You wish to stay in Thailand for a full year or longer but don’t qualify for a retirement, business or marriage visa? Are you tired of frequent “visa runs” to the Cambodian border or to Laos? Problems with “too many” tourist visa stamps in your passport? If your answer to one of these questions is “yes” and you’re interested in learning new languages, then how about learning some Thai, the language of your host country, and at the same time solving your visa problems, all fully legally?
No doubt, Thai is a spellbinding language with melodic sequences of sounds and words, which is definitely worth learning if you wish to stay in Thailand for longer than just a two-week holiday or consider settling down in Pattaya.
And here’s a bonus: If you otherwise don’t qualify for a non-immigrant visa of either type, the perfect solution for you might be to enroll in a one-year Thai language course to be eligible to apply for a one-year non-immigrant ED visa (“student visa”). Equipped with this visa, you won’t have to leave the kingdom every now and then but can stay here continually for up to one year and learn Thai “professionally” and from scratch. Most of the language schools listed below offer the necessary courses and also assist you with applying for a “student visa”.
Thailand Education Visa (Non-Immigrant Visa “ED”)
There are roughly a dozen language schools in the Pattaya area that offer a variety of Thai language courses, including such for absolute beginners. And if you’re interested in studying Thai more “professionally” and enroll in a one-year course (with 8 hours of study per week) you’ll also be able to apply for a one-year “student visa” (or Education Visa, ED visa.)
Equipped with an ED visa you won’t have to leave Thailand every now and then but can stay in the country continually for a full year. On arrival, students will initially be permitted to stay for 90 days. With additional paperwork provided by the school, students will then be able to extend their stay every 90 days at the immigration office for the duration of the course. Visa extensions cost 1,900 Baht every 90 days. You can enjoy studying Thai and at the same time need not worry about making any visa runs.
The Ministry of Education makes no distinction among students coming from different countries or continents. However, nationals of certain African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries need to apply for an education visa in their respective home countries. Students from 12 to 99-year-old qualify for an ED visa.
Once you have enrolled in a one-year Thai course, your school will apply for a letter from the Ministry of Education requesting the one-year student visa for you, confirming that you are accepted to the program and indicating the date when you are scheduled to begin your studies. This official acceptance letter is the primary legal requirement for applying for a student visa. It usually takes between two and five weeks to wait for this letter. Without this letter from the education ministry, you won’t be able to obtain the desired visa.
You will then have to travel to the nearest Thai embassy or consulate to apply for the visa. This means that if you should be in Thailand already, you will have to leave the country again to apply for the visa. Application cannot be proceeded locally. At the embassy, you will need to submit your acceptance letter along with your passport, passport copies, a fully-filled application form and passport-sized photographs. The visa fee for a single-entry Non-Immigrant ED visa is 2,000 Baht.
An ED visa is valid for up to one year in total, i.e. provided you actually attend classes and study the required amount of hours per week.
Once you have obtained your visa, you’ll need to come back to your school which will then apply for a second letter from the Education Ministry certifying your enrolment. This letter will allow you to make 90-day visa extensions at a local immigration bureau for the duration of the course. No visa runs are required; however, you’ll have to extend your visa every 90 days. Visa extensions cost 1,900 Baht each time.
Most Thai language schools around Pattaya will assist interested students in the visa application process, including people who are not in Thailand yet and have to apply for the visa in their home countries. Most local language schools will readily provide you with all necessary information and documentation required for a successful visa application via mail, email or phone.
Update 2014/15 – New Stricter Requirements for ED Visa Holders
While this certainly all sounds too good to be true, it must be noted that an ED visa is no longer a simple long-stay option as hassle-free and cheap as it used to be. Unless you’re a seriously interested student who is ready to attend classes regularly, but simply seek to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time without doing visa runs etc., an ED visa might no longer be the perfect option for you.
New stricter requirements for ED visa extensions have gone into effect on August 29, 2014 and turned things pretty much upside down. Until then, the same ED visa could be used to study the same subject, e.g. Thai language, for up to five years; the student did not have to leave Thailand but could simply extend his visa at the local immigration office every 90 days. Under the new rules, an ED visa is valid for a maximum of one year only, provided that the student actually attends classes and studies the required amount of hours per week; otherwise an extension may be rejected and the visa cancelled. After one year you will have to leave the country and apply for a new ED visa.
In addition, Thai language students will now also have to attend classes 4 days a week, for 2 hours per class, in order to extend an ED visa, effectively doubling the hours of study that were previously requested by authorities. If students do not attend classes regularly and study the required amount of hours per week, their visa will not be extended. Needless to add that the new requirement for a total of eight hours of study per week has made the courses also more expensive.
To make things even more complicated: When extending their ED visa for 90 days, students will initially be given only a 15-day extension. At the end of this “evaluation period” (during which an immigration officer may visit your school and check whether students actually attend classes or not) they must go back to their local immigration office and will be granted another 75-day extension.
Since February 2015, the new extension rules as well as the requirement for eight hours of study per week, are also being enforced in Pattaya.
To make this clear: Enrolling for a Thai course just for the sake of getting an ED visa, but then not to attend class, is not really a recommendable option. Although most schools won’t really check how frequently you attend your lessons and the verbal tests at the immigration bureau (they are rare and unpredictable but, just in case, you should always be prepared to pass such a test) are brief and not really challenging, you might rather sooner than later run into problems when your language skills don’t really improve gradually, or even have your extension rejected and the visa cancelled.
Disclaimer: We do not warrant the accuracy of third-party information contained on this page. Keep in mind that many schools are obviously also still in the process of adapting their language programs to the new ED visa rules.
- B.E.C. Language & Culture School
→ 571/1 Pattaya-Naklua Road, North Pattaya, Tel. 038-421 919, 038-370 176-8
B.E.C. language and culture school offers a fun and fascinating Thai cultural program with Thai language courses for foreigners, as well as courses on Thai cooking and fruit carving, Thai dance and music, traditional Thai massage, Thai martial arts and yoga. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- CTA – Certified Translation Pattaya Co. Ltd. (Language School)
→ 202/88 Soi Paniadchang 10 (off Central Pattaya Road, next to Big C Extra), Tel. 038-415 446
German-run language school offering Thai and German courses. If you enroll in a full one-year course you can also apply for an ED visa.
- Easy ABC Language Centre and Nursery Co., Ltd.
→ 391/127 Thappraya Road, Soi 11 (between Pattaya and Jomtien), Tel. 038-251 952, 089-881-9873
→ 157/525 Naklua Road, Tel. 038-411 745, 088-196-2190
→ 382/41-42 Pattaya Second Road (near Soi 9), Tel. 033-033 773
This well-managed German-owned school offers introductory Thai courses for tourists, Thai crash courses for beginners, and courses for advanced students (single or group courses as well as external lessons). Students who enroll in a 360-hour Thai course are eligible to apply for a one-year education visa. Easy ABC’s friendly and helpful multi-lingual staff will provide all the necessary documents for you to successfully apply for an ED visa. A 360-hour Thai language course costs 68,900 Baht in the first year.
- Excel Language Centre
→ 565/49-50 Moo 10 (near Big C shopping mall in South Pattaya), Tel. 038-413 725
Excel Language Centre is a new Ministry of Education (MOE) approved language school near Big C in South Pattaya. The school offers Thai language courses for foreigners and English courses for Thai students. Their young, friendly and helpful service staff will answer any question you might have about learning Thai language or ED visa application. Foreign students who attend a full one-year Thai language course will be eligible to apply for a one-year ED visa.
- KLS School (Koson Language School)
→ 245/147 Pattaya Third Road, Tel. 038-413 340
KLS offers Thai language courses at three different levels (elementary, intermediate, advanced) and in various packages at very competitive rates. KLS also helps students who register for a minimum of 90 lessons of Thai language study with the application process for a non-immigrant ED Visa.
- LC International Languages & Computer School
→ Soi 6 (Soi Yodsak), Central Pattaya, Tel. 038-361 948/9
LC Language School offers one-on-one tutoring as well as group lessons in a comfortable environment with friendly teachers and a fast and easy method that will have you reading, writing and speaking basic Thai in less than 60 hours. Students who register for the legally required amount of Thai language lessons will also be eligible to apply for an ED visa.
- Pattaya School of Languages & Computers (P.L.C.)
→ 194/10-11 Central Pattaya Road (between Big C Extra and Foodland), Tel. 038-421 819
→ 111/41-42 South Pattaya Road, Tel. 038-723 409
→ 179/126-127 North Pattaya Road, Tel. 038-371 494
P.L.C. offers various Thai language courses for foreigners in single, twin or group lessons, as well as lessons in English, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, French, German and Dutch language. Learn how to read, write and speak Thai with professional and experienced teachers. Prices for 20-hour Thai courses (group lessons) start at only 3,600 Thai Baht. Foreign students who study Thai for 120 hours or more will also be eligible to apply for an ED visa.
- PRO Language School
→ 116/33 Central Pattaya Road (Pattaya Klang, near Big C Extra), Tel. 038-489 225
At PRO Language School Pattaya, you can study Thai, English, Russian, German, Japanese, and a number of other languages, in spacious and comfortable air-conditioned classrooms or at your own residence. Their instructors combine solid and adaptable methods of teaching with updated material and technology. Students who register for 200 lessons of study (20,000 Baht) will be eligible to apply for a six-month ED visa. In order to qualify for a full one-year ED visa, students should register for a 400-lesson Thai course at a price of 29,000 Baht.
- PROgress Language & Computer School
→ 209/86-87 North Pattaya Road (Soi Yume), Tel. 038-370 263, 038-423 639
PROgress Language & Computer School specializes in Thai, Russian and English language courses. Students who register for the legally required amount of language lessons will be eligible to apply for an ED visa.
- Success Language Center
→ 128 Soi 1, Sri Racha (20-minute drive from Pattaya), Tel. 038-771 000, 038-771 400
Thai, English, German and Japanese courses for Thai and foreign students. All teachers are professional, qualified and experienced native speakers.
- Walen School of Thai
→ 194/74-75 Soi Paniadchang (opposite Big C Extra), Central Pattaya Road, Tel. 038-410 526
The Walen School of Thai has branches in Pattaya, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Koh Samui and offers affordable and extremely effective Thai language courses, which will have you reading, writing and speaking Thai sooner than you might expect. Students who register for 200 lessons of study (27,960 Baht) will be eligible to apply for a six-month ED visa. Students who enroll in a one-year Thai course (400 lessons at 49,960 Baht) can apply for a one-year ED visa. Special promotion rates are also available.
The Walen Method of teaching Thai is based on a natural learning process. In a question-answer format, the teacher will teach you new words and how they are used in everyday language. As you answer questions, the teacher will constantly correct your pronunciation and tones, help you if you find answering difficult and revise it with you until you feel comfortable with the newly introduced work. Right from the beginning you will also learn how to read and write Thai.