The Thai government has officially put its new SMART Visa program into action as of February 1, 2018. According to a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the visa has been created in hopes of attracting foreign talent and investors to stimulate ten targeted industries in Thailand.
The launch comes after rigorous consultation throughout 2017 between the Thai government and representatives of the digital economy sector.
The talks revealed that strong growth in the sector is at risk of falling behind global and regional competitors due to outdated bureaucratic practices, specifically Thailand’s work permit system. As a result of this feedback, the government will now target and streamline the visa process for these four groups:
- Highly-skilled specialists on a minimum 1-year employment contract and earning at least 200,000 THB ($6,300 USD) per month.
- Investors in the targeted industries that will contribute a minimum of 20 million THB ($633,000 USD) in investment capital.
- Investors of companies which also invest in the targeted industries (no amount specified, but likely the same as above).
- High-level executives with 10+ years of experience who work in the targeted industries and earn 200,000 THB ($6,300 USD) per month.
The official press release from the Thai government also lists “others” as a fifth group, but the details seem yet to be determined. The success of an application for any group is contingent on how their contribution will stimulate growth and innovation in ten “S-curve” industries that have been identified by the Thai government:
- Next-Generation Automotive
- Smart Electronics
- Affluent, Medical and Wellness Tourism
- Agriculture and Biotechnology
- Food for the Future
- Automation and Robotics
- Aviation and Logistics
- Biofuels and Biochemicals
- Medical Hub
The SMART Visa grants more privileges than any other Thai visa, perhaps excluding the Thailand Elite Residence Program. The four main benefits are:
- SMART Visa valid for 4 years
- No need to meet the standard work permit requirements
- Can report to the Immigration Bureau once annually instead of the normal 90-day requirement
- Legal dependents (spouse and children) have the right to live and work in Thailand
The program is being viewed as much-needed change in Thailand’s visas regime, but it remains to be seen how many people will utilize this route and whether the requirements and vetting process for the program will be flexible enough to attract high quality talent and investors. The agency running the program is the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI), which is expected to alter the program as needed.
Be sure to stay tuned for updates on the BOI website here.