Thailand now has in place measures to lure wealthy foreigners and professionals as part of an effort to boost the economy, Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin has said.
The new, long-term resident (LTR) visa -- which kicked off on Thursday -- will allow selected non-Thais to stay in the kingdom for up to 10 years, Mr Suchart said.
The visa offers a range of tax and non-tax benefits to attract new foreign residents, technologies and talents to stay or work in the country longer, he said.
Eligible applicants are those who have at least US$1 million (nearly 37 million baht) in assets and investments in Thailand, and retirees aged 50 or older who have an annual pension or a stable income.
The third group is remote foreign workers who want to work from Thailand while being employed by well-established companies overseas.
The last group is highly skilled professionals or experts in targeted industries, working for business entities, higher education institutes, research centres, or specialised training institutes in Thailand or for Thai government agencies.
Spouses and children under 20 years of age will also qualify for the same visa, he said, adding that each LTR visa holder can have a maximum of four dependents.
The LTR visa holders will have privileges such as a 10-year renewable visa, fast-track service at international airports in Thailand, one-year report to the Immigration Bureau instead of every 90 days, multiple re-entry permits, permission to work in Thailand and a 17% personal tax rate for highly skilled professionals.
The government has set the target of attracting one million wealthy or talented foreigners to the country over the next five years, said ML Chayotid Kridakon, an adviser to the prime minister.
The new visa programme, unveiled more than a year ago, seeks to build on post-pandemic efforts to welcome back visitors as the tourism industry accounts for 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 as helping add value to the economy that's expected to grow 3.3% this year, the slowest pace in the region, according to a Bloomberg report.
"The 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 to Bloomberg.
"Host countries also count on such arrivals to add to the talent labour pool in the country as well as boost the economy from incremental demand lift-off."
The visa initiative can generate economic activities equivalent to about 1 trillion baht annually by way of investment and the purchase of properties by the new entrants, ML Chayotid said. The programme will also help draw professionals to industries such as electric vehicles, smart electronics and digital technology that Thailand is focused on promoting, he said.
"The long-term resident visa programme will help Thailand in the post-Covid economic recovery," Duangjai Asawachintachit, secretary-general of Thailand's Board of Investment (BOI), said on Wednesday.
The government is betting on a rebound in foreign tourist arrivals to power economic growth next year to 4.2%, which would be the fastest pace of expansion since 2018.
While wealthy expats already had access to a "pay to stay" visa programme, the new initiative will spare professionals from dealing with one-year work, retirement or marriage permits that often require multiple trips to government offices, lawyers and fixed deposits in local banks.
The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce said the new visa regime will make Thailand an attractive place to work and buy a second home for global citizens.
"Work permits and visas have been the biggest obstacle for all investors in Thailand for over a decade and LTR offers a solution," said Vibeke Lyssand Leirvag, chairwoman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand.