It is unlikely that the Thai government’s proposals to encourage one million super-rich foreigners to seek Long Term Residency (LTR) will hit the bullseye. That’s according to investing gurus such as Global Partners who say that the much-proclaimed right to own freehold property is restricted and unclear. International Properties point out that the publicized benefits fall well short of offering citizenship which some competitor countries do offer under their CBI (Citizenship by Donation) programs.
Thailand’s interior ministry is keen to resurrect the measure (buried and exhumed several times in the past) to allow wealthy foreigners to own one rai (0.16 hectares) for residence if they invest at least 40 million baht. The idea is backed by the Federation of Thai Industries and others who see the measure as kickstarting the sluggish economy by external investment. But critics stress that the measure will be unpopular with the Thai electorate as well as being too restrictive for buyers. For example, if a foreigner purchases a freehold property he or she can later sell only to a Thai national.
Prospective property buyers will need to be part of the Long Term Visa program, whose other perks are limited to temporary tax incentives, freedom from reporting to immigration every 90 days and a semi-automatic work permit if needed. But Business Insider, on its website, points out that the Elite card already offers a multiple-entry visa for up to 20 years for a one-off lump sum which requires no ongoing investment at all. Moreover, Elite unlike LTR does not require any medical insurance. Elite does not carry an automatic work permit, but recent changes in immigration protocol mean that attending business meetings, working for short periods in Thailand and even some digital nomads appear be to be exempt or ignored categories.
International investment companies seem to be unanimous that the best way to attract the super-rich is to offer them a second passport. Business Insider lists 23 countries where a cash donation or an investment, between US$100,000 and US$3 million, can buy immediate or post entry citizenship. Such a proposal would be laughed out of court if proposed in Thailand where there is enormous sensitivity about foreigners “taking over” the country. None the less, that’s the way to rake in the high-value visitor we hear so much about these days.