The Trials and Tribulations of Thai Visas

By David

I’m sick of dealing with Thai visas. This is exactly what Alexis was talking about when she said visa complications are a big reason why we’d rather live in 12 countries in 12 months rather than live in Germany long-term.

When I last wrote about my visa situation, I laid out exactly what I, you, or anyone else would need to get a Non-Immigrant O Visa (aka Dependent Visa) in Chiang Mai. Sorry to say, but thanks to Thailand’s ever changing laws, that proved to be inaccurate advice. I found out the hard way, but this post will hopefully save you from the same trouble.

Everything was set: we had our marriage certificate mailed to us, got it translated into Thai, arranged for a Thai witness from Alexis’ school to come with us, and gathered all the paperwork — everything I was told we needed, we had.

In spite of that, we were not confident it was going to work. Basically every Thai person we talked to was so confused about what we were trying to do. “How can you be dependent on Alexis when she’s not Thai?” seemed to be the main issue.

But still, we know multiple people who have done the exact same thing. Two of Alexis’ coworkers have dependent husbands, in fact. Same exact situation…no problem. But, for us? No dice.

Why I Was Denied a Non-Immigrant O Visa

1. On December 1, the Chiang Mai Immigration Office apparently changed their policy and no longer issues Non-Imm O visas. I would have to go to Bangkok, they said. Except…

2. Bangkok won’t give it to me either because I (also apparently) need to have applied for this visa with 21 days left on my current visa. I only had 4.

I was not told either of these things when I (very thoroughly, in my defense) went to immigration in November and asked what I would need. When I posed the question: “Why wasn’t I told in November that you’re changing your policy on December 1?” I got no response.

Because there is no response. And that’s the crux of this problem: Rules change at random. There’s nothing he could’ve told me. That’s just the way it is in Thailand.

So…that’s frustrating to say the least.

We even had Thai teachers from Alexis’ school talk to the immigration officers and try to pull some strings. They offered no help on the Non-Imm O front, but just told me to go to Mae Sai to do a border run and get a 30-day visa exempt stamp.

I was skeptical of this since I had heard from multiple people on the Chiang Mai Digital Nomad Facebook group and others on that this border run practice had been outlawed. “America is special…no problem,” the immigration officers said when I questioned them about this.

Is America Really Special?


After getting off the bus in Mae Sai, hopping on a songthaew (set rate of 15 baht from bus station to the border), and walking up the immigration booth, I was promptly told that I could not cross the border. As I had heard from others, the government no longer allows tourists to walk across the border at Mae Sai only to come right back. Note, however, that you will be blocked from leaving Thailand, instead of getting stuck in Myanmar.

Ultimately, they did let me cross after I explained to them that I’m not trying to cross for tourism purposes, but rather as a necessary step to switch to a non immigrant visa. I tried emphasizing that as much as possible — that I’m as far away from a tourist trying to scam the system as possible.

So I went to Myanmar! That was kinda cool. I was literally there for 5 minutes, but still cool. If you want full details of the border crossing experience, read this Travelfish article. It’s boring, so I don’t want to ramble on here.

The Best Way to Get To Mae Sai

Two common ways: Greenbus or a minivan tour company, like this. Everyone says Greenbus is safer than minivan tours. Everyone repeats the same stuff here so I wasn’t positive if that’s true, but I went with Greenbus anyways because they’re cheaper. I was happy with the experience — the bus was clean, pretty comfortable, and ran on time.

Tip for buying Greenbus tickets in Chiang Mai: Go to the office in the Old City (located here) rather than the arcade bus station (located here). There’s a service charge (20 baht per ticket), but that’s less than a songthaew will charge to get to the station. And if you live in the Old City like we do, it’s so much quicker.

I also got a discount on the base ticket price at the Old City office. The online price for A-Class (the cheapest tickets) was 182 baht. The office only charged me 174. So all told I paid 388 baht ($12 USD) for the roundtrip journey between Chiang Mai and Mae Sai.

So What’s Next?

Right, that’s the big question. The Mae Sai border run got me 30 extra days in Thailand, so I’m covered until February 15th for the moment. But since we don’t leave for Japan until March 31st, I gotta figure something else out. I’ll get into that in a separate post — the last one I will ever write about the god awful Thai visa experience… hopefully.


7 thoughts on “The Trials and Tribulations of Thai Visas

  1. Pingback: Where Are We Headed in 2015? | Roses on the Road

  2. Pingback: Chiang Mai Immigration Take 2: Tourist Visa and Dependent Visa | Roses on the Road

  3. Yes, I’m in a similar situation ….was told to go to savannakhet (Laos) only to find they had changed the “rules” for a non-O, but they did give me a double entry tourist visa instead for now.
    Can you get a cheap flight to Vientianne ? Get a tourist visa there, or just fly back and get the 30 day exemption.


    • I found cheaper flights to kuala lumpur so im going to try to get another tourist visa there. But i have heard that vientiane is the most lenient, so hopefully i dont regret not going there.

      Did already having a tourist visa in the past cause any complications in obtaining this new one or was it no problem?

      Do you know for sure that an airport would grant me another 30 day exemption if i fail to get the tourist visa in KL?


      • Is n’t KL stricter on issueing visas? Nothing is for sure about visas but westerners do not usually have problems at airport especially if looking respectable. No complications about past tourist and ED visas for me, but I do want to get the non O next time. Still deciding to change at Bkk immigration(2 trips lots of paperwork) or go to vientia nne (easy so I am told)


      • Yes, I’ve heard KL isn’t as easy as Vientiane but it was cheaper and I really didn’t want to go back to Vientiane. I read that in KL as long as I have proof on onward travel before the visa expires, it should be fine.

        But everything is always like this. I’m saying “so i read” and you’re saying “so I’m told” but we could show up and have the reality be completely different. Fingers crossed for the both of us.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: What to do When Your Triple Entry Tourist Visa Expires in Thailand | Roses on the Road

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