Confused by 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.
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.
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.