On what grounds can foreigners live in Thailand?
A foreigner needs a visa, permanent residence, or citizenship to live in Thailand. In some cases, a visa may not be required for a short visit or a vacation.
Visa-free entry is allowed for citizens of countries with which Thailand has a bilateral visa waiver agreement.
A foreigner can enter Thailand without a visa for tourism, in transit, and participation in cultural and sports events. However, visa-free entry to Thailand does not give you the right to work there.
A visa is required to stay in Thailand for various purposes such as work, business, or studies. Visas can be single-entry and valid for up to 3 months, or multiple-entry and valid for one year, for visits up to 90 consecutive days.
Each time you leave the country on a multiple-entry visa, you must obtain permission to re-enter Thailand from the Immigration Office.
An annual multiple entry visa does not allow you to live in Thailand for the whole year continuously. Each entry is limited to 90 days. If you need to stay longer, you must leave Thailand and return.
However, there are exceptions: for example, foreigners with a work permit and spouses of Thai citizens do not need to leave the country during the year. Moreover, their visas can be extended in Thailand.
Investment program expert
Any foreigner living in Thailand based on a visa must inform the immigration department of their residential address every 90 days. It can be done by mail, in person, or through a representative with a power of attorney.
You are not required to confirm your residential address if you leave the country within 90 days after entry. Holders of a single-entry visa for 90 days also do not need to register at the immigration office.
A Thai permanent residence permit can be obtained after three years of residence under certain categories of non-immigrant visas, for example, foreigners with a work permit, a spouse of a Thai citizen, and qualified experts. Every year, the Thai government sets a quota for permanent residence permits limited to 100 people from each country.
Citizenship. An application for a Thai passport can be submitted after living for five years in Thailand as a permanent resident. The applicant needs to confirm that their level of income meets the required level, know the Thai language, be able to sing the Thai national anthem, and take the oath of allegiance to Thailand.
Residence permit by investment under the Thailand Elite Residence Program
Wealthy individuals can get a long-term Thai visa under the program of privileged entry visas. The program is run by Thailand Privilege Card Co., Ltd., a Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports subsidiary.
The program aims to attract wealthy foreigners to Thailand. The rules of entry are simplified for them. They are given the right to reside in the country for up to 20 years without having to leave the country every three months.
The visa is designed for investors, wealthy pensioners, and highly paid professionals. The basic requirements for eligibility are a no criminal record certificate and good health. The age limit requiring the investor to be over 20 years old is set only for the Elite Ultimate Privilege visa.
Cosmopolitans can pay a membership fee for the Thailand Elite Residence Program to qualify for residency in Thailand. Depending on the Elite Visa membership package, eligibility to stay in Thailand ranges from 5 to 20 years. Members of the programme receive an Elite Visa upon arrival in Thailand.
Benefits of Elite Visa:
- multiple-entry with the possibility of extending the period of stay by 1 year for each entry;
- allowed to remain continuously in Thailand without the need to leave the country every 90 days or obtain a re-entry visa;
- Thai Elite’s staff submits a report every 90 days on behalf of the visa holder to the Thai Immigration Service;
- expedited immigration and passport control upon arrival in Thailand;
- transfer from the airport;
- free golf clubs, spas, and an annual checkup at the hospital.
Thai Elite visas do not give the right to obtain Thai permanent residence or citizenship.
Elite Visa categories
|Elite Easy Access||฿600,000 |
|Elite Family Excursion|
Minimum 2 people
≈ $22,200 for two people
+ ฿300,000 ≈ $ 8,400 for an additional family member
|Elite Maxima Health Membership|
For ages 5 to 55
|Elite Family Alternative|
Minimum 2 people
≈ $22,200 for each person
+ ฿700,000 ≈ $19,500 for an additional family member
|Elite Privilege Access||฿1,000,000 ≈ $28,000 |
+ ฿800,000 ≈ $22,200 for an additional family member
|Elite Superiority Extension||฿1,000,000 ≈ $28,000||20 years|
|Elite Ultimate Privilege|
Over 20 years old
|฿2,000,000 ≈ $62,000|
+ ฿20,000 ≈ $620 annual fee ((VAT excluded)
+ 20% transfer fee
|Elite Family Premium|
For the applicant's family members Elite Ultimate Privilege
|฿1,000,000 ≈ $28,000 for each |
+ ฿10,000 ≈ $280 annual fee (VAT included)
Changes to the Thailand Elite Residence program
Thailand Privilege Card is creating a new option for investors who want to obtain a work permit in Thailand. The new Elite Flexible Plus visa category will be available from September for investments of at least ฿30,000,000. The visa will be valid for 10 years.
The new program is open to Elite cardholders with at least 10 years of validity. For Elite Ultimate Privilege, Elite Superiority Extension and Elite Privilege Access categories, the cards must be at least 5 more years old. In all cases, applicants are required to invest at least ฿32,000,000 during the year.
How to apply for the Thai Elite visa
|Submit application |
|Fill out an application for Thai Elite Visa membership and send a copy of your passport.|
1 to 3 months
|Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Bureau, check to ensure the applicant has no criminal record.|
|Payment of membership fees||The applicant receives approval of the application and instructions on paying for the membership package by email. |
The membership fee varies depending on the applicant's membership package.
2 weeks after payment
|After payment of the membership fee, the applicant receives a Thailand Elite membership card and instructions on how to get a visa. |
A Thailand Elite member can get a Thai Elite visa upon arrival in Thailand.
In emergencies, for example, when the borders are closed due to a pandemic, the applicant receives a letter from Thailand Privilege Card Co., Ltd. and an entry certificate from the local Thai embassy or consulate for permission to travel to Thailand.
Other types of Thai visas
Tourist visas differ in terms of the length of the period of stay allowed in the country and the number of visits permitted. For example, a multiple-entry tourist visa can be valid for 6 months and allows the holder to spend up to 60 days in Thailand.
A tourist visa does not give you the right to work in the country.
Non-immigrant visas are the first step towards citizenship by naturalisation. They are obtained for work, business, investment in Thailand, and family reunification. Highly qualified specialists, investors, and wealthy pensioners are prioritised and are more likely to be granted these types of visas.
Non-immigrant visas are usually valid for one year and can be extended.
Visa categories: non-immigrant
|Visa||Reason for staying in Thailand||Validity|
|F||Official duties. Visas are granted to diplomats, consular personnel, ministers, and other officials of foreign governments||3 months|
|B||Business or employment||3 months,|
|IM||Investments requiring Thai government approval, such as robotics, aviation, and medical tourism||Up to 4 years|
|IB||Investments that do not require government permission: for example, in companies listed on the Thai Stock Exchange||1 year|
|M||Filming, journalism||3 months,|
|R||Missionary or religious work||3 months|
|RS||Research, scientific training||3 months|
|EX||Working as an expert in Thai organisations||3 months,|
|O||Family reunification||1 year|
|O||Residence for pensioners||1 year|
Not all non-immigrant visa categories lead to citizenship. For example, living on a student or pensioner visa does not entitle you to permanent residence and Thai citizenship.
How to get a long-term Thai visa by investment
Wealthy foreigners can apply for non-immigrant visas in the investment, business, and pensioner categories.
Foreigners over 18 with a good reputation, good health, legal income, and no criminal record can apply for a visa.
Investment required. The applicant can invest in securities and government projects. Together with the investor, a long-term visa can be obtained by family members: spouse, children, and parents.
Investments under the program are calculated in Thai baht. In July 2022, 1 baht was equal to approximately 0.028 US dollars. The minimum investment amount is 10 million baht or roughly $279,000.
The investor can choose one of three options:
- Purchase government securities or securities issued by a state enterprise, guaranteed by the Ministry of Finance or the Bank of Thailand.
- Purchase shares or bonds of Thai companies listed on the Thai Stock Exchange.
- Investment in the authorised capital of a limited liability company or a public company.
Typically, an investment visa is valid for one year, but sometimes longer visas can also be issued. The visa can then be extended if the investment is maintained.
Four-year visas can be issued in return for investment in government-approved projects: for example, in robotics, aviation, logistics, smart electronics, and medical tourism.
Investment visa holders can only work in Thailand with a work permit.
Business. The applicant must hold a management position in a company registered in Thailand, such as an executive director, and have the right to sign on behalf of the company. The authorised capital of the company must be at least 10 million baht. The applicant's minimum income is ฿50,000 per month.
The applicant must work for a company that qualifies for the program. The following types and scales of businesses qualify:
- International trade with an average export value of goods over three years of at least 20 million baht.
- A manufacturing company with a turnover of at least 100 million baht over the past three years.
- A tourism business that has attracted an average of 5,000 tourists over the past three years.
- Another type of business in which the applicant owns shares worth 5 million baht.
A business visa is valid for one year. It can be extended as long as the requirements for the applicant's income and the company's profitability are met, and no tax is owed to the Thai government.
Retirement visas can be obtained by applicants older than 50 years. It is an individual visa, and family members cannot be included in the application.
The applicant confirms their financial standing in one of the following ways:
- transfers a deposit of at least ฿1,200,000 to a Thai bank at least three months prior to their visa application;
- provides a certificate of an average monthly income of at least ฿100,000;
- confirms the deposit and monthly income of ฿1,200,000 in total.
The applicant will need a health insurance policy covering $100,000 and a certificate confirming the absence of the following diseases: leprosy, tuberculosis, drug addiction, elephantiasis, and the third stage of syphilis.
The visa is valid for one year and can be extended for another year at any immigration office in Thailand.
The rules for wealthy people will change from September 2022
From September 2022, the Thai government will issue 10-year visas for investment in Thai government bonds and Thai real estate.
The minimum investment varies for different categories of participants. For example, for investors, the minimum investment is $500,000, and for pensioners at least 50 years old, it is $250,000. Qualified professionals with at least five years of work experience and a confirmed annual income of at least $80,000 can apply for this visa.
We discuss the new Thai visas in our article Thailand will start issuing 10-year visas to investors, pensioners, and specialists.
How to get a Thai permanent residence
The Royal Thai Immigration Commission determines a yearly quota of up to 100 people per country who can be granted permanent residence in Thailand. Applicants can apply for permanent residence in Thailand between November and December.
To obtain Thailand permanent residence, you must live there for three years based on a multiple-entry non-immigrant visa. Some categories of visas cannot serve as a basis for permanent residence and citizenship: a pensioner’s visa or a student visa.
Non-immigrant visas that give the right to permanent residence:
- work or business;
- family reunification;
- expert or scientific researcher.
An application for permanent residence is submitted to the immigration office in Bangkok or at the applicant’s residence.
After approval of the application for Thailand permanent residence, the applicant receives a blue book of residence, Thai Blue Book, from the local municipality.
The Blue Book serves as an official confirmation of the applicant’s residential address. It is required, for example, to open a bank account when buying a car or applying for a visa to travel abroad. The Blue Book can only be issued to Thai citizens and permanent residents.
The applicant then registers their place of residence and receives a house card or House Book. It lists the owner of the property and the residents. The book is required as stipulated in the registration law of 1991 and amendments to the law of 2008.
A week after receiving permanent residence, you must apply at the local police station for a foreigner’s book, a red book. It is the Thai identity card.
Permanent residence is for life, but you need to register with the authorities annually. To leave Thailand and return, you must obtain a re-entry permit.
An application for Thai citizenship can be submitted after five years of permanent residence.
How to get Thailand citizenship
Thailand citizenship can be obtained by birth, adoption, naturalisation, and special services.
At birth, a child acquires Thai citizenship in the following cases:
- the child’s parents are married, and one of them has Thai citizenship;
- the mother is a Thai citizen, not married to the child’s father, and the father’s identity is not known, or he is stateless.
Being born in Thailand does not automatically make the newborn child eligible for citizenship.
By naturalisation: foreigners can obtain Thai nationality in the following cases:
- they are over 18;
- without criminal records or problems with the police;
- have lived legally in Thailand for at least five years;
- they have a business or a job in Thailand;
- they know how to speak and write Thai;
- they can sing the Thai national anthem;
- scored at least 50 points out of 100 according to the scoring system.
Some categories of applicants can obtain a Thai passport after three years, for example, the wife of a Thai citizen, the spouse or child of a naturalised citizen, and a former Thai citizen.
Thai citizenship applicant evaluation system. Each citizenship application is assigned points by category: age, education, monthly income, proficiency level in the Thai language, type and length of stay, and knowledge of Thailand. In addition, Thailand’s immigration officers evaluate the applicant’s behaviour, speech, and appearance.
The maximum points are awarded to the following types of applicants:
- aged 40 to 50 years;
- with higher education;
- with a monthly income of $2,500;
- resident in Thailand for more than five years;
- speak Thai at a conversational level.
What documents are needed to apply for Thai citizenship?
The following documents are required to apply for Thai citizenship by naturalisation:
- A copy of your passport.
- Copy of certificate of residence.
- A copy of the foreigner's book.
- Copy of the registration of your House Book.
- Copy of work permit.
- Certificate of the age of majority translated into Thai and certified by the embassy of the country of original citizenship in Thailand.
- 12 photographs (2 × 2.5 inches). Men are photographed in suits and ties, and women in formal clothes.
- Proof of the applicant's education and any family members included in the application. Foreign certificates are certified by an apostille in the Department of Education of the country that issued the certificate.
- A letter confirming the applicant’s employment also indicates their position, salary, and length of service.
- Proof of employment or company ownership.
- Declaration of income of individuals for the past 3 years.
- Birth certificate.
- Copies of identity documents of the applicant’s guarantors: two Thai citizens.
In addition to the basic documents, an applicant for citizenship through marriage must provide a marriage certificate.
Business owners additionally confirm their financial position with income statements and tax returns for the last three years.
The documents must be translated into Thai and notarised.
Where to apply for Thai citizenship
The citizenship application is submitted at the immigration office in Bangkok or where the applicant lives.
First, the applicant receives a list of the documents required at the immigration office. Then they prepare and submit the application and documents required, pay the processing fee, and have their fingerprints taken.
Next, they have an interview conducted in Thai at the Ministry of the Interior. If the applicant passes the interview, they return to the ministry to sing the national anthem of Thailand.
After checking the documents, Thailand’s immigration officers visit the applicant's home to ensure that the residence details are correct.
When the citizenship application is approved, the applicant takes an oath of allegiance to the king and Thailand.
Are Thai citizens allowed to have second citizenship?
When obtaining Thai citizenship by naturalisation, you will need to renounce your original citizenship.
A child born overseas to Thai parents and acquired citizenship in a foreign country may retain dual citizenship until 18. Then they will have to choose which citizenship to keep.
What are the benefits of Thai citizenship?
In 2021, about five million immigrants were living permanently in Thailand. Foreigners are attracted to live in Thailand because of its warm climate and beautiful beaches and sea.
Visa-free travel. With a Thai passport, you can visit 79 countries without a visa. The list of visa-free destinations includes Albania, Turkey, Hong Kong, Japan, Argentina and Brazil.
Living in a warm climate. Thailand has a subtropical and tropical climate. Seasonal temperature fluctuations are not significant. In the hottest season, from March to May, the temperature varies from +28 to 38°С. It drops from June to October during the rainy season to +24 to 34°С. The rain can be heavy but does not last for long, from 15 minutes to 3 hours, and it often falls in the afternoon.
Live by the sea and visit beautiful places. Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia. In the country’s north are tropical forests, and in the south are the picturesque beaches of the South China and Andaman seas.
The most famous ones are the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Wat Pho Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Other popular places are the Grand Royal Palace in Bangkok, the ancient city of Ayutthaya, Wat Arun towers, Dusit Park palaces, and the Muang Boran Ethnographic Park.
Opportunities for tax optimization. If a person lives in Thailand for more than 183 days a year, they become a tax resident. A company is a tax resident if incorporated, managed or controlled in Thailand.
Thai tax residents pay tax on income earned in the country and income in other countries remitted to Thailand in the same tax period. If the foreign income is sent to Thailand in the following tax year, no income tax is assessed on it in Thailand.
Non-residents are subject to income tax on income earned in Thailand.
The main taxes levied in Thailand
|Tax||For individuals||For businesses|
|Income tax||Up to 35%||None|
|Tax on dividends||15%||15%|
|Interest and royalties||10%||10%|
|The standard VAT rate||10%||10%|
Depending on the degree of kinship
|Social contributions||5% of the employee's pay, but not more than 750 TBH per month. |
Contributions are payable by both employer and employee
If an individual's annual income exceeds THB150,000, they pay income tax on a progressive scale of up to 35%. If an individual receives income from a company with preferential tax regimes, the income tax rate is lower at 15%. Examples are Regional Operating Headquarters (ROH), International Headquarters (IHQ) and International Trade Centre (ITC).
The standard VAT rate is 10%, but the national government extends the reduction to 7% for most activities.
Resident companies pay corporate tax on worldwide income at a rate of 20%. Small companies have lower progressive rates as long as paid-up capital and net taxable income does not exceed certain amounts.
Income derived from the sale of securities listed on the Thailand Stock Exchange or any other ASEAN stock exchange is exempt from tax, although certain exemptions may apply.
In Thailand, controlled foreign company (CFC) rules do not apply, so profits remaining in foreign companies owned by tax residents are not taxable.
Companies can have tax holidays of up to 8 years. Companies under the International Headquarters (IHQ) and International Trade Centre (ITC) regimes can be exempt from CIT for up to 15 years, among other tax benefits. Companies must obtain approval from the Board of Investments to get a tax holiday.
Thailand has agreements with several countries to allow its tax residents to avoid double taxation.
Thailand is ranked 7th by the World Bank as an emerging and resilient economy.
Excellent medical services. The country has a developed network of public and private clinics with qualified medical staff. Medical services are paid.
Prices in Thai private clinics are the same as in Western Europe. Patients pay for the medical treatment and the luxurious facilities, including individual rooms and European food. Most doctors and staff speak English.
The public medical clinics are not inferior in terms of the doctors’ qualifications and are much cheaper. At the same time, hospitals have large wards for 20-30 people, and patients are given only Thai food.
Alternatives to a Thailand residence permit
In some countries, an investor can get citizenship more easily and with a smaller investment than in Thailand.
Citizenship by investment in one of the Caribbean countries can be obtained more quickly — in three to six months. The cheapest investments are possible under the option of a non-refundable contribution to a government fund. The minimum contribution in Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda is $100,000, and in Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis, it is $150,000.
Each Caribbean citizenship program also has options of buying real estate or bonds in which most of the initial investment is returned after a few years. The minimum investment for these options is higher than for options with a contribution to the state fund: for example, in Grenada, you can buy a stake of at least $220,000 in a government-approved property. In addition, a state fee is payable. In Grenada, the state fee is at least $50,000.
Vanuatu citizenship by investment, which can be granted in one month and requires a contribution of $130,000 to the state fund, can be obtained faster than in Caribbean countries.
Caribbean and Vanuatu passport holders can live in the tropics all year round and travel the world visa-free. They are also eligible to apply for U.S. B-1/B-2 tourist visas, valid for 10 years for Caribbean citizens and 5 years for Vanuatu citizens.
Investors are not required to take a language test or visit the country to get citizenship.
Frequently asked questions
The Thai Elite visa is intended for investors, wealthy retirees and highly paid professionals.
Wealthy people pay a membership fee to the Thailand Elite Residence Program. In return, they receive the right to reside in Thailand for 5 to 20 years, depending on the Elite Visa membership package. Members of the program receive an Elite Visa upon arrival in Thailand.
The program is run by Thailand Privilege Card Co., Ltd., a Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports subsidiary.
The cost of a Thai Elite visa depends on its type. Visas vary in duration and number of participants: individual or family packages.
The cost of an individual package is:
- THB 600,000 for 5 years;
- THB 1,000,000 for 10 years;
- THB 1,000,000—2,000,000 for 20 years.
The cost of a family package is:
- THB 800,000 for 5 years, for 2 people;
- THB 800,000 for 10 years, for each;
- THB 1,000,000—2,000,000 for 20 years, for each.
To obtain the Thai Elite visa, you must fill in a Thai Elite Visa application form and send a copy of your passport.
When the application is approved, the applicant receives instructions on transferring the money. The membership fee varies depending on the membership package.
When the applicant has paid the membership fee, they will receive a Thailand Elite membership card and a detailed description of how to obtain a visa. A Thailand Elite holder may obtain a Thai Elite visa upon arrival in Thailand.
Citizens from some countries can enter Thailand without a visa for up to 30 days. Thai visas differ regarding the number of entries allowed, their validity period, and the purpose for which they are issued, for example, tourism, business, or studies.
Wealthy people can get non-immigrant visas in the investment, business, and pensioner categories. A visa can be obtained for one year, with investment in government projects, for up to four years. After expiration, the visa can be extended, subject to the holder maintaining the conditions attached.
Long-term non-immigrant visas are available to applicants over 18 years of age with a good reputation, proven legal income, no criminal record certificate, and good health.
Investors can obtain a long-term Thai visa through the Privilege Entry Visa by paying a fee and becoming a Thailand Privilege Card member. In return, they receive the right to stay in Thailand for 5 to 20 years, depending on the Elite Visa membership package selected.
Members are issued an Elite visa upon arrival in Thailand. The visa gives them the right to long-term residence in Thailand without leaving the country every 30 days. The Elite visa also offers other advantages:
- hotel transfer;
- visits to spas and golf clubs;
- an annual medical examination in a private clinic.
In addition, the company organising the visa submits the mandatory 90-day report on behalf of the visa holders to the immigration service.
You must be in Thailand for three years on a non-immigrant multiple entry visa to apply for permanent residence.
Applicants must be in good health, speak Thai, have a proven legal monthly income, and have no criminal record. The minimum income requirements vary for different categories of applicants. For example, the spouse of a Thai citizen needs to prove they have a monthly income of ฿30,000, while an employee with a work permit needs a monthly income of ฿80,000.
Non-immigrant visas that give the right to apply for permanent residence:
- work or business;
- family reunification;
- expert or researcher.
Citizenship by naturalisation can be obtained by an applicant over 18, with no criminal record, in good health, and who meets the income requirements. A citizenship application can be submitted after 5 years of residence as a permanent resident. Applicants need to be able to speak and write in Thai, sing the national anthem of Thailand, and score at least 50 points out of 100 in the points system.
Dual citizenship is not allowed in Thailand. To get Thai citizenship by naturalisation, you will need to renounce your original citizenship.
A child born abroad to Thai parents who received citizenship from another country can maintain dual citizenship until 18. Then they will need to choose which citizenship to keep.
With a Thai passport, you can visit 79 countries without a visa. The list of visa-free destinations includes Albania, Turkey, Hong Kong, Japan, Argentina and Brazil.