The visa situation in Thailand is often complex, and it can often seem as though the regulations are always changing and not always correctly applied. However, all evidence over the past few years has pointed towards the likelihood of Thailand’s visa rules becoming increasingly more strict and being applied with a greater degree of stringency. Therefore, it is important to take no chances when it comes to making sure your period spent studying in the Kingdom is not blighted by visa-related issues.
As with most countries, Thailand’s visa rules are somewhat reciprocal and are therefore dependent on the applicant’s country of origin.
Visa-Free Entry Upon Arrival
It is permissible for citizens of most countries to arrive at a Thai airport without a visa, and be granted access for a certain period of time. However, the permitted length of this stay is dependent on the travelers nationality. However, even the shorter allowed periods of 15 days would obviously be sufficiently long to cover two-day and week-long courses at AIGS, with at least a few days spare before and after the course for getting orientated, sight-seeing and making preparations to leave.
As of 5th July 2016, passport holders of the following five countries may enter Thailand by air or land without a visa and stay for up to 90 days:
Argentina Brazil Chile South Korea Peru
As of 5th July 2016, passport holders of the following 19 countries may enter Thailand by air or land without a visa and stay for up to 30 days:
Brunei Canada France Germany Hong Kong Indonesia Italy Japan Laos Macao Malaysia
Mongolia Philippines Russia Singapore Turkey United Kingdom United States Vietnam
As of 5th July 2016, passport holders of the following 31 countries may enter Thailand by air without a visa and stay for up to 30 days. However, only 15 days will be granted when entering via a land border:
Australia Austria Belgium Bahrain Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland Greece Hungary
Iceland Ireland Israel Kuwait Liechtenstein Luxembourg Monaco Netherlands New Zealand
Norway Oman Poland Portugal Qatar Slovakia Slovenia Spain South Africa Sweden
Switzerland United Arab Emirates
As of 5th July 2016, passport holders of the following two countries may enter Thailand by air or land without a visa and stay for up to 15 days:
Cambodia Myanmar (air only)
As of 5th July 2016, passport holders of the following 19 countries must apply for a non-extendable visa upon arrival at the airport. The cost of this visa is 1,000 Baht (around $30), and permits the traveler to stay for up to 15 days:
Andorra Bhutan Bulgaria China Cyprus Ethiopia India Kazakhstan Latvia Lithuania Maldives
Malta Mauritius Romania Tourist Visas San Marino Saudi Arabia Taiwan Ukraine Uzbekistan
Tourist visas must be purchased from a Thai embassy or consulate outside Thailand. However, while some countries have a preference, or perhaps even a necessity, for the applicant to apply in his/her home country, Thailand tourist visas can be applied for anywhere. For example, the capital of neighboring Laos, Vientiane, is one of the most popular Thai tourist visa purchasing locations for backpackers from Europe and North America.
The tourist visa costs 1,900 Baht (around $65) and allows the holder to stay in Thailand for up to 60 days, which can be further extended by an additional 30 days at any immigration center in Thailand to make 90 days in total.
Tourist visas are potentially advantageous for students who are looking to take longer courses, such as the entire six-month Accredited Gemologist (A.G.) Diploma. While necessary arrangements can usually be made within an applicant’s initial visa-free period, arriving in Thailand with 60 or 90 days of legality will provide applicants more time and flexibility with regards to subsequently undertaking the process of gaining a longer visa to cover the entirety of their A.G. studies. This is especially true for students from countries that would otherwise only be permitted a 15-day initial visa-free stay.
Education “ED” Visas
Even with the 30-day extension, the maximum possible stay with a tourist visa is 90 days, and it is not always possible to guarantee that an applicant would be successful should he/she briefly leave Thailand to obtain a second such visa. In addition, as the name implies, the tourist visa is not strictly intended for those taking courses of education within the Kingdom. As a result, those taking the full Accredited Gemologist (A.G.) Diploma would be required to obtain an ED Visa to cover them for the duration of their studies.
Like the tourist visa, the initial education visa is valid for three months and will therefore require at least one renewal in order to cover the six-month A.G program. However, the post-renewal period can extend to anything up to a year after the applicant’s first date of entry into Thailand, which means that A.G. students need not attempt to squeeze the six-month program into two three-month periods.
Like its tourist counterpart, the education visa must be applied for outside Thailand. Some students may be able to conveniently process the application at the Thailand embassy within their own country, but others may choose to enter with the visa-free or tourist visa described above. For those already in Thailand, the most common destination for this is the Embassy of Thailand in Laos, in Vientiane. However, students are welcome to make their own plans, and some choose to combine their visa duties with a short vacation in such places as Singapore, Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur.
After registering for a course of sufficient length to require an education visa, the following documents need to be sent to AIGS:
- Six recent 4 x 6 cm photograph of the applicant.
- A scan of the applicant’s passport.
- Copy of the applicant’s High School or University Diploma, in English.
Then, upon arriving at the applicant’s chosen Thai embassy or consulate, the following items will need to be in applicant’s possession:
- Confirmation letter confirming your place on the course, which will be sent by AIGS to the applicant upon completion of the registration steps listed above.
- Passport or travel document, with at least six months of remaining validity.
- Completed education visa application form.
Without first purchasing a re-entry permit, all long-term working, retirement, tourist or educational visas will be annulled upon exiting the country.
These permits can be purchased from the immigration office of any of Thailand's 76 states:
- One Time Use Re-entry Visa = 1,000 Baht
- Multiple Use Re-entry Visa = 3,800 Baht
For more information about Thailand visas, please visit the Thai Immigration Bureau website.