Thailand has a large population of expats who, although they don’t want to work in Thailand, they like living here. Up until a couple of years ago, it used to be easy. Just do a visa run to neighboring Cambodia once a month and you could live in Thailand permanently. At the moment, however, with much stricter Thai visa laws, these monthly border runs are no longer allowed. Now, many expats, who don’t want to work in Thailand but still want to legally live here, are struggling to figure out how. Actually, it isn’t too difficult to live in Thailand legally without working here. There are ways to do it, without breaking the law and without it costing you an arm and a leg. Here’s how.
Take Thai Language Classes – Many western expats, who want to live in Thailand but don’t want to work, have started to take Thai language classes. Under Thai immigration law, if you study something in Thailand, whether it’s Thai language, Thai culture, Thai dance or even Muay Thai, you can get an education visa. An education visa will allow you to live in Thailand for 12-15 months with just quarterly trips to a local immigration office in Thailand to renew the visa. An education visa is also renewable up to five years, so you can plan on staying in Thailand legally for that long if you study.
There are many Thai language schools in places like Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya offering courses based around getting the education visa. Most places only charge 25,000 baht ($750) for a year of Thai classes, which means studying Thai from 4-8 hours every week. For those who would like to speak fluent Thai, this is an excellent (and cheap!) way of not only learning a new language but also living in Thailand legally while you do it. If you’d like to study Thai language and apply for a year’s education visa, do a search online for “Thai language education visa” and you’ll see many language schools and universities pop up. Sign up, pay your money and make a one-time trip to Malaysia or Cambodia to get your education visa at a Thai consulate, and that’s it for another year.
Volunteer in Thailand – If you like living in Thailand but don’t want to work here, you can legally live here by volunteering with a Thai non-profit or volunteer teach at a Thai government school. This is a wonderful way to contribute something positive to Thailand. Every volunteer in Thailand has to have a work permit to be able to work for a non-profit or a school but, getting one is quite easy.
All you need to get is a letter from the non-profit or school stating you’ll be volunteering with them , a work schedule for how many hours a week you’ll be volunteering (minimum hours a week is around 6-10, but changes with each immigration office in Thailand), and a map to your house (this is so Thai police can check up on you if needs be (they’re not likely to!). You’ll have to leave Thailand with these documents and go to a consulate in a neighboring country for a non-immigrant O visa. Once you have this, you can apply for a work permit in Thailand, which once you receive it will allow you to stay in Thailand for a year.
Marry a Thai – If you’re in a relationship with a Thai citizen, you can get married which allows you to stay permanently in Thailand on a non-immigrant-O visa, renewable yearly. However, to get the visa, you have to have either 400,000 baht (approximately $12,000) in a Thai bank account, or proof of monthly income coming from outside Thailand of at least 40,000 baht ($1,200) a month. For western women who marry a Thai, this requirement does not exist as, for them, it is their Thai husband who must prove income or have 400,000 baht in a Thai bank account.
These are just three ways you can legally live in Thailand without working. As more and more westerners find themselves with money, don’t want to live in their own countries but are too young to apply for retirement visas in Thailand, one of these three options can be a great choice. All three are perfectly legal, not too expense and quite easy to get.