An expat is able to apply for permanent residency status in Thailand. There are currently non-immigrant visas which are issued for a year at a time and which allow the holder to stay in the country but these need to be renewed annually.Those who are able to obtain permanent residency status need not apply for extensions to their stay, but if they will need to leave the country at any time they should have a re-entry permit. When the applicant obtains this status they are issued with the permanent residency documentation and an alien registration book. This is the equivalent of the Thai ID card.
Once you are a permanent resident you will also have the right to have your name included on a house registration document. However, it should be noted that you will still need to have a separate work permit, although this is much easier to obtain if you have the status of a permanent resident. Other benefits include being able to buy a condo without needing to transfer money in from another country, make an application for citizenship after the minimum waiting time and become a director of a public company.
However, there are limits to the number of people that can be granted this status. No more than 100 people from each country can be given permanent residency status in any one year. Applications are usually only accepted from October to December and all applications are dealt with by the Immigration Office. The dates are announced a few weeks in advance but it is recommended that applicants send in their details as soon as possible, due to the limited number of permits which are issued.
In order to make an application you must have had a non-immigrant visa for at least three years prior to the application. This is a non-immigrant visa with at least 2 extensions, rather than three separately issued visas. At the time the application is submitted, you must have a valid non-immigrant visa in place and you should be in the country at the time of the application.
There are fees which are payable for the application to be processed. The current fee for the residence permit is 7,600 THB and a further 191,400 THB is payable when the residence book is received. This amount drops to 95,700 THB if you are married to a Thai national or a permanent resident.
You must have a valid passport issued in your home country and be in one of the immigration categories. These are the investment category for those who have a minimum of 3 million THB to invest, the working category for those who have a job in the country or the family support/humanity reasons category for those who are in a relationship or who are immediate family of a Thai national or permanent resident. There is also an expert/academic category for those who have specialist skills and are in demand.
When an application has been made before the December deadline the results are announced the following May and the actual permits are not issued until the following December, so there is a long waiting period. In some cases you may need to attend an interview with the immigration office. The residency blue book is then issued when you give your residential details to the local registry office. When you have this you can then apply for the red alien book at the police station. This needs to be renewed every year. The local police will also need to stamp your residency book every five years.
The documentation that is required will depend a great deal on the type of category that you are applying under. For example, a person who is applying under the family support category will not need to supply copies of qualifications but those who are applying under the expert/academic category will need to do so. All categories will require basics such as birth and marriage certificates, completed application form, proof of good health and proof of good character. There may not be a requirement to prove that you can support yourself if you are applying in the working category, but others may need this information.