Getting a visa is one of the biggest challenges of being a digital nomad in Thailand.
As of July 2023, there isn’t really an actual visa for those who just want to live in Thailand and work online for their business or international clients.
Since Thailand has been a popular hub for digital nomads for many years, there are some workarounds.
In this article, let’s take a look at popular options for digital nomads in Thailand.
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- Elite Visa
- Business Visa
- Education Visa
- Tourist Visa
- Smart Visa
- Other Visa
- How About the Freelancer Visa?
- Can Digital Nomads Work in Thailand without a Work Permit?
- What Are My Options Then?
- Now, on to You
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The Elite Visa is known as a privilege visa in Thailand. With this visa, you can stay in Thailand for five to twenty years depending on the package.
One of the best things about the Elite Visa is that it’s available to anyone as long as you can afford it – which is the main pro of this visa type at the same time.
Another requirement is that you need to be free of criminal history. In case you have a minor criminal offence, you might still be able to get the Elite Visa, depending on how serious it is.
Why the Elite Visa?
First, the application process is easy and straightforward. You just need to send your documents online to a program representative and wait for approval. Once you’re approved, you can go to your local Thailand Embassy and have the Elite Visa stamped in your passport right away. Or you can just fly to Thailand and get the Elite Visa at the airport.
Second, you can live in Thailand hassle free on the visa for five to twenty years depending on your package. The visa requirements rarely change.
On the other hand, the Elite Visa isn’t for everyone. The package cost can be expensive at 600,000 baht for the 5-year program. The most valuable package, the superiority extension, allowing you to stay in Thailand for 20 years at a cost of 1,000,000 baht.
You need to pay the whole cost of the package upfront.
Since the Elite Visa is considered a tourist visa, you are not able to get a work permit in Thailand. This means you are unable to legally work for a company in Thailand.
However, it’s still possible to run your international business with the Elite Visa while living in Thailand.
Another disadvantage of the Elite Visa is that you cannot apply for permanent residence or Thai citizenship with this visa.
Pros and Cons
All in all, here’s a quick summary of pros and cons of the Elite Visa.
- It allows you to stay in Thailand for five to twenty years
- It is easy to get this visa
- You have personal support from an Elite Visa program representative
- Unlike other types of Thailand visas, the Elite Visa requirement is rarely subject to change
- It can be costly
- You cannot legally work for a company in Thailand
- You cannot apply for permanent residence or citizenship with it
Since there isn’t really a visa for digital nomads in Thailand as of now, this makes the Elite Visa an interesting option for those who can afford it.
You can read our in-depth Elite Visa review to find out more information.
A Business visa is ofen called a work visa or a Non-B visa. The full name of this visa is Non-Immigrant B visa.
With this visa, you can stay in Thailand long-term, work in Thailand legally, and get permanent residence after being here for 3-5 years.
A Non-B visa allows anyone to legally work or run a business in Thailand. However, the main requirement of this Non-B visa is to be employed by a company in Thailand, which can be a challenge for digital nomads since they don’t want to work for a Thai company.
Instead, they want to run their own business while living in Thailand.
With this, there are four main options for digital nomads in Thailand who want to work with a Non-B visa.
First, they can open their own company in Thailand under the Board of Investment promotion. With this option, they can fully own their company without having to find a Thai partner.
Second, they can find a company under the BOI promotion to work with. Since companies with BOI promotion can hire expats much easier than a normal limited company, they usually have open positions for expats.
In addition, a majority of companies under the BOI promotion in Thailand, especially in the tech industry, are run by digital nomads.
Third, they can find a company under the BOI promotion to get a visa from. Instead of working for them, they use a visa service from these companies and pay them a certain percentage of their income instead.
Fourth, they can use a visa agency to find a loophole in the visa system in Thailand and get themselves a Non-B visa.
The first two options are completely legal. The third option is a grey area while the fourth option can be considered illegal. So, you should do it at your own risk.
Pros and Cons
Here’s a quick summary of pros and cons of the Non-B Visa.
- It allows you to work in Thailand
- When it is legally done, you can apply for permanent residence after holding this visa for 2-3 years.
- It can be complicated if you want to do it legally
- Not everyone can run a company or wants to work for a company in Thailand
If you already have a business plan and are thinking about opening your own company in Thailand, this option is interesting. Although the initial steps can be complicated, it’s possible to do it on your own.
As a plus, you can get a tax exemption for five to ten years in Thailand as it is another perk of a company promoted by the Thailand Board of Investment.
An Education visa is a popular option for digital nomads that recently moved to Thailand and still haven’t decided whether or not they want to stay here.
It’s easy to get but comes with a short-term duration. If you decide to stay in Thailand long-term, it’s better to get other visas.
Why an Education Visa?
You can easily get an education visa in Thailand. Many digital nomads get it by taking a course at a language school, Muay Thai school, or even a cooking school. Schools that can help you get an education visa must be approved by the Ministry of Education in Thailand.
Some also use a visa agent to get themselves an education visa that lasts for almost a year.
An education visa usually lasts for three to nine months depending on the duration of the course that you take.
Some people might be able to get a one-year education visa by using a visa agent or enrolling in a university in Thailand.
With an education visa, you need to regularly attend your classes. If it’s a language school, the visa agency might test your Thai language during the visa application interview.
Pros and Cons
Here’s a quick summary of pros and cons of the Education Visa.
- It’s easy to get an education visa
- You can study at the same time as being a digital nomad in Thailand
- You cannot keep getting new Education visas forever. Most digital nomads we know only use it during their first few years in Thailand
- It can be a hassle to keep finding schools that can give you a visa, especially when you don’t have anything that you are interested in learning
You can use it as a temporary solution if you are still not sure which visa to get.
However, you should not keep relying on it. Always remember that working in Thailand with an education visa is still considered illegal.
To find out more information, read our education visa article.
A Tourist visa is another popular option for digital nomads who want to see whether Thailand is right for them or not.
But it only allows you to stay in Thailand temporarily. In addition, it’s illegal to work in Thailand with a tourist visa.
The Smart visa is basically an upgraded version of the Non-B visa. It’s issued by the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) and allows you to stay in Thailand for four years straight, instead of two years.
Previously, the Smart visa was expected to be a visa for digital nomads. Alas, it’s actually not.
The Thailand Board of Investment clearly states on their website that “digital nomads or remote workers who do not have an employment in Thailand or work under the contact between an international company and a company in Thaialnd are not eligible for Smart visa”.
You can read our Smart Visa article to find out more information.
Thailand has a lot of long-term visa options. But they also come with specific requirements.
Two other popular visa options for digital nomads are the Marriage visa and Volunteer visa.
For those who have a Thai partner, they can get a marriage visa and stay in Thailand long-term. They can also apply for a work permit to legally work in Thailand.
How About the Freelancer Visa?
You might have heard about the Freelancer visa in Thailand before. Some people might even say that they were able to get a Non-B visa in Thailand as a freelancer.
Based on what we know so far, we have not seen any official publications on the Freelancer visa. The closest one is the SMART visa that was mentioned earlier.
Can Digital Nomads Work in Thailand without a Work Permit?
This is one of the most frequent questions asked by digital nomads in Thailand. And it’s also one of the most challenging questions to answer.
Simply put, if you have a work permit then you can legally work in Thailand. This could also mean getting a freelancing gig from a company in Thailand, as long as it isn’t a restricted job such as a barber, tour guide, etc.
If you don’t have a work permit, then it’s another story. Legally speaking, you cannot work in Thailand.
In practice, if your work does not compete with businesses in Thailand or the Thai labor market, you are unlikely to have any problems with immigration officers. An important point is that you need to receive a payment outside of Thailand.
If you are not sure about your situation, it’s a good idea to get legal advice from a lawyer.
What Are My Options Then?
Your options depend on your expectation and qualifications.
For example, if you are thinking about opening a company in Thailand, then you should try to get a Non-B visa under the BOI promotion.
If you don’t have any plans to run a company or get a job here, you might want to consider the Elite Visa.
If you want to only live in Thailand temporarily, then you can consider an Education visa or a Tourist visa.
There are, of course, loopholes in the visa system in Thailand. You might hear about some people using a visa service to get a certain visa although they might not qualify for it.
Now, on to You
We hope that this article answers everything you need about a visa options for digital nomad in Thailand. If you have any other solutions, please feel free to let us know in the comment below.