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Thailand aims to attract up to 1 million wealthy residents and capitalize on telecommuting professionals uprooted by Covid-19 by offering long-term visas to foreigners who invest between $ 250,000 and $ 500,000 in government property or bonds.
The visa scheme, unveiled by Prayuth Chan-ocha’s cabinet this week and subject to legal changes, will be aimed at “wealthy global citizens”, wealthy retirees, digital nomads working remotely and skilled professionals.
The launch of the visa scheme comes as the pandemic gutters 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 for vaccinated foreigners, but authorities acknowledge that mass tourism is unlikely to return to the record 40 million visits recorded in 2019 anytime soon.
To qualify for the 10-year visa, which includes 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. by year. Retirees must invest at least $ 250,000 and earn a minimum of $ 40,000 a year.
Bangkok plans to offer the measures for an initial five-year trial period starting in 2022. During this period, the government said it expected an increase in investment of 800 billion Thai baht ($ 24 billion) in the country, as well as an additional 270 billion baht. tax revenue.
Thailand will join several other countries, including Barbuda and Antigua and Barbados, offering tax and visa incentives to attract digital nomads and other high-income foreigners.
“We hope that wealthy global citizens, retirees and highly skilled professionals will welcome this opportunity,” said Juckchai Boonyawat, CEO of Mercer, the consultancy in Thailand.
“That said, we need to be vigilant about how the government would change laws regarding land and property ownership, as well as applicable taxes, as these are important considerations for foreigners looking to keep a long-term investment. in Thailand. “
A government spokeswoman told the Financial Times that the plan would be implemented only after “further amendments regarding laws and regulations” were made.
One digital nomad visa expert described the 10-year duration as “a game changer,” but added that its importance would depend on the specifics, including whether it allowed freelancers working for multiple clients, rather than a single employer, establish base in Thailand.
“That’s the holy grail of the true digital nomad: getting a multi-year visa,” said Jeff Opdyke, editor of the Global Intelligence Letter.
Thailand’s year-round warm weather, vibrant cuisine, beaches, and reliable private healthcare have already attracted a large expat and retiree community.
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“In general, this [visa scheme] It is a positive move, but it remains to be seen if this reform will really attract the investments that the government expects, ”said Mercer’s Juckchai.
However, some long-term foreign residents have recently complained about the government’s clumsiness in responding to the Covid-19 vaccine and about cumbersome entry requirements for residents returning from abroad.
Anutin Charnvirakul, Thailand’s deputy prime minister, angered some expatriates 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.