After months of speculation about what form it would finally take, the Thailand Special Tourist Visa (STV) has finally been unveiled. This—that foreigners who are willing to jump through a few hoops will be able to visit Thailand again, potentially as soon as October 2020—is the good news.
The bad news? The hoops are fire-filled ones, and there are more than a few upon further inspection. (Also, controversially not unsurprisingly, the inaugural “tourists” to use this scheme have flown in from—wait for it—China! Inviting back the guy who burned down your house for a cup of tea after you finish rebuilding. Shameful!)
Back on top, I’ve done a lot more digging than most other bloggers and journalists, and have summarized my findings below. This way, you can be fully informed about the reality of the situation before you waste your time inquiring!
Process of Applying for the Thailand Special Tourist Visa (STV)
As soon as I learned about the existence of the Thailand long stay tourist visa, I emailed the agency that will be handling applications, conveniently named The Thailand Longstay Company. Here is what they told me:
- First, you must email the company with a photo of your passport and your current location. A representative from the company will send your passport photo to your nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate.
- Then, after the Thai Immigration Bureau conditionally approves you, you will need to pay the application fee (a hefty 10,000 Baht) to the company, who will then send you the official application (for which you must pay an additional 2,000 THB), and help you arrange your compulsory quarantine, chartered flights and medical insurance.
- Next, once your local Thai mission approves your application, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will issue a COE, which you can pick up in person a few days before this travel. Simultaneously, you will need to visit a doctor and obtain a “Fit to Fly” medical certificate, the focal point of which is a negative Covid-19 PCR test administered no more than 72 hours before departure.
Assuming you test negative again upon arriving in Thailand, you will pass through immigration and be transferred to your quarantine accommodation, where you’ll be kept under lock and key for 15 days. Past this point, you can freely travel in Thailand for the duration of your visa.
FAQ About the Thailand Special Tourist Visa (STV)
Are people from all countries eligible to apply for the Thailand STV?
As of early October 2020, this remains to be seen. While various Thai government officials have suggested a limited range of eligible countries to the media, the built-in appeal of this scheme (which is, itself, rather limited) would seem to lend itself to broadening the potential pool of applicants, not narrowing it. However, flights into Thailand remain extremely limited—they’re essentially only available on a charter basis—so in practice it seems that relatively few people will be able to avail this.
How much does the Thailand long-stay visa cost?
The Thailand Special Tourist Visa (STV) itself costs just 2,000 THB—for the first 90 days, at least—which is in line with the price of a normal Thailand visa. However, The Thailand Longstay Company charges a hefty ฿10,000 fee to kick off the process.
How will quarantine for the Thailand long-stay tourist visa work?
The Thailand Longstay Company will arrange your quarantine, which must be with one of the licensed provides of Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) and will last 15 days. You are strictly forbidden from leaving your accommodation during this period. It is unknown whether you will need to test negative before leaving quarantine, or whether staying in confinement for 15 days will be sufficient.
Is the Thailand long-stay visa definitely going to happen?
The Thailand Special Tourist Visa has been featured in a video on the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s official YouTube page, so it seems to be a done deal at this point. This is Thailand, however, which means that things could (and probably will) change between now and the entry of the first STV holders into the Kingdom.
How can I apply for the Thailand long-stay visa?
Email The Thailand Longstay Company to get started. Make sure to attach an image of your passport, and to include your current location and the Thai Embassy or Consulate nearest to you.
Other Options for Visiting Thailand in 2020
As you’ll know if you’ve read my post about the future of tourism in Thailand, officially had previously weighed other options for allowing the return of tourists, notably “Travel Bubble” arrangements and the now-doomed “Phuket model.” Although other schemes may emerge between now and the general re-opening of the borders (whenever that occurs), I would count on the STV being the only proverbial game in town for at least the rest of 2020.
On the other hand, there are some cases in which you might not need to avail a Thailand long stay visa. If you are a medical tourist, for example, a separate process exists. Furthermore, holders of work visas and student visas (for university students—Thai language school students are still now allowed) can enter Thailand, and have been able to do so since July 2020.
The Bottom Line
The Thailand Special Tourist Visa (STV) isn’t for everyone, but it could be right for you. If you’re willing to stay in the Kingdom for a minimum of 90 days and jump through a few—OK, a lot of—hoops, this long-stay tourist visa could be your ticket back into Thailand. Although nothing is for sure in Thailand until you’re walking through the pearly (exist) gates at Suvarnabhumi, this seems to be a mostly safe bet. Let me know below if you decide to avail this arrangement, and if you have any insights you’d like to share with the rest of us after completing the process!