In addition to border runs and visa runs in neighboring countries, staying for an extended period of time in Thailand involves regular visits to the local immigration office. Good news, though: compared to applying for a tourist visa in Laos, extending your Thai visa in Chiang Mai is a cakewalk.
Here’s all you need to know to get your own visa extension. This blog post details how it takes place in Chiang Mai, and although the process is likely to be more or less uniform across all immigration offices, be sure to check if your local office has specific requirements.
Thai Visa Extensions Explained
Tourist visas can be extended simply by visiting your local immigration office anywhere in Thailand, filling out a form, and paying a fee. Extending your visa should be done before your visa expires; you can get your visa extended on the last day without any problem.
Thai tourist visas and visa exemptions (what people wrongly call “visas on arrival”) can be extended by 30 days at the Chiang Mai immigration office. Visa exemptions used to be only extensible for 7 days, but this changed in August 2014.
At the time of writing, extending your visa costs 1900 Baht. Overstaying your visa costs 500B per day, which might make it a more compelling financial decision than extending for less than four days; however, it’s my understanding that overstaying your visa can compromise future visa applications.
A Note on Attitude
As with all official matters in Thailand, you’re better off dressing in an appropriate manner and behaving yourself while at the immigration office. Showing up in dirty shorts and a Beer Chang t-shirt might complicate matters in ways that are hard to quantify. Not to say that dressing poorly will lead to a denial, but if things get complicated, the way you dress will change the way the officials perceive you.
Likewise, getting angry or impatient with Thai officials will never get you anywhere. Stay polite, smile, and relax; if you stay cool, things have a way of resolving themselves. Just stay patient and polite, and state your point clearly and in a respectful manner.
Mind you, the Chiang Mai immigration office is the nicest bunch of officials I’ve seen in Thailand. They’re generally helpful and patient, and speak good enough English to sort you out.
Step 1: Preparation
You’ll need a few things before heading out to the immigration office. Some of these, like the form, you can do once you’re there, but it’ll save you some hassle if you come prepared.
The immigration office is open 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday, except on national holidays. Make sure to check the calendar of official Thai holidays before heading out. If you want to beat the crowds, you’ll want to get there by 8:00 am at the latest. Arriving at 8:15 am will guarantee you at least two hours of waiting, so either go really early or just take your time. Last time I was at the Immigration office, I arrived at 11:00 am and was out by noon. Obviously, this depends on a lot of factors including time of year, proximity to holidays, and political climate. You’re a lot more likely to have to wait during high season.
Do note also that the staff at the Immigration office breaks for lunch between 12:00 an 1:00. If you arrive just before lunchtime, you may be looking at an extra hour wait.
Do note that getting a queue number doesn’t guarantee that your application will be processed on the same day! If there are too many applicants, you’ll have to return the next business day with the same queue number. If your application is time sensitive, you should make sure to arrive as early as possible.
Just to be on the safe side, plan to spend three hours there, depending on time of year. It’s a fairly comfortable wait, so don’t sweat it if you can’t get up early; but do get there a few hours before they close, or you’ll be forced to come back the next day!
What you should have before heading out:
– Departure card
– Passport-sized picture
– Thai visa extension request form (TM. 7)
– Photocopies (see below)
– Complete address of residence
You can get these done in any photo shop in Chiang Mai. There are many in the Old City, since a lot of tourists require them. It’s also possible to get your photo taken at a photo booth right next to the Immigration office, but these are more expensive than elsewhere in town and you might lose your spot in the queue. My suggestion is to get a bunch of them, as these always come handy when you travel around Southeast Asia.
You’ll need a picture that’s exactly 4 cm x 6 cm (1.6″ x 2.4″). Make sure to ask at the photo shop. Just keep the extras, because you’ll need them sooner than later. Smaller pictures might get rejected by Thai immigration.
Note that the dress code matters for the picture as well. Improper clothes, especially for women, might make things complicated for you. No need to dress in a tuxedo, but avoid stuff like tank tops or exposed shoulders for women.
Thai visa extension request form
You can download the form online. Enter the required information, print it, and stick your picture on the second page. I recommend doing this ahead of time because sometimes the process can go really quick; you might not have time to fill a form before your number is called.
You’ll need the following photocopies for your visa extension. Make sure every number and date is clearly legible, as you may be asked to do it again otherwise. I’m not sure you need the visa page, but it doesn’t hurt to include it. The immigration officer will ask you to sign all the copies.
– First page (picture page) of your passport
– Current Thai visa stamp
– Current Thai visa page (if you have that)
– Departure card
Complete address of residence
For some reason, the immigration office requires you to have your complete address of residence, including tambon, amphoe (district), province, and postal code. Make sure you have all these in hand when you fill out the form. If you’re in Chiang Mai, they’ll probably be able to help you figure it out at the immigration office.
Step 2: Getting to the Visa Extension Office
Getting to the visa extension office is pretty easy. If you’re anywhere near the Old City, just flag a songthaew and ask for “Promenada.” Be aware that drivers often try to overcharge foreigners going to the Immigration office, so don’t hesitate to bargain or walk away to find another songthaew. Expect to pay somewhere around 100-200B. Tuk-tuks are unlikely to charge any less.
Another option is the free shuttle bus that goes to Promenada. You can find more info on the Promenada website. You’ll probably need to go inside the hotel where you want to get on board and ask the front desk.
The immigration office itself is on the ground level of building A, which is connected to the parking garage. Make sure to go in the immigration office that’s attached to the Promenada, and not the one across the street.
Step 3: Getting Your Visa Extension
Once you get to the visa extension office, head inside right away and go to the counter. Tell them you’re here to extend your visa, and they will give you a queue number. Time to wait.
When the officers finally call your number, walk up to the counter and turn in your documentation, along with your 1900B fee. They’ll give you change if you don’t have any, so don’t worry. An immigration officer will check all your documentation, and because you followed my instructions, he’ll begrudgingly admit you got it all right. Go back and sit down.
This part of the wait is mercifully very quick. 10-15 minutes later, you’ll be called to the front again, and you’ll get your passport, your change, and a receipt. (Check that you have your change, as some report that they had to ask for it.)
Your Thai visa stamp should now have an extra stamp next to it stating that you can stay in the country longer. Note that when extending a visa exemption, sometimes they might stamp your passport saying your extension request has been denied. Not sure what’s the deal with this, but as long as your new exit date is good, you’re good to go. Good job!
To head back into town, go inside Promenada and ask at the information desk for a ticket for the free shuttle. Make sure you go on the right bus, as there are two different routes. Also, be aware that the bus leaves strictly on time. The shuttle leaves from the entrance to Building A, near “Wine Connection.” For more details including schedule, check the Promenada website.
Any questions? Any other tips or updates to this visa application guide? Please share in the comments below!
Chiang Mai immigration office image source: Chiang Mai Locator
2014-09-15: Thanks to John Wallen, as well as David Rose of Roses on the Road for up-to-date details about the extension process.
2015-08-10: Thanks to Karen Kimble for info on the new visa extension office location.
2015-12-22: Thanks to Zaengi for details about the free shuttle to Promenada.