On Tuesday (14 May) it was reported that foreigners aged over 50 applying for a particular visa type now need mandatory health insurance.
The new requirements, which were approved by Cabinet in April and announced by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), state that people applying or renewing (or rather re-applying for) a Non-Immigrant Visa OA now need to have health insurance from either a Thai insurance company or from a policy bought overseas.
Following the announcement, Thaivisa has been inundated with comments, messages and emails from concerned expats, many of whom mistakenly think this requirement for mandatory health insurance affects them.
The requirement for mandatory health insurance appears to only affect those applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa OA.
According to the announcement on the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) website, it does not affect anyone who stays in Thailand on an extension of stay based on retirement, which is often incorrectly referred to as a ‘retirement visa’.
Extensions of stay are not visas. Most retirees who stay in Thailand do so on an ‘extension of stay based on retirement’.
A Non-Immigrant Visa OA can only be applied for at Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate overseas.
Anyone who has a Non-Immigrant Visa OA typically applies for this at the Thai Embassy or Consulate in their home country.
An extension of stay based on retirement can only be obtained at an immigration office within Thailand.
It’s the extension of stay based on retirement which have recently been the subject of the much publicised change in the financial requirements which need to be met in order to be granted the extension.
To differentiate, a Non-Immigrant Visa OA looks like this:
An extension of stay based on retirement looks like this:
The announcement made by the Ministry of Public Health does not appear to mention ‘extensions of stay based on retirement’, only that mandatory health insurance is a requirement for those applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa OA.
To also further put this recent announcement into context, back in November 2016, the Cabinet of Thailand approved its Non-Immigrant Visa OX – which was heralded as a ‘10 year retirement visa’.
The Non-Immigrant Visa OX, which was finally launched in August 2017, was actually two 5 year visas, and was aimed at affluent retirees from 14 countries including Australia, UK, USA, France and Germany.
As well as requiring 3 million baht in a Thai bank before application, it also had a requirement for mandatory health insurance.
In fact, the website listed in the announcement on 14 May 2019 – https://longstay.tgia.org/ – is the same website that was listed when the Non-Immigrant Visa OX was launched.
When the Non-Immigrant Visa OX was launched, despite it having a requirement for mandatory health insurance and despite it being a ’10 year retirement visa’, it did not mean that those same requirements were applied to expats staying in Thailand on an ‘extension of stay based on retirement’.
That wouldn’t be the case because a Non-Immigrant Visa OX and an ‘extension of stay based on retirement’ are different things and have different requirements.
Just like a Non-Immigrant Visa OA and an ‘extension of stay based on retirement’ are different and have different requirements.
Now, it is not to say that other visa types or extensions of stay may be subject to having mandatory health insurance at some point in the future, but at this moment in time, it appears the new requirements only apply to those on Non-Immigrant Visa OA, and not extensions of stay based on retirement.
It is worth noting that while the mandatory health insurance requirements for Non-Immigrant Visa OA were approved in April, there is no information as to exactly when they will come into force or how the requirement will be implemented.
But it should be stressed that we are still awaiting clarification from Immigraiton regarding the interpretation and implementation of the new mandatory health insurance rules, including who exactly is affected.
Finally, if you are living in Thailand permanently, this should not deter from the fact that it is always recommended you have adequate health or medical insurance.