Juwai pushes golden visa for Chinese

Juwai pushes golden visa for Chinese

Visitors check out a housing fair. Juwai says a residency golden visa scheme can help boost property sales among Chinese. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
Visitors check out a housing fair. Juwai says a residency golden visa scheme can help boost property sales among Chinese. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

Amid slowing global economic growth, the baht's appreciation and a weak yuan, a Thailand Elite residency golden visa scheme can help boost property sales among Chinese buyers, says Juwai.com, China's biggest international property website.

Georg Chmiel, Juwai's executive chairman, said the programme, supported by the state under the Thailand Elite Card scheme, should have a real estate component because it can facilitate Chinese investment.

"In Thailand, most wealthy Chinese residents either live in an apartment in a big city like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, or in a villa in a more suburban neighbourhood," he said. "However, foreigners may not purchase land in Thailand."

Typically the villa is rented. Chinese who want to live in Thailand and have a regular cash flow often buy multiple investment apartments. They use the revenue from those apartments to cover their living expenses and the rent at the villa where they reside.

"When you compare Thailand's programme versus the golden visa in Greece, the one you choose depends on your priorities," Mr Chmiel said. "Thailand's golden visa is less expensive than Greece's."

Foreigners can have residency for as little as US$15,000 in Thailand, whereas in Greece they must invest about $280,000 (€250,000), a big difference in price.

In Thailand, they are paying a fee for the privilege of residency, but it's not an investment. In Greece, they are investing in real estate and presumably can get that money back when they sell the property, perhaps with even a return on the investment.

Greek residency also puts them on a path to eventual citizenship, but the Thai visa does not offer that option.

"Demand for the Thai golden visa is growing rapidly among individuals from China," Mr Chmiel said. "What the data doesn't show us is how many of those applicants are mainland Chinese and how many are Hong Kong Chinese."

The number of applicants in the first quarter was up 60% compared with two years earlier, with most of the growth driven by Chinese.

Individuals from China accounted for 31% of Thai Elite visa holders, followed by Japanese, British, Americans and French -- none of whom accounted for more than 8% of the total. Mainland and Hong Kong Chinese holders of the Thai Elite Residency Visa outnumbered the next four nationalities combined.

In total, more than 4,500 individuals held a Thai Elite Residency Visa, including main applicants and their family members.

"We looked at the data and found that Thailand received more Chinese buyer activity than it deserved, based on its appeal for investment and residency," Mr Chmiel said. "That is not to downplay its appeal," he added.

According to Juwai's investment ranking index, Thailand was among three countries (along with Malaysia and Japan) that received more Chinese buying activity than warranted by the numbers.

The short of it is that the three countries ranked better on the inquiry growth index than might be suggested by their performance on the residency and investment index.

Thailand was only a middling performer on the investment and residency index, but still ranked third on the Juwai enquiry growth index.

The report said Thailand is the top destination for Chinese buyers for the number of buying enquiries made.

Low entry prices for projects with luxury features, an appealing lifestyle and easy proximity make Thailand popular with Chinese buyers.

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