Thailand’s visa policies are chaotic
Thailand’s visa policies change frequently. The visa application process varies from one embassy to the next. Individual embassy personnel can ignore/change the rules at their own discretion or mood. Thai government websites often have incorrect information and functionality problems.
This is why I created this post – to make order out of chaos. (This is “Farang” nature, I guess.) I include necessary information that even the official Thai websites omit. Follow the instructions carefully, but always be ready to adapt and remain calm if faced with unexpected hurdles when dealing with embassy officials.
This article is specifically about the Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV). This is the most common visa that travelers get.
The SETV is a single entry visa that permits a maximum stay of 60 days. (However it can be extended for 30 additional days at any immigration office in Thailand.) It is valid for entering Thailand once within three months from the date of application and costs 1,000 Thai baht (about $30). The processing time is two days (submit documents and pickup visa the following day).
You can apply for this visa in any country outside of Thailand that has a Thai Embassy or Consulate. (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, etc. are popular options.)
Other visa types such as the METV, Transit, Retirement, Marriage, etc. are not covered in this article. (However some of the information and links are still applicable.)
The SETV Application Process
Step 1: Make an appointment online
You want to do this as soon as possible. As I stated at the beginning of the article, the appointment queue can be backlogged for weeks – so you must plan ahead.
The web address is: https://thaivisavientiane.com/
First you need to make an account by submitting your email and personal information. Then you must wait to receive an email with a password that will allow you to login.
Once you receive your password, you can login and make an appointment.
You will know you are successfully registered when you receive an appointment confirmation with a queue number by email that looks like this:
You must either present a printout of this confirmation or show a screenshot on your phone to enter the Thai embassy in Vientiane for your appointment.
Step 2: Gather required documents
Pay close attention. The official Thai websites do not list all of the required docs. I do.
- Printout (or screenshot on your phone) of consulate appointment confirmation (see Step 1, above)
- A completed and signed Visa Application Form, available here:
- 2 passport-sized photos (3.5×4.5cm)
- Note: The photos must have a white background! This is hilarious because most official documents in Thailand require a blue background.
- If you don’t have such photos, there is a photo/copy shop inside the embassy that can make them for you in a few minutes.
- Passport (valid for at least 6 more months)
- A copy of your passport ID page
- Proof of adequate finances:
- 6 most recent months of bank statements showing at least the equivalent of 20,000 baht each month. (For a family you need to show a minimum of 40,000 baht each month.)
- Note: The embassy officials cannot verify this information and do not scrutinize the documents. If necessary, you can just Photoshop a few extra zeros onto your account balance to pass this requirement.
- A copy of your Laos visa
- A copy of your Laos entry stamp
- Application fee – 1,000 Thai baht (in actual Thai baht currency)
Note: Consular officials may request additional documents at their discretion. Their request may be idiotic. Story time…
Several years ago, I was applying for a visa at the Thai Embassy in Washington D.C. As a requirement, I submitted my official business certificate issued by the state of Florida. The consular official told me she would not accept it because “It didn’t look official enough.” I said, “What do you want me to do, it is the official document?” She said, “I don’t know, but we won’t accept this.”
The next day I returned with a fake business certificate that I made in PowerPoint. It was made on a flowery certificate template that was intended to be a participation award for kindergartners. I printed across the top, “The Official Business Certificate Issued by the Official Business Department of the Official State of Florida.” The staff lady happily accepted it and approved my visa.
Step 3: Go to Thai Embassy in Vientiane
Location of the Thai Embassy:
Coordinates: 17.965137, 102.624478
Address: 316 Rue Bourichane, Vientiane, Laos
How to get there:
If you are staying near the city center/tourist area, the cost of a tuk-tuk ride to the Thai embassy is about 20,000 or 30,000 kip. The drivers always start with a price of 50,000 kip, but they always settle on 20-30k.
Every driver seems to understand the English words “Thai Embassy” – it is a very common destination for them. The ride only takes 5-10 minutes
When to go there:
The consulate opens at exactly 9am and you want to be there at opening. The officials only let you in the front gate based on the queue number you received when you made the online appointment, so there isn’t an advantage to arriving early.
Step 4: Submit your documents
Once the embassy opens, there are three queues you must pass through to successfully submit your visa application. The entire process took me one hour.
Queue #1: The embassy front gate
When the embassy staff open the door at 9am they will hold up a sign that says “Queue numbers 1-100.” Then they will only allow people with a queue number in that range to pass through the front gate.
Do not be discouraged if you have a high number such as in the 300’s. Like I stated earlier, many appointment reservations are scooped up by Thai visa agencies and not actually filled. There were only about 10 people outside the gate that actually had a queue number in the 1-100 range. Minutes later, they raised the 100-200 sign, the 200-300 sign, etc. My queue number was 365, and I was allowed in after about ten minutes.
Queue #2: The document check station
After entering the embassy, you will stand in line in front of a row of tables. This is the document checking station. When I went, there were three ladies that simply check that you have all of the required documents.
If you need to make photos or copies, there is a small shop directly to the left of the tables where you can do so.
After the staff at the tables approve that your documents are in order, you proceed to the final queue.
Queue #3: The document submission station
The third and final queue is pictured above. At this stage they again admit you by batches of queue numbers (1-100, 100-200, etc.). There are many benches where you can sit and wait. I tried to play stupid and walk up to the windows before my queue number range was called, but there was an alert staffer that thwarted me. I ended up waiting for about 20 minutes.
Once I made it to the window, the embassy official received my passport and documents and did a final check. My documents were accepted and he handed back to me a visa collection appointment notice (pictured below).
Note: They did not require payment at this time. You pay the 1,000 baht visa fee when you pickup your visa the following day.
The entire process, from when the embassy opened at 9:00 to when I successfully submitted my documents and left, was approximately 1 hour.
Step 5: Pickup your visa
Return to the embassy the following day at 13:30 to retrieve your visa. Again, there is no benefit for arriving early. The door opens exactly at 13:30. To gain entrance, show them your pickup appointment receipt and your original online appointment queue number.
Then you go straight to the the queue #3 station. Again, they will accept you in batches based on your queue number. My queue number was 365 and I had to wait about 45 minutes.
When I went to the window, I paid the 1,000 baht fee and received back my passport with the SETV visa inside.
Staying in Thailand long-term with SETV’s
A workable method for staying in Thailand long term is to repeatedly get SETV visas and then 30 day extensions to stay in Thailand for three consecutive months at a time. Every three months, you make a “visa run” to a neighboring country to get a new SETV.
This currently seems to work well unless you rack up 6 or so consecutive SETV’s (it becomes very clear you are not a tourist). At this point, authorities may refuse to issue you more visas.
Note that people used to do “border runs” and simply get 30 day entry stamps over and over again. This is no longer a viable solution. Thailand has cracked down on this and only allows two land crossing entry stamps per year. Save these for emergencies.
The site where you make your online appointment (which, as of Feb 1st, 2019, is required in order to go to the embassy and submit an application).
Links to all the Thai Embassies in the world. You can apply for a SETV in any of these locations.
The most comprehensive guide I have found for ALL types of Thai visas, METV, marriage, work, transit, etc.
An active forum thread with recent info regarding Thai visa procedures in various countries. Since Thailand frequently changes policies and selectively enforces rules, always check this thread for up-to-date information.