If you’re relocating to Phuket from another country, you are well aware that there are a few bureaucratic hurdles that must be cleared. While this isn’t an exhaustive list and rules and regulations are subject to change, here is some general information to help guide your way.
Visas and Immigration
- Tourist visas: Foreigners can apply for a tourist visa from the Thai embassy or consulate outside of Thailand. There is the normal 60-day tourist visa extendable for an additional 30 days and the 90-day special tourist visa which is eligible for two 90-day visa extensions. Extensions are applied for at the local immigration office in Thailand.
- Other types of visas include:
- Non-immigrant B Visa- for conducting business or employment and is required to obtain a work permit
- Non-immigrant O (family) visa-for visiting Thai spouse and family, this category also includes marriage visas for those with a Thai spouse
- Non-immigrant ED (student) visa-for students of recognised institutions in Thailand such as language schools
- Non-immigrant O (retirement) visa-for those who wish to visit Thailand to spend their retirement
- Non-immigrant OA and OX visa-for those who wish to obtain a retirement visa long stay (it is different from type O visa)
- Thailand Elite Visa-a pay-to-stay visa with multiple buy-in levels starting from THB 600,000 for five years
Laws and Regulations
Like any other country, Thailand has its own extensive list of laws. Familiarizing yourself with them can help you avoid unwanted and unintentional infractions. Here are a few worthy of note:
- Libel/defamation-there are two versions under the civil and criminal codes with punishments ranging from THB 200,000-US$10 million, and up to eight-year prison sentences. These days, many charges of this crime result from slandering people or businesses on social media. It is recommended to never try to publicly shame someone online in Thailand.
- Digital Crimes Act-this broadly-encompassing law is applied, often in combination with other laws, to those who use a computer or the internet in any way deemed malicious. This can range from cyber-hacking to online accusations to criticizing the government or monarchy. As a general rule, tread lightly while using social media in Thailand as freedom of speech may not be as liberal as your home country.
- Lese Majeste-this law prohibits any criticism or insult of the monarchy. While a handful of other countries still have lese majeste laws on the books, convictions are rare. However, this law is strictly enforced in Thailand. Several years ago a man was sentenced to 35 years in prison for Facebook posts insulting the King. Possession of media critical of the monarchy (which is banned) can also fall under lese majeste laws.
Working out the most convenient way to access your money in Thailand is of primary concern of course. While business’s ability to process credit card payments is becoming more widespread, you cannot rely on it. ATM fees add up quickly when withdrawing money from a foreign bank. The best solution is to open an account at a Thai bank.
Holders of a work permit can easily do this at any bank. Without a work permit, the rules are not always clear and may be open to interpretation at different branch locations. That being said, Krungthep Bank seems to allow foreigners to open an account if they purchase a basic insurance plan for a small fee.
Having a Thai bank account is very convenient and allows you to easily use ecommerce sites like Lazada and Shopee, make quick and free payments via PromptPay, and schedule recurring payments.