Converting a Long Stay Retirement Visa OA to a Married to a Thai National Extension

Question from a client:

I am an unmarried American citizen. I apply for and receive a non-immigrant O-A “long stay” visa and move to Thailand. Two months later I marry a Thai woman and decide that I want to open a business. The conditions of the original visa do not allow me to work but if I had an extension of stay based on marriage I would be allowed to work. Can I apply for an extension of stay based on marriage right away, or do I have to wait another 10 months at which time the O-A visa would normally be renewed. As an American citizen, are there any special conditions that apply to me if I want to open a business?

Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors responds:

Once you are married it may be possible to convert your non-Imm OA to a non-O based on marriage to a Thai national in Thailand but that will depend on the officer’s discretion. The officer may choose to do the conversion in Thailand or may require you to leave the country and obtain the non-O visa in another country.
If the officer will not convert the visa then you will need to travel to another country and apply for the non-O visa based on marriage to a Thai national. However, they usually will not grant it unless you have been married for at least 6 months.
Once you have been married six months and obtain the visa from the Thai Embassy or Consulate you will be allowed three months to remain in Thailand. You can extend that to one year on a year by year basis by having 400,000 baht in a Thai bank in your name. You can also obtain the extension by having income of 40,000 baht a month– so the second year you can show you have a work permit and are paying taxes on income of at least 40,000 baht a month and get the extension that way without needing 400,000 baht in the bank
You will need to apply for the one year extension at least 15 days before the non-O visa expires.
Once you have the marriage visa/extension you can obtain a work permit in your own business. As an American you have two options to open your own business; a private Thai Limited Company in which at least 51 percent of shares must be owned by Thai nationals or a private Limited Company formed under the Thai – Amity treaty which allows American citizens to hold majority shares in the company and there is no requirement for a Thai shareholder.

There are certain special requirements for the Amity treaty company, like a higher registered capital requirement than the Thai Limited Company but the greatest advantage to an Amity registered company is that it allows you to maintain full control of your company as the majority shareholder.
Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors has an experienced team that can help you through the visa process and in forming the company that best suits your needs.

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