Thailand to amend immigration rules to lure one million wealthy foreigners

The latest generation of Thai visas lures the highly skilled or the wealthy.

The Thai government is drawing up new plans targeting better-off foreigners to come and work or retire in the country. Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said that the government’s top economic committee had approved in principle a number of measures for the post-pandemic era.

Top of the list is the Smart visa for investors, skilled workers and entrepreneurs in S-curve industries such as robotics, biofuels, electronics, renewable energy and medical hub. The attractions include abolition of the 90 day address reporting to immigration, fast-track passage at airports and no need to have a separate work permit.

The Smart visa also enables the spouse and children of the holder to live, work or study in Thailand without further bureaucracy. The multiple-entry visa lasts initially for four years with an annual check at immigration. The Eastern Economic Corridor, adjacent to Pattaya, is a centre for S-curve industries with a modest 300 individuals qualifying to date.

To further sweeten the deal, the government’s top economic committee has ordered a review of how foreigners would be able to buy a house (in addition to a condominium unit) without the need to establish a company with Thais as majority shareholders. Property owners might also qualify for specified working without a separate permit.

Other plans include the extended use of the Elite visa which grants a multiple-entry stay of 5-20 years in exchange for an initial cash payment of 600,000-1.2 million baht. Further possibilities for luring foreigners with the Elite visa include cancellation of 90 days reporting and the chance for the wealthiest sector to buy new property from developers and perhaps qualify for permanent residency without the need for any visa at all.

It is understood that the government review will also encompass regular retirees with one year extensions of stay requiring a modest monthly income or cash deposits in a Thai bank. If the government wishes to attract one million foreigners to be based here, it will presumably have to take account of pensioners with an income far less than 100,000 baht per month. Working parties will report again to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration at the beginning of May.