Yesterday, I was officially granted a one-year “O” immigration (retirement) visa from Thailand, meaning I can stay in-country through next June. It has been a long and tricky struggle to get to this point.
For example, only the day before, my lawyer called to tell me my rental agreement – a mandatory document for filing – was incorrect. The lease had my 6-month term ending in June instead of July. A small mistake, granted, but one that would have derailed the application process.
Paying attention to the details in your paperwork is essential.
That mistake did mean I had to have a new lease agreement right away, so I called the apartment manager and she came over the same day. I agreed to a 6-month extension on my current apartment, although I doubt I will live in it that long.
My lawyer also gave me some good news, although I could have used it before I arrived in Thailand. Before I moved here, I was told I would need 800,000 baht deposited in a Thai bank as an income guarantee. This was because my monthly retirement income does not reach the required level.
Then, after I arrived, I was told I would need a monthly income verification letter from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, necessitating an overnight stay in the capital. I was advised to give the embassy a higher income number than what it really is, which I did. The letter was issued and used when I applied for the 90-day visa you have to have before getting a one-year visa.
However, my lawyer said the embassy letter would be too dated by the time I applied for the longer visa and that I would need updated verification from my Thai bank about my deposit level. But then, two days ago, he called to say the embassy letter is all I would need. The Thais had changed the rules again.
So now, for at least a year, I will be using my Thai bank account for living expenses, while saving my monthly retirement checks. This will save me quite a bit in bank fees, as there is no withdrawal penalty for taking my money out locally.
To recap my visa journey, thus far:
- Initial 30-day tourist visa upon country entrance.
- 30-day tourist visa extension.
- Visa run for new 30-day tourist visa to Laos because there was less than two weeks left on my extension and to apply for the one-year visa you have to have two weeks remaining.
- 90-day visa extension granted
- one-year visa granted
For #5 yesterday, I had to make my way to the lawyer’s office ( half-mile walk, songtoew taxi 5 miles), where “Tubby” met me to go over the paperwork. She is a paralegal who has been working on my account, and has the nickname for a reason. I signed a few papers and handed over a wad of money (1,900 baht for visa, 1,900 baht for a single-entry visa, allowing me to make a trip outside Thailand during the year, 3,000 baht for the attorney’s services, all told about $200), and then we drove off to the immigration office.
I was relieved that immigration was not busy (it is the slow season) and we were seated in front of an officer within 10-15 minutes. However, he proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes handling someone else’s paperwork. Finally, I signed some more papers and he did a bunch of initialing, rubber stamping, computer typing.
Then, I waited for about 10 minutes before getting my passport back with one full page taken up by the new visa, including the single-entry stamp.
Let me explain the latter: With this visa, I can’t just travel wherever and whenever I want outside Thailand. I can leave the country without the single-entry visa but if I return I lose whatever time was left on my retirement visa. You’re kind of stuck here unless you pay to get out and come back in.
I could have bought a multi-entry visa, allowing me to come and go as I please but the one trip option is less expensive and I doubt I would take more than one trip during the year. If I do, I simply pay for another exit-entry visa.
One more requirement: Every 90 days, I have to report to Immigration and fill out a form. I can be deported for not doing this.