No More Visa Runs to Thailand? The SOLUTION.

Immigration authorities will not let visa runners return after August 12

BANGKOK: -- FOREIGNERS WHO do regular visa runs in order to extend their stay in Thailand have less than a month before a crackdown by the authorities to enforce immigration laws more strictly.

Don't worry, I have a solution.

I've been living in Thailand since 2008 and have never had a single issue with visa runs because I follow the simple formulas that I share with you below. 

What does this mean, and what is the solution?  First, don't stress, there is a solution.  And second, this really does not apply to most people with the exception of those who really are working illegally.

Definition: Visa runners are those who leave Thailand and return immediately for the purpose of extending their stay.

Who is Affected: 

  • English Teachers without Work Permits
  • Scuba Instructors
  • Divemasters
  • Bartenders
  • Tour Guides
  • Anyone working in Thailand without a work permit.

Here's the good news:

If this is your first time to Thailand, don't worry about it, it doesn't affect you. 

If your dream is to become a Dive Instructor or a Divemaster, you are in luck as there will be new positions opening up every 3 months.

If you are coming to Thailand to train Muay Thai, you're fine.

If you are a digital nomad coming to Thailand to work online as an entrepreneur, follow my advice below and you'll also have no issues. 

The Solution to Thai Visas:

1. Get a 6 Month METV from your home country before coming to Thailand.  
2. After 60 days extend your visa at the immigration office, giving you an extra 30 days.
3. At the end of your 90 days in Thailand go on vacation somewhere.  (there are cheap flights)
4. Stay for a minimum of 6 days in another country so it doesn't look like you making a quick border run.
5. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until your 6 months are up. (Here's how I extended it to 9 months)
6. After your visa is up go to a different country and get a single entry tourist visa. (Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Malaysian Borneo are my favorites near by)
7. Come back to Thailand and enjoy another 3 months.  
8. After almost a year f living in Thailand, and taking vacations to see the rest of SE Asia, go back to your home country, visit friends, family and get another 6 month tourist visa, rinse and repeat. 

Education Visa - Not Needed. 

Why the new Visa Crackdown a Good Thing:

This sounds a bit harsh, but it forces people not to get lazy.  It's really easy to live in Thailand for as cheap as possible and stay here for years.  I know, I did it myself for over 5 years on a $600 a month budget. I wrote about it in detail in my book 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap.  

I taught scuba diving, did Muay Thai, and did border runs. It was easy to live as cheaply as possible, making less than $600 a month and still getting by.  A border run in a minivan was often only 500 baht ($16US) and even though it sucked sitting in a minivan for 8 hours it was a cheap option.

Now that you can't do that anymore, you are forced to See the rest of the world.  

You can still visit Thailand for 90 days at a time with a Tourist Visa.  Then all you have to do is visit another country, see friends, go scuba diving somewhere else, have fun for 2 weeks then come back. If you've been working as a divemaster in Koh Tao or Phuket, go have fun in Bali for a few months and come back next season.  If you're a digital nomad go to Berlin, Saigon or Siem Reap for a month and come back.

If you are an English Teacher just work for a company that will give you a proper work visa and not force you to do unnecessary visa runs on your own time.

When it comes down to it, if you can afford to take a flight and enjoy a different part of the world you haven't been to 8 times already because it's the cheapest option from Thailand, you're fine. This crackdown is for people going to Malaysia or Burma back to back.  This crackdown will not affect people that fly back to the U.S. or Europe for the summer to spend their winters back in Thailand.

Honestly I have no idea what is going to happen but neither do any of the people on the Thai Visa forums.  That forum is a great place for trip reports, but most of the replies are just by unhappy grumpy men that don't necessarily know what they are talking about either and have way too much time on their hands to overthink and panic. 

Am I worried?

No. Everything happens for a reason, and there is always an alternative.  I wasted years trying to live as cheaply as possible and never had the motivation to build a real business, or see the rest of the world.  Me being in Thailand doesn't take any jobs away from Thai citizens.  Just like all online workers I make all of my money online and am only helping the Thai economy by bringing money in and spending money here.  Now I know that anyone with a bit of motivation can build a location independent business within 90 days there really is no excuse.  

As long as you have cash, you have choice.  

Read my blog post on how to make money online.

My plan?

I love Thailand and really enjoy spending time in Chiang Mai.  Every 2-3 months I will use the visa run as an excuse to go scuba diving in Komodo, Trekking in Nepal, or to visit friends in S. America or go see Europe. Once a year I'll go home to see friends and family.  If Thailand ever refuses to let me back in the country, I'll consider it fate and book a plane ticket somewhere else. But I'm not worried as I really doubt that will happen.  Most people freaking out about the visa crackdowns have never even been to Thailand yet and are worried about nothing.  

Just come, enjoy it, and figure it out as it happens.  

I know it's not what most people want to hear, but life always works itself out for the best.  Exactly one year ago I didn't have money for freedom, and the $15 minibus border run was all I could afford. Luckily I've gotten off my ass, worked hard and built a location independent business that allows me to buy back my freedom and trade cash for choice. You can as well.  If you haven't already, 

Read my post entitled: How I've been Able to Afford My Life of Travel.  

Want more info on the Thai Visa situation?

P.S. the advice in the video is spot on.  But FYI there are no ATMs before immigration at BKK (Bangkok Airport) only money changers.

Update: Here's my August 16th, 2014 Thai trip report where I followed my own advice and got through without any issues.

Update: Since everyone was confused, the Thai gov was nice enough to hold a conference on August 20th and Chiang Mai City news was nice enough to Summarize the Changes.  

Update: I'm back in Thailand after a quick trip home to the U.S. to get my latest 6 month Multiple Entry Tourist visa with success! 

What if I want to work in Thailand? 

If you are working for a Thai company, you will need a non-immigrant (type B) visa and then a work permit in order to work legally. 

If you are a 'digital nomad' running your own business on the internet, the immigration office says you can do this on a tourist visa. 

Woohoo!  The last line was FANTASTIC NEWS for location independent entrepreneurs!  I would still recommend leaving the country for a week or more to enjoy your vacation as well as "just in case" but it sounds like even that isn't needed anymore if you have a tourist visa. You can just fly in and out on tourist visas as much as you want.

However, if you are flying in and out or using a land crossing (bus/train/minivan) to get the 14 day (now 30 days) visa exemption, you MUST stay out of the country for 14+ days or be flagged with an "In-Out" stamp which will basically ban you from Thailand.

Trip Report: Border Run

People are still trying to make visa runs by bus, stop doing it! You're going to get turned away. Border runs are dead. Here's a trip report from March 14, 2016

thai border run visa trip report

Keep in touch for more updates.

Warm Regards,


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  1. Hey Johnny,
    Its me, that other "Asian-American guy from Hawaii". When I first saw the news, I was kind of shocked for a second then realized this has nothing to do with me since I'm here under a marriage VISA. Great simple ideas you posted for others who are worried about it. Even though I'm no problem about VISA runs, maybe Ill make it an excuse for periodic trips to Laos, Cambodia, and Burma when I start making money from my store instead of only day trips to Laos as what I do now every 90 days.

    1. Hey Jon, that's a great plan. There are so many places to see and visit within a 2 hour flight from Thailand, make a vacation out of it.

  2. Hey, I heard the they are even looking at your visa history and making decisions your past extended stays...

    1. Yes/No/Maybe? I've been in and out of Thailand for 7 years, all extended stays and haven't had any issues.

  3. Hey Johnny,
    Thanks for the advice. I like it!

  4. Anony, thats exactly what happened to me in Malaysia in May and I got kicked out, suddenly without warning upon returning from Thailand. So I went abroad and will return in August with a new passport and try again. Dismal situation indeed. Its been my home for years and I too got lazy. Im taking the opportunity to seriously explore moving by the end of the year. And Johnny, I too work online and bring money in and spend it but the Malaysian govt does NOT count that as an excuse to stay. In fact they laugh.

    1. That sucks that happened to you, but I'm glad you are using it as an opportunity to explore other places in the world to live. Laziness is what kills our passion and drive for everything in life.

  5. I know the blog is about Thailand and i mentioned my new and unhappy experience in Malaysia because it now appears SEA is in cooperation with each other about this. In the end, creative visa ways wont work, you need a workpass, company, marriage, etc, ---real reasons to be in SEA, not simply because you like to stay. The honeymoon is over.

  6. Great post Johnny. Another option often overlooked for some reason is the Education Visa. If you're going to be in Thailand an extended amount of time it's good to learn the language anyway. ED visa is good for a year renewable annually - no border runs ;)

    1. The ED Visa is one under more scrutiny now and in the future, even more so. If you've been coming in and out of Thailand without a visa, have numerous tourist visas, and especially if have trouble showing the do-re-mi, then you may have problems getting a new ED Visa. Also, although the ED Visa requires no border runs, it does require a trip to immigration. This is another opportunity to make a decision on whether or not someone should continue to be allowed to stay in Thailand.

      I think Johnny has the right idea. Concentrate on what's going to keep you here if you want to stay here and less on how things should be or why, why, why can't I stay. What's important is focusing on the solution.

      One more thing...on the tourist visas: come in prepared, show a wad of cash, preferably at least 20K baht, an onward ticket, proof of accommodation, and if possible, a loose itinerary. If you are overprepared and bombard immigration with paperwork showing you actually are a tourist and not someone trying to live here, you are less likely to find yourself getting the boot.

    2. Scott,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I stumbled upon your latest Youtube video after the "coffee with immigration" and found it very helpful. I just added it to this post so other's can view it as well.

      Take the advice from Scott. It's legit.

    3. Thanks Johnny, If I'm ever in Chiang Mai, I'll look you up. We can do lunch.

  7. Great info! Thank you Johnny AND Scott! I do have a general question about your thoughts on providing an onward ticket. I am not sure where my travels will take me once I spend my 90 days in Thailand, and I prefer to leave that option open if possible. What do you recommend for myself and other travelers? Or is it not that serious at this point to have the onward ticket, and just more of a helpful hint? Thanks again!

    1. Hey Nick, I would say it's more of a helpful hint at this point. If you really wanted an onward ticket you can book a cheap flight via Air Asia for less than $100 to Bali, Vietnam, or another neighboring country.

      I normally just tell them I'm taking a train or a bus onwards instead of flying. But they also never ask.

  8. I appreciate the info. Thank you Johnny. I look forward to reading more of your amazing posts!

  9. wow, i am on my way to Chiang Mai very soon!, this quote gave me warm feelings "If you are a 'digital nomad' running your own business on the internet, the immigration office says you can do this on a tourist visa." that's amazing :D i really hope it's true, i don't like lying about what i am doing. And is it really any reason to be out of the country 15+ days on a tourist-visa run? i understand it for visa exemptions, but i now have a triple entry visa from my home country, and i would like to focus my effort on my online business and making new friends in Chiang Mai.

  10. I need advice. would I be able to get the visa if I leave Thailand going to Cambodia by air (flight) and come back to Thailand next day I mean I stay one night in Cambodia and go back to Thailand. or do I have to stay 14+ days and come back or the 14+ only for land borders only ??

  11. Hey Mohamed, there's no "law" that says you need to leave for 14 days, but it is best practice as there's a chance you'll get stamped with an In-Out warning if immigration suspects you of making border runs. You are less likely to get the In-Out stamp by air, and more likely by land (bus/van) but it is still a worry.

    Basically the 14 days out of the country proves that you are a tourist and you don't have an illegal job to rush back to.

  12. Great and a very useful blog for me. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  13. Watch out for the validity of your double entry-visa (or triple). Usually, it is 6 months from date of issue, meaning your final entry needs to be before expiration. Immigration has the final say; no matter what you were able to get at the Consulate or Embassy you visited. Triples are a rare bird.

  14. Very interested, guys. Understood loud and clear. I just want some advices about opening a tourism branch office in Thailand to sell my country as a destination. I know I have to get a business visa, can anyone please advice me to do it the right way please.

  15. Hello Johnny, can you please provide more information on where I can find information about where it says "it's ok to be a digital nomad on a tourist visa"? thanks

    1. The link you posted below has the best info on it so far. But there is no 100% answer. If you're that worried, move to Austin, TX.

    2. There is a 100% answer.. you just dont want that answer.. Go ask the labor department.. Asking immigration about labor law is like asking my car mechanic if I need a root canal.

      and even as far as uploading a video, adding a blog comment.. .collecting adsense..

      there simply is no grey area, your just relying on lack of enforcement and causing problems for everyone who lives her according to the laws. why are we now suffering endless visa crackdowns and tighteneing ?? Because you boast about how easy it is to break the law.

    3. Hey Sefton, thanks for the posts, they are very helpful.

      The problem and reason for lack of enforcement is this:

      1. Digital Nomads who make money online while traveling through or living in Thailand with businesses that aren't directly associated with Thailand (such as exporting) don't hurt the Thai economy or take away Thai jobs. It only brings US/AUS Dollars into the economy.

      2. Getting a Non-Immigrant B visa and a Work Permit is extremely complicated and isn't worth the effort for digital nomads. If Thailand ever wants to kick us out, it's easier for us to leave and go to Saigon, Bali, PI or Malaysia.

      If the government ever wanted to create an easy to obtain Online Worker Visa and charge us $500-$1,000 for a 12 Month Multiple Entry that a allows working on non-thai businesses, we'd happily pay for it.

  16. I heard co-op spaces being raided and people working online being deported, so it's all a bit contradicting

    1. They only people who have been deported were working for a company illegally. If you are just working for yourself, you are not a target.

      Rules: Do not hire employee in Thailand. Do not be hired in Thailand as an employee. Do not do any business that has to do with Thailand. Just happen to be in Thailand while running your business that has nothing to do with Thailand if that makes sense.

  17. Johnny FD....I have a friend who has a friend trapped in Mayalsia because of an expired working visa. He has been there for 6 months and trying to get out. He says if he is caught on the streets or working he will be arrested. He is saying he needs $3,500.00 to buy a new visa which is amounting more money every day. Is there a way to get out with no troubles or us sending a stranger money who he says lives here?

    1. Hmm that's crazy, I've never heard of that before. I would suggest your friend go to the U.S. Embassy and sort it out with them. There's no way they can hold him hostage in Malaysia for something like that.

  18. Hello Johnny, can you please provide more information on where I can find information about where it says "it's ok to be a digital nomad on a tourist visa"? thanks.

    1. It's not technically legal to work as a digital nomad in Thailand on a Tourist Visa. However there isn't such a thing as a digital nomad visa so either immigration has to tell all tourists that they are not allowed to come to Thailand with their laptops (even a doctor in the U.S. who checks emails to schedule appointments or gives an email consult while on vacation) or they can continue to only go after people who actually take Thai jobs which digital nomads don't.

      For more info read:

  19. Its still sucks.. I wish those countries would give you nice tourist visas like US.. Most people get a 10 year visa with multiple entries up to 6 months.. Thats a dream, can you imagine not need to apply for visa for 10 years.. and each time you visit US you can easy stay 6 months.. Thats how you get tourists into the country.... I did not mind to apply for 2 entry visat and pay more, but now you have to provide so much paper work and pay 3x times more so its demotivate for some people. I hope I will be still able to fly in with 1 entry visa from US, visit family in EU and fly back in without visa for 3 more weeks in thailand.. But that may be restricted too :(

  20. anybody remembers the time where Thai Embassies gave out 3 entries tourist visas to for free to visit thailand.. Now its the opposite way.. Many Papers and mucha dineros

  21. Hey Johnny...thanks for all the great info here. I got the 6 month METV from the states and planning to come next month. So because of this new rule, what the guy at the consulate told us (we have to leave the country every 2 months) is no longer valid? And we can stay up to 90 days at a time as long as we leave for 14 days after that time period?

    1. Hey congrats on getting the new visa. I think you are a bit confused on how to use it. Here are the two posts that explain the 6 month visa and visa runs with it:

  22. Hey Johnny, so can i still go to Vientiane after my single entry tourist visa runs out, apply for another and come back in 2-3 days time?

    Or do i have to get a new visa in Vientiane and wait 14 days before i enter Thailand again?

    1. Yup you can still do this. You can also go to Kuala Lumpur which is closer/easier/cheaper usually as you don't need a visa to get into Malaysia.


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