On September 1, 2022, Thailand introduced its Long-Term Resident (LTR) visa program, aiming to attract a diverse range of foreigners, including wealthy global citizens, retirees, professionals working remotely, and highly skilled individuals. This program offers a 10-year renewable visa and various tax and non-tax benefits. However, while Thailand’s government has ambitious targets for the program, there are challenges and opportunities to consider.
LTR Visa Categories
1. Wealthy Global Citizens
The LTR program seeks to attract wealthy individuals, but its requirement for applicants to hold at least $1 million in assets may deter some. Competing with similar programs worldwide might make it challenging to meet the government’s ambitious goals.
2. Wealthy Pensioners
Malaysia’s My Second Home (MM2H) program, which Thailand aims to emulate, saw moderate success. Still, it faced issues due to political changes and higher financial requirements. Thailand’s LTR program needs to strike a balance to attract retirees without deterring them with excessively stringent conditions.
3. Work-from-Thailand Professionals
The LTR program targets remote professionals but sets relatively high revenue criteria for employers. This may limit the pool of eligible applicants and require adjustments to tap into the global trend of remote work.
4. Highly Skilled Professionals
The program also seeks to attract highly skilled individuals, but its eligibility criteria appear conservative. To encourage innovation and investment, Thailand may need to reassess these criteria.
Initial Response and Challenges
Since September 2022, the LTR program has received 1600 applicants, primarily from the United States, Europe, and China. However, the target of one million applicants over five years appears optimistic, particularly considering the impact of China’s zero-COVID policies on demand.
The Digital Nomad Opportunity
In the post-pandemic world, digital nomadism has gained prominence as a lifestyle choice. Digital nomads, comprising remote workers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, represent a growing global movement. Thailand can tap into this trend, even beyond the LTR program, by considering a dedicated digital nomad visa.
Benefits of a Digital Nomad Visa
- Economic Contribution: Digital nomads invest in local economies through spending on accommodation and services. They can boost tourism and support local businesses without taking up local jobs.
- Innovation and Collaboration: Digital nomads often connect with local ecosystems, entrepreneurs, and knowledge workers. This fosters collaboration, knowledge transfer, and innovation, which can benefit Thailand’s development.
- Tourism Sector Recovery: Attracting digital nomads would help revitalize Thailand’s tourism sector, which plays a significant role in the country’s GDP.
Application Process Overview
The application process for the Long-Term Resident (LTR) Visa is a multi-step procedure. Here is an overview of the steps from application submission to visa issuance:
1. Application Submission
- Applicants need to register and submit an online application for qualifications endorsement along with all required supporting documents for the LTR Visa.
2. Qualifications Endorsement
- Upon receiving complete and valid documents, the application will be registered and sent for qualifications endorsement by relevant government agencies, such as Immigration, Thailand’s Board of Investment, Department of Consular Affairs, etc.
- Applicants will receive notification of the qualifications endorsement result within 20 working days. Please note that processing time might be longer if additional documents are requested.
- Applicants may be asked for additional documents or information to support the consideration by government agencies during this process.
- Decisions made by government agencies regarding the LTR Visa qualification endorsement result are considered final and binding.
3. Visa Issuance
- Qualified applicants, upon approval, will be notified to submit additional information and documents for the pre-approval process, which typically takes 1-3 working days (processing time might be longer if additional documents are requested).
- After the pre-approval request has been approved, applicants will receive notification of the qualifications endorsement letter. They can then schedule an appointment for LTR Visa issuance at the Royal Thai Embassies/the Royal Thai Consulate Generals overseas or the One Stop Service for Visa and Work Permit Center in Bangkok.
- It’s important to note that the appointment for visa issuance should be made within 60 days from the issuance date of the letter.
- The processing fee for the 10-year visa with multiple entry is 50,000 Baht per person if collecting the LTR Visa in Thailand. If collecting the LTR Visa at the Royal Thai Embassies/the Royal Thai Consulate Generals overseas or through E-visa, the fee may vary and could be more expensive than 50,000 THB per person per 10 years. The fee may also depend on the currency exchange rate of each country.
4. Work Permit Issuance
- LTR Visa holders planning to work for an entity in Thailand are required to apply for permission to work either immediately after receiving the LTR Visa or before starting employment in Thailand.
- After LTR Visa issuance, LTR Visa holders must apply for a work permit using the LTR Visa application system. The process typically takes 3-5 working days (processing time might be longer if additional documents are requested).
- Once the work permit request is approved, LTR Visa holders can make an appointment to collect the work permit at the Department of Employment at the One Stop Service Center for Visa and Work Permit in the Chamchuri Square Building in Bangkok.
- The processing fee for maintaining the work permit is 3,000 Baht per year.
- It’s important to note that while the work permit request is still in process, LTR Visa holders are temporarily allowed to work in Thailand without the work permit.
- Work permits will not be granted for Work-From-Thailand Professionals holders, as this LTR Visa category is intended for individuals working remotely for foreign employers abroad from Thailand and does not involve Thai employers according to the digital work permit purpose.
While Thailand’s LTR visa program is a commendable effort to attract a diverse group of foreigners, the government must carefully balance eligibility criteria and expectations to meet its ambitious targets. Furthermore, embracing the digital nomad trend by introducing a dedicated visa option could be a smart move for Thailand. Such a visa would not only encourage economic growth and innovation but also aid in the recovery of the country’s vital tourism sector. With strategic planning and adaptability, Thailand has the potential to stay ahead in the evolving landscape of work and travel practices.