on our experiences obtaining the Thai Retirement Visa. Naturally every applicant has different circumstances so your personal experience may be different.
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