Traveling to Thailand How to Maximize Your Visa Stay and Enjoyment

Thailand is the geographical heart of Southeast Asia. Unlike most other countries of Southeast Asia, Thailand (or Siam, as it was known until 1939) never felt the yoke of direct European or Japanese colonialism. To the Thai's credit, however, they have not only continued to maintain their cultural and national identity, but have welcomed peoples of other nations for centuries.

Today, Thailand has a population of 64 million people, the vast majority of whom are of Thai ethnicity. Significant minorities of Chinese, Malay, Khmer, Mons, and various hill tribes also reside in Thailand. Quite naturally, as modes of travel developed, the beautiful beaches and natural "treasures" of Thailand became a popular destination for more and more foreigners wishing to live and/or do business in Thailand.
Nevertheless, for any person traveling to a foreign country to visit, work or live, it is important, as well as comforting, to know how to properly enter and stay. Since Thailand has been, and will continue to be one of the world's most desired travel and business destinations, the following provides foreign individuals with a general overview of Thailand AND a helpful look at Thai visa regulations and short-term and long-term options to best enjoy one's stay in Thailand.

Why Thailand

1. Location
Bangkok's New Suvarnabhumi International Airport, together with all other international airports throughout Thailand, including Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Samui has transformed Thailand to become an aviation hub of Asia. The kingdom itself is strategically located in the middle of Indochina region bordering Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia as well as Malaysia. From this point, connecting to Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, China, South Korea, or even Japan, takes only a few hours.

2. Natural Beauty
From the misty mountains of tropical forest in the North, the habitat of various kinds of nearly extinct birds and wildlife, to dazzling crystal clear water packed with marine life in the southern Andaman Sea, Thailand has much to see and learn for visitors.

3. Culture and History
The mixture of religion and race brings a variety of cultures to Thai people while the long lasting monarchy brings a rich, respected and long history to all people visiting Thailand. Historical sites throughout Thailand are the evidences of such remarkable history.

4. Tropical Climate
With its location, Thailand has all-year-round warm and sunshine weather. It is a perfect place to escape from cold and bleak winters or to rejuvenate in this calm tropical climate.

5. Cost of Living
Thailand is economical in terms of cost of living. With the same amount of money comparing to United States, Europe, Korea, Hong Kong or Japan, Thailand offers high quality of products and unmatched services and hospitality at lower prices.

Visa Matters - Gaining Entry into Thailand

1. Visa Waiver Program
Thailand has in effect a Visa Waiver Program, which is offered by Thailand to citizens of Japan, the UK, Hong Kong (by inter-governmental agreement), the EU, USA, etc. Upon arrival, the Thai immigration officer will grant these nationals a 30-day stay period in Thailand.

2. Visa on Arrival
Nationals from China, the People's Republic and Taiwan, are permitted to obtain a 15 day tourist visa on arrival at Thailand's immigration checkpoints. Chinese nationals may be required to provide additional documents at Thailand's point of entry. Please see the additional documents list in:

3. Tourist Visa
Most foreign nationals can apply for a Tourist Visa at the Thai Embassy or Consulate in their home country and receive up to a 30-90day stay period under the tourist visa status. However, the Thai government has become very sensitive to foreigners entering Thailand under "tourist" statuses and recently imposed a new immigration policy that impacts all foreigners. In short, when a foreigner enters Thailand using the 30-day Visa Waiver Program, a 6 month timetable will start. During that 6 months, the foreigner will be allowed to enter Thailand 2 more times up to a total stay of 90 days (please note that some immigration officers are counting the number of times a foreigner enters and not counting the days). After those 90 days you must leave Thailand for the remainder of the 6 months - OR - return to Thailand using a different visa entry method.

4. Thai Elite Program
Another option, especially attractive to executives and frequent travelers to Thailand, is the Thai Elite Program, a privileged membership status extended to foreigners by the Thai government's Ministry of Tourism and Sport. One very attractive privilege that Thai Elite offers is a special Thai Elite Member visa stamp is affixed in the member's passport and allows that person to travel and live in Thailand for life and receive VIP fast track service at Thai immigration checkpoints in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. Other benefits include: free golf everyday at 40 golf clubs throughout Thailand; free massages everyday at high end spas in Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai; VIP transportation between Thailand's major airports and the member's hotel, condo or residence; discounts on restaurants, air travel, hotels; Star Alliance / Royal Orchid Plus Gold status; annual comprehensive medical check up at best hospitals; and more. Thai Elite has a call center to address the member's individual needs in Thailand and their staff speaks English, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. The Thai Elite membership is for life and the one-time membership fee is 1 Million Baht (Above 220,400.00 RMB). There are no annual dues or fees involved and the membership is transferable.

Recent News: the Thai Elite Program will increase the membership fee from 1 million Baht (lifetime) to 3 million Baht (for 30 years). This new policy will take effect in or around June 2007. Existing Thai Elite members and New Members, who sign up before the new policy takes effect, will still enjoy the 1 million Baht lifetime package with unlimited golf, spa, immigration fast track, special Thai Elite multiple entry visa, etc.

 Qualifications of the applicant/the Member:

  • The applicant/the Member has not been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of any country for more than 6 months, irrespective of whether or not he/she has been imprisoned.
  • The applicant/the Member has not been declared bankrupt.
  • The applicant/the Member has not been declared as a person of unsound mind, incompetent, or quasi-incompetent.
  • The applicant/the Member is allowed to stay in Thailand in accordance with the immigration laws or any related law of Thailand.
  • If the applicant/the Member is under twenty (20) years old, the applicant/the Member also represents that he/she has received consent from his/her parent or guardian to be bound by this Membership Agreement.

5. Thai Long Stay Privileges (TLS Privileges.)
On September 11, 2002, Thai Lonstay Management Co., Ltd. was established and approved by the Royal Thai Cabinet to develop and promote long-stay tourism among retirees.
TLM serves members with privileges such as fast and guaranteed visa arrangement, immigration fast track at Suvarnabhumi and Phuket International Airport, TLM Counter Service and Liaison Service at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, and TATV Tourism TV Broadcast.
Services available are to fulfill members' needs during their stay in Thailand such services as ID card, mobile phone, limousine, car rental, insurance, and discounts from TLM partners such as hospitals, golf courses, spas, hotels and resorts, restaurants, and department stores.

 Qualifications of the applicant/the Member:
1. Must be 50 years old or over.
2. A guarantor-letter from The Embassy or Consulate, proving the monthly pension of the applicant not less than 65,000 Baht per month.
· Or a bank statement from a bank in Thailand evidencing that the applicant has an account of not less than 800,000 Baht.
· Or evidence proving that the total amount of money from the pension and bank account amounts to the sum stated above (800,000 Baht) at least 3 months

Notice: the exchange rate between Baht and RMB mentioned just for your reference, the actual rate of exchange is subject to the current rate on the international conversion table on operation date.

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