By Uglobal Staff
Foreigners who wish to live and work in Thailand for the long term, either as digital nomads or retirees, may get a new and more relaxed visa option by the end of this year.
The Thai government is making plans to revamp its immigration rules for foreigners, including easing up work permits, visa applications, mandatory reporting of whereabouts rules to police every 90 days, according to a senior Thai government advisor. The plans also include providing relaxed property holding rules as well as corporate income-tax cuts to foreign investors, according to the government.
The reforms would also look to offer benefits to retirees and startups. The Thai government hopes to see at least 1 million foreign retirees that in turn is expected to inject more than $38 billion into Thailand’s pandemic-devastated economy.
Attracting skilled, remote workers to Thailand
The Thai government seems particularly keen on providing special incentives to the global remote working individuals who can bring in U.S. dollars and euros to their economy. In his speech on the state of the Thai economy on March 29, the Bank of Thailand Governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput made that point clear that his country was not just looking to attract the usual tourists looking to enjoy its beautiful beaches and landscapes anymore.
“The digital technologies trend towards work-from-anywhere provides the opportunity for us to attract different types of tourists who come, work, and stay for a long time. They are able to work from anywhere using working-from-anywhere technology which provides significantly higher value-added for the tourism sector,” he said.
The governor called for easing the visa immigration for such workers immediately to boost the Thai economy. “One area that needs the improvement immediately is our visas and other regulations which are preventing us to realize possibilities from increasing values that we get from foreigners and foreign workers,” Suthiwartnarueput added.
The status of Thailand’s economy
Thailand’s economy is heavily dependent on its tourism revenue; around 12% of the country’s GDP is generated from this sector alone, accounting for about 20 percent of employment in the country. The pandemic had caused severe losses as the tourist numbers dropped drastically following the outbreak. The country, which used to average close to 40 million tourists per year, managed to attract just 7 million tourists last year. This year experts say it would be lucky if it is even able to attract 3 million tourists in order to maintain its projected growth of 3%.
The Bank of Thailand governor estimates that his country will not see its pre-COVID level of tourist numbers at least for the next 5 years, which was why he was pushing the government to think about out-of-the-box solutions such as providing new and relaxed visa regimes to foreigners who can bring in their wealth into the country.
In 2018. Thailand had launched its Smart Visa scheme that allowed talented foreigners working in key sectors to obtain four-year long visas. This was a big step in helping foreigners who wish to stay in the country and work on their own startups instead of relying on local companies for their work visas. However, applicants for the Smart Visa were only granted to those who were planning projects in specific industries such as smart electronics, medical and wellness tourism, agriculture and biotech, future foods, automation and robotics, environmental management and renewable energy etc.
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