New airport fingerprint scanners, sudden changes to ED visa requirements at embassies and consulates, and the enforcement of the TM30 all indicate that the authorities are now more determined than ever to uphold their “good guys in, bad guys out” slogan.
For language schools, that translates to “real students in, fake students out”.
So, how do you improve your chances of getting the ED visa if you’re planning to study Thai at a language school in Bangkok?
1. Choose The Right Embassy (Or Consulate)
Do your research before visiting a Thai embassy. Not all of them are the same. Some are friendly, some not. Some are easygoing, some are strict. Some embassies for example, require students to sign up for 25 hours of Thai lessons per week, or 100 hours per month to be granted the ED visa. Obviously, you will not be getting the ED visa if you visit any of these embassies.
Ask your school for advice to narrow down your choices, but don’t just take their word for it, as changes occur all the time. Check the embassy website before making a visit and contact them to find out if there are changes that haven’t been announced.
2. Prepare A Bank Statement Or Bank Passbook
More and more embassies are requiring ED visa applicants to prove that they have enough money to support themselves in Thailand. If you don’t have much to show, they will assume that you are planning to work illegally. There are many companies that require foreign workers to apply for the ED visa so they don’t have to pay taxes or go through the hassle of applying for the Non-Immigrant B visa and work permit.
How much do you need to show? The amount varies, so check with the embassy before paying a visit.
3. Get A Police Clearance
While it is not required by all embassies, many are starting to ask for the police clearance and it may soon become a standard requirement.
Go to a police station in your home country or in Thailand and ask for a criminal record check. The cost is only 100 baht in Bangkok, but it will take 1 to 2 weeks to process. The police clearance must be in Thai or English, or it will have to be translated by a certified translator.
4. Do Not Border Bounce
Having too many entry stamps without a long term visa will put you at a higher risk of getting your ED visa rejected. The more entry stamps you have, the more it will appear to the embassy that you have some business or job in Thailand which you are not declaring. They will also assume that you are only applying for the ED visa to continue your work with no real intention to study Thai.
5. Avoid Back-To-Back Tourist Visas
Most embassies are okay if you have just one (60 day) tourist visa with one (30 day) extension. Your chances of getting the ED visa however, will be reduced if you have two back-to-back tourist visas or more. It’s no different from having too many entry stamps, as it doesn’t help convince the embassy that you are serious about studying Thai, much less going to school.
6. Do Not Delay Your Application
This advice only applies to applicants already based in Thailand waiting for the letter of approval from the Ministry of Education.
Here’s a scenario. Your application is approved by the Ministry of Education, but you still have a month and a half on your tourist visa plus the option of extending your stay by another 30 days. You decide to stretch your time till the very end and two and a half months later, you make your way to a Thai embassy only to get your application rejected.
What went wrong?
If you spend too much time in Thailand after getting your application approved by the Ministry of Education, the embassy will assume that you are either not serious about going to school, or you have already started studying Thai and should come back with updated documents indicating that you are at a higher level.
7. Answer Questions Carefully
The embassy may throw some questions at you, so think carefully before answering.
Here are some tricky questions:
“Have you studied Thai before?”
If you’ve studied Thai before, but signed up for the beginner level so you could stay the full length of the ED visa, answering “yes” may get you a rejection if the embassy decides that your letter of approval from the Ministry of Education should indicate that you’re starting at the intermediate level instead.
On the other hand, if this is your second time applying for the ED visa, saying “no” will get you a definite rejection, as you should already be at the advanced level. Be prepared however, to get quizzed in Thai by the embassy.
“What are you doing in Thailand? Why do you want to stay in Thailand?”
For obvious reasons, the only “correct” answer is to study Thai at a language school.
“Where do you work? What’s your occupation? What do you do?”
The fastest way to get a rejection is to tell the embassy you’re teaching English, modelling, freelancing, selling products online, or even worse, working for a company that won’t get you the work permit and Non-Immigrant B visa.
If you plan to work in Thailand, the ED visa is not the right option. You may however, search for a job while studying Thai, or look for opportunities to set up your own business. Once you’re ready to work full time or start a business, you may cancel the ED visa in order to apply for the Non-Immigrant B visa.