Thai Visa Runs from Chiang Mai

Thai immigration stamp
Thai immigration stamp

So, your visa is about to expire huh? Well, unless you want to be fined 500 Baht a day overstay fee (payable when you try to leave the country), you’d better make plans. It’s a tricky one, but important if you’re planning on staying in the Kingdom longer than 30 days. For many long-term foreign residents in Chiang Mai, the ‘visa run’ is one of those monthly drags we all have to put up with.

Unfortunately the Thai immigration department isn’t comprised of the most helpful or efficient people in the country; in fact they can be quite sticky if they suspect you are planning to stay indefinitely in Thailand, so be prepared for the run-around!

If you’re simply an innocent tourist then catch a tuk tuk to the immigration office near the airport (dressed neatly) and they’ll extend your visa for a maximum of 10 days, and fleece you of 1,900 Baht (US$60/£40). If you are planning to stay less than 10 days, it’s cheaper to just pay the overstay fine at the airport.

However, they don’t really like this and an overstay fine in your passport might not be helpful if you plan on applying for a long stay visa later. Also, if the police check your passport for any reason (unlikely if you stay out of trouble), you’ll almost certainly be arrested and deported if your visa has expired. This can involve a few days in the chink and some costly ‘help’.

Those who plan to come to Thailand for longer than 30 days can get an on-the-spot 60-day tourist visa from a Thai embassy before coming (costing about US$15/£10). These can be extended for a further 30 days at the local immigration office.

Tourist Visa Requirements for All Passport Holders

***Regulations are subject to change without notice.***

Thailand Launches the Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV) scheme starting November 13, 2015

The METV is available to tourists of all nationalities. Applicants can apply for the METV at all Thai Embassies. The application fee is $200, with a visa validity of six (6) months and the duration of stay of up to sixty (60) days per visit. The length of the visa starts from the date your visa is issued. It is advised to try and obtain the visa closer to the date of your departure.

Requirements for the Multiple-Entry Tourist Visa (METV)

• Your passport must have blank and will not expire within six months from time of travel to and from Thailand
• 1 copy of Passport that shows your photo, name, date and place or birth and the expiration date of passport
• Completed visa application all sections must be completed including proposed address in Thailand
• Two photos (Passport photo, 2” x 2”, color, front-view, taken within 6 months, and write your name and last name on the back of each photo).
• A copy of applicant’s recent bank statement showing a minimum of US $7,000
• Letter from employer verifying employment
• A Copy of airline tickets (e-tickets or itinerary showing confirmed flights) – tickets should show multiple entries
• Copy of hotel reservation with the address listed
• Visa fee $200

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For Single Entry Tourist Visa (Double and Triple Entry Tourist Visas no longer available)

• Your Passport must not expire within 6 months and contain at least ONE completely empty visa page.
• 1 copy of Passport that shows your photo, name, date and place or birth and the expiration date of passport
• Completed visa application all sections must be completed including proposed address in Thailand
• Two photos (Passport photo, 2” x 2”, color, front-view, taken within 6 months, and write your name and last name on the back of each photo).
• A copy of airline ticket showing flights into and out of Thailand. Either paper ticket or confirmed e-ticket is acceptable.
• A copy of applicant’s recent bank statement reflecting at least US $700 for single applicant, $1,500 per family)
• Visa Fee $80

*If the applicant does not have his/her own bank statement, please submit the Affidavit of Support with the bank statement of the person who supports the applicant.

*If using Online Bank Statement, it must show applicant’s name and balance.

More information: http://chiangmaiairportthai.com/en/282-arrivals 

Visa runs

Your next option is the good old visa run – a well worn route to the Myanmar border in Mae Sai, trampled by dozens daily. Unfortunately, the tourist-unfriendly Home affairs department decided to reduce all overland visa on arrivals to just 15 days, presumably to discourage visa runs, effectively rendering the exercise pointless for multiple extensions.

All the same, if you just need 15 days extension once, it is an option, though this is a full day drag, starting at the eastern bus terminus at 09:00 (to secure a ticket for the 09:30 direct bus). The trip is a pleasant one through the hill passes to Chiang Rai and beyond, leaving you at the Mae Sai bus stop at 13:00.

If you arrive in Mae Sai by bus, simply catch a songteaw from the bus station to the border, get an exit stamp from the immigration office nearby, pass the checkpoint and cross the bridge into Myanmar. There is a small office on the right-hand side of the bridge where a stern-looking chap takes your passport, along with US$10 and gives you a receipt.

Now what? You’ve got to kill 30 minutes, which isn’t difficult, so continue over the bridge and into the impoverished but thriving market town. It’s full of traders hawking cheap Chinese goods, excess stock CDs and DVDs (great selection for 70 Baht each) and more. In fact, some come strictly to shop and there are some great bargains and some junk too. Ignore the hustlers trying to sell you fake Marlboros and pornos.

Your returning bus leaves at 15:30, so make sure you’re back in Mae Sai by 15:00, because the songteaw journey to the bus stop takes at least 15 minutes. This is the direct bus; however, there are later alternatives changing in Chiang Rai and taking longer to reach Chiang Mai. So, pick your passport up from Myanmar immigration, cross into Thailand, fill out the form as if you were a tourist and… Bob’s your uncle.

Well, not quite. You’re not supposed to do this more than three times in a row, but we know people who’ve been doing it for 15 straight months. Every now and again they crack down and ask questions, but your chances of getting stranded there are slim, if anything they’ll let you in long enough to get to Bangkok and the airport. If all goes smoothly you’ll be back in Chiang Mai by 20:00. 

Read more on visa options.

 
Further reading…