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Thailand Government Approves Visa Incentives – Will More Follow?

Thailand Visas

The Thai government has recently approved the extension of long-stay visas for foreigners 50+ years old in Thailand. The approval means visas can be valid for 10 years, instead of one year.

In another positive move, the government has waived the tourist visa fees (and halved others) for visitors arriving from 19 countries from December 1st 2016 to February 28th 2017 in a measure to woo more visitors to Thailand.

Are the changes a sign that the visa rules are being relaxed?

That remains to be seen, but it is obvious that tourism continues to flourish despite challenges this year. There are some signs that the government intends to clamp down on long-stayers that simply do ‘border runs’ to renew their visas. The stereotype of this kind of long-stayer is that they do not provide benefits to the economy to the same degree that legitimate long-stay visitors or genuine short-term tourists (up to 90 days do). Stricter controls on people simply leaving the country to renew their 30-90 day tourist visas are likely, while we may also see incentives for people to invest in visas for long-term stay.

If you’re thinking of investing in Real Estate In Thailand, you’ll want to know when you can visit and how long you can stay in the country. We’re here to help!

Thailand Ten-Year-Retirement-Visa

The new Thailand-Ten-Year-Retirement-Visa will cost 10,000 Baht ($280) and foreign senior tourists must be 50 years old or older in order to be eligible. They are required to obtain the non-immigrant long stay visa beforehand, and also meet certain financial criteria. It is understood that the existing retirement visa will remain available, for those that are unable to meet the criteria of the enhanced ten-year-visa.

So, what’s the catch?

This is big news for retirees in Thailand looking to spend a long time in Thailand. The Ministry of Public Health reported to the cabinet on the 22nd November 2016 that the number of foreigners looking to stay and retire in Thailand is on the rise. Main areas of popularity are Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Chon Buri, and other popular resorts close to the seaside.

Keen to capitalise on this increase of wealthy foreigners staying in Thailand, the Thai government has approved this incentive – but it’s not for everyone.

To qualify for the new Thailand-Ten-Year-Retirement-Visa, applicants must have a monthly income of at least 100,000 baht ($2800) or a bank account with three million baht deposited ($84,000). If the latter, this must be maintained as available funds for at least one year after the granting of the Thailand-Ten-Year Retirement Visa.

The Thailand-Ten-Year-Retirement-Visa will be available for visitors from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

In addition to the above, applicants are required to have medical insurance cover. This is for one year, with at least $1,000 US for our-patient care and $10,000 dollars for in-patient care each time. It’s important to note that holders of the new visa must also report to a designated immigration office every 90 days.

Note: This 90 day report may be carried out with power of attorney of a local lawyer on your behalf if preferred arranged by Find Thai Property

Thailand Tourist Visa Fee Waiver

Earlier this month, in addition to the Thailand-Retirement-Visa changes, Thailand’s Ministry of Interior had announced it was waiving visa fees for applicants from 19 countries.
However, notices posted outside the Royal Thai Embassies in Vientiane and Washington DC and at the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang suggests that ALL applicants will now be exempt from paying the 1,000 baht fee.

The notice also states that during the same period, the Visa on Arrival (VoA) fee will be decreased from 2,000 baht to 1,000 baht for those who are entitled to apply for the VoA.

Source: Thai Visa

It is likely that this is an attempt by the Thai government to boost tourism during high season. It may also be a reaction to the recent revelations from the Tourism Authority Of Thailand that arrivals from China had experienced a ‘sudden drop’ following a crackdown on ‘zero dollar tours’. Figures quoted from a variety of sources suggest anywhere between a 10-30% decrease in Chinese tourists temporarily, but the overall figures for tourism in 2016 remain healthy.

News was recently released that Thailand welcomed its 31 millionth visitor in December and is on course to achieve its target of 32 million visitors in 2016 – an approximate 10% increase on the previous year. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has called for operators in businesses related to tourism to be ready for an influx of visitors in 2017, with the expectation of further increases.

Note: The tourist visa incentive began on 1st December 2016 and will currently last until 28th February 2017.

What Visas Are Available For Real Estate Investors in Thailand?

For many of our clients, looking to invest in Real Estate in Thailand, there are three further options for long-term visas.

1. Investment Visa Thailand

This is a hugely attractive visa for anyone looking to invest in Real Estate In Thailand. There are no age restrictions, and it offers the right to anyone willing to invest 10 million Baht ($280,000 USD) into property, government bonds or an account in a thai bank – or any combination of the three. The stipulation with this visa is that holders are not allowed to earning a wage while in Thailand, but should get an unlimited right to stay here, providing they follow the rules on renewing their visa annually. Prior to 2006, the amount required to obtain an investment visa was just 3 million Baht ($84,000 USD) – holders of this original visa still currently have the right to stay in Thailand.

Property A Sound Investment For Long-Stayers
As Real Estate Agents in Thailand, we’re always going to suggest property as the way to go regarding your investment. But there is also some other logic to purchasing property to live in, as doing so means you will not be paying out money in rent. Remember, you’re unable to earn a wage, so living in a property that you own will reduce your daily living costs considerably and also provide you with more long-term security than having to regularly re-assign leases.
This figure is enough to get you a small luxury condominium in Bangkok, or a villa with a swimming pool on the coast (however, ownership is more complex for foreigners than purchasing a condo). A wiser move could be to purchase two properties, with one to live in close to the city and one closer to the beach to periodically rent out. This will provide you with an extra revenue stream, while providing a seaside retreat.

Chiang Mai Appealing Alternative
Foreign Real Estate investors in Thailand should not overlook Chiang Mai. Property can be far cheaper than Bangkok here, and cost of living is also less. It’s a slower pace of life in Chiang Mai than Bangkok. You are further away from most beaches, but with a good airport link between Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi and Surat Thani it’s easy to travel between locations for affordable flights lasting little more than an hour. Air Asia flies between destinations on a daily basis, and depending on availability, return flights can be snapped up for less than 2,500 Baht ($70) from a variety of destinations within Thailand. For the latest deals on flights, check out the Skyscanner website.

2. Thailand Elite Visa (Card)

This is another visa that enables foreign Real Estate Investors to enjoy Thailand for extended periods of time. The Privileged Entry visa is an updated version of the original Thailand Elite visa and has a validity of five years, on the basis that it is renewed every 12 months. The Elite membership is available by ordering in advance at the Thai Embassy of the country your passport originates from or by ordering at the airport upon arrival, and then arranging subsequent pick up and checks at a local Thai immigration office.
There are different packages available for this visa, starting at the basic five years for a flat fee of 500,000 Baht ($14,000 USD) up to 2,000,000 Baht ($56,000 USD) for the Elite Ultimate Privilege. This visa option provides relatively easy access to a medium-long term stay in Thailand and you will receive support with visa renewal and other perks.

Check out the link for more information on the Thai Elite visa

3. Non-Immigrant ‘O’ – Guardian Visa

If you are the parent or guardian of a Thai or foreign child who is studying in Thailand and less than 20 years of age you are eligible to apply for a Thailand Guardian Visa , providing you meet the additional criteria listed below.
You must provide the birth certificate of the child to prove the relationship, and an admission letter from the school or other provider of the education. In addition, you will be asked to deposit 500,000 THB into a Thai bank account already set up.
There is a wide variety of international / private schools in Thailand, especially in Bangkok but also in Pattaya and Phuket. Fees can be expensive, but facilities are often excellent with boarding also available at certain school sites. You are not permitted to work with this visa, like most Thai visas. However, this visa can suit individuals and families that work at a variety of locations or those running a business based elsewhere.

List of Other Thailand Visas

It has to be said, that the visa laws in Thailand can confuse. It’s therefore important to do your homework to avoid falling foul of the law and overstaying. With that said, there are also many opportunities to obtain visas that some people are not even aware of.

Here is a summary of the various short and long-term visas available for foreigners in Thailand. For more details, there are links to each visa courtesy of the Thai Embassy website.
1) List of Countries which have concluded visa exemption agreements with Thailand
2) Tourist Visa ( TR ) *** From 13 November 2015, the multiple-entry tourist visa will replace the existing double-entry and triple-entry tourist visas and therefore there will be only 2 types of tourist visa: single entry and multiple entries.***
3) Visa for the certain Countries
4) Non-Immigrant Visa category “O” (Over 50years old and Retired)
5) Non-Immigrant Visa category “O” (Spouse/Family)
6) Non-Immigrant Visa category “O-A” (Long Stay)
7) Non-Immigrant Visa category “B” (Business)
8) Non-Immigrant Visa category “ED” (Internship)
9) Non-Immigrant Visa category “ED” (Education / studying)
10) Non-Immigrant Visa category “O” (Volunteering Work)
11) Transit Visa
12) Visa on Arrival
13) Non-Immigrant Visa category “RS” (Reserch)
14) Non-Immigrant Visa category “M” (Media, filming in Thailand)
15) Non-immigrant Visa category “F” (Official)
16) Non-immigrant Visa category “R” (Buddhism study/Religious function/Missionary purpose)

From the extensive list, you can see there are lots of ways visas can be obtained to stay in Thailand. While it is true that the government may intend to clamp down on long-term visitors with very little capital behind them, they are obviously becoming more responsive to the fact that foreigners have an important part to play in the growth and investment in the Thai economy.

Find Thai Property will be monitoring the Thailand visa situation closely in the future, and will report on any updates that will affect foreigners looking to live, work and invest in Real Estate In Thailand. Make sure you follow us on social media, or sign up to our blog.
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