The concept of the digital nomad visa Thailand has been hitting the news lately. That is because the Kingdom of Thailand is in the process of providing a special digital nomad visa for those who wish to work remotely from there.
While there are plenty of digital nomads who currently work out of Thailand, it is worth noting that one is, strictly speaking, only allowed to work and earn a living in Thailand if they have a work permit (more on this later!)
That being said, certain things need to be considered if you plan to work remotely in Thailand.
Read on as we discover:
- Some of the reasons to be a digital nomad in Thailand
- The various types of visas available for travelers to Thailand
- Whether you require a Thailand visa in the first place
- The potential emergence of the Thailand digital nomad visa
- How to apply for a digital nomad visa for travel to Thailand
- The cost of living in Thailand as a digital nomad
- The best cities to be in as a digital nomad in Thailand
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Types Of Thailand Visas
Thailand offers a range of different types of visas, depending on your intended duration of stay and purpose of entering the country. The different visas offered are:
- Business Visa
- Retirement Visa
- Education Visa
- Tourist Visa
- Smart Visa
- Transit Visa
- Thai Elite Visa
- Non-Immigrant F Visa
- Diplomatic Visa
That being said, it does appear to be that (at the time of writing in April 2021) the most appropriate visa to apply for if you want to be a digital nomad in Thailand is the special Tourist Visa.
As mentioned above, one can only legally work in Thailand with a visa and work permit. Working in the country as a digital nomad on a tourist visa may not be entirely legal. More on this later!
It is also worth noting at this point that most of the information on the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs website is in the Thai language.
As such, you may need to check with your local embassy or consulate for the details on the other types of visas, however the visa requirements rarely change in Thailand.
Generally speaking, however, there are 2 types of Tourist Visas that you can consider if you are planning to work remotely from Thailand:
1. Tourist Visa (TR Visa)
This is a single entry visa that allows you to stay in Thailand for up to 60 days and costs USD38.
2. Long Stay Visa
This is a multiple entry visa or long term visa that allows you to stay in Thailand for a minimum of 90 days and costs about USD188. This can be extended twice for a further 90 days each.
The Thailand Tourist Visa (TR Visa)
All visitors from foreign nations must obtain a Thai tourist visa, should they wish to get to Thailand. It is a single-entry visa that permits you to remain for in Thailand for a maximum of 60 days.
Depending on where you are from, the Thailand tourist Visa has to be applied for at a thai government consulate in your country or the royal Thai embassy.
Documents required to apply for thai visas:
- Passport or travel document that is valid for at least six months
- Visa application form filled out
- One recent 4×6 cm photograph
- Proof of travel from Thailand via a fully paid air ticket or e-ticket
- Evidence of financial means (20,000 baht per person/40,000 baht per family)
- Evidence of accommodation(s)
Those who desire to remain longer or alter their visa type must apply for authorization at the embassy at the Office of Immigration Bureau located in Government Center B, Chaengwattana Soi 7, Laksi, Bangkok 10210.
The Thailand Digital Nomad Visa
Smart Visa is a new form of visa created to attract highly qualified labor, investors, digital nomads, skilled executives, and startup entrepreneurs who want to work or invest in the Kingdom of Thailand’s selected industries.
Thailand has made a number of initiatives to drive the economy forward through innovation.
The Thai administration has adopted further steps in attracting people and technology in order to further grow its chosen industries, known as S-Curve industries, bringing in more workforce to a thai company.
Smart Visa holders will be permitted a stay up to four years, will be free from the need for a work visa, and will be eligible for other benefits.
The targeted industries are:
- Next-Generation Automotive
- Affluent, Medical, and Wellness Tourism
- Agriculture and Biotechnology
- Aviation and Logistics
- Biofuels and Biochemicals
- Medical Hub
- Smart Electronics
- Food for the Future
- Automation and Robotics
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Human Resource Development in Science and Technology
- Environmental Management and Renewable Energy
By way of background, currently, the Smart Visa (which was initially launched in February 2018) is offered to:
- Those with specific talents such as expertise in science and technology
- Executives with, among other things, 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree or above
However, it must be noted that if you want to apply for the Thailand Smart Visa digital nomad version, you will need to show that you have a contract of employment as a form of thai work permit with a foreign firm that lasts for at least 6 months from the point of application.
At the time of writing, the Thailand Smart Visa costs about USD375 but note that it may change upon official approval of the visa for use by digital nomads.
Types Of Smart Visa
Smart Visa applicants will be assigned to any one of these Smart Visa categories, based on the reason or activity they desire to engage in Thailand.
In the targeted businesses, highly qualified professionals who are:
- Experts in science and technology
- Have a monthly salary of 100,000 baht or more
- Have an employment contract with a one-year expiration date
- Working in the companies in the targeted industry
This type of visa is catered to investors in the targeted sectors’ technology-based businesses. The requirements are as below:
- A direct investment of at least 20 million baht is required.
- Applicants must be in the targeted sectors and invest in enterprises that use technology in producing or delivering services.
This visa is similar to a business visa and it is for senior leaders in the targeted sectors’ technology-based enterprises. The requirements are as below:
- Available to holders with bachelor’s degrees or above with at least ten years of work experience
- 200,000 baht per month salary
- Employment contract with a one-year expiration date
- Executives at the highest echelons
- Being in the targeted sectors and working with organizations that use technology in producing or delivering services
This visa is for entrepreneurs and remote workers in the targeted industries who are based on technology. The requirements for this visa are as below:
- A deposit of 600,000 baht that has been retained for at least three months is required.
- Health-care coverage
- Participating in an endorsed incubator, accelerator, or similar program, or forming a joint venture with or receiving an endorsement from a relevant government agency.
- Within one year, you must either establish a firm in one of the selected industries in Thailand with at least 25% ownership or become a board member.
This visa is for the legal dependents of the primary Smart Visa holders, such as their spouses and children, who are allowed to live and work in Thailand in the same way as Smart Visa holders.
How To Apply For Digital Nomad Visa Thailand?
While the intricacies of the Smart Visa for digital nomads are being sorted out, as mentioned above, one of the ways you can enter Thailand to be a digital nomad at the moment is by way of a Tourist Visa.
It must be noted that the requirements and documentation to be attached to your application will depend on your nationality.
Here is a great platform that you can access that will help you to determine what is required based on your home country. Once you choose the country you are from, you will be directed to the specific embassy that will guide you accordingly.
Broadly speaking, the general requirements are:
- A valid passport with at least 6 months left
- Confirmed return air ticket that is fully paid
- A passport-sized photograph of yourself
- Evidence of adequate finances. This should be at least USD 641.20 (20,000 Thai Baht) but may be subject to change.
Again, it must be noted that all information here is correct at the time of writing but it is best for you to use the platform mentioned above to determine what exactly needs to be submitted to your local Thai embassy to obtain your Thai visa.
What Is A Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is a person who travels while they work.
The main tool of a digital nomad is the internet, with a good laptop coming in as a close second. They may use other tech gear but these are the lifelines of a digital nomad.
A digital nomad can either be a remote worker for an employer or a freelancer.
Either way, a digital nomad has the freedom to travel and explore new places while they earn a living.
Why Become A Digital Nomad In Thailand?
you should become a digital nomad in Thailand because Thailand has a booming tourism industry and is one of the most incredibly popular destinations for digital nomads. Some of the reasons for this include:
- The stunning beaches with breathtaking landscapes
- Extremely affordable cost of living
- It is easy to get around all over Thailand
- The people of Thailand are incredibly hospitable and helpful
- The slow pace of certain parts of the country can be attractive to some digital nomads
- The internet is fast and easily accessible no matter where in the country you are
- Thai food is amazing!
While these are just some of the reasons to be a digital nomad in Thailand, it is most certainly easy to see why it is such an attractive place to be.
Best Digital Nomad Cities in Thailand
Thailand is undoubtedly a place of many wonders and much beauty.
However, some cities in Thailand have captured the hearts of digital nomads from all over the world.
Some reasons for this include the convenience of their location, as well as the availability of coworking and coliving spaces, enabling you to work online, anywhere, at any time!
Some of the best cities in Thailand include:
1. Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is located in the northern part of Thailand.
If you are the kind of digital nomad who prefers to be surrounded by lush greenery with access to plenty of outdoor activities, then this is the perfect digital nomad destination in Thailand for you.
This is also a popular destination for digital nomads to meet up and have digital nomad courses and digital nomad conferences as well.
Coliving offers a great deal for the digital nomads community offering like-minded people to share experiences while living and working in shared spaces.
Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand. It is a bustling place that is constantly full of life.
In addition to the city life, you will also get to experience the city’s rich history and heritage in the form of Royal palaces and multiple temples.
More importantly, as a digital nomad, what you will most certainly find useful is the range of coworking spaces within the city. These include international coworking brands such as:
Okay, Krabi is not technically a city. However, if you are a digital nomad beach bum, then there can be no better place to be a digital nomad.
As a digital nomad in Krabi, you are most likely going to be working by aquamarine blue oceans on soft sandy beaches.
On your breaks, you will be able to indulge in some island hopping, scuba diving, and jungle trekking.
Krabi is also home to the Krabi Tiger Cave which is near the Krabi Town center. It consists of natural limestone caves and you can discover the Buddha’s footprint after a 1237-step climb with stunning 360 views!
Phuket is very often hailed as one of the best destinations for digital nomads. Generally, digital nomads prefer to be in Krabi as opposed to being a digital nomad in Phuket because it is a more quiet beach, with fewer tourists, however, if you crave the bustling life and the busy surroundings, Phuket is your choice!
If you are a digital nomad who likes to soak up as much knowledge as you can about foreign cultures, you will find Phuket to be a dream. The island has a considerable Buddhist influence, and you will find temples and relics almost at every corner.
It is relatively easy to gain access to a boat from Phuket and go on an island-hopping trip and before you know it, you will have your hands full with a variety of activities!
Even though these spots may get quite busy in the summer, if you time your visit and head over to Phuket during the off-season, you could just get these spots to yourself.
Some of the best coworking spaces for you to check out are:
As for accommodations, here are some places to go:
Do You Need A Visa To Be A Digital Nomad in Thailand?
As of 31st December 2016, some nationalities are exempt from having to apply for a visa if they plan to be in the country for up to 30 days only.
These countries are:
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Demark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America.
Are Digital Nomads Legal In Thailand?
Yes, there are digital nomads in Thailand, because currently, most digital nomads use tourism visas, serving in a legal manner to ensure you are working as a digital nomad.
Is It Legal To Work Remotely In Thailand?
yes, it is legal to work remotely in Thailand.
With all this talk about being a digital nomad in Thailand, this is probably the most important question to address.
Technically, you are strictly not allowed to work on a tourist visa. You can only work in Thailand if you possess a work permit and pay taxes accordingly.
However, it cannot be denied that plenty of people from all around the world come to Thailand and work remotely as digital nomads in Thailand. The law is an undeniably grey area when it comes to situations like this.
What may be helpful is this: work is defined as using energy, knowledge, or effort to produce something.
It is also thought that the Work Permit Office in Thailand is primarily concerned with situations where the interests of local Thais are affected and if you are doing work that in turn denies them work opportunities.
As such, it is possible to interpret remote working in this context as falling outside of these two scenarios.
That being said, with the emergence of the Thailand digital nomad Smart Visa, these grey areas may get cleared up to allow for digital nomads to legally work remotely in Thailand.
Cost Of Living In Thailand
As we discussed above, the cost of living in Thailand is considered to be relatively cheap when compared to other countries in the region.
For example, the estimated monthly cost for a single person in Thailand is about USD582.53 without rent.
If you were looking to rent an apartment in Thailand, it is worth it to note that prices in the city are almost double those outside the city center.
For example, a 1-bedroom apartment in the city center can cost you about USD430 in monthly rent whereas, outside the city center, you will only need to pay about USD260 for the same thing.
If you wanted to have a meal outside at an inexpensive restaurant, it might set you back about USD2. Yes, you read that right! The glorious food in Thailand is also considered to be gloriously cheap!
For a more detailed breakdown of the cost of living in Thailand, check out Numbeo, the world’s largest cost of the living database.
Do Digital Nomads Pay Taxes In Thailand?
You will not need to pay tax if you stay in Thailand for less than 6 months or if you work for businesses outside of Thailand.
In Thailand, potential taxpayers are divided into two categories by the Revenue Department:
- Residents – Anyone who stays in Thailand for more than 180 days
- Non-Residents – Anyone who stays in Thailand for less than 180 days
Non-residents must pay tax on income derived from Thai sources, according to the legislation. Residents, on the other hand, are required by law to pay tax on income generated in Thailand as well as the part of money brought into Thailand from overseas sources.
In light of the foregoing, a digital nomad who is still employed by an employer from their nation of origin and spends less than 180 days in Thailand is exempt from paying taxes. In addition, if a digital nomad gets a SMART visa in Thailand, he or she must file and pay taxes in Thailand.
Unique Tips For Digital Nomads in Thailand
1. Tourist Attraction
Thailand has many temples that also serve as tourist attractions. When you are visiting any of these temples, do make sure that your knees are covered. Otherwise, you may be denied entry. To be safe, avoid sleeveless tops or carry a shawl with you to cover your shoulders while you are in the temple.
2. Learn The Language
Learn a few Thai phrases such as ‘hello’ or ‘thank you’. Thai people are already extremely friendly but speaking to them in their own language is bound to give you bonus points! You can use an app like Duolingo to quickly learn some common Thai phrases!
3. Be Aware Of Certain Restrictions
Did you know that there are restrictions on taking images of Buddha out of the country? Buddhism is the religion of almost 95% of the people in Thailand. As such, all images of Buddha are considered sacred.
If you want to take images of Buddha out of the country, you require special permission to do so. The purpose of the permission is to ensure that you are not taking a cultural artifact out of the country
Of course, you will see images of Buddha being sold in the form of prints, paintings, and other artistic items. However, they may not tell you about these regulations.
Which Countries Have Digital Nomad Visas?
While they may not be explicitly referred to as such, the following countries have visas that are akin to digital nomad visas. These include:
If you are interested in exploring the digital nomad lifestyle and are a little bit worried about the uncertainty of the Thailand digital nomad visa status, then there may be other countries that you can explore that have visas that are catered specifically for digital nomads.
As you can see, the specific digital nomad visa in Thailand is in a bit of a state of limbo at the moment. But fret not, you can still make your way there using a tourist visa. You just may not be able to stay in the country for as long as you want.
Prior to the global pandemic, it was easier to exit the country, travel to nearby places, and enter the country again (a concept known as visa runs!) to restart the duration of the tourist visa.
However, to do so in these times just may not be practical or more importantly, affordable.
As such, if you do have your heart set on going to Thailand and working as a digital nomad, your best bet is to wait for the approval of the digital nomad Smart Visa.