If you decide that you wish to live abroad then often you will need a visa. If the EU continues to become even more intransigent then UK passport holders might find themselves needing a visa to visit Europe. Even though major economic powers enjoy some visa-free travel, this will not always be the case.
Many different types of visa are available across the globe. Tourist, educational, working, volunteer, to name some. However, the one that interests us most is the retirement visa. Many countries offer this service. Basically, it is a longer-term visa for retirees who commit to not working in their new country of residence.
Some countries, like Malaysia, have an active “recruitment” campaign for attracting retirees. They offer a 10-year visa with attractive terms. Regular readers will know I opted for its next-door neighbour, Thailand. They offer what they call a non-immigrant “O” visa which can be extended in 12-month blocks.
Retirement visa in Thailand
There are 2 basic routes to securing a retirement visa in Thailand.
- Undertake the whole process in your existing country. You can complete the whole process at home by getting a non-immigrant visa and a 12-month retirement extension at the Thai embassy in your home country. You will need the assistance of your bank, your doctor and the police force to accomplish this. Together with your application, you will need to submit a proof of finances from your bank, a medical report to confirm you do not have certain diseases and a criminal records check. I believe the ease of getting all these vary from country to country. For example, I have been told getting the required paperwork from the police in parts of the USA can be difficult. I decided, being a UK resident, that the thought of having 3 parties having to provide documents that needed to be issued around the same date was asking for trouble. I, therefore, decided to adopt method 2.
- Arrive in Thailand with a tourist visa and complete all other steps in Thailand. Firstly, please note you need a proper 60-day tourist visa. You will not be able to board a plane without a return ticket if you do not have one. Most holidaymakers get a 30-day visa exemption stamp when visiting Thailand. They are generally stopping for less than that period and have return flight tickets. Undertaking this task in Thailand may seem to be an arduous task given the language differences and what may seem a complicated process. However you now no longer need a medical report or a criminal record check. All you need is to comply with the financial requirements (you can afford to live here) and proof of where you are living (a lease/rental contract for example). A complete list of required documents is available here. http://immigrationbangkok.com/thai-retirement-visa-2/ .
Thai Bank Account
Perhaps the most difficult thing to do is to open a Thai bank account. It can be somewhat chicken and egg in that you need a long term visa to open a bank account and you need a bank account to get a long term visa. People coming here to work with a working visa have the advantage here. However, do not despair. In Thailand there is a solution to any percieved problem. As a friend of mine rightly says “There are no rules in Thailand, only suggestions”. I was fortunate enough in having a friend whose Thai wife had contacts in her local Bangkok Bank. This allowed me to get an account opened with little problem. If you are not as lucky as I was you can use one of the many visa agencies that offer their services. Also you can just keep trying bank branches yourself and eventually you will doubtless find one that will accomodate you.
If the prospect of repeated visits to immigration fill you with dread, or you just want an easy life, there are many visa agents who will do the whole thing for you. Whilst I felt quite capable of doing the whole process alone, I decided for a few hundred pounds I would rather take the stress free route. I think I spent 5 minutes in immigration getting my non-O, 90 day visa and about 2 minutes when getting my reirement extension. Happy days! They do all the paperwork, photos, etc at a price which is inexpensive by western standards.