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Chinese jump at ‘elite’ Thailand visas to escape coronavirus

Chinese jump

Beijing’s new outbreak prompts wealthy to seek second home, agents say

China’s initial coronavirus outbreak and the current resurgence in Beijing have driven many Chinese to apply for long-term residency in Thailand as the kingdom enjoys plaudits for its handling of the pandemic.

Thailand Privilege Card, operator of the Thailand Elite Card, has seen a surge in applicants since February, especially in recent weeks, three agents told the Nikkei Asian Review. The card offers a re-entry visa renewable for up to 20 years and other perks for those who can afford it.

“We have received many queries after China saw a potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases” starting in mid-June, said Bobby He, an Elite Card agent based in Bangkok.

The agent said he received seven applications on one day this week.

“It’s strange that some people have never even been to Thailand,” he said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred many Chinese into looking for a second home overseas.”

Thousands of Beijing residents have seen their homes go under lockdown since a locally transmitted infection was found June 12, the first in nearly two months. Within a week, the number of cases surged to 158. Residents of higher-risk areas are not permitted to leave the city, while others must show a negative coronavirus test result to visit other Chinese provinces.

Thailand, by contrast, has reported no local transmissions for 31 consecutive days through Wednesday. The Southeast Asian country has logged just over 3,150 confirmed cases so far.

Elite visa members totaled 9,578 as of Feb. 29, with Chinese making up 20%, an internal document seen by Nikkei shows. British members totaled 6%, while Japanese and Americans made up 5% each. Membership has risen from 6,495 at the end of 2018.

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