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You might dream of living in Asia for a few months or even a few years. But before you get too carried away, it's worth remembering that it's often not that easy to just go and live in another country.

At some time the visa issue will rear its ugly head.

One totally legitimate way of staying in an Asian country is to go down the Educational Visa (ED Visa) route.

This is particularly popular with foreigners who are too young to get retirement visas, and who don't want to have the hassle of finding a job (and hence an employment visa) in an Asian country.

ED visas are less popular with people seeking to live in the Philippines. It's not too hard to get a 6 month tourist visa for the Philippines, so an ED visa isn't really needed.

ED visas are particularly popular with people intending to live in Thailand or in China.

ED Visas for Thailand

In Thailand the easiest way to get an ED visa is to sign up for a Thai language course. This is a pretty good idea anyway, especially if you intend to find a Thai bride. Understanding her language would bring you a lot of benefits, as well as help you impress Thai ladies you meet.

It is also possible to get a visa to study English - this might be an option for you if you'd like to improve your English skills and you're not already a native English speaker.

Thai language schools which can help you get a Thai ED visa include ProLanguage, Walen Thai School and ECC.

Thailand ED visas cannot be issued in Thailand - you have to get the paperwork stamped in a Thai embassy outside of Thailand.

People of some nationalities can only apply for an ED visa in their own country. But passport holders of most Western countries can apply for the visa in Thailand, then do a visa run to neighbouring Malaysia or Vietnam to get the paperwork stamped.

Once the ED visa is issued, you are meant to attend classes but in practice nobody really checks.

You'll also have to do 90 day reporting at a Thai government office to get your visa extended for another 90 days. Unlike ED visas issued by other countries (like China), you also need to pay for a re-entry permit if you want to leave Thailand while you have your ED visa.

ED Visas for China

It's pretty difficult to visit China at all. Just about all prospective visitors need to apply for a visa, and the application process is a real hassle. Plus visas are expensive - over $100.

Most visitors just get issued a single or double entry visa that is valid for 30 days.

If you want to stay in China for several months or a year, then another approach is required.

One option is to apply for an ED visa. As with Thailand there are plenty of language schools in China. But you're better off applying to study at a University.

Chinese Universities teach an increasing number of subjects in English. Or you can choose to study Mandarin Chinese.

There are lots of options when it comes to where to study. A good place to start is the CUCAS website.

If you're bewildered by the choice, then Chengdu is worth a look. It has good Universities and it's a great place to study languages.

Guangzhou has many Universities, but if you're a language purist then you'll be disappointed trying to study Mandarin in a a Cantonese stronghold.

If you choose to study at a Chinese University, then you'll find that most foreigners are accepted on Mandarin courses. The courses don't really have any time limits. They're intended for foreigners (mostly Korean, Thai and Vietnamese) who will go on to study courses taught in Mandarin.

Most Universities teach many different levels of Mandarin, from total beginners to advanced.

If you choose to study at a University then bear in mind most of your fellow students will be in their early 20's. If you're an older guy then you might struggle a little to fit in, but most students will think you're an English teacher.

As to the practicalities - your chosen University will help you through the paperwork involved with getting an ED visa.

Chinese Universities have two semesters a year. They're generally February - June and September - December.

ED visas cost around $1300 per semester, plus you need to factor in additional visa expenses, accommodation, books, and food.

If you're over the age of 25 it's not recommended you live on campus. Rules are quite strict and you'll have to cope with cramped living conditions and even the electricity/hot water being turned off at night.

The good news is that for your ED visa you'll normally get 10 classes a week, plus the chance to gain skills in other activities such as Chinese calligraphy. But as an outsider, you might find it hard to settle into campus life, unless you're studying there at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

If you eventually want to teach English in China, then studying Mandarin first at a University is a great way of building up your contacts list and getting in some much needed teaching practice.

Xiongmao writes… I've held ED visas for both China and Thailand. It was about the cheapest way for me to go and live in these countries for a while. I'm too young to qualify for a retirement visa, and I didn't want to go to Asia and teach English. The China visa was expensive but my 10 Mandarin classes a week from three different Chinese teachers were very good value. And despite all that studying, I had either the mornings or afternoons free. Actually it was good to have some structure in my life, rather than just sitting in a bar all day, or sleeping or something. I didn't attend my Thai classes in Bangkok though - there's little point in learning Thai as it has no value outside of Thailand. And it's pretty much impossible to learn how to read and write Thai. Still, the visa was reasonably priced and you cannot put a value on being able to live in Thailand for several months or even years!

living_in_asia/visas/ed_visas.txt · Last modified: 2014/06/05 13:19 by xiongmao