Dealing with Chiang Mai Immigration Office

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Every foreigner staying in Chiang Mai long term sooner or later has to deal with the Chiang Mai Immigration Office. In fact, in a way it is fair to say that every long term foreign resident in Chiang Mai is "at the leash" of Immigration: they can decide to kick you out of this country at any time.

Dealing properly with Immigration is therefore essential for every foreign resident in Chiang Mai, especially if you're staying longer.


The most important thing when dealing with Immigration and visa issues in Thailand is to take it seriously. Foreigners are here as guests, we don't have an automatic right to stay, although some long-stay foreigners tend to think or behave so.
The only moment you can consider yourself a real resident of Thailand is when you get your Permanent Residency, and believe me, there are not many foreigners who reach that stage, even after staying in Thailand for a few decades, because it requires careful planning.

There can be serious consequences to not following the visa rules and deportation is one of them. There used to be a time years before covid when things were not as serious as now: you didn't even have to throw your body in a van to do visa run to Maesai, you could just pay an agent to bring your passport up to the border and get the stamp for you. Overstay wasn't so serious either, you would just pay your fine, at the border when leaving and you'd be fine. The fine was put at a maximum amount of THB 20,000 even if you'd overstay for years.

You don't want to be in this car
The first thing to realize about Thai Immigration is that it's not a service organisation that owes you the favour of giving you your visa fast and efficient. No, it's police, and you don't want to be in this car.

Over time, things have gotten stricter and stricter and one of the reasons for that are the malpractises of Chinese mafia which use Thailand as a base for all kinds of illegal operations. Immigration then over-reacts and sharpens the rules for everybody, typically they will arrest somebody and put a picture in the newspaper with the courageous policemen posing next to the nasty foreigner to show to the general public that they are doing their job.

Anyway, the mindset and attitude you need to have with Immigration officers is to be polite, humble, patient and understanding. Get your papers in order, give them what they want and they are happy because they have done their job. Don't argue, don't ask too many questions, don't ask why this or why that, just do it. When you're sitting in the Immigration building waiting for your queue number, if you're an organized person no doubt you will notice a hundred things that can be improved, ranging from the lack of space to fill out details on all the TM forms, the lack of logic of it ("First Name, Middle Name"), the lack of organisation and so on. There is no sign board showing the queue number for people waiting outside, the toilets are dirty and have no soap, and so on and so on.

Some foreigners get irritated by the lack of logic in the paper procedure or by the long queues, thus angering the Immigration officer who is only doing his/her job and facing the same crowds every day. That doesn't work and I've personally witnessed a foreigner getting a red stamp in his passport stating the words MUST LEAVE THAILAND IMMEDIATELY or something alike and even then he kept arguing.

Always keep in mind that Immigration is not a business in the hospitality sector such as a hotel. Therefore, they do not owe foreigners a service and they are not here to fulfill your needs. Thailand does not owe you a visa, it grants you one if you fulfill the criteria.
First and foremost, Immigration is part of the Royal Thai Police force and all foreigners are here because they allow you to stay.

Immigration is not a hospitality organisation, it's police and you'd better not have enemies in Thailand.


When visiting the Chiang Mai Immigration office, one cannot avoid being in a queue and for most things you'll have to wait several hours (expect 2-4 hours).  At pre-covid times, crowds were queuing up outside of the office from early in the morning 6 or 7 am even up until the road and no doubt we'll get there again in the future. For this reason, Immigration gained itself the nickname 'the Zoo' amongst some groups of foreigners.

Both Chiang Mai Immigration offices at the airport and in Central Festival open at 8:30am and close at 5:00pm. What is the best time to go is hard to say. There are time slots for the morning and for the afternoon, for example all ticket numbers up until 250 will be treated in the morning before lunch break and all ticket numbers from 250 up in the afternoon. If you get there in the late morning, you may get a queue number for the time slot of the afternoon and you effectively have to wait one hour longer because of the lunch hour.
If you queue up at 7am and are one of the first to get a queue number and be able to leave at 9:30am, you're out early but effectively you still waited 2.5 hours. If you arrive in the afternoon for sure the queue is full and you can't get your stamp that day.

Officialy, Immigration offers online reservation which arrangement changes from time to time, but the website is not functioning well and the requirements are not so clear or too restrictive (for example you have to book 100 days in advance).

In my experience there is no point to go very very early and it's risky to go to late, so probably the best time to get there is before 10am, this way at least you know for sure that the queue is not full for that day and you'll be out in 3-4 hours.

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Waiting queues in the Chiang Mai Immigration office are 'business-as-usual'.


It's best to double check the requirements for your visa needs at least a few days before to check if your desired action can be done. For example, just pass the Immigration office at least a week before to know all details, so you can prepare the forms and copies at home. Of course you can make copies and passport photos at copy shop at the back of the Immigration building at the airport (for 2 baht per copy), but those precious minutes that you're doing that will set you back in the queue at least 20 or 30 numbers.
If you arrive on the last day of your visa, you might have the unpleasant surprise that you cannot extend your visa and you'll have to leave the country in a rush. For some visa, like a non-immigrant family visa, you need to apply at least 15 working days before, not normal days, so if you forgot to count the public holidays, you'll be too late and you'll have to fly out first before being able to apply again.

The best habit you can teach yourself is to get prepared the moment you arrive in Thailand. Do your TM.30, make a note of the expiry date of your visa in your calender or make a note of the 90 day reporting date, and double check what you need to do to extend or convert your visa right then. This way, you don't have to face unpleasant surprises.


If you don't have the patience to queue up for hours or just don't feel like playing everything by the book, there are always ways in Thailand to duck the queue and do things in a most comfortable way. After all, this is Thailand (TIT) and if you pay a 'convenience fee', A LOT of things can be arranged smoothly. The way to do that is by going through intermediaries, visa agents, schools, charities and so on (you DON't put a thousand baht on the counter in front of the officer with a meaningful smile!). All of them have connections with Immigration and can get things done quicker and without having to follow the rules too strictly.

For example:

  • Getting a residence certificate is free, but normally takes about 3-4 weeks. If you need it faster, any visa agent can get it to you after 1 day usually for about THB 1,000.
  • If you want to stay in Thailand for a full year without leaving the country, you can apply for a non-immigrant visa. Most popular are the education visas, but a volunteer visa is also possible. If you go through certain agents / schools, you don't really have to study or do volunteer work. Here are the best offers on education visa without strict attendance requirement.
  • Everybody on a non-immigrant one year visa has to show up for the 90 day reporting, if you don't feel like it, even that can be outsourced to a visa agent.
  • Retirement visa is available for people over 50 years of age but you need to show proof of either enough income or THB 800,000 in a Thai bank. If you don't have that, no worries, a visa agent can provide you with a temporary fake balance in your account and you will pass the retirement visa requirements.
  • If you don't want to do the visa extension of 30 days, even that can be outsourced to an agent.

In other words, a lot of things can be smoothened out for your convenience, as long as you pay. Now isn't that corruption?, I hear you say. Well, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. When you pay for express post, expect the parcel in your postbox earlier. Anyway, the word corruption is kind of a loaded word, it's better to speak of ค่าน้ำชา kha naam cha as they say in Thailand. You can be principal about it or just accept that this is the way it is in Thailand. That money ends up in the pockets of officers, usually they share it in the team, and you can either feel bad about it or just accept it as the Thai way.
Even if you do it the official way, for example, you choose the Elite Visa to stay out of the annoying visa scene for the coming 5 years, in fact you pay the ultimate convenience fee of at least THB 500,000 and you don't really know either where that money goes.


Finally, another, potentially refreshing way, to deal with immigration matters in Thailand is to stop seeing it as annoying and instead turn something you have to do into something you can enjoy.

You can either be moody and jump into a vehicle to the border or to Laos to to your mandatory visa run OR you can choose to pick a completely new location just 1-3 hours flying from Chiang Mai and get a new experience, perhaps with a friend, that you will have fond memories of.
You can either be grumpy and irrritated while standing in the queue at the Immigration office, or you can relax, take your computer or headset with you, lean back and smile to people and make new friends. The truth is, every single time you go to Immigration, you meet other foreigners that you probably met somewhere else before. Some guys manage to get the best dates from their visits to the Immigration office!

Trying to completely avoid all the red tape and visa papers to retreat in your little hole in Thailand for years on end will get you less experience. If you look at it positively, there is no reason whatsoever to pay a huge amount of THB 500k for an Elite Visa to stay away from visa stuff for 5 years, unless you're completely loaded.
That same money you could have spent on meaningful and wonderful travels, and everytime you come back to Thailand, that's when you enjoy the most, instead of becoming that grumpy old farang who always complains about visa matters.


Locations: Chiang Mai Immigration now has one main office located near the Airport and one sattelite office in Central Festival. The old, temporary office in Promenada is now entirely closed.

Official opening times: from 8:30am to 4:30 or 5pm.


If you know at least 100 days in advance that you have to go Immigration, you can book a reservation online. This is Chiang Mai's Immigration's latest attempt to somehow offer you more convenience dealing with the immense waiting queues. Pity this site ( is entirely in Thai (even though it advertises several language modules), and also a pity that it doesn't allow you to book a reservation within 100 days, because most foreigners probably can't plan that far ahead and also most visa matters will occur within 90 days (such as the usual 90-day reporting and the maximum stay of one entry which is also 90 days). So after you got your new stamp and want to remind yourself of the next time you have to report to Immigration, it's already too late because you have to book at least 100 days in advance. It doesn't really make sense, but that's often with Thai rules and practises, you just have to follow it.

DISCLAIMER: This information was compiled from several sources and best-practises. Policies, prices and procedures of the Thai authorities change continuously. CM Locator accepts no liability for incorrectness of information here. Help us keep this information as update and useful for visa applicants as possible and let us know if you find something has changed.

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What do you think about this article?

Bob Posted on August 25, 2022 at 11:48:02
What is required to enter Thailand from the USA as a tourist for a 2-week visit?
Bruno Posted on June 05, 2022 at 11:18:54
Chiang Mai News in English
Lewis King · 1h ·
New immigration office opens at Central Festival tomorrow, see attached photo for services and hours.
Bruno Posted on June 05, 2022 at 11:14:02
There is a new Immigration office at Central Festival from Tomorrow Monday 6 June
Ross Posted on May 11, 2021 at 03:55:34
I have a 90 day Special Tourist Visa (STV) which can be extended without leaving the country. How long before the expiry date should I apply for an extension? I had to buy Health & Covid insurance for my initial visa. Do I also have to buy insurance to cover the next visa period of 3 months?
John Posted on September 10, 2020 at 07:49:18
Nice article and informative. Just an update note:
The Promanada Immigration office has been reopened for processing 90- Day Reports & TM 30 Residency Registration. Other services need verified. The office is still on the second floor, but is no longer across vfrom The DUKES Restaurant. Itchanged location to the left side of up escalator, near Kasikorn Bank. Hope this helps
spicy jon Posted on November 21, 2019 at 09:59:01
Only good feedback from myself. I entered the building today at 14:06 to extend my tourist visa by 30 days. I was out of the door by 14:34.
Dean Marsh Posted on May 23, 2019 at 08:42:38
My next Non-O Retirement extension is due 21 February 2020. However my passport expires 11 October 2020. Should I get a new Passport early?
Matt Posted on February 13, 2019 at 05:07:11
Any chance there's an address available so we can find the place. Google Maps only wants to give me the old location.
Dr. Stanton-Linder Posted on February 02, 2019 at 07:28:42
hi, I am a disabled senior lady 74 years needing to get 30 days visa extension, which expires on March 3rd. My UK flight is April 1st:, as immigration is closed weekends, which day would be best to obtain a visa..? also, as I have walking disability, is there any special officer dealing with medical issues that can assist me I have all medical papers stating my disabilities and essential medications that need to be administered throughout the day. I am much appreciative of your kind help

OM Posted on January 16, 2019 at 13:25:52
We (five people) were in the immigration office Jan 2019 and it took only 45 minutes to extend our visas by 30 days. We were suprised! Service has become better.
Damian Posted on December 04, 2018 at 06:33:26
Common misconception that immigration isn't there to service you. Of course they are. By definition, they are providing a service, and if you're going to provide a service, it should be done comfortably and properly. Don't try to make nonsense see excuses for these guys.
Steve Posted on October 20, 2018 at 15:49:10
And this is one of the main reasons we moved to South America, specifically the north coast of Peru, after living in CM for three years. Here, it took us two months to get a retirement visa and it is good for life. No more visits to immigration.
Expat Posted on August 21, 2018 at 15:18:12
I was at Chiang mai Immigration this morning to renew my retirement visa after arriving at 5.00 am - people had been lined up since midnight and were still turned away. One lady had been there three days running and not been processed. Her visa was due to expire that day. Quite a few elderly people had been waiting for many hours in the dark with toilets locked as well. Very rudimentary seating for a few people only was available. The system used to be a little better a few years ago. What has happened to the legendary Thai respect for the aged?
JSH Posted on December 02, 2017 at 10:23:59
During October 2017, when my one year visa was extended the Immigration Department was notified of my address, which remained the same for 9 years. No notice was given that they wanted an up date of the Notification of address form. Now when the 90 day report was done they said they want to fine us for breach of this regulation. They made the change without informing us. We are very traumatized because we always try to stick to all the rules and be on time and correct. How can we find out what are the changes when the websites are in Thai language?
I.M.Wondering Posted on August 21, 2017 at 12:12:54
It really does make you wonder ???????
Admin Locator Posted on October 12, 2016 at 04:17:17
Officially, every foreigner must be registered by the landlord according to the TM.30 form procedure.
This has changed since a few weeks ago. Please check our article on that:
However, if you don't need to go to Immigration during that period (for example to ask for a visa extension), then you will probably not experience any trouble. The problem is when you need a service from Immigration and then they find out that you haven't been properly registered. In practice, some foreigners or landlords refrain from registration (confirm by Immigration), however it's not the official norm.
will de Kuster Posted on October 11, 2016 at 11:24:31
I will stay in Chiang Mai 29 days do i need a registration by immigration ?
James Graneria Posted on November 22, 2015 at 09:25:30
It is no longer possible to book an appointment on-line. That was discontinued 3 months ago.
They are only processing 20 retirement extensions a day, and it is now the norm for people to arrive there at 4.00am to obtain a slot number. Those who do manage to obtain a number in the lucky draw should expect to be hanging around for up to14 hours to complete the process.
90 day reporting slot numbers are usually gone by 8.00am.
eljayess Posted on November 17, 2014 at 20:24:22
Thanks for the info your site provides to expats.