Thailand Privilege Company Ltd (TPC) has now announced that any foreigner holding the Thai elite visa is eligible for a priority return to Thailand. The Elite program allows anyone, including long-term tourists and retirees, to stay in the country for up to 20 years with a multiple entry visa on payment of an initial cash fee between 500,000 and 2,000,000 baht.
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The move by the top government committee, the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is seen as important because Elite visa holders are the first group allowed back to Thailand who are not necessarily in work-related categories, nor foreigners with Thai families nor well-heeled medical tourists.
TPC says in its announcement that both members and new joiners will be contacted by email and told to prepare their documentation for submission to the Thai embassy in their home country. As for all approved categories, the requirements for a certificate of entry are medical insurance worth at least US$100,000, a fit-to-fly certificate, coronavirus tests pre-flight and registration with a hotel in Thailand under the Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) arrangements.
In recent weeks, there has been a surge in applications for the Elite visa which can be sought online from anywhere in the world. Current numbers are around 10,000 in total and are expected to rise significantly as the Elite offers a way around the general ban on general tourists and retirees. The scheme also offers a number of perks such as fast-track immigration and discounts across the retail sector.
The exact timescale for the return of all Elite members – or those who wish to travel at the present time – is unclear as there is a quota system in operation and there are only repatriation flights to Bangkok with a minority of expensive seats reserved for non-Thai nationals. The total waiting time is currently about a month for returning foreigners who obtain the all-important certificate of entry from their local Thai embassy.
In the meantime, there is no sign that the government is leaning to resuming normal airline scheduling nor opening up the country to short-term vacationers. The CCSA is known to have several doctors who remain concerned about a second wave of coronavirus hitting Thailand. Travel bubbles with other countries have been rejected for the time being, although variations on the proposal are still being debated in government circles.