Visa Process is Death

visaMaybe it’s because I don’t speak Thai very well or maybe it’s because the Ministry of Immigration likes to put foreigners through grueling unofficial “hazing” routines, but whichever it is, the visa/work permit process makes me want to run up to the top of Doi Inthanon and scream at the top of my longs, while pulling my hair out. I didn’t, but nice to think about.

Here is my guide to getting a work visa in Thailand đŸ˜€

1-Year visa, while in Home Country

This step was relatively painless. Before coming to Thailand to work, I was living in NYC. I went to the Thai Embassy on a weekday morning to apply for my 1-Year multiple entry, Non-immigrant O visa and received the stamp just a day later in the afternoon. I applied for “Non-O” rather than “B” because I suppose I am considered a “paid volunteer.”

All I needed was the application, 2 passport photos, flight ticket, invitation letter from my Thai boss, copy of my finances and $200.

Visa Runs

Even with a 1-Year visa, expats are required to leave the country every 90-days to keep the visa valid. Typically, I just took the 3-hour bus ride from CM to Chiang Rai, then rented a motorbike to drive up to the Mae Sai/Myanmar border crossing. It costs 500THB to enter Tachileik, Myanmar, get stamped, then re-enter Thailand. Great for a shopping trip as goods are cheaper in Burma than Thailand!

Every now and then, I took the opportunity to fly to a different country (Indonesia, Nepal…) when I had holiday time-off.

Reapplication for 1-Year Visa and Work Permit, while in Thailand

This is where the headache-inducing hazing ritual begins. Details on the reapplication step are fuzzy at best, even within the Thai immigration department. There are not many accurate online resources explaining the process, which is most likely because there is no standard process. My co-worker and I searched for days online before finally giving up and calling the immigration department. This turned into a sort of witch hunt, in which we were cattled around from office to office receiving differing advice for about a week. Made me want to be an illegal “non-immigrant.” Hopefully, the following steps help you out, but don’t quote me – it might change next week.

1. When your initial [1-Year] visa expires, you can leave the country and re-enter on a 90-day tourist visa (free).

2. Immediately begin gathering your documents for obtaining a work permit. For the first visit to the Office of Employment (Governor’s House in Chiang Mai), you’ll need:

  • Work Permit Application
  • 100THB fee
  • 2 Photos 5x6cm (no tank tops allowed)
  • Passport and copies of related pages, signed
  • Letter of Invitation from Thai Organization, signed by Director

The office will then send you a formal letter stating you are in the work permit application process.

3. Once you’ve submitted the above paperwork, you must leave the country to obtain a 3-month single entry Non-O visa. In my case, I took a trip to the Philippines and had my visa renewal processed in Manila. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Visa Application
  • 2 Photos 2″x2″
  • Passport and copies of related pages
  • Letter of Invitation from Thai Organization, signed by Director
  • Organization Registration, signed by Director
  • Bank Statement with proof of finances
  • Letter from Thai Immigration declaring you are applying for a work permit
  • 2900 Pesos (3-month visa for Americans is 2000THB) – Manila ended up having a bad conversion rate, but I hear Kuala Lumpur is great to renew

I applied before 12:30pm on Monday and returned to the Thai consulate to pick up my visa/passport Wednesday afternoon, no hassle.

4. Now that you have the Non-O visa, you can continue the work permit process. Go back to the Immigration Office of Employment with the following:

  • Passport and 3-month Non-O visa with copies of pages, signed
  • 3000THB 1-year permit fee
  • 2 Photos 5x6cm (just in case)
  • Bank Statement verifying at least $500 in personal finances
  • Medical certification of good health and blood test results signed by doctor (can get a check-up for 200THB at Lanna Hospital)
  • University Diploma copy, signed
  • Thai organization’s authorization of applicant role, duties, salary, length of employment – signed by Director
  • Thai organization’s Tax documents, shareholders, registration, all stamped with seal and signed by Director

5. After being issued your work permit, you can now extend your 3-month visa to a 1-year visa! Just go around the corner to the Office of Human Security and fill out an Application for Extension. Once completed, return to process the extension. It will cost an additional 5000THB to receive a 1-Year Non-O multiple entry visa.

WoooHOOOO, you’re done!! Until next year…

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