Are you planning or thinking about moving to Thailand? The country is afterall the most popular destination for digital nomads. It has everything one might wish for: year-round sunny weather, a relaxed lifestyle, delicious food, a timeless culture and access to modern amenities at an affordable cost. And you’re in luck because:
US citizens can move to Thailand by obtaining a visa based on retirement, employment, investment, business or marriage. There are various ways one can relocate to Thailand–the most common being a non-immigrant visa. It allows a stay of 90 days, which can be extended.
With everything Thailand has to offer, moving from the USA is going to be a rewarding adventure. However, there are things you need to keep in mind for a successful relocation. Moving to a new country is not a joke, and requires solid preparation. But don’t worry, as this article will help you in this process.
Can an American move to Thailand?
Indeed, Americans, similar to many other nationals, can move to Thailand. If you have a sufficient income, a pension, or savings, you can relocate to Thailand for a better life. The salaries in Thailand are nowhere near those in the US. This naturally goes for the cost of living as well.
Many expats living in Thailand are from North America, and the majority are US citizens. These communities of expats and retirees have evolved entire cities like Chiang Mai to accommodate their needs.
They also help and support newcomers through meetups, parties, shared travels and activities. Hence, you can also build new friendships and network with like-minded people in Thailand.
Moving to Thailand: Obtaining a Visa
People move to Thailand for a number of reasons: to enjoy retirement, work or travel long-term around the country. No matter why you’re moving there, you will need to get the correct visa and paperwork.
There are many options available for Americans, but most of them will require going through a significant amount of bureaucracy. Be aware that all visas are obtained from any Thai Embassy in the US.
Visas are available also for Americans pursuing a business or career. In addition, you need to consider work permit requirements.
If you are only visiting Thailand, U.S. tourists can stay up to 30 days without a visa. In that case, Thai immigration officials or airline staff might ask you for an onward or a return ticket.
Read about the Thai digital nomad visa in this article.
Tourist visa for US citizens
The Thai tourist visa is one of the most common visas among all others. With it, you can stay for up to 60 days in Thailand. After the expiration, you must leave the country.
However, you can extend your visa twice if you leave the country for two days after every 60 days. This results in a total visa duration of 180 days.
A tourist visa must be obtained from a Thai embassy in the US well before your travel date. Keep in mind that this visa must generally be used within 90 days from the issue date.
A tourist might also be able to extend it once for an additional 30 days at an immigration office without leaving the country. Hence, your total period of stay will be no longer than 90 days.
Thai retirement visa
A retirement visa is only available to foreigners 50 years of age or older. This visa became extremely popular for those wanting to move to Thailand for a better climate and an inexpensive cost of living.
For most older expats, this is the best option. You can use a retirement visa for multiple entries over a one-year period as well. Aside from the age threshold, you will as well need to meet the financial requirements for this visa.
According to Thai immigration, applicants must meet the following qualifications:
- They must be able to provide proof of a pension or other regular income from a foreign source;
- Their pension, or other regular income, must be no less than the equivalent of 65,000 Baht ($1,950 USD) per month;
- Alternatively, they may meet the financial requirement by maintaining a Thai bank account with a minimum amount of 800,000 Baht ($24,000 USD).*
*You will need to present that amount each year when renewing this visa.
This visa is valid for only one year, and employment of any kind is strictly prohibited. It’s also renewable each year.
Visas for foreigners under 50 years of age
A retirement visa looks like a perfect solution for your stay in Thailand, but what if you don’t fulfill the age criteria? Foreigners also can apply for one of the Thai non-immigrant visas which will allow them to stay for up to one year in the country.
The purposes below are the most common for obtaining this visa:
Generally, non-immigrant visas for Thailand cover different categories, including:
- F (official duties)
- B (business and work)
- ED (education)
- EX (experts and specialists)
- IB/IM (investors)
- M (media, film producers, and journalists)
- (family visitors, NGO volunteers, etc.)
- R (religious activities)
- RS (researchers and scientists)
- O-A (retirees)
Here is an overview of visa options for Americans under 50:
- Non-immigrant visa
This simple non-immigrant visa is valid for one year and entitles foreigners to stay in Thailand for 90 days at a time. They have to enter and leave the country several times so that the visa doesn’t lose its validity.
This visa gives you one year in Thailand without a need to leave in between. However, it’s only issued in particular cases such as retirement, Thai family members, family members of Thai residents and volunteers.
- Non-Immigrant Visa Category “O” for family members
Your family members will have an opportunity to receive a visa if you are working in Thailand. They are able to stay for up to one year. Furthermore, foreigners can receive a visa on the basis of marriage to a Thai citizen.
- Non-Immigrant Visa “B” (Business and Work)
This visa is for expatriates who plan to work in Thailand. There are several subcategories:
- Business visa Category “B”
- Business-Approved Category “B-A”
- Investment and Business Category “IB”
- Teaching Category “B”
Therefore, requirements and criteria also differ for each of the subcategories.
- Non-Immigrant Visa Category “B” (Business)
Here, in addition to the usual paperwork (copies of passport, photos, application forms, etc.), applicants for the Business “B” visa need a letter of approval from the Ministry of Labour.
Your employer will usually assist with this process by submitting the appropriate forms and copies of corporate documents. It entitles you to stay in Thailand for 90 days, which can then be renewed for an extension of one year from the date of first entry into the country.
- Non-Immigrant Visa Category “B-A” (Business Approved)
For this type of visa, candidates will need to rely on their associated company. This visa secures you a stay for up to one year in Thailand.
- Non-Immigrant Visa Category “IB” (Investment and Business Visa)
If you are planning some investment projects under the auspices of the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI), this is an appropriate visa. Since projects must focus on promoting exports of Thai goods, increasing employment of Thai people, or encouraging local technology, only a few people apply for this category.
- Non-Immigrant Visa Category “B” (Teaching)
This visa is suitable for expatriates who wish to teach at schools below the university level in Thailand. Applicants will need to prove related educational qualifications (e.g., diplomas and/or teaching certificates). They’ll need to submit a letter of acceptance from a school in Thailand, a government agency like the Office of the Private Education Commission, as well as the Office of Basic Education Commission.
Obtaining a work permit in Thailand
A work permit is also required for foreigners who desire to live and work in Thailand. It can be obtained from the following Thai authorities:
- Office of Foreign Workers Administration
- Department of Employment
- Ministry of Labour
If you work at a company, the application for a work permit can only be submitted by the employer and not by the foreign employee. Be aware that you also have to pay income taxes when undertaking employment in Thailand.
Finding a place to live in Thailand: to rent or buy?
The Thai real estate market is attractive for foreigners, especially retirees. However, they aren’t entitled to own any land in Thailand. Hence, buying a house is only possible via workarounds. For example, Thai law states that foreigners can own up to 49% of a condominium’s unit area.
However, renting an apartment or a house is typically recommended, especially at the beginning of your stay in Thailand. Rental periods between 1 and 12 months are common, where the rental price depends on the duration of the contract.
Various housing options are available in Thailand, from detached houses, apartments, townhouses and villas. When it comes to prices, expect to pay around $750 USD for a detached house in most locations. Bangkok is the most expensive place, with prices rising to $1,650 USD for an average house.
The longer you stay, the cheaper it gets. Keep in mind that termination before the end of the contract is usually not possible.
Working in Thailand as an American
Are you thinking about getting a job in a new country? Teaching English is by far the most common option among native speakers in Thailand.
For this, you will need to get, at the very least, a TEFL Certificate. Other foreigners work in the travel and hospitality industry as tour guides, animators, instructors, etc. There are also several IT jobs available for foreigners. Generally, people with coding and programming skills will always find a job. Our company is always looking out for computer-savvy expats across the world as well, so feel free to apply with us here.
Working as a foreigner is also possible in other industries, but it will depend on your skillset. Some of these sectors are finance and trade, IT and communications, engineering, and hospitality (you may need some basic knowledge of the Thai language).
Whether you work in an industry or at a job position that requires no Thai language knowledge, it is still a fact that outside of work you will need at least some Thai language skills. To best prepare for your relocation in Thailand you can learn Thai online before moving to Thailand permanently.
Freelancers can always find remote jobs on platforms like Upwork and Freelancer.
Remote work online is available in Thailand as well, and you can find a job within foreign or local companies.
Furthermore, if you are a remote worker and need employment just for a legal reason, you can find certain service providers who hire freelancers as employees and bill their customers. That way, you can get an official visa and work permit in Thailand.
Paying taxes in Thailand
Once you’re staying in Thailand longer than 180 days, you will be liable for local taxes. Residents are taxed on their worldwide income.
Also, when working officially, you’re going to pay taxes in Thailand. US citizens are obliged to file them also in the US. Thus, you will want to talk to your accountant to find the best way to set up your taxes.
Tax rates vary depending on your personal income in Thailand. Rates are progressive and range from 0% for those who earn less than 150,000 baht to 35% for those who earn more than 5,000,001 baht.
Here are Thai tax rates:
|Taxable annual income, Bath||Tax rate|
|0 – 150,000||Exempt|
|150,001 – 300,000||5%|
|300,001 – 500,000||10%|
|500,001 – 750,000||15%|
|750,001 – 1,000,000||20%|
|1,000,001 – 2,000,000||25%|
|2,000,001 – 5,000,000||30%|
How much does it cost to move to Thailand from the US?
The cost of moving to Thailand includes major expenses like:
- Visa costs
- Shipping costs (if needed)
- Rent for the first month
- Necessary supplies
Americans should budget several thousand dollars in order to move to Thailand. The cost of living in Thailand for the average lifestyle is about $1,300 a month. Nonetheless, it all depends on your personal preferences.
Therefore, you will need about $7,800 in savings for six months in Thailand. This will get you by in case you can’t find a job within six months. But whether it’s possible within six months is doubtful.
Expats coming with a family should budget for 70,000 baht per month, or $2,100. That would make your six-month emergency fund $12,600.
Shipping from the US to Thailand
So you have everything set up, and now it’s time to ship your stuff to Thailand. Overall, shipping some items is cheaper than buying them again in the country. Thailand has high prices in some product categories due to the high taxes, and most Western brands are more pricier in Thailand than abroad.
Some of them are:
- Western clothing
Before you decide to ship to Thailand, you should consider if it would cost more to buy in Thailand or not. For example, if you have a child, there could be many items to ship to Asia.
How much will you pay? Shipping costs vary widely, but prices above $1,000 aren’t rare for large weights.
Health insurance in Thailand
As an American moving to Thailand, you will need to consider health insurance coverage. Thai medicine is on a decent level, but you will need to pay for it.
Health insurance is also necessary for the Thai visa application (non-immigrant O-A). The provider can issue this coverage in Thailand or the US.
You can also use medical services without insurance and pay on the spot when needed. Health care in Thailand is much more affordable than in the US.
But the best option is to get international insurance when relocating to Thailand to avoid problems. In most cases, you pay for your treatment and get reimbursed later on.
Private clinics have the best facilities in Thailand, which are comparable to western ones.
Can you move to Thailand permanently?
While it’s possible to get a one-year visa for Thailand, the situation with permanent residency looks different. The fact is that a Thailand Permanent Residence is not easy to get. Applicants need to meet many conditions, e.g., investing in a Thai company or being married to a Thai partner.
Moreover, only those who have been allowed to stay in Thailand for at least three consecutive years on the basis of a non-immigrant visa have a chance of obtaining permanent residence. Nonetheless, it’s possible through continuous visa extensions.
Another requirement that is hard to meet is the Thai language skills as applicants must speak fluently. Moreover, the Thai state only grants permanent residency to 100 people of one nationality each year.
Consequently, most immigrants in Thailand still have a one-year visa as a retiree or other type, which is renewed annually.
Here are the main criteria for getting Thai permanent residency:
- To have a Thai non-immigrant visa for at least three consecutive years prior to submitting the application. Holders of multiple NON-Immigrant visas can not apply.
- Be a holder of a non-immigrant visa when applying.
- A previous visa must fall in one of these categories: investment (minimum 3 – 10 Mil. Baht investment in Thailand), working/business, expert/academic, other categories as determined by Thai Immigration.
Expats can file an application to become a Thai naturalized citizen after holding Permanent Resident status in Thailand for ten consecutive years.
Become a Digital Nomad and work from Thailand
Are you dead set on moving to Thailand, but you don’t have a suitable job yet? Finding work and getting a work permit as a foreigner in Thailand can be a struggle. Our company hires candidates living in Asia without them needing to obtain local papers and permissions.
Here at Support Adventure, we’re known as the expat outsourcing company as we hire talented people from around the world who want to work online.
Mostly, we have open positions for help desk IT support, but we are always recruiting for admin assistants and service coordinators as well. So don’t wait and apply for a remote job with us on our IT support Jobs page!