Is Permanent Residency in Thailand Right For You?
Among the dozen or so options available for long-term stay in Thailand, Permanent Residency (PR) is almost as good as it gets—ranking second only to Thai Citizenship in terms of the security and, well, permanence it affords you as an expat. Once you get PR, you have it for life, and there is no more fretting over 90 day check-ins at Immigration or what kind of visa you will get next, and where. PR sets you up for life in Thailand.
Sound too good to be true? If you ask expat friends or groups online, you may hear that PR is not a realistic goal—that the application process is long, convoluted, and without any guarantee of approval.
As usual in expat groups, it is important to take these comments with a grain of salt and not get discouraged, if you determine PR is the right path for you. While it is by no means a simple procedure, the truth is that you do stand a good chance of being accepted if you meet the requirements and take the time to understand the steps involved and documents required.
You will want to make a plan and timeline so that you are prepared to execute as soon as applications are accepted, the year you plan to apply. You will want to keep an ear to the ground for new rules or announcements regarding PR which may have an impact on the application process that year. You will want to think long term—although in all likelihood, if you are giving serious thought to your future in Thailand, not just for 1-5 years (you can get this with an Elite Visa) but for life, this is probably something you are already willing to do for a worthy goal such as PR.
Who Is PR For?
For our purposes, we will look at Permanent Residency as it applies to the “Employment” category for workers: those who are currently employed by a Thai or foreign company in Thailand.
There are several other categories under which you can apply for PR such as Investment, most requiring at least several years’ gainful employment (and thus tax revenue) in the Thai system. This means that if you are not currently in Thailand, or if you are on an Education, Thai Elite, Tourist, or other non-working visa, you are most likely not eligible for PR at the present time.
As an alternative, you can pursue the path to Permanent Residency by either finding a job in Thailand or contracting with an “Employer of Record” (EoR) in Thailand, such as Shelter. An EoR is a company, in this case a Thai company, that employs you according to local labor laws, helps you obtain a Non-Immigrant Business Visa and Work Permit, and takes care of the same kind of payroll, tax, social security, and immigration processes that a normal employer would. You still work on your behalf; the EoR just handles the administrative and compliance responsibilities for you, allowing you to do your work and live hassle-free in Thailand . Shelter also offers PR Consultation to our clients, helping them create a personalized PR Roadmap, as part of our Thailand Tax Residency Program.
To learn more about Shelter’s EoR services, get in touch today.
Requirements to Apply for PR
1. You need to have held a Work Permit and Non-Immigrant Visas for at least 3 consecutive years, at the date of application.
2. You need to have worked for your current company for at least 1 year, at the date of application.
3. You need to have earned at least 80,000 THB monthly for the last 2 years (or have filed tax returns for at least 100,000 THB for the last 2 years) at the date of application. OR If married to a Thai spouse, you need to have earned 30,000 THB for the last 2 years, at the date of application, and be able to show tax returns and annual extensions of stay.
Benefits of Having PR
1. You are granted to stay in Thailand permanently. In other words, you don’t need to apply for annual extensions of stay anymore.
2. You are not required to report every 90 days to the Immigration Bureau as are other foreign residents in Thailand.
3. You can buy a condominium without having to transfer funds from abroad. Without PR, you must bring the total amount of funds into Thailand.
4. You can borrow from Thai or Foreign Banks more easily, and can purchase property and vehicles in your own name.
5. You can be a director of a public limited company, even if the majority of other directors on the Board are non-Thai.
6. It is easier to obtain a work permit. When a Permanent Resident’s application is submitted to the Labour Department, it is automatically extended for another 12 months.
7. You can use the same counter as Thais at airport immigration passport control when arriving or departing from Thailand.
8. You can register a Household Registration Book, providing you with many of the same rights as Thai nationals.
9. You can act as guarantor for another person, including Thai nationals.
10. You can apply for Thai citizenship.
Step 1. Prepare required documents. While numbers 1 and 2 can be completed by yourself (the second involving a hospital visit), the rest of the documents can be prepared by your employer or EoR.
- Application Form (TM.9)
- Form of personal information sheet
- Health certificate from a government hospital
- Map of residence and place of work form
- Salary certificate
- Example for the letter of employment history to Department of Labour
Step 2. Review at Immigration. As early as June of the year you want to apply for PR, go to the Residency desk at Immigration in Chaengwattana, Bangkok to have them review your case. If your documents are not correct, they will point it out at this time so you can make any necessary additions/changes.
Step 3. Submit Application. Submit your application as early as possible. In 2019 and 2020 applications were accepted as early as July and the same is expected for future years if the same Prime Minister remains in place. There is a 7,600 THB application fee due upon submission. The Immigration Office in Bangkok is open from Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm. It gets crowded quite early, so we recommend to arriving before opening hours.
Step 4. Formal Interview. A few months after applying, you will receive a notice to attend a recorded 5-10 minute formal interview at Immigration before a panel of 7-10 officials, where you will be asked questions regarding your documents, background, and why you want to stay in Thailand. You will need to demonstrate conversational-level Thai language skills.
Step 5. Processing. After the interview, your case will be sent to the Ministry of Interior (described by Chris Larkin of ThaiCitizenship.com as a bureaucratic “Black Hole”) where it may stay for some time. In past years approval has come through roughly 18-20 months after first applying. Once your approved, you will have to visit the Thai Immigration Office within 30 days to submit the following:
- The original and a copy of your passport
- The original and a copy of your residence’s House Registration Book Tabien Baan
- 12 (4x6cm) photos taken within the last 3 months
You will then receive receive your blue “Certificate of Residence” booklet, be instructed to pay the residence fee—191,400 THB, or 95,700 THB if married to a Thai spouse—and be given instructions on how to obtain your red “Alien Registration” booklet.
In total Permanent Residency costs 199,000 THB or 6,636 USD (Jan 26, 2021), paid in two installments:
- Application fee, due on submission: 7,600 THB
- PR fee, due on approval: 191,400 THB OR if married to a Thai spouse, 95,700 THB
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Getting PR in Thailand a Realistic Goal?
The short answer is yes, if you meet the basic requirements. As Chris Larkin notes, while there is no publicly available point system to determine your likelihood of acceptance, you can guesstemate your chances by referring to the point system used by Thai immigration officials to rank applications for the Thai Citizenship program, which leaked some time ago.
Doing so, we can see which categories have more weight relative to others. To guesstimate your PR score, use the adapted point lists below, which add up collectively to 100 points total. 50/100 would be the minimum score to apply, and the higher your score above 50/100, the better are your chances of acceptance (hypothetically, of course). If you score high (70+/100), then you are likely to be accepted for Permanent Residency if you make it to the interview stage. Of course, scoring high in several of the more elastic categories (Knowledge of Thai Language, Knowledge of Thai Culture, and Personality – 30 points altogether) will depend on your own initiative in studying and practicing spoken Thai, so if you have not yet mastered basic conversation, you had better get started!
- Monthly Income (THB): 25 possible points
- 80,000 – 90,000: 15 points
- 90,001 – 100,000: 20 points
- 100,001 and up: 25 points
- Length of Residence in Thailand: 20 possible points
- 3 years: 5 points
- 5 years: 10 points
- 7 years: 15 points
- 10 years: 20 points
- Education: 15 possible points
- Vocational training: 3 points
- Diploma: 5 points
- Bachelors Degree: 8 points
- Masters Degree: 10 points
- Doctorate: 15 points
- Knowledge of Thai Language: 15 possible points
- Poor: 8 points
- Fair: 10 points
- Good: 13 points
- Excellent: 15 points
- Knowledge of Thailand: 10 possible points
- Medium: 5 points
- Good: 8 points
- Very good: 10 points
- Age: 10 possible points
- 20-29: 2 points
- 30-39: 5 points
- 40-49: 10 points
- 50-59: 8 points
- Over 60: 5 points
- Personality: 5 possible points
- Interviewers will also evaluate your personality in terms of physical appearance, manners, and attitudes towards Thailand.
Is it true they only accept 100 applicants per nationality each year?
Yes, but the reality is that most nationalities, even American and British, don’t usually reach that number of applicants. Chris Larkin observes that Indians and Chinese are the only two nationalities which have come close in past years. In any case, if you make sure to apply for PR as soon as applications are accepted, this rule should not present any problems.
Do you need to be fluent in Thai to pass the formal interview?
You don’t need to be fluent in Thai per se, but you should be comfortable with basic conversational skills, using correct Thai particles, etc. If you are still a beginner or lower intermediate, a good place to start learning is with Brett Whiteside’s Learn Thai From a White Guy course. Brett’s lessons are designed to tech basic conversation skills for everyday situations, without learning all the unnecessary stuff usually taught in Thai courses (which Thai people don’t use anyway).
Can you travel freely as a Permanent Resident?
This is a great question, because it points to perhaps the biggest downside of PR—that if you leave Thailand without taking certain steps before departing, your Certificate of Residence may no longer be valid when you return. In this scenario, you would have to begin the application process from the very beginning.
If you wish to travel outside Thailand, you should follow these 2 steps:
- Visit Immigration to obtain a Re-Entry Permit (also called a Non-Quota Immigrant Visa), valid for 12 months. You may apple for either a single re-entry (1,900 THB) or multiple re-entry (3,800 THB).
- Additionally, you will need to apply for a 1 year endorsement of your Certificate of Residence booklet.
While these steps may seem unnecessary, since PR is meant to be permanent, the reasoning is that it enables Immigration officials to ensure that Permanent Residents do not remain outside of Thailand more than 365 days per year. An inefficient solution, perhaps, but this is Thailand.
Do you need a work permit in order to work as a Permanent Resident?
Yes, you do need a work permit if working, but it will be much easier to obtain. As soon as your application is submitted to the Labour Department, it is automatically extended for another 12 months.
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