Deciding to come to Thailand to volunteer is always exciting; you start dreaming of the delicious Thai food you are going to eat, debating what to pack, anticipating the adventures you are going to embark on…and in creeps the dread of trying to figure out what visa you are going to need and how you are going to get it.
Fortunately, when you volunteer with Mundo Exchange we walk you through the steps to obtaining the right visa for your desired length of stay. But for those of you browsing our blog, researching volunteer options, or just curious about the Thai visas, I’ll take a second to break it down here!
In Thailand there are about 8 different non immigrant visas you can apply for depending on your situation: business (B), education (E), family/spouse (O), volunteer (O), retirement (O-A), research (R), religious (RA), media (M), and official (F). For volunteering purposes, I’m going to focus in on the NON-IMM O, or volunteer, visa. According to Thai law, if you volunteer for more than two weeks you are required to obtain a work permit, and for that you will need a NON-IMM O visa. This does not vary from organization to organization, this is nationwide.
Fortunately there are two ways to get a NON-IMM O visa. The first option, and the one I would highly recommend if you know or even think you might be wanting to volunteer for more than two weeks, is to obtain the visa from within your home country before you leave for your trip. Depending on which country you are applying from the rules and fees will vary, but here is an example of a Thai consulate site you would visit to apply and learn more about the process of obtaining your NON-IMM O visa from Portland, Oregon USA.
Alternatively, if you decide you want to volunteer after you have already begun traveling or know you will be in a nearby country before coming into Thailand, you can always apply at the Thai consulate there and obtain the visa before crossing the border. That may be a slightly more expensive and possibly stressful process, but if you forget to sort your visa before you travel, don’t have time, or simply decided mid holiday you want to volunteer that is always an option available. Keep in mind obtaining the visa will take a couple of days waiting from wherever you are!
Either way, obtaining the NON-IMM O requires to get some documents from the organization you are coming to volunteer with. When you choose Mundo Exchange, we send you the necessary paperwork and letters from our organization as soon as placement payment is secured so you can get your visa sorted as soon as possible.
Once you arrive in Thailand and meet your volunteer organization with your NON-IMM O visa in hand, you will then go together to obtain the work permit in town or province. Fortunately our volunteer house and office are in Buengkan City, the capital of Buengkan Province, and the work permit office is nearby in town. Easy! So to re-cap….ideally obtain your visa before arrival, and once you have it meet with the organization you are volunteering with to get your work permit. And from there you are good to go!
That being said, you can volunteer on a tourist visa….as long as you volunteer for only two weeks or less. However, when making the decision to volunteer I would highly advise you really think about your choice. Many of our volunteers go to their placements, teach in the schools, help within the communities, and find that they want to stay longer. We here at Mundo actually advise all volunteers to get the NON-IMM O visa no matter how long they stay for this very reason, as stated on our terms and conditions document that gets sent out to every volunteer before they arrive to read over. If there is any chance you think you will want to stay and volunteer anywhere for more than two weeks, JUST GET THE VISA. Trust me, if you come with the timeline of two weeks and decide you really do want to stay longer, you are going to have to take the time to do a border run and cross into the nearest country to apply for the visa. It’s expensive, it’s a headache, it cuts into your travel time, it takes at least two usually three or four days, and it takes you away from your meaningful volunteer work.
Nonprofit volunteer organizations and local associations put in a lot of work to get you here, because we want you here! And we obviously want you to have the best time with as little stress as possible, which is why we work so hard to get the appropriate paperwork in order on our end to give to you on time to sort out your visa before you arrive.
If you are curious about volunteering with Mundo and would like to learn more about visas, placements, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us! We are ready to answer any questions you might have.
Good luck and happy travels! (We hope to see you soon!)