If I Had Known Then….The Inconvenience of the Student Visa in Thailand

When I first moved to Thailand, I was worried about the inconvenience of having to leave the country every 90 days for a “visa run”. A visa run is a trip taken outside of Thailand in order to be granted reentry in to the country for another 60 to 90 days. Some people choose to do a quick, same-day land border crossing via bus, motorbike or train. Others choose to fly somewhere, using the mandatory trip as a chance to explore a new country for a while before returning with their new Thai visa.

I wanted to avoid the hassle of having to enter and exit the country every 3 months, so I applied for a student visa.  I signed up for a one-year Thai language course, which would grant me a one-year visa, and I would only have to visit immigration every 90 days for a check-in, in lieu of leaving the country. It sounded like a good idea at the time. I should have known it was too good to be true.

It was only when I was planning my first trip outside of Thailand that I realized I had made a mistake. It seems as though the ONLY thing convenient about the student visa is not having to go on visa runs. Everything else about it is rather time consuming and stressful. In addition to the 90-day check ins, I have to do a separate 90-day reporting, which means yup, another trip to immigration. I have no clue as to why they aren’t on the same day. Whenever I leave the country, I have to take a trip to immigration for a re-entry stamp.  Then when I re-enter the country, I have 24 hours to report BACK to immigration and confirm my residency status.

Every time I travel outside of Thailand, or any travel at all actually, I run the risk of jeopardizing my student visa by missing too many classes. My visa could possibly be denied and I wouldn’t be eligible for my extension during my 90-day check in. I give advanced notice to my school when missing classes so I can travel from time to time, but it ultimately only matters what they report to immigration about my attendance at the check in. Overall, I definitely feel like my student visa has been a waste of time and money. I never thought I’d be traveling as much as I have been since relocating to Thailand.  I wished I’d done more research about the pros and cons of having a student visa, and the extra steps required to travel. I would have definitely preferred doing border runs instead. I’d have more freedom to travel and less visits to immigration.

Unless you plan on spending the majority of your time in the city where you registered for your classes for the duration of your student visa, I would caution against it. I’d recommend that you go on a visa run every 90 days. I would much rather have the freedom to go where I want and for as long as I want, without the added cost and inconvenience of a student visa.