In September 2022 Thailand launched its 10 year Long term residency (LTR) permit, a program the press is eager to label as a Thailand digital nomad visa. The LTR (Long Term Residency) Visa is more about attracting wealthy and highly educated people to move to Thailand for a period of up to 10 years, than it is for digital nomads wanting to stay one to two years in Thailand. Nomad Girl believes that there will be very few Digital Nomads using this visa, more on that later. There are still plenty of options for digital nomads to stay and work in Thailand.
Thailand has been a long-time favourite with digital nomads flocking to Bangkok or the smaller Northern city of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai has for a long time been known as the Digital Nomad capital of the world. Digital nomads were attracted by the low cost of living, fast internet, the old town, a great food scene, a nearby airport with great connections and plenty of cafes and coworking spaces. The area around Nimman road was where the digital nomad community was mainly centred around. YouTube is full of videos explaining the cost of living in Chiang Mai for the would-be digital nomad and how you can live on less than $1,000 per month.
Almost all digital nomads would use the 60-day tourist visa and extend it at the immigration offices for another 30 days to stay the full 90 days in Thailand. This could be repeated by doing what is called a visa run, where you take a flight to let's say Malaysia and apply for another tourist visa and stay another 60+30 days.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put a halt to this type of digital nomads, as doing Thai visa runs to other countries was almost impossible. Initially, Thailand extended the visas for tourists and digital nomads that were stuck. For those that wanted to enter Thailand, this was initially impossible at the start of 2020 and later became only possible via expensive hotel quarantine schemes.
As a result of Thailand's tough entry rules, the tourism industry suffered big time. Before the Covid-19 pandemic Thailand had about 40 million visitors a year which would spend about $57bn, this number was reduced to only 400,000 for 2021. However in 2022 the Thai government opened up to tourism on a large scale in June, dropping all vaccination requirements in October and granted long stays for visa exempt and visa on arrival tourists.
This resulted in a return of 10.5 million international tourist for 2022 and a projected 30 million tourists for 2023. Thailand is powering ahead of it South East Asia peers when it comes to a rebound of tourism, with especially Vietnam lagging behind badly.
22 August Update – LTR (long Term Residency) Visa details become available.
15 February – E-Extension Process Explained plus costs involved.
23 February – retirement visa options explained in more detail.
15 March – E-VOA (E-Visa On Arrival) option added.
07 April – 15 days additional given to Visa on arrival and Visa exemption has been withdrawn
14- April – E-Visa process can only be used from your country of residency. This also applies now to Tourist Visas
Changing Digital Nomad Trends
The Digital Nomad community in Thailand has been decimated between 2020 and mid 2022, and the very strict Covid entry rules and delayed reopening programs saw Thailand not benefit from the emergence of the wealthier Digital Nomad. These are people forced to work from home and in well-paid company jobs or own profitable businesses. Small Caribbean islands were quick to tap into this newly emerging class of digital nomads by creating digital nomad visas.
As for the budget-conscious digital nomad for which Thailand, Bali, Vietnam and the Philippines were major destinations, they all suffered big time and countries like Portugal, Georgia and Mexico were the main beneficiaries with easier entry restrictions and equally low costs of living.
Thailand has a plethora of visas and options for digital nomads to stay anywhere between 30 days up to 20 years. All come at different price points, requirements, middle men and bureaucracy. Lets start with the tourist visa options.
Current Thailand Tourist Visa Options For Digital Nomads
30-Day Tourist Visa Exemption Scheme
This is the easiest one of all and is free but only for citizens from 64 countries – click here for a full list. If eligible you do not have to apply for a visa when entering Thailand for tourism purposes.
- Costs: Free
- Maximum duration: 30 days – The 45 day limit was only available till the 31 March 2023 and has not been extended.
- Can be used without any limitation by flight and 2 times a year for overland or sea crossings.
- You will need an outbound confirmed flight.
- This visa exemption can be extended at the immigration office for another 30 days at a cost of 1,900 THB.
15-day Visa on Arrival
For 18 countries Thailand offers a Visa on arrival (VOA) or E-Visa on arrival (E-VOA), you can see a full list of countries and the process here. Note these are countries that are not on the visa exempt list but can apply for visas on arrival.
- Costs: 2,000 THB (for E-VOA there is an additional 500 Baht service fee)
- Maximum duration: 15 days – The 30 day limit was only available till the 31 March 2023 and has not been extended.
- You will need an outbound confirmed flight.
- This visa can be extended at the immigration office for another 7 days at a cost of 1,900 THB.
Thai Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV)
- Costs: $30-$50
- Validity: 3 months for a single entry visa – your arrival must be within 3 months of issue date.
- Maximum stay: 60 days.
- Extension: 30 days at the discretion of the immigration officer with a total stay of no longer than 90 days. The fee for the extension is 1,900 Baht. For more info check: www.immigration.go.th
- You will need an outbound confirmed flight.
- Once your 60 or 90 days (with extension) have been used, you can reapply by doing a visa run.
- You can apply at Thai embassy or via e-visa (more on that in this article).
Thai Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV)
The Multiple Entry Tourist Visa is valid for a period of 6 months and gives you access to Thailand for 60-days maximum. As soon as the METV is issued the clock starts ticking and your window of 60 day access will start.
This 60-days can be extended within Thailand for another 30 days at immigration (cost 1,900 THB) giving you a maximum stay of 90 days before you have to leave the country. The beauty of this visa is that you do not have to reapply as long as you enter back into Thailand within the validity of the METV.
Theocratically the METV can be used for 9 months, if you enter Thailand on the last day of your METV validity, you will get a 60-day stay which you can extend for another 30-days at immigration office. So it is possible to use the METV for 6 months plus 2 months entry on the last day of validity plus an extension of 30 days, giving you 9 months in total.
The METV is expensive at $200 and can only be applied for from your home country. The SETV is only $30-$35 and might be better value for most digital nomads. If you travel a lot and want flexibility than the METV can work for you. Another benefit is that you can easily do border runs, this is handy when you are based closely to a border.
- Costs: $200
- Validity: 6 months and the window is activated upon issuance.
- Maximum duration: 60 days without the extension.
- Extension: 30 days at the discretion of the immigration officer with a total stay of no longer than 90 days. The fee for the extension is 1,900 Baht.
- You will need prove you have some savings.
A lot of the visas in Thailand can be extended by 30 days, only the visa on arrival visa can be extended by 7 days. You will have to go to a local immigration office. You will have to fill out some forms bring 1 passport photo and pay 1,900 Baht. Also bring proof of your e-visa if you applied this way.
Thailand is working on getting this process slightly more streamlined with the E-Extension website, where the form filling, payment, documents upload and payment can all be done online. You will still have to go in person to the immigration bureau to get the stamp in your passport. At the moment this service is only available in Bangkok but will be rolled out all over Thailand. Yes there is some progress here. Unfortunately this service cost more than the waiting line at immigration and is a lot slower, there is 1,900 Baht fee as well as the service fee:
- 7 business days regular service fee: 500 Baht.
- 3 business days express service fee: 1,500 Baht.
- 1 business day super urgent service fee: 5,000 Baht, for this money you may as well go to the immigration office and wait.
Yes this service is run by a commercial entity, it would be great if Thailand comes up with a smooth process without the additional fees.
Since 27 September 2021, the Royal Thai Embassy has implemented an E-visa service where there is no need for a sticker in your passport anymore. You can apply through this official website: www.thaievisa.go.th. You also do not have to submit your passport and original documents via mail anymore to the embassy, it can all be done online. At the moment this is possible for 23 countries.
Once your e-visa application has been approved, you will get a confirmation email that you have to print out to present to the airline and Thai immigration officials. This e-visas are not only limited to tourist visas. The whole range of visa application processing can now be done online.
Be aware that all the e-visas can only be applied from within your country of residency. The Thai embassies will want to see evidence of your country of residency with a plane ticket departing to Thailand from your country of residency and a bank statement from your country of residency. So you can not use the e-visa service to do a border run to let's say Malaysia and apply for another Tourist Visa via the e-visa system. You will have to visit to Thai embassy or consulate.
Thai Retirement Visas
Retirement comes early in Thailand and if you are a digital nomad 50 years or older, more long term visa options become available. Nomad Girl will do a dedicated article soon on this category of visas, but here is a quick summary.
Non Immigrant O visa (90-day) + O visa extension for 1 year
The 90-day Non immigrant O visa can be applied for in your home country, Thailand or on the e-visa portal. You can apply for a 1 year extension at the local Thai immigration office. The benefit of going this route is that the process can be done in Thailand, even if you arrive on a tourist visa, or visa exemption. For the moment going this route does not require health insurance coverage form a select group of Thai insurance providers.
- Thai Bank Account showing 800,000 THB or
- Monthly income of at least THB 65,000 THB
- Combination of annual income + bank account is larger than 800,000 THB
The extension is single entry only but you can go around this by buying a single (1,000 THB) or multiple re-entry permit (3,800 THB). If you leave the country without a re-entry permit it will invalidate the extension. You will also have to report every 90-days with Thai immigration your residency status.
The cost can be extremely low if you do this process without an agent.
- 2,000 THB (US$ 60) for the 90-day non-immigrant O visa
- 1,900 THB (US$ 55) for the 1 year extension.
- 1,000 THB (US$ 30) per single reentry permit for the 1 year extension.
- 3,800 THB (US$ 110) for the multiple re-entry permit for the 1 year extension.
There are plenty of visa agents that can help you with the process costing anywhere between $1,000 to $1,500. Some will make the necessary deposit in your bank account and remove it.
The Non-Immigrant O-A visa (1 Year)
The non-immigrant O-A visa has the same financial requirements as the non-immigrant O visa, but has to be applied for in your home country at Thai embassy or via the e-visa portal. It is a single entry visa which again you can buy re-entry permits for. The single re-entry permit is 1,000 THB and the multiple re-entry permit is 3,800 THB. This visa has a validity of 12 months and does require you to use expensive health insurance from a select group of Thai health insurance providers. The benefit is that you can do the whole process in your home country for a low cost of 2,000 THB.
The Non-Immigrant O-X visa (5+5 years)
There is also the 5-year Non-Immigrant O-X visa that can be extended every 5 years. This one is only available to passport holders from Japan, Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States of America. Spouse and child under 20 years old can join on this visa. The cost is about 400 USD and it gives you peace of mind of a long term visa. Again the minimum income requirements and the expensive local health insurance requirements apply.
You can see the full requirements here: www.thaievisa.go.th/long-stay-visa.
Not necessary an option for digital nomads, but Thailand has a SMART-Visa that allows you to get a visa and work permit in 13 key sector industries. This Visa was set up by the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI). You can apply as:
- Smart T (Talent) – Science and technology experts with salaries higher than 100k baht per month
- Smart I (Investor) – Investment of 20 million baht
- Smart E (Executive) – Bachelor's degree or higher plus 10 years of work experience, salaries higher than 200k baht per month
- Smart S (Startup) – Technology-based startup entrepreneurs, Deposit of 600K baht held for 3 months minimum. Setup company within 1 year with at least 25% ownership
- Smart O (Others) – Spouse and children of smart visa holders
You can read more about the program and how to apply here: smart-visa.boi.go.th/smart/index.html
TDPK Startup Booster (Smart S Visa)
True Digital Park a company that runs many co working spaces in Thailand and works with a lot of startups has a very interesting proposition for Digital Nomads. For a fee of 100,0000 which is around $3,000 it can provide you with a Smart S Visa for startups. This comes with additional benefits:
- 1-Year Co-working Space at True Digital Park, True Space and Partners 10+ locations. One of the locations is in the ICONSIAM shopping centre in Bangkok a true iconic location.
- Join Business Matching Event for Potential Startup Business Partnerships.
- Consultations session with Startup Incubator Experts.
- Access to on-demand materials made to help your startup business succeed.
- Monthly Networking Events.
More info: Startup Booster
Business Visa through Employer of Record Schemes
There are companies that can offer digital nomads an Employer of Record (EoR) service. Basically, you will work for them and they charge a flat monthly fee that ensures you have everything you need from a legal perspective to have tax residence in Thailand. They will sort out business visas, healthcare, work permits and payroll to ensure you pay the local taxes and social security.
The benefits are no more paperwork, immigration reports or visa runs and you can stay and work in Thailand for a long period. These are the requirements:
- Are at least 22 years old
- Have either one of the following:
- An IT-related university degree, plus 2 years of relevant work experience
- Any type of university/college/school diploma or certificate, plus 5 years of relevant work experience
- Work in software development, blockchain, design, marketing, business development, eCommerce, or other online, tech/digital-related activity
- Have an existing business or client base
- Can bill a minimum of $1,500 USD per month
- Can commit to a 1-3 year contract
There are three companies that offer these type of EoR services:
Thai Elite Visa
The Thailand Elite Visa is what is known as a Privilege Entry Visa and comes that gives tourists multiple entry access to Thailand for periods of 5, 10 and 20 years. It comes also with plenty of additional perks, like lounge access at airports and a VIP immigration and luggage collecting process. The costs are as follows:
- A 5-year visa is 600,000 Baht including annual fees.
- A 10-year visa is 1,000,000 Baht including annual fees.
- A 20-year visa is 2,400,000 Baht including annual fees.
Like with many other Thai visas you will still have to report every 90 days to immigration, but with this visa for Bangkok residents, you will have a VIP-guided process.
You can find more information about the plethora of Thai Elite Visa durations and options at www.thailandelite.com.
Thailand Digital Nomad Visa – Long-Term Residency Visa
On 1 September 2022 the Thailand Long-Term Residency Visa went live. It is a 10-year Visa that is also created by the Thailand Board of Investments https://ltr.boi.go.th/ and has taken a lot of elements from the SMART visa.
The 10-year Thailand LTR visa is aimed at wealthy expats and wealthy digital nomads. It is believed that luring these high-quality long-term residents will help drive the Thai economy. The 10-year visa is intended to attract wealthy long-term travellers from 4 categories:
- Digital Nomads – currently most digital nomads use tourism visas, we don't think the 10-year LTR visa will appeal to many digital nomads.
- Highly skilled professionals that can advance Thailand with skills and their spending of salaries. – This competes with the current SMART Visa
- Wealthy Global Citizens – There is already the Thailand Elite Visa to cater for them
- Wealthy Pensioners – Thailand is a retirement heaven and it has already Non-Immigrant O plus extension, O-A and O-X visas for less wealthy pensioners over 50 years old. The benefit here is 10 years of peace of mind and only yearly reporting at immigration instead of every 90 days.
Privileges to LTR Visa Holders
- 10 years renewable visa
- Exemption from the 4 Thais to 1 foreigner employment requirement ratio
- Fast track Service at international Airports in Thailand
- Only 1 year reporting at immigration instead of every 90 days
- Permission to work in Thailand (Digital Work permit)
- 17% Personal income tax for Highly-skilled professionals
Types of LTR Visa
Wealthy Global Citizens
- At least $ 1 million in assets.
- Personal income of $80,000 a year in the past two years.
- Investment of at least $500,000 in Thai government bonds, Thai property, or foreign direct investments.
- Health insurance with $50,000 coverage.
- Personal income of at least USD 80,000 a year at the time of application
- If earning between $40,000 and $80,000 a year, investment of $250,000 in Thai property, Thai government bonds or foreign direct investment.
- Health insurance with $50,000 coverage.
Work-from-Thailand Professionals aka Digital Nomads
- Personal income of $80,000/ year in the past two years.
- If earning between $40,000 and $80,000 per year for the past 2 years applicants must have a master's degree or own intellectual property or receive series A funding
- Public company on a stock exchange or; Private company with combined revenue of at least $150,000,000 in the last three years ($50 million a year revenue on average) – This rule will kill it for 99.99% of potential digital nomads.
- At least 5 years of work experience in the relevant fields of the current employment over the past 10 years.
- Health insurance with $50,000 coverage.
- Personal income of a minimum of USD 80,000 a year in the past two years
- If earning between $40,000 and $80,000 per year for the past 2 years in the past two years or before retirement, applicants must have a Master's degree or above in science and technology or special expertise relevant to the job assignment in Thailand
- No minimum personal income for professionals working for Thai government agencies
- Business in any targeted industries: Higher education institution, research institution, specialized training institution, or Thai government agency
- At least 5 years of work experience in the targeted industries except for applicants with a PhD or above in the relevant fields of the targeted industries or applicants working for Thai government agencies
- Health insurance with $50,000 coverage.
According to Deutsche Welle, one Thailand government official expects 1 million applicants for the LTR scheme by 2027. If each contributes $28,000 to the local economy, the whole scheme will be worth $27.6 billion, according to estimates by the Thailand Board of Investment. The first data is in and it seems the Thai government has been overly optimistic, a total of 2920 foreigners have applied for the LTR visa from 1 November 2022 till 28 February 2023. In my opinion, the Thailand LTR visa looks way too rigid to bring any meaningful benefit to the Thai economy.
There is a caveat and “This is Thailand”, it means there are middle men that offer these visas for less stringent requirements (bribes), do you or own due diligence with using these services.
Thailand has already got a range of visas that can help digital nomads, retirees, investors and wealthy expats (through Thailand Elite Visa). What has never been clear is the tax and work status for remote workers. The concept of non-tax-paying digital nomads was something that was well known, but there was never any action taken except for one raid in 2014 at a coworking centre in Chiang Mai.
Thailand has squandered the opportunity to bring in digital nomads with a proper digital nomad visa which comes with a duration of 1 to 2 years. Many other countries have successfully developed these visas during the pandemic. Bringing in a digital nomad visa with an income requirement of $3,000 a month would have done the trick.
The LTR visa created by the BOI is basically designed on the unsuccessful SMART visa, with some promises of slightly less bureaucracy. What we have for digital nomads is a return to the old. Back to the time and money-consuming visa borders runs and extensions via the immigration office. Although the process has been streamlined a bit with the introduction of e-visa and e-extension.
The Thai Elite Visa program has been successful for Thailand and a digital nomad visa may have cannibalised this program. This did not stop Malaysia launch its digital nomad visa with maximum 2 years stay whilst also having its 10 year MM2H program which is targeting wealthier long term residents. I still believe there is a gap in the Thai visa options to be filled.
What is known is that Thailand had the largest Digital Nomad community before the pandemic and that the infrastructure to support this is still there. Competition for digital nomads is global and Thailand has not made it easier, unlike some other countries.
I will finish with this quote I came across on a DN forum:
Just as nomads travel to avoid exhausting the food for their animals in one location, digital nomads travel to avoid the bureaucracy of visas, taxes and cost of living connected with living permanently in one country.