Renewing visa is a part of life in Thailand for many long-term visitors and expats. Thailand has a number of different visas available, all of which have their own rules you must abide by. If you are in Chiang Rai and you are in need to do a visa run, you’re in in the right city. The closest border you can do viva run at immigration office in Mae Sai. The paperwork was very simple.
A few things you need before leaving Mai Sai to Tachkilek are your passport, departure card which can be obtained from the immigration window at the border, a pen as sometimes it is not easy to find a pen in front of immigration office, and 500 Thai baht.
When you at the border, you will see the Immigration office on the Thai side. There is a separate queue on the Thai side of the border for Thai nationals and another queue for non-Thai people making the border crossing. Make sure your departure card is filled out before you arrive at the window of the immigration office. Then hand your passport to an immigration officer behind the counter who will then stamp it with an official seal which simply states you are leaving Thailand. The Thai immigration officer will retain your departure card and stamp your passport to confirm you have exited Thailand.
Then walk across the bridge and you will see the Myanmar immigration office on the right side. You will see other tourist stand in line, just join them and continue walking inside. Then hand an officer 500 baht with your passport. Prior to 2011, you could pay US$10 as an alternative to 500 Thai baht. Now the Burmese office request you to pay 500 Thai baht rather than US$10.
Then you will be asked to take a photo which only a moment. When it is done, the Burmese officers will keep your passport, and give you a-brown-color temporary pass. This is OK. Just proceed ahead to Tachkilek and enjoy your day.
With this temporary pass, You are able to remain in the Tachilek to Kengtung region for up to 14 days, but most of the time you only need a few hours there. Remember that don’t lose this temporary pass because you need it to get your passport back when you exit Myanmar.
If you have time and want to continue inside Myanmar to the nearby market, you will receive a temporary day permit and then pick up your passport afterwards from the same office before heading back across the bridge into Thailand.
There is also a duty free shop on the bridge opposite the Burmese immigration office which sells designer leather goods, sunglasses, alcohol, etc. Each adult is limited to three bottles of spirits upon reentering the Kingdom of Thailand.
The border market is just down the bridge stairs on the right side at the end of the bridge. Here it is the best place to practice your mental toughness through pressure from various peddlers who desperately trying to sell you cheap goods like cigarettes, Viagra alike products, sex toys, DVD, etc. The best way is just give them a polite and firm declining of offers that you have to repeat a few times a long the road unless you’re interested in their goods.
Myanmar is on a different time zone, 30 minutes behind, and the border closes at 6:00 PM Thai time which is 5:30 PM Myanmar time.
Coming back to Thailand
When you have finished exploring and are ready to return to Thailand, you walk back up the stairs and head back to the office which will now be on your left. Pick up an arrival card at the immigration window.
Go inside and get your passport from an officer and head back to the Thai office where you will be asked to fill out a simple information form before re-entering Thailand. It’s basically your name, nationality, passport number and where you are staying in Thailand. After you fill it out, hand the form along with your passport to Thai immigration, who will then stamp your new visa in your passport and you are on your way.
If you are traveling on a 30 day visa on arrival, you will receive only a 15 day extension. Be aware that, by law, you are required to show 10,000 baht cash but this is rarely enforced. The laws change frequently in Thailand, especially regarding visa rules and regulations, so it is always a good idea to check the current situation beforehand so you do not run into any surprises.
If you don’t have existing visa, this entry will allow you to stay in Thailand for only 15 days. But if you have a valid multi-entry tourist visa, then entering into Thailand at Mae Sai you will be given a stamp that permits you to stay for 60 days. Then this can be renewed for a further 30 days at immigration offices within Thailand which will allow you to stay in Thailand totally 3 months.
Here is the summary of the steps you need to take to do a visa run in Mae Sai.
1. At the Mae Sai – Myanmar border, get your passport and 500 Thai baht ready.
2. Get a departure form at immigration office on the Thai side, fill the form.
3. Hand your passport along with the filled departure form to Thai immigration officers
4. Receive you passport back, and continue walking toward the immigration in the Myanmar side
5. Hand your passport along with 500 baht to Myanmar officers, you will be asked to take a photo
6. Receive a temporary pass, and leave your passport at the Myanmar immigration office, and enter Myanmar’s land
7. Get back to the Myanmar immigration office, hand them your temporary pass, receive your passport back
8. Continue walking to immigration office on the Thai side, then fill a form and hand it along with your passport.
9. Your visa will have new valid stay date, get the passport back and welcome back to Thailand.