Expanded Smart Visa scheme is aimed at business executives, entrepreneurs, investors and even senior educators in academia who can bring added skills and know-how to Thailand’s ambitious plan to become a fourth-generation high-income economy by 2036. The plan is to be examined by the cabinet. The expanded proposal to that introduced in 2018, cuts the monthly salary threshold from ฿100,000 per month to just ฿50,000.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has given the go-ahead to a plan from the Board of Investment in Thailand to widen its smart visa scheme for foreigners which could see freelance experts, in new business areas, live in Thailand for up to four years and work freely without the need for a work permit and associated restrictions. The plan is expected to receive approval at cabinet level.

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This week, a plan to expand the Smart Visa programme for digital nomads was approved by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and now goes to the cabinet for approval. The scheme is championed by the Deputy Secretary-General of Thailand’s Board of Investment Narit Therdsteerasukdi (left) as a way of boosting Thailand’s experience and talent pool in rapidly expanding new business sectors in which Thailand hopes to attract investment and build its new Thailand 4.0 economy.

Thailand’s Board of Investment is to approach the Thai cabinet with plans to expand its smart visa programme which has, so far, seen only 514 special visas granted to what are termed ‘digital nomads’.

These are experienced and innovative individuals from foreign countries who have unique skills that are very much needed by Thailand’s economic drive towards technology-based industry particularly in digital business opportunities, robotics and growth areas based on new scientific developments.

Influential Covid committee (CCSA) has already given its approval to the digital nomads proposal

The move represents a relaxation of criteria and expansion of the smart visa programme launched in 2018. 

The board has already received the backing of the influential Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration or CCSA.

The improved scheme would see four different types of smart visa being rolled out including Smart Visa E for executives with a bachelor’s degree or higher and long term experience in managing foreign firms, Smart Visa I for investors, Smart Visa S for startup entrepreneurs and a Smart Visa O for family members.

Nomad centres already in popular locations

Already, there are several shared workspaces operating for digital nomads notably in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and on Ko Pha Ngan in Surat Thani province.

To get approval for the new visa scheme, applicants must show a 6-month contract with a foreign firm accompanied by supporting documentation showing the appropriate educational qualifications and experience in business concerns outside Thailand.

Board of Investment official upbeat and enthusiastic about the positive potential to government agencies

Deputy Secretary-General, Narit Therdsteerasukdi, was upbeat about the project’s potential this week when he briefed the press.

‘The influx of talent will create a talent pool in the country,’ he said as he explained that the expertise imported with these smart visa holders could be of benefit to a range of agencies in Thailand promoting the digital development of the economy and efforts to progress Thailand to a fourth-generation economy as outlined in the Thailand 4.0 blueprint at the heart of the government’s economic agenda.

Plan to become a high-income economy by 2036

It is understood that the government’s long term strategy is to create a new environment for digital startups in Thailand by importing vital technical and managerial expertise.

This is also to be extended to academic experts with plans afoot at top Thai universities to enable external educational talent found in this programme to help spur on the growth of technological know-how and increase industry confidence.

Visiting New York in September 2019, the Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, told US investors that Thailand would become a high-income economy based on advanced technology industry by 2036.

Decisive mood to reduce monthly salary requirement to just ฿50,000 per month opens up eligibility

A key adjustment that has been made is a reduction in the salary requirement for small firms bringing in this new stream of innovators and entrepreneurial talent. 

The previous minimum salary level had been ฿100,000. This has now been reduced to ฿50,000 which will have a dramatic impact in widening access to the new smart visas.

Under these visas, which are for 4 years, the holder can work in his/her chosen field without a work permit under special terms which exempts them from work permit requirements and affiliated restrictions.

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