I went back to the Chiang Mai Immigration Office for the second time last week and learned two useful tips for my fellow expats:
1. You can get a 30-day extension on your multiple-entry tourist visa way before your 60 days are up, and
2. You can switch from a tourist visa to a Non-Immigrant O Visa (aka Dependent Visa) right here in Chiang Mai.
Extending My Tourist Visa
As I noted in my first account of applying for a visa extension in Chiang Mai, the 30 additional days you will be granted are added to the end of your 60th day, not the day you apply for the extension. I noted at the time:
It appears as if they started my 30-day extension from my last day allowed on my current entry (September 13th) rather than the day I actually got the extension (September 12th).
Whether they gave me that extra day or not wasn’t too big of a deal that first time around, but I tested the limits of this rule on my second visit. My third and final entry on my triple-entry tourist visa expires on December 18th, yet I was there a whole month before that date, on November 18, asking for an extension. I had assumed they would turn me away with a confused, “too early” wave of the hand.
To my delight, I was wrong and was granted 30 additional days after my last entry runs its course on December 18. Thus, my new last date on my tourist visa is January 17, 2015.
What will I do to stay in Thailand after January 17? And why had I gone in that day given my assumption they would not grant me the extension I wanted?
How to Get a Non-Immigrant O Visa in Chiang Mai
[UPDATE: You can no longer get a Non-Immigrant O Visa in Chiang Mai. Immigration officers have told me you get one in Bangkok. You also need to have 21 days left on your current visa when applying].
The main reason I went to the immigration office last week was to figure out exactly what I needed to do to switch over to a Non-Immigrant O Visa (more commonly called a Dependent Visa) after my tourist visa expires. I needed to know what paperwork they required and where I had to go to do the visa switch. I was hoping we could avoid going to Vientiane again as we had to do to for Alexis when she switched from her tourist visa to a work visa.
What I learned was perhaps the best news of the day: Not only did we not have to go back to Vientiane, but I could apply for my Non-Immigrant O Visa right here in Chiang Mai! No visa run to Laos or any other country needed… not even a trip to Bangkok! As I mentioned in my “10 Hidden Costs of Travel” post, visa runs are one of the biggest unexpected expenses there is for travelers. I’d much prefer to travel our own terms.
In addition to that wonderful news, I also got the full list of required paperwork. To apply for a Non-Immigrant O Visa, you must have:
- An Application for Change of Visa form (TM.86). You can that download here.
- A photocopy of the first page of your passport.
- They didn’t specifically tell me this, but I also plan on bring photocopies of my current Thai visa stamp, my current Thai visa page, and my departure card. These are all required photocopies when extending your tourist visa, so I’m assuming they’ll be needed for this as well.
- A passport-sized photo.
- Items 2-4 from your spouse as well (the person you are dependent upon).
- A photocopy of your spouse’s work permit (I confirmed that a photocopy is okay).
- Two copies of your marriage certificate. One must be the original, and the other must be a copy in Thai. That “in Thai” part is something I’ve never read on any other website when I was looking this information up, but I confirmed multiple times with the girl helping me that you need a copy of your marriage certificate written in Thai. She told me I could obtain both an original and a Thai copy from the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai.
- A letter from your working spouse’s school with key bits of information. The girl just highlighted sections of Thai text for Alexis’ school to read which she said would tell them everything they need to write. So while this information isn’t first-hand, the Thai embassy in Ho Chi Minh City states: “Company or school’s guarantee letter… stating that the applicant is spouse or family members of those working or studying in Thailand.” Tieland to Thaiand say essentially the same thing: “Original letter from hiring company indicating the to-be employed spouse’s intention to work, while also mentioning the nonworking spouse’s name and that he or she will be of dependent status while the employed spouse is working in Thailand.” Tieland to Thailand goes to on say, however, that only a letter OR a work permit is required, but I was told that both are needed. I would have both to be safe.
- A copy of your lease agreement proving that you and your spouse live together.
- A Thai witness. Yep — that’s what I was told. An actual Thai person needs to be there with us when we apply to verify that we are married and that I am dependent on Alexis. This is also something I’ve never heard or read about from anyone before, but apparently it’s needed.
- And finally, the application fee of 2,000 baht.
Three more things worth mentioning are:
- I was told Alexis needs to be present as well even though I am the only one switching visas.
- I was told to arrive no later than 7AM — I was not clear whether this was a requirement or just a suggestion. Either way, I intend on doing so.
- I’m sure it will be evident when we get there, but she also told me to go to Line 3 when I arrive.
- Lastly, she couldn’t tell me how long my future Non-Immigrant O Visa will be good for, but the HCMC Thai embassy page I linked to above says 3 months, so that’s what I’m hoping for. Because it’s a Non-Immigrant Visa, you can extend it indefinitely, but you have to do a visa-run every time it expires (which again I’m assuming is every 90 days).
How Long Did All This Take?
As opposed to my first visit when I arrived at 8:30AM and was out less than an hour and half later, I didn’t arrive until 1:45PM this time. The visa extension process was super quick — had that been my only point of business, I would have been in and out in an hour. However, getting all the information I needed for the Non-Immigrant O Visa process took another 30 minutes.
Arriving at the immigration office in the afternoon is supposed to be a big no-no as the lines get so long, but an hour and half to extend my tourist visa and get information on my future dependent visa doesn’t seem too bad at all.
Let me know if you have any questions!