Thai gov't approves new 10-year visa scheme, as expats ponder small print

Thai gov't approves new 10-year visa scheme, as expats ponder small print

Thailand’s government last week approved the creation of a new 10-year visa for foreign nationals 50 years of age and over, in what is being seen as a bid to attract more wealthy foreigners, many of whom also might be clients for its growing medical tourism industry.

The visa will appeal to foreign nationals living in Thailand, for whom visa issues are a constant problem, according to advisers there, and as comments on the subject posted on expat blogs reveal. At present, the longest period expatriates can get a visa for is one year.

According to press reports, the new 10-year visa will be available to foreign nationals over the age of 50 as long as they earn at least 100,000 baht a month (US$2,810, £2,261) or have 3m baht (US$84.3m, £67.9m) in the bank. They would also be required to carry a certain level of private health insurance.

The new 10-year visa is aimed in particular at attracting nationals from such countries as  Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Taiwan and the United States, the reports said.

Expatriate bloggers in Thailand – who, as regular readers of some of the various expat websites available to them would attest, are never shy about expressing their opinions about anything – have spent the last several days considering what is known about the new visa scheme, and in general seem to feel much more information is needed in order to fully understand whether or not to welcome it.  Said one typical comment, on  “If they’d just make an announcement that doesn’t create more questions than answers, there’d be less mixed reactions.”

Many bloggers felt that the financial requirements would exclude all but the wealthiest 50-plus expatriates, and some said that the requirement to carry health insurance was not something that they, personally, would be inclined to do.

No date for the formal introduction of the new visa has been announced, nor have any details as to whether it would be offered alongside of existing visa schemes or in addition to them.

As reported, in January, Thailand’s immigration department announced a crackdown on foreigners who overstay their visas, and posted a video on the subject that one expat news website at the time  declared “had to be seen to be believed”  (see image from that video, above). That video is no longer available on the Thai Immigration Bureau’s website,  but has been posted on Youtube, and may therefore still be viewed by clicking here. 

The video was meant to help to alert the expatriate community in Thailand about new, harsher visa regulations that were due to come into force on 20 March.

At the time the video was unveiled, foreigners who overstayed their visas had to pay of a fine of 500 baht (US$13.75, £9.64) per day – up to a maximum of 20,000 baht – but weren’t banned from returning to Thailand immediately. Under the new rules, though, those who overstayed their visas would face being banned from re-entering Thailand for one to 10 years, depending on how long they’d overstayed.

To read the current Thai visa regulations on the  Thai government’s website, click here.