In September, Thailand will welcome ten-year LTR visa applications for wealthy foreigners, mainly those working in the tech sectors and digital nomads.
This plan should contribute the equivalent of approximately €26 billion to the local economy over the next decade.
Narit Therdsteerasukdi, deputy secretary general of the Thai Board of Investment (BoI), told the DW newspaper that he estimates that at least 50% of applicants for the long-term resident (LTR) visa program would be Europeans.
“We are confident that LTR will generate significant interest from our target groups in Europe,” he said.
“Thailand is already a favorite destination for Europeans…
The responses we got during the pre-launch campaign reflect a lot of interest.
I think the LTR will become even more popular after launch,” he added.
EU countries are the second largest investor in Thailand, after Japan, with €19.8bn of outgoing shares in Thailand at the end of 2020.
Outgoing balances measure foreign direct investment (FDI) in companies located in foreign economies.
Who can benefit from the LTR visa?
The new regime, which will begin receiving applications on September 1, offers work visas to foreigners in four categories.
The basic condition is a heritage of at least 1 million euros (1 euro = 1 dollar this August 22) and an annual income of 80,000 euros, but the rules change slightly from one group to another.
Candidates for the “Highly Skilled Professional” category will be required to work in a sector deemed essential by the Thai government.
Les personnes appartenant à la category “professionnels travaillant à de la Thaïlande”, who are mainly employed by the technologique sector, doivent être employées par une entreprise dont le chiffre d’affaires s’élève à au moins 150 million dollars sur three years.
Candidates for the category of “wealthy global citizens” will have to invest at least 500,000 euros in the local economy, including in the form of bonds and real estate.
All LTR visa holders will be granted a work permit and the right of re-entry.
An LTR visa will be valid for 10 years and can be renewed.
Benefits will apply to the primary visa holder and up to four dependents, including spouse and children.
Companies benefiting from the scheme will be exempt from laws that require them to hire four Thai nationals for every foreign employee, according to reports.
In 2018, Thailand launched its “Smart Visa” program, which also offered incentives to wealthy foreign investors.
Nearly 50 percent of approved applicants were from European countries, Narit said.
He said the “Highly Skilled Professionals” category of the new LTR visa “is practically an extension of the duration and privileges of the Smart Visa program.”
The new visas do not change the rules of the game for companies
The response from the European business community has been “generally positive, but most will wait and see,” Guillaume Rebiere, executive director of the European Business and Trade Association in Thailand, told DW.
“Several businessmen who are already in Thailand have expressed interest in applying as it would help ease administrative burdens,” he added.
“So far, we haven’t seen any significant uptick or interest in moving business to Thailand prior to this program,” he added.
Hans van den Born, executive director of the Dutch-Thai Chamber of Commerce, saw the same reaction.
“Initial reactions were lukewarm,” he told DW.
“I guess it takes more time and a lot more communication with the target audience to get some traction.”
Analysts believe that the Thai government is a bit optimistic in its forecast.
One million applicants are expected to apply for the LTR program by 2027.
If each of them contributes $28,000 to the local economy, the entire program will contribute $27.6 billion, according to BoI estimates.
Only 1,200 visas have been issued under the “Smart Visa” program since its launch in February 2018, although the new LTR scheme offers far more incentives and promises to be less bureaucratic.
“I don’t think it will be a game changer for future Dutch investments, as there are many other important factors before companies decide to invest in our part of the world,” van den said. Born, adding that the program would likely help potential investors feel more welcome.
Thailand seeks to recover from the pandemic
Like most countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand has suffered greatly from a lack of visitors during the pandemic.
Tourism accounted for about a fifth of GDP before the pandemic.
This week, Bangkok revised its growth figures for 2022 upwards to between 2.7% and 3.2%, after an unexpected jump of 2.5% in the second quarter of the year.
See: Thanks to tourism, the Thai economy is expected to grow 3.6% this year
Lynn Tastan, national director of global mobility services at KPMG, an international accounting firm, told DW that LTR visas have some shortcomings.
European retirees may prefer to apply for the existing retirement visa in Thailand, which has lower capital investment commitments than those provided under the “well-off retirees” category of the LTR scheme.
“One of the main challenges is providing supporting documentation to meet the LTR requirements,” said Ms. Tastan.
“Alleviating the administrative burden for all parties under the LTR will be a key success factor,” he added.
But the show’s main draw is in the “wealthy global citizens” and “professionals working from Thailand” categories, he added.
Thailand does not currently have any visa or work permit programs specifically for foreign nationals who fall into these categories.
Importantly, the LTR scheme states that foreigners in these two categories do not need to be sponsored by a Thai to work or reside in Thailand, Ms Tastan said.
“After the Covid affair, multinationals are exploring and implementing hybrid or remote working arrangements, for which Thailand is an attractive destination, and are competing in the region to recruit remote workers under the LTR program,” he added.
Other countries in Southeast Asia are also considering similar visa regimes.
Neighboring Cambodia recently launched its “My Second Home” program, offering incentives to foreigners with investment capital of $100,000.
Indonesia is reportedly considering introducing a five-year “digital nomad” visa to attract high-spending visitors.
See also :
Bide scheduled for proposal allowing foreigners to buy land in Thailand
The Long-Term Resident Visa (LTR), an option to live in Thailand reserved for the wealthiest
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