There was a surge in applications overseas for the Thailand Privilege Card Company’s Elite visa after the government announced two weeks ago that possession would prioritize holders to obtain approval from the Thai embassy in their home country to board a plane to Bangkok. Some other special groups, such as documented business men and women, foreigners with Thai dependents, students and wealthy medical tourists have already been selected.
But many would be-joiners were surprised that the Elite news had evidently failed to reach Thai embassies abroad which are still mostly silent on this specific issue. However the Thailand Privilege Card (TPC) has now explained that the approval from the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is in principle only at this stage. In other words, a first step.
TPC president Somchai Soongswang clarified that his company would be attending meetings with other organizations including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health to finalize the details before implementation. A news release also explained that, in the first phase, there would be quotas and conditions. No further detail is available for the time being, but it was promised “in the very near future”.
The news has come as a blow to some applicants, especially in Europe and the USA, who had assumed they need only to apply on-line and pay the money to be assured of a nod of approval from their local Thai embassy. The Elite card has many options, both individual and family, but basically offers a multiple entry visa for a period of 5 to 20 years in exchange for a non-returnable cash fee of between 500,000 and 2,000,000 baht. It also guarantees discounts on participating hotels, restaurants and sports venues as well as free medical checkups and a limousine airport service.
A TPC source said in a phone interview that, once the details had been inked in, existing Elite visa card holders and those whose applications had been vetted and accepted in Bangkok would obtain a letter from TPC which would form part of their documentary file to show to their local Thai embassy. Other compulsory papers would likely be a fit-to-fly certificate, coronavirus clearance and comprehensive medical insurance to the tune of US$100,000. The Thai government also currently requires a 14-day quarantine at nominated hotels which must be paid for by the traveller.
Whilst some observers claim that the Elite card is expensive and does not avoid visits to the Thai immigration bureau – for example 90-day reports are mandatory – others point out that bureaucratic hassle is actually less and that the perks can be substantial, especially the avoidance of queuing at airports once normal service is eventually restored.
Jessataporn Sriboo, a Pattaya based lawyer and Elite agent, said, “The total number of Elite card holders now exceeds 10,000 with many applications in the pipeline.” He explained that applications can be made online from anywhere in the world as well as here in Thailand. “We are seeing foreigners with one year extensions of stay for marriage and retirement switching to the five year Elite alternative as its merits are becoming better known.”
The TPC website clarifies that the multiple-entry Elite visa is suitable for business people making short trips to Thailand and for retirees or foreigners with Thai wives and children to support. However, it does not permit working as defined by the country’s alien labour legislation, although those needing a work permit can be fast-tracked through the Ministry of Labour and the immigration bureau. Still, Elite card holders and applicants will need to wait a while before enjoying a flight to the Land of Smiles.