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When you enter Thailand, a permission to stay stamp is put on your passport. On a non-immigrant visa, the standard visa for those wanting to stay long-term in the country, this lasts for only 90 days. This means that you will have to apply for an extension of stay every 90 days until you are able to acquire permanent residence. In addition, you will need to register your address, by post, every 90 days. Failure to do this may result in a fine of 200 baht per day.
Otherwise, you will need ensure that you to leave the country and re-enter it every 90 days (known informally as taking a visa extension trip). This will require a re-entry permit if you do not have a multiple entry type of visa. Under the military regime, strict laws have been introduced for people overstaying their visa. People caught doing this have been detained, fined, deported and even barred from re-entering Thailand for up to five years!
As you settle into life in Thailand, you will soon appreciate the very low cost of living. This is especially true if you are on a reasonable wage; you will be able to afford luxuries you would not be able to at home. And once you become more adept at haggling in street markets and other such places, things will get even cheaper.
The application process to become a permanent resident in Thailand is by no means straightforward. Firstly, only 100 expats per country are accepted per year. This means that, for residents of some countries, applying for permanent residence is rather like applying for a sought-after job.
The bare minimum requirement is to have held the same type of non-immigrant visa for three continuous years. You will also need to amass a considerable number of documents to back up your application. Any of these not in Thai will need to be accompanied by a certified translation.
Documents required include:
You will need to apply in person at the Bangkok Immigration Office. There is a non-refundable fee to pay, and an additional fee if the application is successful. If it is, you will get an alien registration book. You will have to re-register every year and must apply for a re-entry permit if you want to leave Thailand.
Once you obtain permanent resident status, you may want to become a Thai citizen. Unfortunately, this will involve jumping through just as many hoops, if not more. Patience and forbearance will once again be required.
Obtaining citizenship is also more difficult than it is in most countries. For one thing, according to Thai law, being born in Thailand does not render you eligible to become a citizen. This means that the only way you can qualify for citizenship relatively quickly is one of your parents is a Thai citizen.
Otherwise, you will need to apply for citizenship by means of naturalisation. To be eligible to apply, you need to have been permanently resident of Thailand for five continuous years. There is a points system in operation: for your application to be successful, you need to obtain 50 points. Most points are awarded for occupation, education level and age, though the more fluent you are in Thai, the better. You must also produce two guarantors for your conduct and financial standing; employers will normally help with this.
When applying, you must provide a faintly ludicrous five copies of most of your documents.
You will need to consider the decision to become a Thai citizen carefully, as dual citizenship is not recognised in Thailand. When you become a Thai citizen, you will have to renounce your old citizenship.
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If you are considering moving to Thailand or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Thailand section including; details of immigration and visas, Thai forums, Thai event listings and service providers in Thailand.
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