Moving from the UK to Thailand? All you need to know

In the past decade particularly, the Kingdom of Thailand has become a hotbed for British expatriates moving abroad. Hot, of course, is the operative word, thanks to Southeast Asia's glorious weather. Wave goodbye to the inclement conditions here in the UK and savour a new dawn of sun drenched beaches and warm, tranquil seas.

While Australia remains the top destination for UK expats, an estimated 45,000 Britons enjoy the laidback lifestyle and low cost living offered by Thailand's vibrant mix of idyllic islands and bustling cities. Life may be a beach in Thailand, but it's not all sunshine and Soleros. If you are considering moving to Thailand, there are plenty of practical measures to consider before setting sail for these exotic faraway shores.

Applying for Thai Visa

If you are emigrating from the UK to Thailand you are required by Thai Immigration Law to initially enter the country by applying for a Thai visa. There are a wide range of visa types issued by Thai embassies and consulates to suit different durations and reasons for your stay.

  • Tourist visas - are suitable for those visiting Thailand for the purpose of tourism. Tourists are not permitted to conduct business or be unemployed during their stay, which can last up to a period of 60 days, with a possible extension for another 30.
  • Business visas – can be issued to conduct business in Thailand if you are employed or sponsored by a Thai company. This entitles visitors to stay for up to 90 days for a single entry, or one year for multiple entries.
  • Education visas – are granted for a period of up to 90 days for single entry or one year for multiple entries for the purpose of studying in Thailand.
  • Retirement or marriage visas – if you are moving to Thailand to you must be 50 years or over to qualify for a retirement Visa and have a pension of 65,000 baht, or 800,000 baht in a Thai bank account. If you are married to a Thai national you must have a joint income of 40,000 baht, a marriage certificate, a spouse ID card and household registration.

Brits living in Thailand without a retirement or marriage visa

The Thai visa system is quite limiting, but if you're emigrating from UK to Thailand and you're not of retirement age, there are a few entirely legal ways around it:

  • Take Thai ClassesMany Brits living in Thailand simply take Thai language classes and apply for an education visa. An education visa is renewable for up to five years, allowing you to stay in Thailand during this time while you study.
  • VolunteeringBy volunteering in Thailand, not only will you expand your cultural horizons and make a positive contribution to the country you so love; you will also be able to apply for a Thai work permit. If you volunteer for a minimum or 6-10 hours a week, provide the authorities with a map to your house and briefly travel to a neighbouring country with these documents to obtain a non-immigrant O visa, you will be able to apply for a work permit and stay in Thailand for one year.

Applying for Permanent Residency

Obtaining Permanent Resident status provides many advantages for Brits living in Thailand. Not only does it permit you to live permanently in Thailand with no requirement for an extension of stay; it also allows you to have your name on a house registration document, buy a property without making a bank transfer and obtain a work permit more easily.

The list of documents required for Permanent Residency depends on the category under which the application is being made. However, British expatriates moving to Thailand must first satisfy the following criteria:

  • You must have had a Thai non-immigrant visa for at least three years with three consecutive yearly extensions
  • You must hold a non-immigrant visa at the time of application

You must also satisfy one of the following:

  • Invest a minimum of 3-10million baht in the Thai economy
  • Have a relationship with a Thai citizen or an alien who already possesses a residence permit as a father/mother, husband/wife, or be the guardian of a Thai child under the age of 20.
  • Be an expert or academic in a desired field
  • Other categories as determined by Thai immigration

Setting up a Thai bank account

Opening a Thai bank account should not pose too much of a problem. The main banks, such as Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial, TMB and Krungthai all have slightly differing criteria, but generally speaking, if you have either a work permit or a long term visa, you will be able to open an account with an address and a copy of your passport.

Transferring money from the UK

The most secure and cost effective method for Brits emigrating to Thailand from the UK to transfer money to a Thai bank account is via a foreign exchange broker like Xendpay. By using a foreign exchange broker you will avoid commission entirely, pay only very low transfer fees and typically benefit from highly competitive exchange rates. You will also benefit from the added security provided by Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) authorisation.

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