Thailand is growing in popularity as a destination for expats to call their new home. However, many foreigners believe they must be employed with a work permit, marry a Thai, or wait until they are 50 years old to apply for a retirement visa, or otherwise risk being denied entry by immigration officials by making multiple visa runs across the border. In fact, there are other options for those with reasonable means. While not a solution for everyone, investment visas are available to those who have five, ten, twenty, or forty million baht in qualified investments in Thailand.
Apply for a SMART visa with THB 5M or THB 20M in qualified tech investments
Through the recently implemented SMART visa program, investors in targeted industries may qualify for the “SMART I” (Investor) visa with a THB 5 million or THB 20 million investment.
The THB 5 million applicant must invest this amount as an individual directly to a qualified technology-based start-up or accelerator or incubator program endorsed by certain Thai agencies. These agencies include the National Innovation Agency, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, and the National Science and Technology Development Agency.
For a THB 20 million investment, the parameters are not as narrow. You just need to invest that amount in technology companies qualified as belonging to certain BOI-targeted industries, either as a direct investment or through venture capital funds. As of this date, the targeted industries are varied and range from medical tourism to aviation to robotics to human resources development.
SMART I visas are renewable for four years and include spouses and children. Holders and their spouses may work without the need for work permits and are exempt from the need for re-entry permits for the entire family.
Please note that since the SMART visa program is relatively new, you should check with a trusted advisor, such as GPS Legal, to confirm whether any of the qualifications have changed.
Get a one-year (renewable) “IM” visa for a THB 10M investment
Since 29 August 2014, foreigners who invest THB 10 million or more may qualify for a one-year renewable non-immigrant IM visa to stay in Thailand. This THB 10 million can be in the form of 1) one or more legitimate condominium purchase(s) (i.e. subject to the condo’s aggregate foreign quota limits), 2) funds in a fixed deposit account in a Thai bank, 3) investment in government or state enterprise bonds, or 4) a combination of the first three qualifications.
There are additional requirements, including proof that the THB 10 million was transferred in from overseas and that the foreigner entered on a non-immigrant visa issued by a Thai embassy or consulate (i.e. not a tourist visa or visa exemption on arrival). Once received, the applicant can reapply while the investment is maintained at THB 10 million baht. Additionally, investment visa recipients can also apply for dependent visas for their spouses and minor children. You are not entitled to work with this visa.
Some caveats regarding condo purchases
While you can apply for the IM visa immediately after opening a fixed deposit account or investing in government bonds, there are additional limitations to condo purchases. As mentioned above, the condo purchase must comply with foreign purchase limits. But it must also be a “new build” purchase, i.e. a purchase from the developer. Buying a second-hand condo and not the property developer does not qualify.
Most importantly, you must own this property for at least three years before you can apply for the IM visa. This applies regardless whether the 10M baht investment is from a condo purchase alone or in combination with the fixed account and bond investment qualifications.
GPS Legal understands this can be a frustrating caveat – our immigration experts can suggest alternate visa options for legal visits to Thailand during the interim 3 year period if you chose this path.
A THB 40M investment gets more than a visa
For an investment of THB 40 million or more, you can apply for the right to purchase up to 1 rai of land for residential purposes. While there is no specific visa for this amount, it would show a sizeable commitment to the Kingdom, which should facilitate visa applications either under the 1-year traditional or 4-year SMART investor programs, depending on the type of investment.
GPS Legal is expert in Thailand’s investment visa requirements
GPS Legal has a team with many years’ experience handling visa matters of all types, including investment visas. If you are interested in moving to Thailand and want to explore your options, contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.