Retire In Thailand
-How To Retire In Thailand For The Non-Financially Retired-

Do you know why many westerners living in the advanced economies choose to retire in Thailand?

They get to enjoy unmatched dream of a retirement lifestyle for much less. In fact, the reality of a comfortable retirement for most is becoming a forlorn dream in their home country.

The solution for many: Long Term Stay in Retirement Thailand.

In your home country, with the increasing cost of living, you could well remain non-financially retired. Yet, in another time zone, you could retire in Thailand and elevate to being financially-retired.

What has shifted in your ‘retirement favour and flavour’?

The Flavour is in the Wai of life.

The Favour are in the cost of living and foreign exchange.

These factors catapult you to the level of near-luxury retirement.

Sure, you do see self-made millionaires who opt for the best of both worlds: retire in their home country and retire in Thailand.

There are, however, many in their 50’s who have just enough to satisfy the minimum financial criteria to see out the rest of their new life as they retire in Thailand.

Interestingly, there are just as many, who are NOT even close to retirement, and are now living in the kingdom.

Have they also opted to retire in Thailand early?

Are they really financially-retired?

Most are NOT.

In fact, many left their full time jobs, re-invented their lives in Thailand, are single or divorced, remain single or re-marry, love the exotic life, and found a way to generate income without circumventing Thailand laws on working without a permit.

Retire In Thailand 101

The Land of Smiles has been my wellness destination of sorts. It has been my vacation hideaway for 10 years. And in the last two years, it has been the focus of my wellness business.

Of late, even for the fact that I live just two hours flight from Thailand, I have been seized by the idea to semi-retire in Thailand. It really boils down to how you define retirement lifestyle.

What I will share with you hereupon is with the goal of helping you NOT make the same dreadful mistakes that almost every first-time foreign retiree in Thailand commits.

While you can certainly find many online resources providing detailed information as well as one-stop service on how to retire in Thailand, you would do well to be extraordinarily discerning in using them.

I am NOT an agency. Hence, I am at liberty to share what I know to be the best way to go about, courtesy of Nippita Pukdeetanakul.

Nippita is a English-speaking Thai lawyer. She runs her own legal practice in Bangkok.

I came to know her through a friend's recommendation. She provides advice and definitive legal services regarding living and working in Thailand such as company set-up and registration, work permits, visa, land ownership and leasing.

She has been providing me legal advice pertaining to my business and lately, my idea to semi-retire in Thailand.

While I am certainly pleased with her professional legal competency, I find that Nippita is also helpful.

She is ready to share her network of quality contacts and does her part in qualifying their competency before referring to me.

For example, when I needed an interpreter for my seminar, most people would just refer me to just about any interpreter. The interpreter that Nippita introduced to me was a cut above most I have encountered.

The interpreter, Lili, sought to understand the content and context of my speech and then paraphrased effectively for Thai audience to understand.

Through Nippita, I understood how to avoid problems that foreigners often encounter especially with the issue of their visa.

I discovered how to employ those instruments under immigration laws that best suit my idea of semi-retirement.

I also learned the appropriate way to resolve the ambiguity surrounding land ownership. This issue of buying land can get utterly complex and you would do well to engage a lawyer.

Extension of Stay & Period of Stay

Thai Visas are confusing. To live in Thailand beyond the normal 30 days, you need to understand about Thai visas. There are some 6 types of visas issued.

Most common are Tourist Visa and Non-Immigrant Visa (for marriage, business and retirement). They are the way for most foreigners to extend their stay or retire in Thailand.

Non-Immigrant Visa is the way for foreigners who desire to retire in Thailand. It is renewable yearly provided you continue to meet requisite financial requirement.

You must be age 50 or above, provide a bank deposit of 800 000 baht (US$20 000) in a Thai Bank, or show proof of a monthly retirement pension of 65 000 baht (US$1800) or a combination of both.

Those who do not receive social security benefits from their country but produce evidence of monthly annuity income of US$1800 from their insurance company can apply for a Retirement Visa.

With a Retirement Visa , you are granted a one year of Extension of Stay subject to yearly renewal. What this really represents is that in your application, your Thai embassy or General Consulate has granted you approval to enter and remain in Thailand for one year.

This does NOT mean that when you actually enter Thailand‘s immigration, you will be given a Period of Stay - which is the stamped date on your passport - for 12 months.

Your actual allowable Period of Stay on your stamped passport will never exceed the validity period issued in your Retirement Visa.

Your actual Period of Stay is up to the discretion of the immigration check point upon arrival and once you are inside Thailand, it is the stamped date on your passport that takes precedence over your visa. You are, however, able to extend your period of stay up to the validity period issued with your visa by visiting the local immigration for extension.

Now the mistake most foreigners make is when they leave Thailand. They end up having their Retirement Visa automatically canceled even though the validity date on their visa has not expired.

In order to enter Thailand again, they have to go through the hassle of re-application, re-documentation, delay and incur cost of getting a new Retirement Visa.

They do NOT realise that if they wish to leave Thailand and re-enter multiple times during the validity period of their Retirement Visa, they must pre-apply for a Multiple Entry Permit.

Visa Runs For The Rest

Many foreigners who do not meet the criteria for Non-Immigrant Visa extend their stay for a year by doing visa runs with their Tourist Visa.

With the Tourist Visa, you can apply for up to 3 or 4 entries without the need to re-apply a new visa. Each entry allows a maximum stay of 90 days. This allows you to stay up to 270 or 360 days.

You will have to make 3 visa runs -meaning make a short trip outside the country like Malaysia, Cambodia or Laos - just before your 90 days are up for each new entry.

Like those who make the mistake of having their Retirement Visas canceled upon leaving Thailand, you must apply ahead for 3 re-entries. Otherwise, even if you leave Thailand within the 60 or 90 days visa validity period without a re-entry permit, you render your visa canceled automatically.

Save yourself the agony of incurring huge cost and time outside of Thailand to obtain a new Retirement Visa or Tourist Visa.

The Thai Government has been known to amend the laws to control the influx of foreigners who use the Tourist Visa to 'retire in Thailand', that is, to extend their stay in Thailand.

If you seriously want to retire in Thailand, I strongly recommend you get the latest update on the law with a Thai-English speaking lawyer. You will also do well if you engage your lawyer to handle the A - Z of applications that are required to retire in Thailand.

All the forms are in Thai and there is much documentation to comply. If you do not have a friend whom you trust to recommend a lawyer, I highly recommend Nippita.

Non-Immigration Visa For Business

Those who are genuinely pursuing a business enterprise in Thailand, a non-immigration visa ‘B’ is the way to staying for a year subject to renewal. In addition, you will need to apply a work permit to carry out business.

This is a highly complex area and one that you must need to engage the services of a lawyer, preferably a Thai lawyer.

There are aspects of my business that require licensing. Getting through to and around Thai bureaucracy can be bewildering, let alone frustratingly slow, especially when you hardly know Thai other than the mere exchange of pleasantries.

Fortunately, I have a very competent person in Nippita. I was able to liaise with her to get things done expeditiously while I remained in Singapore.

I must say that when I was recommended to Nippita, I had not even met her face-to-face. Nevertheless, I proceeded to engage her services. We did meet finally when I arrived in Bangkok. Since then I have been engaging her professional services.

You are likely to come across foreigners who register a shell company in Thailand in order to own land. Such company under present law has to be 51% Thai shareholding with Thai majority voting rights. This certainly makes foreigner land ownership a tricky and complex issue.

Similarly, there are those foreigners who secure ownership of the land by way of getting a Thai to purchase the land with the foreigner’s money. In order to secure ownership, a separate contract is created in the form of a leaseback to the foreigner with the option of continual 30-year lease.

According to Nippita, the grave mistake among foreigners is that they neglect to lodge the lease with the relevant authority.

This makes any future dispute unenforceable. You don’t want to loose your huge investment on a ‘lease’ that isn’t recognized!

These two methods of owning land through forming a shell company or using a Thai individual (spouse) to buy land is one that I would strongly advise you would be best served by seeking a lawyer's advice.

Whatever your idea of staying in Thailand other than as a tourist, there are certainly options. However, these options do pose legal challenges.

You would do well to find a friend, whom you trust, who can introduce you to a Thai English-speaking lawyer.

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