Visiting Thailand only requires a passport for visits that are 30 days or less. This pertains to U.S. citizens. Citizens from other countries need to check with their country’s embassy or consular section and see what the rules are.
For Americans, a current passport and a visa are required if you are planning on vacation of more than 30 days. You can pick up the visa at the nearest Thai consulate or embassy. Online forms and information are all over the place making it easy to get current information and prepare better.
The normal requirement is your passport, a filled out visa request form, and two pictures. There is a fee of approximately $50 but you should check and see what the current fees are. If your passport is going to expire within the next six months, you may be required to purchase a new one.
If there is no consulate near your home, you can pick up a visa upon arrival at the airport or visit the immigration office in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, or Chiang Mai. The easiest and recommend way is to get the visa before you go so you don’t have to worry about it when you are in Thailand.
There are other types of visa available for foreigners. You can get a work visa if you are going to be employed in Thailand. Check the rules and regulations for this. There are serious criminal penalties for working in Thailand without a work visa.
If you are planning on retiring in Thailand, you can get a one-year visa. You still have to check in with Thai immigration every 3 months, but the one year visa has been a godsend for most expats. It sure beats making quarterly visa runs to Laos or Cambodia. You have to be at least 50-years old to qualify for this visa. There are also some medical and financial requirements. Check for the latest as it seems that the rules for this visa change annually.
There has also been some mass confusion on some changes that were imposed in 2007 limiting the amount of days that a foreigner could spend in Thailand with visa extensions. Again, check for the latest updates and be prepared for additional changes. Hopefully, the new Prime Minister is favorable to foreigners.
Visiting Thailand can be a wonderful experience and can be enhanced by staying even long than the normal 2-week vacation. For most countries, acquiring a visa for an extended stay is a minor bureaucratic exercise and only requires one form, 2 pictures, and a little bit of money. With the cost of fuel and airline fares, I prefer to stay longer than shorter.