So; about ten days ago I wrote about my big move, without saying where I was going.
Anyone who knows the visa requirements of Thailand would have figured it pretty quickly. Anyone who knows me well, either already knew where I was headed, or would have known I’d been thinking about the idea for a while. No secrets there then. The cat’s out of the proverbial bag.
But all my twitterings about visa requirements have turned out to be rubbish. Well, what I described was one option, if you like to do things the hard way. I don’t.
The Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur doesn’t seem to answer e-mails, and doesn’t pickup the phone. So, rather than making a lengthy trip into KL just to ask a bunch of questions, my idea was to pull together as much of the paperwork as possible, to present it, and to ask “What’s missing?” I figured there was at least a small possibility the answer would be “Nothing.”
Somehow though, I didn’t like the idea of being clueless. So, I found an online forum, appropriately named the “Thai Visa Forum.” I joined, logged-in, and politely asked if anyone knew about the requirements for getting the type of visa I thought I needed. In the space of three hours I had 48 answers. I had also admitted I was totally confused by the apparent alphabet soup of visa types … O, non-O, O/A, B, and more.
Anyways, the general opinion was “You’d be mad to get a visa outside of Thailand. Far too much paperwork. Do it all here.” Now, this was contrary to what I’d been led to believe. But, it seems, you have to be very very careful to ask the right questions.
First; if you ask about retirement visas you get jumped on by people forcefully stating “There’s no such thing as a retirement visa.” But, there is a visa type you can get if you are over 50, retired, and meet some not very difficult financial requirements. Sounds like semantics to me, but I guess it’s best to be accurate.
Then, if you ask “Can I get one of these in Thailand” the answer is “No… you must get it at a Thai Embassy in your country of citizenship.” I think that’s slightly wrong, in that you can get it in your country of residence, but the people in the forum seemed to think that wasn’t always true, and that the Embassy in Malaysia was one of the toughest when it came to rules. So, for a while, it was looking like I’d have to make a trip to Canada. But then it all became clearer, and very obvious I’d been asking the wrong question.
If you ask “Can I come to Thailand on a normal tourist visa, and then get permission to remain long-term?” the answer is “Yes.” It seems the larger Immigration Offices in Thailand will issue the so-called “One Year Extension based on Retirement” which, let’s be careful here, is not to be called a “Retirement Visa.”
So there you have it. Can I get a one year visa in Thailand. No. Can I get a one year extension in Thailand? Yes.
Something else I learned is that whatever type of visa I get, if I leave the country, it gets cancelled. If I get a one year visa and leave the next day, that’s it, visa caput. So, what I also have to get, once I have the visa, is something called a “Multiple Re-Entry Permit.” Sigh. It’s starting to sound like living in Switzerland, where, we used joke that even getting permission to blow your nose needed ten francs and two photographs. Everything in Thailand seems to need a few thousand Baht and two photographs.
Anyways, whether I’d obtained the visa here, or obtained the extension in Thailand, long-term, there’s really no difference. When either the visa or the one year extension expires, what happens next is you continually get more one year extensions.
So, I can throw-out the forms, the two copies of every page of every passport, the medical certificate, along with my plans to go get the whole lot notarized before heading to the Thai Embassy. All I have to do now, is transfer some money to Thailand and get on a plane. The first is done, the latter I’ll be doing next Tuesday.
Wish me luck!