Has Thailand Tightened Retirement Visa Requirements? Not Really, and Here’s Why

 

As usual, every time there seems to be a change at Thai immigration that may possibly affect westerners and other foreigners living in Thailand, the internet is all a-twitter. The latest news came down from Thailand’s Immigration Bureau this week (or at least according to a legal-type who’s had some dealings with them) that requirements to get a retirement visa for Thailand have been tightened.  Is it true? Not really, and here’s why.


According to Sunn Justabavornchai from Sunbelt Asia Co., Ltd. in Bangkok,  “It has been reported that along with the statement the applicant has made at their embassy stating their monthly income, for the past month the Immigration Bureau has asked to see proof of at least two months of pension income. This requirement is not just for new applications but renewals as well”. But what does that mean?

Well, if true, it technically just means what it always did. That even though the embassy of your home country may give you a sworn affidavit to give Thai immigration, saying you have at least 65,000 baht of retirement income coming into the country every month, because for most embassies you don’t have to PROVE it, Thailand is now making you prove it. By asking for statements showing at least your last two months’ retirement income.

While not technically a ‘law’, this rule has been in effect for years, with some foreigners being asked to prove they have the income they say they have. Now Thailand is simply going to be asking everyone.

Too strict? No, absolutely not. Thailand, unfortunately, still has a fair number of foreigners living here who don’t meet basic retirement income requirements – an amount that’s only around $2,200 a month, far lower than you could live on in many western countries.

What Thailand worries about is, years down the road, suddenly having a whole slew of elderly people who a) can’t afford to pay their basic living requirements, so, b) Thailand ends up having to pay it for them. Not fair for a country that already has enough of its own elderly poor.

Meanwhile, to continue to get a retirement visa for Thailand, you just have to prove one of two things. Either…..a) you have at least 65,000 in income (currently more than eight times the national Thai average income) coming into Thailand every month or b) you have at least 800,000 baht in a Thai bank account.

Of course, if Thailand increases the amount required to retire here again, which they did a few years ago, they’re likely to see a mass exodus of legitimate retirees, who while willing to live in Thailand on an average retirement income would not be willing to live here if that income requirement was suddenly doubled.

And, don’t think it couldn’t happen – it did several years ago.

Unfortunately, Thai immigration and the Thai government seem to sometimes get greedy, increasing requirement amounts for certain visas that, in most cases, does nothing more than make sure a lot of Thailand’s overseas income suddenly moves to Malaysia, Indonesia or the Philippines.

 

Photo copyright  – Old woman on one of Thailand’s floating markets – Thailand has enough elderly people it can barely afford to support – copyright nasrulekram, Creative Commons License