Thailand approves four-year visas for experts and investors

To increase Thailand’s competitiveness, foreign experts and investors in fields deemed helpful to advancing Thailand’s high-tech development will be eligible for free visas of up to four years, the government announced last week garnering praise from foreign chambers of commerce, while retirees will now be able to receive 10-year visas.

Ampon Kittiampon, director for the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, told reporters that three groups would be eligible for visas ranging from two to four years, with no work permits required. The first group includes experts such medical personnel, researchers and aviation engineers who work in Eastern Economic Corridor projects. The second group is investors who get privileges from the Board of Investment (BoI) and invest in 10-targeted high-tech industries. The last group is investors in startups.

He added that family members of the investors who qualify would also receive free visas of up to four years. Investors, who already have one-year visas but who then expand investments to include high technology projects and technology transfer, would be eligible for a visa upgrade.

Stanley Kang, president of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce, praised the move, saying it would help facilitate foreign investment, but urged the government to go even further. Among measures he recommended was speeding up the establishment of an online one-stop visa service and eliminating other paper forms.

“For example, the government should abandon immigration forms now that everything – passport and ID cards – has been digitized,” he said.

The government has been moving in that direction, although cautiously.

Meanwhile, the Immigration Bureau announced last week that citizens of 14 countries would now be able to apply for retirement visas of up to 10 years. However, applicants must have $90,000 in a bank for a minimum of three months prior to applying for the 10-year visa, and have valid health insurance.

The countries whose citizens are eligible for the longer retirement visas are: Australia, Canada, Denmark,Germany, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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