Hard and soft immigration news from the Thai government

Foreigners unable or unwilling to leave Thailand receive an early bonus.

In a highly unusual move, Thai immigration authorities have confirmed early that the special 60 days Covid visa is available until September 27, replacing the former “final date” on July 27. This means that those applying in late September would have a further two months’ grace period until late November 2021.

The Covid visa is a more or less automatic extension of stay for foreigners unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of the pandemic. It has been in operation, in one form or another, since April last year. Immigration police say there is no reason to wait too long for Covid extensions which can be requested 45 days in advance of the final date shown in the passport.

An immigration inspector told the Phuket News that the Covid amnesty or discretion is likely to remain an option for stranded foreigners until the pandemic subsides. Research in Pattaya last month suggested that that many Covid extenders could return to their home countries but preferred to stay in Thailand for any number of personal reasons. The total number of foreigners involved is unknown but may be 10,000 – 15,000.

If that’s the hard news, recent government predictions that rich foreigners will soon be able to enjoy 10 year visas and house ownership in Thailand appear to be soft. Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said yesterday the visa liberalization would apply to long-stay rich global foreigners, wealthy retirees, rich professionals working here and hi-tech specialists.

Ultra-rich foreigners are more likely to be attracted to countries offering second passports for sale, such as Antigua Barbuda in the Caribbean.

But similar statements have been cropping up for several months and a government working party in June repeated the claims even suggesting that the 90 days residence report might be dropped. But the devil is in the detail. The right to own the land on which a house is built might be in specially reserved housing estates rather than anywhere that takes the buyer’s fancy. An earlier government idea was 50 year leases rather than ownership.

Thailand is committed to encouraging 1 million rich or talented foreigners to settle in Thailand to boost income. Definitions of “rich” vary but are much, much higher than the mere 800,000 baht floor requirement for current retirement extensions of stay. If you haven’t got millions of baht in the bank here, then you will require mega-cash to buy new property or become a serious investor in stocks or bonds.

Critics say that the privileges and bonuses are simply not great enough to attract the ultra-wealthy market abroad. For example, many nations (Antigua and Barbuda amongst them) offer a second passport for serious investors, giving foreigners a permanent right of abode as well as the right to travel internationally more freely. Of course, that’s after the pandemic.