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Thailand to introduce 10-year visa for skilled workers, investors

Country Looks To Attract 1 Million People From Advanced Economies

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Thailand hopes to bolster competitiveness by introducing a long-term visa for skilled foreign workers and investors.

BANGKOK -- Thailand will introduce a 10-year visa in September to attract skilled workers and investors, a move aimed at bringing in one million people from Japan and other advanced economies over the next five years.

The introduction of the long-term visa is designed to make key sectors like automobile, electronics and biotechnology more competitive.

Thai Board of Investment (BOI) Deputy secretary-general Narit Therdsteerasukdi said in an interview with Nikkei Asia that the long-term resident visa is aimed at "foreign human resources with high potential and skills," with applications accepted from Sept. 1.

Thailand is looking for experts who belong to companies or research institutions that are involved in more than 10 industrial or technological categories including electric vehicles, electronics, medicine and defense.

Workers employed by foreign companies who wish to work remotely can also apply for the new visa program and relocate to Thailand. People with financial assets of more than $1 million and retirees in their 50s or older who have stable incomes such as pensions can also apply.

Successful applicants will be provided with a digital work permit. The government will reduce the personal income tax rate -- which can sometimes reach 35% -- to 17% for all visa holders. Companies will be exempted from rules requiring the hiring of four Thai nationals per foreign employee, a regulation currently in place to protect the domestic workforce, for new visa holders.

The exemption is designed to make the new visa scheme usable for small and midsize companies as well as startups.

The new visa will be Thailand's third aimed at attracting highly skilled professionals or investors. Among the existing two schemes, the visa work permit facilitation program has drawn 50,000 company executives and professionals from Japan, China, South Korea and other countries over the past 60 years.

The Smart Visa program, which offers a maximum four-year stay, debuted in 2018, granting visas to about 1,200 people. Many of these people are investors or entrepreneurs with digital skills and hail from the U.S. and Europe.

The BOI's Narit said applicants for the new long-term visas are expected to come from Japan, South Korea, China, the U.S. and Europe. Although he did not disclose detailed forecasts on the program's economic effects, he said that on average "we expect the visa holders to spend 1 million baht per person," and the board foresees consumption and investment of about 1 trillion baht ($27.6 billion) in total in the short run.

Thailand's issuance of new long-term visas comes amid intensifying competition within the region to create new industries and supply chains. Backers of the tourism industry, which took a hit big hit from the pandemic, have also pushed for the kingdom to adopt the new visa program.