Over the last few decades, birth rates have dropped dramatically in Thailand, falling so low that the country is believed by many experts to be at risk for labor shortages in the years to come. This revelation has made Thailand a welcoming place for immigrants around the world.
Most people who immigrate to Thailand come from other Asian countries like Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, China, and Nepal, but North Americans also choose to relocate to the country, too. In fact, Fortune listed Thailand as the 8th best place in the world for North American expats to move to while working remotely at home.
If you’re considering a relocation to Thailand, this guide will tell you what you need to know about the requirements for moving and what you can expect from life in the country.
A brief overview of Thailand
Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is bordered by Myanmar and the Andaman Sea to the north and west, Laos and Cambodia in the east, and the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia in the south.
- Size: 198,117 sq. mi. (513,120 sq. km.)
- Capital: Bangkok
- Major cities: Samut Prakan, Mueang Nonthaburi, and Udon Thani (urban areas are home to 49.9% of the population)
- Population: roughly 70 million
- Foreign-born population: 4% of total
- Official language: Thai
- Demographics: 75% ethnic Thai, 14% Thai Chinese, 3% Malay
Some people in Thailand only speak Thai and/or another Southeast Asian language, such as Malay or Burmese. That said, many high-income individuals in Thailand speak English as a second language, especially in areas with a great deal of tourism or international business.
Can a U.S. or Canadian citizen move to Thailand?
U.S. and Canadian citizens who meet certain requirements and go through the proper immigration channels can move to Thailand.
What are the requirements to move to Thailand?
Normally, the non-immigrant Thailand visa is good for 90 days. Before the visa expires, you’ll need to visit a Thai immigration office to apply for an extension. Most North Americans who move to Thailand enter the country as a tourist or with a non-immigrant visa.
Canadian and U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Thailand as a tourist. To enter the country as a tourist, you will need to have a passport from your home country that is valid for at least the length of your stay. You can remain in Thailand for up to 30 days as a tourist.
If you enter the country as a tourist and wish to remain in the country for longer, you will usually have to meet one of the requirements for a non-immigrant visa, which include:
- Investment: Individuals who make sizable investments in Thai companies, funds, or real estate may qualify for a non-immigrant visa on a case-by-case basis. You will need to show proof of the investment in the form of account statements or a deed.
- Working or business: If you have received an offer of employment from a business in Thailand that is legally permitted to hire immigrants, you can qualify for a visa. You’ll need to show proof of employment, such as a contract or offer letter from your employer.
- Expert: If you hold at least a bachelor’s degree in an in-demand field such as science, healthcare, or engineering, you may qualify for a non-immigrant visa in Thailand. You’ll usually need to provide your CV and proof of your degree.
- Family relationship: If you married a Thai citizen, are the child or parent of a Thai citizen, or the spouse, parent, or child of a person who has been granted a visa to live in Thailand, you can typically qualify for a visa with proof of the relationship.
- Retirement: People over the age of 50 who have a steady stream of income from a pension can qualify for a non-immigrant visa. You will normally need to show proof of income by providing notarized bank statements. A letter from your pension administrator or a government agency that pays you regular income may also be necessary.
How do you get a visa to move to Thailand?
When you schedule your appointment, the official will let you know what documents you will need to bring with you. At the time of your appointment, you’ll need to pay a fee for the non-immigrant visa. As of August 2022, the cost of the fee was $80 for a single-entry visa or $200 for a multiple-entry visa.
In most cases, the Thai embassy or consulate will process the visa application in 15 days or less.
Does Thailand offer digital nomad visas?
A digital nomad visa is a visa that makes it possible to relocate to another country and continue to work remotely for your employer. Thailand announced a new 1-year remote work visa program with a low tax rate in August 2022.
The program is slated to begin sometime in the fall of 2022. Contact a Thai embassy or consulate for more details on the program.
Can you live in Thailand permanently?
After the initial 90-day period, most non-immigrant visas are renewed for 1 year and then must be renewed annually. Once you have resided in Thailand for at least three years continuously on a non-resident visa, you can apply for permanent residency at a Thai immigration office.
How much money do you need to move to Thailand?
The cost of flying or driving to Thailand depends on where your trip begins. If you’re planning to fly, try to avoid the peak tourist season from November to March to get the best deals on airfare. If you’re driving, factor in the cost of gasoline, food, and overnight accommodations during your trip. Plan for fees at the various borders.
International moving companies charge for the cost of shipping by container, which includes inspection and customs’ fees. As a result, the cost can run into the thousands of dollars.
Expat forums like ExpatExchange will have up-to-date information from others about the cost of moving as well as recommendations. In general, the amount you’ll pay will depend on the distance you travel and the total weight and size of what needs to be moved.
Once you arrive in the country, factor in the cost of initial accommodations in a hotel or hostel as you search for a residence.
How much monthly income do you need to live in Thailand?
The amount of monthly income needed to live comfortably in Thailand depends on where you live. Urban centers tend to cost more than suburbs and rural areas. In the capital city of Bangkok, a family of four spends an average of around $2,200 USD per month plus rent, which averages around $2,078 for a three-bedroom apartment in the city center.
For a single person, average monthly living expenses in Thailand total around $600. The average price to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is about $550.
The Thai Baht is the unit of currency used in Thailand. As of August 2022, one baht was worth about $0.028 U.S. dollars.
What type of government does Thailand have?
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, a government system where a monarch governs the country in accordance with principles established by a constitution. Maha Vajiralongkorn is the King of Thailand and the country’s head of state. The country’s prime minister serves as the chief adviser to the king. The monarch elects the prime minister to serve a 4-year term. Judges are elected by the monarch and serve until they are dismissed.
The legislative branch of Thailand passes constitutional amendments and legislation. The parliament has two houses: the Senate (Wuthisapha) and the House of Representatives (Sapha Phuthaen Ratsadon). Seventy-seven members of the Senate are elected by the people through a plurality voting system, and the remaining 73 members are appointed by judges and government bodies. In the House of Representatives, 375 representatives are elected via plurality vote and the remaining 125 members are elected through a representation system. All legislators serve 4-year terms.
Is there a U.S. embassy in Thailand?
Is Thailand a good place for North American expats?
U.S. News and World Report rates Thailand as the 28th best country in the world to live in. Ample opportunities for recreation and work and a good standard of living make the country an appealing place for North American expats to relocate.
How safe is it to live in Thailand?
The U.S. State Department advises employing normal safety precautions when traveling in most parts of Thailand because crime rates are not especially high. However, civil unrest in the Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Songkhla Provinces does periodically lead to violence. North American expats in these regions could become accidentally injured or killed in skirmishes.
What is the cost of living like in Thailand?
Generally, the cost of living in Thailand is lower than in the U.S. and Canada. Bangkok is about 52% less expensive than New York City, and rent is more than two-thirds lower in the Thai capital. Consumer prices are also around 37% lower in Bangkok compared to Vancouver, and rents are around 46% less expensive.
What is the education system like in Thailand?
However, Thai public school students receive overall lower test scores in reading, mathematics, and science than other countries that participate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is mostly due to a large disparity in performance based on socioeconomic background. Thai students who come from low-income families typically score much lower than their peers from more advantaged backgrounds.
In Thailand, public and private preschool is available for children aged 3–6, but it is not mandatory. Compulsory prathom or primary school starts at age six and lasts for six years. After receiving their primary education, public school students enter three years of lower secondary school. These levels are compulsory and offered for free to all children in Thailand.
Upper secondary school includes three more years of education. It is not mandatory, and it is not free for all students. Those from low-income backgrounds may continue to receive free education, but those with more financial means often need to pay for some of the cost of upper secondary school.
Many expats choose to educate their children at private schools. International schools that provide instruction in English are especially popular. Areas that have high concentrations of North American expats are usually home to at least one international school. You can use the International Schools Database to find ones in specific cities.
Thailand is home to more than 100 post-secondary schools. Some of the largest and most well-known colleges and universities in the country include:
- Mahidol University
- Chulalongkorn University
- Chiang Mai University
- King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi
- Prince Songkla University
- Kasetsart University
What is the healthcare system like in Thailand?
Thailand has a robust healthcare system that ranked higher on the CEOWORLD magazine Health Care Index than both Canada and the U.S., coming in at 13th compared to 23rd and 30th, respectively. During the 1960s and 70s, Thailand made massive investments in improving healthcare and raising life expectancy rates in the country.
In 2002, the country provided Universal Health Coverage to all residents of Thailand. About 76% of the population receives healthcare through this system. The Social Security Scheme (SSS) provides coverage for the 16% of Thai residents who work for private employers and don’t have children, and the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme (CSMBS) is responsible for covering government employees and their dependents.
The public healthcare system in Thailand includes 1,000 hospitals. Although the standard of care is good, there are often long wait times, and more novel treatments and medical procedures may not be available at public healthcare institutions. As a result, some people prefer to use private hospitals, which are found in Bangkok and other major cities.
North American expats may qualify for coverage through SSS if they legally work in Thailand. Permanent residents may qualify for coverage through the Universal Health Coverage if they don’t qualify for coverage through SSS. However, even without coverage, you can still visit a public hospital for care if needed. You’ll have to pay for services out of pocket, but the cost is usually lower than fees at private hospitals in Thailand and much lower than what you’d expect to pay for care in the U.S.
What is the climate/weather like in Thailand?
Thailand has a tropical climate with a rainy monsoon season that begins in May and lasts through October. Across Thailand, the average annual rainfall is between 47–178″ (1,200–4,500 mm) with more rain on the windward side. The risk for severe storms in Thailand is high, and it ranked 9th on the Global Climate Risk Index list of countries most affected by severe weather in terms of lives lost and property damaged between 2000–2019.
From October–February, conditions are usually colder and drier throughout much of the country. In northern Thailand, the average annual temperature is 79.3°F (26.3°C), while coastal areas and the south have an average annual temperature of 81.5°F (27.5°C).
What is the quality of life in Thailand?
Economic inequality is high in Thailand, so quality of life varies dramatically depending on socioeconomic status. Overall, Thailand ranked 61st on the 2022 World Happiness Index. This is a higher rank than the countries bordering Thailand but lower than Canada at 15th and the U.S. at 16th. North American expats are likely to enjoy a higher standard of living compared to many Thai.
Can I get a driver’s license in Thailand?
Expats can choose to drive in Thailand. To do so, you’ll need to get a Thai driver’s license. The first step is to visit a U.S. or Canadian embassy or consulate to have your driver’s license validated.
During your appointment, you can get help finding the closest Land Transport Office to where you live. You’ll need to visit the office with your current driver’s license, the affidavit from the U.S. or Canadian embassy or consulate, your passport, and a medical report completed by a Thai hospital or clinic. In some provinces, you may also need to take a driving test. Normally, there is a fee for a driver’s license transfer of 205 baht (around $6).
Public transportation is also readily available in many large cities in Thailand. In Bangkok, you can take the BTS Skytrain, the MRT Subway, and River Taxi Boats. There are also buses, but they can be difficult to use if you don’t speak Thai. You can also travel via land taxi, but be sure that your driver uses the meter because overcharging tourists and expats is common. Trains are a good option when traveling between cities.
Is it easy for Americans and Canadians to find a job in Thailand?
Unemployment is very low in Thailand. During the first quarter of 2022, the unemployment rate was only 1.53%. Workers are in demand in many industries, so it is relatively easy to find businesses looking to hire immigrants. Expats can improve their chances of finding employment by learning to speak Thai.
What are some things to do in Thailand? Exploring your new home
Thailand’s size and location bordering two seas give it about 2,000 mi. (3,219 km.) of coastline, and the country is well known for its beaches. Some of the most popular ones include:
- Bang Tao Beach in Phuket
- Freedom Beach in Patong
- Lamai Beach in Ko Samui
- PhraNang Cave Beach in Ao Nang
- White Sand Beach in Khao Lak
- Koh Nang Yuan in Koh Tao
- Bottle Beach in Ko Pha-Ngan
Other popular tourist attractions in the country include:
- Wat Phra Chetuphon in Bangkok
- Elephant Rescue Park in Chiang Mai
- The Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya
- Wat Chedi Luang Varavihara temple in Chiang Mai
- Secret Buddha Garden in Ko Samui
- Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi Town
- Cicada Market in Nong Kae
Thai culture: what to know
Before moving to Thailand, become familiar with some of the country’s cultural customs and traditions. Not all of these traditions are practiced equally by every Thai citizen, and when in doubt, consult a Thai friend or colleague for more information.
- Holidays: Some key public holidays in Thailand include:
- the New Year’s celebration of Songkran
- Children’s Day (second Saturday of January)
- Lunar New Year, Chakri Day (April 6)
- Coronation Day (May 4)
- Chulalongkorn Day (October 23)
- Constitution Day (December 10)
- the Buddhist holidays of Makha Bucha, Visakha Bucha, Asanha Bucha, and Khao Phansa
- Wai: The wai is a customary greeting and sign of respect done by placing your hands in a prayer position at your chest and bowing your head gently. Normally, people of lower socioeconomic status or authority give the wai first. The other person does not have to reciprocate.
- Hands and heads: In Thailand, it is generally considered rude to touch someone’s hands or head or to pass something over someone’s head.
- Feet: Generally, showing the soles of your feet to someone is rude, as is having your feet higher than someone’s head or pointing your feet in their direction. You should also take your shoes off before you go indoors in most places.
- Calmness: It is considered bad manners to lose your cool in public in Thailand. Even during tense situations or conflicts, people are expected to nod, smile, and be patient.
- National anthem: At 8am and 6pm, most work and activities stop for the singing of the National Anthem.
- Respect for royalty: In Thailand, speaking disrespectfully about the Thai royal family or desecrating their images is a criminal offense. Because pictures of the royal family appear on money, you should handle bills carefully.
- Colors: Avoid wearing yellow on Mondays during the month of July as doing so is disrespectful to the royal family. You may also notice that Thai people wear certain colors on certain days due to Buddhist associations between gods and different shades. As a foreigner, you’re normally not expected to follow this custom outside of avoiding yellow.
- Behavior in temples: If you’re visiting a wat, men should wear collared shirts and long pants, and women should wear long skirts and cover their arms. Talk quietly, avoid pointing at anything, and don’t use your phone for calls or texts. Also, never point your feet at an image of Buddha when sitting.
- Food: When eating, it is bad manners to mix your food together, and you should always eat fruit at the end of the meal.
- Manual flushing: Outside of major cities, you’re likely to encounter squat toilets and manual flush toilets. To use one, you need to retrieve water from a nearby basin and pour it in. Instead of toilet paper, you’ll usually see hose-like rinsing devices called bum guns for rinsing.
What are the best places to live in Thailand?
The best places to live in Thailand depend on your age, income, marital status, whether you have kids, and what your lifestyle and preferences are.
Hua Hin is one of the most popular locations for retirees. It offers picturesque views, and, being a hotspot for expats, it has many modern living options and amenities like stores, restaurants, and service businesses.
For those who prefer to be in a bigger city, Phuket is a great option for retirees. The area is home to many beaches and has a large English-speaking population of expats. Although the cost of living is higher, there are many cultural and recreational activities and good private hospitals in the area.
Chiang Mai is a popular destination for American and Canadian families. Temperatures tend to be cooler in the area, and there are many cultural and educational sites to visit. In addition, there are some international schools and private hospitals.
Bangkok can also be an appealing place for families with the most international schools and opportunities for employment. There are many kid-friendly activities to enjoy and an abundance of restaurants and service businesses. Ekkamai is a good middle-class neighborhood for expats, while Thong Lo offers more luxurious accommodations for affluent families.
For young singles
Pattaya is a popular choice for young singles from the U.S and Canada. The beach town isn’t far from jobs in Bangkok, and the area has a booming nightlife scene. There are also many shopping malls in the area.
The capital city also offers tons to do after the sun sets. On Nut is a popular neighborhood for younger expats due to a lower cost of living and easy access to the city center. Young adults who are remote workers can even find co-working offices for rent at low rates here.
How to find a place to live in Thailand
Some people choose to rent an AirBnB long-term when they first arrive in Thailand, so they have a place to stay while looking for a more permanent home.
If you prefer to move directly to a new house or apartment, consider working with a real estate agent in Thailand. You can also search for properties on sites like Realtor.com International. Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, and other expatriate forums can be a rich source of information for finding housing.
How to set up a bank account in Thailand
For your employer or relatives to send you money in Thailand or to make purchases in the country, you’ll need to have a Thai bank account. While you can get cash from an ATM with your home country debit card, you’ll need the convenience of local banking for your permanent residency. The Thai Baht is the national currency of Thailand. You’ll need to transfer U.S. dollars into bahts to purchase items in the country.
The Corporate Finance Institute lists the following financial institutions as among the best in Thailand:
Remitly is a trusted app for transferring money between accounts in your home country and your Thai bank. With international money transfers, your U.S. dollars will automatically turn into bahts that you can use electronically or withdraw from an ATM.
(2022, August 8). The World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/thailand/#people-and-society
Thailand Migration Profiles. Unicef. https://esa.un.org/miggmgprofiles/indicators/files/Thailand.pdf
Mui, Christine. (2022, July 14). These are the 10 best countries for expats, according to a new survey. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2022/07/14/best-countries-for-expats-remote-work/