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Thailand aims to lure up to 1 million wealthy residents and monetize remote working professionals uprooted by Covid-19 by offering long-term visas to foreigners who invest $250,000-$500,000 in real estate or government bonds.
The visa scheme, unveiled this week by Prayuth Chan-ocha’s cabinet and subject to legislative changes, will target “affluent global citizens”, wealthy retirees, digital nomads working remotely and skilled professionals.
The launch of the visa regime comes as the pandemic has gutted the Thai tourism industry, hurt business confidence and hit the baht, one of Asia’s worst-performing currencies this year.
Thailand is cautiously reopening its largest island of Phuket and some other resorts for vaccinated foreigners, but officials acknowledge that mass tourism is unlikely to return to the record 40 million visits recorded in 2019.
To qualify for the 10-year visa, including family members, the Thai government said “wealthy global citizens” would have to invest at least $500,000 in bonds or real estate and prove they had a minimum income of $80,000 a year. Retirees must invest a minimum of $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 expects an 800 billion baht ($24 billion) increase in investment in the country, as well as 270 billion baht in investment. 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-earning foreigners.
“We expect wealthy global citizens, retirees and highly educated professionals to welcome this opportunity,” said Juckchai Boonyawat, CEO of the Thailand consultancy Mercer.
“That said, we should keep an eye on how the government might change laws regarding land and property ownership and applicable taxes, as these are important considerations for foreigners looking to stay in Thailand with a long-term investment. ”
A government spokeswoman told the The Washington City Times that the scheme would not be introduced until “further legislative and regulatory changes” were made.
An expert on digital nomad visas described the 10-year duration as “a game changer,” but added that its significance depends on the details, including whether freelancers worked for multiple clients, rather than a single employer. , base in Thailand.
“That’s the true digital nomad’s holy grail: getting a multi-year visa,” said Jeff Opdyke, editor of Global Intelligence Letter.
Thailand’s warm weather, vibrant cuisine, beaches and reliable private health care have already attracted a large community of expats and retirees.
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“In general this [visa scheme] is a positive step, but it remains to be seen whether this overhaul will indeed deliver the investment that the government expects,” said Mercer’s Juckchai.
However, some long-term foreign residents have recently complained about the government’s tampering with its Covid-19 vaccine response and cumbersome entry requirements for residents returning from abroad.
Thailand’s deputy prime minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, angered some expats early in the pandemic when he lashed out at “farangs” (westerners) for being “dirty” and not wearing masks. He later apologized for the comments, which were aimed at tourists.