The quality of life for retirees in Thailand is relatively good. It is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world and instances of violent crime are very low. The cost of living is also very low and the warmer climate is attractive to those who want to escape the colder winters of northern Europe and America.
The country also has good medical facilities and many of the doctors there have trained in the West, so speak good English. Housing can be purchased or rented at a very low cost if you are prepared to look away from the tourist areas and busy urban areas.
Thailand now has a specific visa for those who are retired. If you are over 50 years of age and have an income of more than 800,000 THB (in a foreign currency) per year then you may qualify for the retirement visa. This is a form of the non-immigrant visa which is issued for a period of one year at a time.
Those who apply must not be prohibited from entering the country, must not have a criminal record in any other country and must have deposited monies into a Thai bank account 2 months before applying. For visa extensions, the money must be in a Thai bank account 3 months before the application is made.
In order to apply for the retirement visa you need to complete the application form, have two recent passport sized photographs, a photocopy of the travel documents of the applicant and all stamped pages from their passport and copies of financial documents. These include a bankbook, a letter from the bank which verifies the bank balance and a photocopy of all pages in the bank book. The applicant’s passport must also have at least 18 months left to run. The application can be submitted at an embassy or consulate or at the Immigration Office in Thailand.
If you submit the application at an embassy or consulate in another country then the officials there are required to examine them to check that they are complete and valid and then these are sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is located in Bangkok. When they are approved the consulate is notified and then the applicant is informed by the consulate. If you are applying within Thailand the documentation must be taken to the nearest immigration office as you must apply to the office which manages your region of the country.
Retirement age in Thailand is 60 and there are two types of pensions for those who qualify. The first is a non-contributory pension, which is sometimes referred to as a subsistence allowance for older people. This is paid by the Ministry of the Interior to those over the age of 60 who do not have any other income.This is in the amount of 500 THB per month, the equivalent of around US $15. In addition to this there are contributory pension schemes available.
The Social Security fund pays out an old age pension and employees and employers pay in the equivalent of 3% of the salary to contribute to this. Payments can be made monthly or as a lump sum and this can be claimed after the age of 55 years. There is also a Provident Fund which is a voluntary savings scheme for retirement. Contributions are made by both the employee and the employer. This can also be paid in instalments or as a lump sum. These pensions can be topped up with a Retirement Mutual Fund, which is a private pension. These are often favoured by the self employed.
Those who are in receipt of a UK pension will find that they can have this paid to them in Thailand directly into their Thai bank account or you can choose to have this paid into a UK bank account. Tax is automatically deducted from the pension payments unless you are registered as a tax payer in Thailand. If you are there for more than half the year you will be considered to be a tax resident there and will be taxed by the Thai authorities. If you can prove that you have already been taxed on this money in the UK then you may be exempt from tax in Thailand, but it is recommended to take professional advice.