The Visa Exemption is the most commonly used method for entering Thailand. On landing at an Airport, you are are stamped permission to stay for 30 days. This covers most people on their holidays. The stamp can be extended at a local Immigration Office (in country) for 1,900 Baht for a further 30 days, after which you then have to leave the country.
If you are coming and going from Thailand into neighbouring countries, you can re-enter using another Visa Exemption stamp, with either 30 days or 15 days granted depending on nationality. That is provided you are out of the country for a few days. You are no longer able to exit and immediately re-enter (visa run) with visa exemptions. Similarly, even if you stay out for a few days, you will be turned away at the border if your Visa Exemptions are obviously going back to back. Always carry your onward plane ticket printed out (not digital) in case requested.
Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV)
If you wish to stay longer than the 30 day Visa Exemption without leaving the country or going to pay for an extension, the easiest option is to buy a Single Entry Tourist Visa from any Thai Consulate or Embassy, with fees as per their websites. The length of stay is 60 days from day of arrival (the single entry of the visa). It may be extended at the local Immigration Office (in country) for a further 30 days for 1,900 Baht, as long as this is done before the 60 days has expired, with the date stamped in your passport, next to the stapled-in white departure card, the last day possible. This will mean you have 90 days in total before you need to leave the country.
The Single Entry Tourist Visa itself shows a validity of 3 months, but this has nothing to do with length of stay, simply stipulating that you must enter the country (i.e. use it) before the expiry date shown (which will be 90 days from when the visa was issued).
After the 60 days (or 90 if you buy that extension), having left the country, you can then re-enter again with either a new Single Entry Tourist Visa bought at a Consulate in one of the countries bordering Thailand and start the 60 days (or 90 if you buy that extension) process once more. Or you can re-enter on a Visa Exemption stamp, granting you 30 days (airport) or 30 or 15 days (land, according to your nationality). How many times you can buy back to back SETV’s and which country has the most amenable Embassy or Consulate for issuing said back-to-back Single Entry Tourist Visas is discussed and updated on many websites.
Single Entry Tourist Visa (SETV) – The loss of days
What is misunderstood with a Single Entry Tourist Visa is the Single Entry. Simply put, you use this up when you first enter, so whilst you can stay for 60 days and then extend in country for 30, if you step over the border, the visa is immediately finished/cancelled. This is regardless of whether you have used up its full quota of days.
As an example, were you to leave the country after 20 days to pop into Cambodia to see the temples and then come back to Thailand by air or land, you will be given a 30 days (airport) or 30/15 days (land, according to your nationality) visa exemption stamp. You do not pick up the 60 day Single Entry Tourist Visa from where you left off, so the 40 days remaining are lost. If buying a Single Entry Tourist Visa but also wanting to travel a little outside of Thailand, therefore, use up your days before you go.
Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV)
Laem Ngop Immigration for Thailand Visa from Koh Chang
Multiple Entry Visas are issued only in your country of origin.
There are strict criteria which must be met for the visa to be granted. Though varying from country to country, these involve bank statements showing at least $6,000 for at least 3 months, letters of employment or if self employed, assessments forms and registration documents, plane tickets in and out and hotel reservations.
The visa is valid for 6 months from date of issue, with 60 days granted per trip. After that, you must leave the country and on re-entry will be granted another 60 days. There is no word yet on whether each 60 days can be extended in-country by 30 days for 1,900 Baht at a local Immigration Office, as is possible with the Single Entry Visa (SETV).
Similarly, it is too early to say if you can hop out at land border after the 60 days (or 90 days if extensions are allowed), stamp into the neighbouring country, turn straight around back into Thailand and re-activate the next 60 days. It may be that you have to stay out for a few days
The Multiple Entry Visa itself shows a validity of 6 months, but this has nothing to do with length of stay, simply stipulating that you must enter the country (i.e. use it) before the expiry date shown (which will be 180 days from when the visa was issued). Only time will tell if it is permitted, but there is nothing to stop you leaving on the days just before expiry and coming back in to re-activate another 60 days. This means though the visa is finished, you are still permitted to stay until those 60 days are up and so in effect, it will give you 8 months in the country.
Be aware of the penalties for overstaying in the Kingdom of Thailand