Updates from Thailand
Sign up for myFT Daily Digest to be the first to hear about news from Thailand.
Thailand aims to attract up to 1 million wealthy residents and take advantage of telecommuting professionals uprooted by Covid-19 by offering long-term visas to foreigners who invest $ 250,000 to $ 500,000 in property or bonds of state.
The visa program, unveiled by Prayuth Chan-ocha’s cabinet this week and subject to legal changes, will target “affluent global citizens”, wealthy retirees, digital nomads working remotely and skilled professionals.
The launch of the visa program comes as the pandemic shakes Thailand’s tourism industry, damaging business confidence and hitting the baht, which is one of Asia’s worst performing currencies this year.
Thailand is cautiously reopening its largest island Phuket and a few other resorts to vaccinated foreigners, but officials admit mass tourism is unlikely to return to the record 40 million visits in 2019 anytime soon.
To qualify for the 10-year visa, which includes family members, the Thai government has said that “wealthy citizens of the world” would have to invest at least $ 500,000 in bonds or real estate and prove that they had. a minimum income of $ 80,000 per year. Retirees will need to invest at least $ 250,000 and earn a minimum of $ 40,000 per year.
Bangkok plans to offer the measures for an initial five-year trial period starting in 2022. During this period, the government said it expects investment to increase by Bt 800 billion (24 billion) in the country, as well as Bt 270 billion in additional tax revenue.
Thailand will join several other countries, including Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados, which offer tax and visa incentives to attract digital nomads and other high-income foreigners.
“We expect wealthy citizens of the world, retirees and highly skilled professionals to welcome this opportunity,” said Juckchai Boonyawat, Thai managing director of Mercer, the consultancy firm.
“Having said that, we need to keep an eye on how the government would change laws relating to land and property ownership as well as applicable taxes, as these are major considerations for foreigners who wish to stay with a long-term investment in Thailand. “
A government spokeswoman told the Financial Times that the program would only be implemented after “other changes in laws and regulations” were made.
An expert on digital nomadic visas described the 10-year term as “a game changer,” but added that its importance would depend on the details, including whether it allowed freelancers who worked for multiple clients, as opposed to a single employer. , to define base in Thailand.
“This is the holy grail of the true digital nomad: getting a multi-year visa,” said Jeff Opdyke, editor-in-chief of Global Intelligence Letter.
Thailand’s year-round warm climate, vibrant cuisine, beaches, and reliable private healthcare have already attracted a large expat and retiree community.
Latest coronavirus news
Follow FT’s live coverage and analysis of the global pandemic and rapidly evolving economic crisis here.
“Overall, this [visa scheme] is a positive step, but it remains to be seen whether this overhaul will actually attract the investments expected by the government, ”said Mercer’s Juckchai.
However, some long-term foreign residents have recently complained about the government’s mess in its Covid-19 vaccine response and onerous entry requirements for residents returning from abroad.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul angered some expatriates at the start of the pandemic when he lambasted the “farangs” (Westerners) for being “dirty” and not wearing masks. He then apologized for the comments, which were aimed at tourists.