The Travellers Guide to Obtaining an ED Visa in Thailand (From Someone Who’s Done It)

ed visa thailand

So, you’re looking stay longer and don’t necessarily qualify for the digital nomad visas in Thailand. The education Visa (or ED Visa) is you’re next best bet. I personally went through this entire process recently, so wanted to write an article that gives you the facts, and shares the on-the-ground stuff you’d only know if you’d have been here and done it yourself. In this article you’ll learn how you can get an ED Visa and some exclusive tips I’ve seen no one else talk about online.

How Do I Get An ED Visa? (Quick Didn’t Read)

Here’s how you can get an ED Visa in Thailand:

  • Make sure you have more than 14 days left on your Visa (ideally 20-25)
  • Purchase a course. This can be Thai language, Muay Thai, English, Chinese or anything else that is approved by the Ministry of Education (check they are)
  • Get accommodation to stay in (preferably rented monthly, not a hotel or hostel)
  • Get a TM30 certificate from your accommodation
  • Take your passport, 12 passport-sized photos, accommodation details and TM30 to your school
  • Once they have completed the forms, they’ll give them back to you
  • Go to immigration with these forms
  • Pay 2000 baht ($54.38)
  • Immigration will require 2 weeks to process the Visa
  • Go back to immigration and you have your visa!

The easiest way to get your visa done is to choose a school that offers the visa paperwork as a package. I would highly recommend doing this because the paperwork is extremely long, and all in Thai language. So, if you don’t read or speak Thai, you’ll have a very hard time doing it all.

I had the idea that I was going to do it all myself. Bad idea. Much easier to pay the school an extra 2000 baht ($54.38)

Understanding the ED Visa

My ED Visa (all personal details removed for obvious reasons)

Here is a quick overview of the ED Visa for Thailand:

  • Name – ED Visa
  • Fee – $50-326.47 USD
  • Visa length – 3 -> 18 months
  • Extendable? – Yes. Up to 18 months total stay
  • Multiple entry? – Yes. But need to ask permission to leave from immigration
  • Requirements –
    • Studying at any accredited school
    • Letter of acceptance (from school)
    • Recommendation letter (from school)
    • TM30 notification of residence (from accommodation)
    • Passport with 6 months validity left
  • Who can apply? – anyone who wants to learn in Thailand
  • Tax

Upon receiving the ED Visa you’ll be able to open an official Thai Bank account and even get your very own Thai driver’s license (a process I’m personally going through now and will share here when done), access things like health insurance and even take out phone contracts etc.

If you would like to work in Thailand, you need to find a job and get a work permit, then change your Visa at immigration to a work one. You cannot conduct any work in Thailand on an education visa. If however you have a business that operates outside of Thailand completely, you can continue to work on this business.

Getting The Visa & Choosing the Right School

My class in AAA Thai Language School

Possible Courses To Take For The Visa

One of the great advantages of the ED Visa is the flexibility it offers in terms of course selection. While learning the Thai language is a popular choice, the visa also allows you to explore various other disciplines. For instance, you can learn languages that aren’t Thai, such as Chinese, Russian, English etc. There are actually many Chinese nationals that come to Thailand to learn English because the courses are far cheaper in Thailand than they are in China.

Here are some of the courses you can take to qualify for the ED Visa:

  1. Language Courses:
    • Beginner to advanced levels in reading, writing, and speaking
    • Intensive language programs
    • Any language – Mandarin, English, Thai etc.
  2. University Degree Programs:
    • Bachelor’s degrees in various fields (e.g., Business, Science, Arts).
    • Master’s degrees and Ph.D. programs.
  3. Technical and Vocational Courses:
    • Hospitality and tourism management.
    • Culinary arts and cooking schools.
    • IT and computer science.
    • Design and fashion courses.
  4. Martial Arts and Traditional Practices:
    • Muay Thai (Thai boxing) training programs.
    • Traditional Thai massage and wellness courses.
  5. Cultural Studies:
    • Thai culture and history.
    • Buddhism studies and meditation retreats.
  6. Language Programs (other than Thai):
    • English language courses.
    • Other foreign language programs (e.g., Chinese, Japanese).
  7. Short-term Certification and Diploma Programs:
    • Professional development courses (e.g., business management, marketing).
    • Arts and crafts classes (e.g., pottery, painting).
  8. Study Abroad and Exchange Programs:
    • Partnerships between Thai universities and foreign institutions allowing for student exchanges.
  9. Specialized Training Courses:
    • Aviation and pilot training.
    • Yoga instructor certification.

You want to make sure you are learning something you’re actually going to enjoy, because you do have actually attend the classes and prove you are learning something (especially when wanting to extend the Visa at immigration).

There are options for online language courses that also include the visa, but you have to still attend for 2 hours per day and the teachers will ask you questions, ask you to speak and read from the screen.

Also please beware of schools before you apply. There are some that are not properly registered and work as a business solely to extract money from foreigners. I met a guy who paid 100,000 baht+ for a 1-year ED visa, which shouldn’t technically exist, because you have to report to immigration every 3 months in order to renew it with a new course. Make sure they are properly accredited and check reviews.

For instance, the cost of the visa is 2000 baht, if you bought that 4 times it wouldn’t add anywhere near the price he was charged.

Finding A School To Attend

The first step in obtaining an ED Visa is to find a reputable school or educational institution that offers the course or program you wish to pursue. Thailand is home to a wide range of language schools, Muay Thai camps, and educational centers catering to various interests.

There are many great language schools for Thai that you’ll find, but one of the few schools to offer intermediate and advanced courses to foreigners is currently AAA Language School based out of Phaya Thai (this is why I opted for AAA instead of more popular choices, it’s also the cheapest school in BKK).

If you are interested in learning Thai language some of the best schools are as follows:

  • AAA Thai Language School
  • Duke Language School
  • AUA School
  • ALA School
  • Chulalongkorn University
  • RTL

Things To Consider Before Signing Up To A School

It’s important to note that, before signing up to a school, you need to ensure that they have free space. Thai courses are very sought after in Bangkok and the classrooms fill up quickly. Every month, schools will sign up new students. It’s best to check their websites to see exactly when they are taking on new students, and enroll during this time.

I was rejected from 2 courses because I didn’t make the decision in time, and I had other travel commitments. Therefore, I had to sign up the next month into a different class that wasn’t full.

Speaking and listening are the most popular classes, but writing and reading are also fantastic for learning to speak too. These fill up far less quickly so, if you miss out on speaking and listening, check if they have a reading and writing course.

When selecting a school, consider the following factors:

  • Accreditation: Ensure that the institution is accredited by the relevant Thai authorities, such as the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
  • Reputation: Research the school’s reputation by reading reviews, speaking with current or former students, and checking online forums for first-hand experiences.
  • Curriculum and Facilities: Evaluate the curriculum, teaching methods, and facilities offered by the school to ensure they align with your learning goals and preferences.
  • Teachers: many schools offer free trial lessons. Use them to see how enthusiastic the teachers are. This will make a HUGE difference.
  • Location: Consider the school’s location in relation to your desired living arrangements and mode of transportation.

Cost Considerations

The cost of obtaining an ED Visa and enrolling in a course or program in Thailand can vary significantly depending on several factors. Here’s a breakdown of some typical expenses to consider:

ExpenseApproximate Cost (Thai Baht)
ED Visa Application Fee2000 THB
Course or Program Fees10,000 – 50,000+ THB
Accommodation5,000 – 20,000+ THB/month
Living Expenses10,000 – 20,000+ THB/month

I also made a complete Google Excel sheet breaking down different condo options, and rough budgets for travel, visa and living expenses which can be found in our How To Rent a Condo in Thailand guides.

Note that these are approximate costs and can vary based on your chosen program, location, and lifestyle preferences.

Application Process and Required Documents

Once you have selected your desired course and institution, you can proceed with the ED Visa application process. The requirements and procedures may vary slightly depending on your country of origin and the specific Thai embassy or consulate where you apply.

Here is a general outline of the application process and required documents:

  1. Enroll in a Course or Program: First, you need to secure admission and enroll in a course or program offered by an accredited institution in Thailand. The school will provide you with an acceptance letter or enrollment confirmation.
  2. Gather Required Documents: Typically, you will need to submit the following documents along with your ED Visa application:
    • Completed visa application form
    • Valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity
    • Passport-sized photographs (specifications may vary)
    • Admission or enrollment letter from the educational institution
    • Proof of sufficient funds (bank statements, income certificates, etc.)
    • Evidence of accommodation in Thailand (hotel booking, rental agreement, etc.)
    • Medical certificate and clearance (may be required in some cases)
    • Criminal background check or police clearance certificate
  3. Submit Your Application: You can submit your ED Visa application and supporting documents either directly at the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country or through an authorized visa agency. Some embassies and consulates may also accept applications by mail.
  4. Pay the Visa Fee: The visa application fee for the ED Visa typically ranges from 1,900 to 2,800 Thai Baht, depending on your nationality and the processing time required. Some embassies and consulates may accept payment in their local currency.
  5. Wait for Processing: The processing time for an ED Visa application can vary, but it generally takes between 5 to 15 working days. During this period, your application will be reviewed, and any additional documentation or information may be requested.
  6. Visa Collection: Once your application is approved, you will be notified to collect your passport with the ED Visa stamped inside. Some embassies and consulates may also offer the option to have your passport mailed back to you.

Visa Validity and Extensions

The initial validity period of an ED Visa is typically 90 days. However, upon arrival in Thailand, you can extend the visa’s validity to match the duration of your course or program, up to a maximum of 1 year.

To extend your ED Visa, you will need to visit the Thai Immigration Office within the first 90 days of your stay. The extension process typically involves submitting the following documents:

  • Completed extension application form
  • Your passport with the ED Visa stamped inside
  • Proof of enrollment or attendance at the educational institution
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your extended stay
  • Visa extension fee (approximately 2000 Thai Baht)

It’s important to note that the visa extension process should be initiated well before the expiration of your initial 90-day validity period to avoid overstaying your visa, which can result in fines or other penalties.

Choosing the Right Thai Immigration Office

Thailand has several Immigration Offices located throughout the country, and the one you visit will depend on your location and the specific requirements of your educational institution. Also, you don’t want to mix the tourist visa extension up with the ED Visa office you need to go to. If you’re in Bangkok you need to go to Immigration Division 1, which is located close to the Government Complex stop on the Pink Line BTS.

You may need to go to the tourist visa extension office if you have less than 14 days left on your current visa, to extend for another 30 days. Thai immigration needs 14 days to process an ED visa, so you therefore need 14 days left to stay in Thailand while the visa processes.

Here’s an interactive map that shows you where the Visa offices are in across Thailand:

Here are some of the main Immigration Offices where you can extend your ED Visa:

  • Bangkok Immigration Office: Located in the Chaengwattana area, this is one of the largest and busiest Immigration Offices in Thailand, serving the Bangkok metropolitan area.
  • Chiang Mai Immigration Office: For those studying in the northern region of Thailand, the Chiang Mai Immigration Office is a convenient option.
  • Phuket Immigration Office: If your educational institution is based in the southern regions, such as Phuket or the surrounding areas, you can visit the Phuket Immigration Office for your visa extension.
  • Other Provincial Immigration Offices: Depending on the location of your school or institution, you may need to visit the Immigration Office in the respective province or region.

It’s advisable to check with your educational institution or consult with local resources to determine the most convenient Immigration Office for your specific situation.

Top Tip: Scan QR At Immigration

You don’t have to wait in the queue at immigration division 1 or any of the immigration division numbers (listed on the interactive map above). At immigration 1, you will get a queue ticket, and a QR code on that ticket. Scan this, and you can see where you are in the queue from your phone. When you do this, you don’t have to wait in the immigration area, and you can leave, go to a cafe or any of the shops located in the mall on site.

This is one of the smoothest Visa processes I’ve personally ever done. Scan the ticket, go to a cafe, go eat at the food court below (40-60 baht for an amazing meal), do some work on your laptop and go back when your number is close.

My trip to immigration division 1, timestamped so you can see the QR code scan and the available food/cafe/shop options:

The entire process from start to finish for the ED visa takes 2 weeks – 1 month. You report to immigration, wait 14-days, then go back and you should have your stamp.

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