Thai work permit privileges for top-tier Elite card holders

The latest marketing idea is a work permit privilege for the top-tier applicants.

Thailand Privilege Card (TPC), which operates the Thailand Elite, is lobbying the government to grant work permit rights to those applicants who opt for the 20-year visa and also invest US$1 million, most likely in the property market. Any scheme which draws substantial foreign investment is currently favoured by the government. You can bank on it.

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The Elite card is available in several options for multiple-entry visas from 5-20 years in return for an initial cash purchase of between 500,000 and 2 million baht. But the work permit privilege will only be available to those obtaining the longest and most expensive option and who – additionally – decide to invest in the country. The most likely interested-parties will be the mega-rich from China and Asean member states.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the scheme awaited final approval from the Cabinet but would allow the top-tier Elite holders to manage their investment without worrying about obtaining separately a work permit which can be time-consuming business. Thai work permit rules have recently been relaxed and now allow attending business meetings, but not actually running a commercial enterprise.

President of Thailand Privilege Card (TPC), Somchai Soongswang, said the most popular option for Elite applicants was the 5 year visa which costs 500,000 baht. But the special work permit privilege would be available only to lifetime (20 years) members prepared to make the additional investment.

Applications are surging as wealthy foreigners try to beat the coronavirus restrictions.

There are currently around 11,000 Elite members worldwide but applications are spiraling as rich foreigners, both tourists and professionals, realize they can avoid much of the bureaucratic hassle of applying for visas at Thai consulates abroad or filling in extension of stay forms at Thai immigration offices. The visa, which can be applied for online from any country and monitored by national intelligence agencies, usually takes one to two months to be granted. There is less paperwork than for traditional long-stay visas and, crucially, no required medical insurance.

In August the government approved the Elite visa for entry to Thailand along with other privileged groups such as work permit holders, students, medical tourists and foreigners with Thai families to support. However, some Thai embassies say they are still waiting for final approval from Bangkok concerning the bureaucratic detail.

Currently, no general leisure tourists are allowed to fly to Thailand although a scheme is currently under consideration to allow a Special Tourist Visa (STV) for up to 270 days for charter groups from countries with a good track record in controlling the virus. But even the STV arrivals will still need to quarantine for 14 days and possess comprehensive medical insurance and Coviod-19 advance certification.