Thailand’s LTR visa needs an overhaul to attract foreigners

Thailand is still hopeful that its updated long-term resident (ltr) visa attract wealthy foreigners, despite more attractive LTR visa options in other countries.

On September 1, Thailand introduced a revised LTR visa, joining other nations such as Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines in targeting wealthy foreigners.

The Thai government has halved the cost of the 10-year LTR visa, from 100,000 baht to 50,000 baht, to attract its four target groups of foreigners: foreign professionals, wealthy people, retirees and those who want to work in Thailand.

The government expects the revised LTR visa to attract about 1 million people a year, which will provide a significant boost to the country’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The government believes this will be the case trigger a windfall of 1 trillion baht.

The initial outlay of 50,000 baht is not a significant amount of money. But like all those things that sound too good to be true, there’s a catch. The Thai government has a number of hoops for foreigners to jump through and some high fences for them to climb for safety.

Each group must meet certain criteria.

Foreigners wishing to live in Thailand must have a combined net worth of at least US$1 million and an income of at least US$80,000 per year. In addition, they must also invest at least US$500,000 in Thailand, in real estate or other assets.

Retired foreigners or foreign professionals must earn at least $80,000 per year. These foreign experts must also have around five years of professional experience in a target industry.

Foreigners wishing to work in Thailand must earn at least US$80,000 per year and have at least five years of experience in legally registered businesses with total sales of US$150 million in the past three years.

The visa is also valid for up to four family members, including dependents under the age of 20.

When you look at options in other countries, you can’t help but think that the Thai government needs to try harder and lower the bar or they will lose potential residents to other countries that offer a much better package.

That Philippines started a Special residence visa for investors (SIRV) earlier this month, which offered permanent residency to any foreigner investing at least $75,000 in businesses or securities.

Once a foreigner invests in the Philippines, they are immediately granted a residency permit – something Thailand does not offer. The SIRV holder, their spouse and children are free to enter and exit the Philippines at any time and forever.

What about the others?

Cambodia has the Cambodia My Second Home visa, which offers the possibility of citizenship to any investor who generates $100,000. Applicants must invest in property with the Khmer Home Charity Association. The visa provides a work permit, as does the Thai LTR.

Malaysia offers a 20-year premium visa program for an investment of $220,000. The country also offers “Malaysia My Second Home” for people aged 35 and over who have liquid assets of around US$320,000 and a monthly income of at least US$8,600.

Singapore will launch a five-year visa program, the Overseas Networks & Expertise Pass (ONE Pass), in January next year. Applicants must have a fixed income of at least 700,000 baht per month and prove that they have worked for an established company abroad for at least one year.

Individuals with outstanding achievements in art and culture, sports, science and technology, and science and research qualify for the ONE Pass even if they do not meet the salary criterion.

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