Thai Tourism Minister Floats Five-Year Visa Pipe Dream


For a multitude of reasons – relatively low cost of living, an easygoing lifestyle and, obviously, nightlife and sexy girls -, Thailand is one of the world’s most popular countries with long-stay tourists and expats. Only Pattaya is home to tens of thousands of foreign residents, many of whom are retirees, are married to local women or work or run a business in Thailand.
If you’re a legally married to a Thai citizen, receive a pension of at least 65k Baht a month, or you legally work in the country, getting an appropriate long-stay visa is still relatively easy.

However, not everyone is in the lucky position to qualify for one of the existing long-stay visas, for example, foreigners under 50 years old, those who don’t plan on getting married and don’t want to or need to find a job in Thailand because they have sufficient means to live here just doing nothing. (This might be thanks to rental income from abroad, companies that don’t need their permanent presence, online work etc.)

So there’s obviously backlog demand to cater for the rising number of under-50-year-olds who may well have the financial means to stay in Thailand but don’t fit in any of the existing visa niches.
Thailand’s tourism minister has now (re)floated an interesting and long-discussed plan – issuing five-year visas to would-be long-stayers.

On Tuesday, tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul pondered how Thailand could attract equal numbers of long-stay tourists as, for example, neighbouring Malaysia.
Khaosod English report:

Visas to facilitate those staying for extended periods would make Thailand more competitive with neighbors such as Malaysia, where 10-year visas are available, according to Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, who said the issue would be raised with the relevant immigration and security agencies.

“If Thailand had a clear strategy and marketing plan, I believe we could attract long-stayers as much as Malaysia does,” she said.

She noted that her ministry also planned to “push the Immigration Bureau to loosen measures, such as dropping 90-day check-ins in favor of an annual system.”
Khaosod English add:

The population of long-staying residents is expected to grow 5 percent to 10 percent annually (…)

Various efforts and calls for long-term visas have been brought up many times but none has yet been pushed toward implementation.

So is there any reason for optimism this time? We agree that on the face of it, the plan sounds just perfect.

Granted, under the so-called Thailand Elite Card visa scheme, five-year (and considerably longer) multiple-entry visa packages have been available to under-50 long-stay tourists for more than a decade now.
But, on the downside, they come at a hefty price of at least a whopping 500k Baht, so aren’t really an option for average earners under 50 years old who want to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time but don’t qualify for either of the available non-immigrant visa such as marriage, business, retirement.

So would a new five-year visa as proposed by the tourism minister be a viable alternative for foreigners who are neither retired or married to a Thai nor wish to engage in business activities  but simply stay here long-term doing nothing?
Without more detailed information on requirements (age, income, proof of funds etc.) and what the visa would actually cost, going any further into this would obviously be but useless speculation.
But keep in mind, multiple-entry tourist visa that are valid for six months were launched only last November, and the reaction on the new visa by tourists has been at most so-so.
That’s because the requirements are relatively strict: For example, applicants need to show an equivalent of at least 200k Baht in a home bank account – and the money must have been in the account for at least six months prior to application. On top of that, applicants from many countries need to prove that they’ve got a job in their home country that they can and will go back to once their extended vacation in Thailand is over.
One obvious problem is: Not everyone keeps that much money in his bank account for six months or longer. In other words, multiple-entry tourist visa are not a blanket solution for would-be long-stayers who want to, for example, spend the winter months in Thailand.

So you wonder if a five-year kind of “tourist visa” would be any easier to obtain? For obvious reasons, we doubt it. Kudos to the tourism minister for floating the welcome plan which however, we guess, will remain an eternal pipe dream.

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