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Race to lure foreigners in path to economic boom

Thailand is rolling out the red carpet for foreign workers, joining a bevy of countries looking to use the immigration route to boost their economies.

Top professionals, eligible high net-worth individuals and retirees can start applying online from Thursday to stay for as long as 10 years in Thailand, according to Chayotid Kridakon, an advisor to the prime minister. 

The government has set the target of attracting 1 million wealthy or talented foreigners to the country over the next five years, ML Chayotid said at an event in Bangkok on Thursday. 

The new visa program, announced earlier and launched formally on Wednesday, seeks to build on post-pandemic efforts to welcome back visitors to the Southeast Asian nation, where tourism accounts for some 12% of gross domestic product.

The move to tap remote talent, which mirrors steps by countries including Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, is seen helping add value to an economy that is expected to grow 3.3% this year, the slowest pace in the region.   

“The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted workplace policies and introduced flexibility in terms of location as well as job scope, with few countries looking to capitalise on this shift by offering long-term residencies with attractive sops,” said Radhika Rao, an economist with DBS Bank Ltd in Singapore. 

“Host countries also count on such arrivals to add to the talented labour pool in the country as well as boost the economy from incremental demand lift-off,” she said.

Here are some more key benefits of the visa:

  • 10-year renewable visa
  • Multiple re-entry permit
  • Permission to work in Thailand
  • 17% personal tax rate for highly skilled professionals
  • Tax exemption for overseas income
  • Spouse and children of the visa holders will enjoy the same benefits with the maximum of four dependents per one visa holder
  • Exemption from four Thais to one foreigner employment requirement ratio
  • Fast-track service at international airports in Thailand
  • Immigration and work permit services at one-stop centres
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