Visa regulations in Thailand seem to change every other month, the official government websites are not very informative even when they are in English, and each immigration office seems to do things slightly differently. We baffled travellers are therefore forced to rely on each other for current information – here then is the latest information on how to extend a Thai tourist visa in Chiang Mai in 2016.
Who can get an extension?
Since the abolition of the double and triple entry visa, entry to the kingdom as a tourist is by one of the following:-
- Visa waiver – valid for 14/30/90 days if you arrive by air or 14/15/30 days if crossing a land border. How many days you get depends on your nationality and not all nationalities are eligible – Wikipedia has a good map.
- Single entry 60-day tourist visa – obtainable from any Thai embassy or consulate.
- 6-month multi-entry visa – available only from an embassy or consulate in your country of residence. Each stay in Thailand is for up to 60 days.
- 15-day visa on arrival – only a few nationalities are eligible for this, primarily those from China, Taiwan, India and eastern Europe. Many people get confused and refer to their visa-exempt entry as a visa on arrival, but they are not the same thing at all.
The 15-day visa on arrival cannot be extended. All the other kinds of stay can be extended by 30 days. That means you can get 90 days from your 60-day visa, 90 days in each stay on your multi-entry visa, or an extra 30 days on your visa-exempt entry (even if the original entry was only for 15 days). The 30 days are added on to the end of your existing stay, so don’t wait until the last day before applying – but when doing your calculations remember that your arrival day is day 1, and your departure day also counts towards the total.
The Chiang Mai Immigration Office
The only immigration office that will extend a Thai tourist visa in Chiang Mai is the one at the Promenada Mall. Any online reference you find to this being done at the airport office is out of date. The office is open 08:30 to 16:30 Monday to Friday, except for Thai official public holidays. It closes for lunch from 12:00 to 13:00.
If you are driving to the office you will need to go into the car park. Drive around to the left of the building and the car park entry is at the rear. You can access the immigration office directly from the ground floor of the car park.
If arriving by tuk-tuk or songthaew they will drop you by the main door. Just walk down the slope – the office is underneath Tom n Tom’s restaurant. Unfortunately Promenada isn’t on any of the regular shared songthaew routes so you’ll have to charter one.
There is a free shuttle bus to Promenada from several hotels in central Chiang Mai, but they don’t start running until almost lunchtime. The bus leaves Promenada on time but if they get to one of their hotel stops early they won’t hang around for the official departure time.
When the time comes to leave there should be a couple of songthaews loitering near the main entrance waiting to fleece you, but we used the shuttle bus. Just ask for a ticket from the information desk by the main door. There are two routes – even if neither goes to your destination it will take you near the regular shared songthaew routes.
While it doesn’t hurt to have the details of your eventual transport out of Thailand in case you’re asked, the only things most people need are:-
- Your passport. We actually watched a guy trying to get a visa extension with only a photocopy of his passport. He failed.
- Photocopies of the main info page of your passport and the pages with your entry stamp, departure card and current visa if any. Sign each page.
- One photo, 4cm x 6cm. It can be on a blue or white background but it must be 4cm x 6cm – slightly larger than most passport photos.
- Form TM7, completed. You will need the full address of your accommodation in Chiang Mai, including the ‘amphoe’ and the ‘tambon’ and your phone number. And a pen.
- 1900 baht in cash
There is a shop next to the immigration office that can do the correct size photo (6 for 200 baht) and any necessary photocopies (2 baht per page). It’s open 08:00 to 16:30. However you may find it cheaper to get your photos in town – we got ours from the Kodak shop near Chiang Mai Gate, 6 for 100 baht.
If you arrive early in the morning there may be hundreds of people there. Don’t worry – most of them will be there to extend their retirement visa or do their 90 day report. Grab a TM7 form from the desk labelled ‘Information’ next to the door. Once you’ve completed it and got your photos and photocopies, queue up at that same desk. So join the queue nearest the mall wall. Don’t be tempted to switch to another queue because it’s shorter or moving faster – you’ll just be turned away when you get to the front.
When you get to the desk they will take your paperwork, passport and money from you. You then go inside the office and wait for your name to be called. They will take a photo of you, then you sit down again. When your name is called again you will get your passport and any change. Check that they’ve added a stamp with the extended date, and that’s it.
How long does it take?
It varies. Mondays and Fridays are reputedly the busiest days. Either side of a holiday is also best avoided. We went on a Thursday and joined the queue at about 08:45, and when they took our applications at 09:45 we were told to come back at 13:00, after lunch. We left the office, mission accomplished, at 13:35.
Some people advise going in the afternoon because it’s less busy, but on the day we went they had stopped taking applications by 13:30. I think it was especially busy that day because the previous few days had been wet and very cold – most people probably stayed in and huddled under their duvets, like us, and only ventured out again when it warmed up.
If you do have to wait until after lunch there is at least the Mall. The shops are pretty dull and don’t open until 11:00 (apart from Rimping) but some of the coffee places were open before 10:00, and there are plenty of places for lunch. None of the movies really appealed, but I seriously considered getting a haircut.
All in all I couldn’t describe the experience of extending a Thai tourist visa in Chiang Mai as fun, but getting to the immigration office is much easier than in Bangkok, and it was a breeze compared with getting a Myanmar visa in Bangkok!