Thailand’s cabinet announced new visa measures, including the Destination Thailand Visa (DTV), allowing digital nomads to live and work in Thailand for up to 180 days, extendable to 360 days. Details to be released on June 1st, 2024.

Tuesday’s cabinet meeting at Government House produced a number of liberal new visa initiatives aimed at attracting more foreigners to visit and live in Thailand. In particular, among the measures announced was an extended Destination Thailand Visa (DTV) aimed at digital nomads. The new visas would allow an initial stay of 180 days with a ฿10k fee. This could be extended for a further 180 days. At this time, further details on the visa are awaited on June 1st. However, the idea of allowing foreigners to live and work in Thailand online is a big departure. Furthermore, the challenge for the government will be to get it right because there certainly is a market for this across the world, particularly in Western countries.

Government House spokesman Chai Wacharonke on Tuesday briefed the media on a package of visa liberalisation measures agreed at the weekly cabinet meeting. Ministers agreed that the best economic option for Thailand, at this time, is to pursue more foreign tourists. In addition, they seek to attract more foreigners to live and work in Thailand.

Thailand’s cabinet on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a series of visa measures aimed at bolstering the number of tourists and foreigners working in Thailand.

It comes as Thailand’s current account balance, although still in positive territory, has fallen to a projected level of 1.2% of GDP this year from an average of 8% during the years from 2015 to 2018.

In short, the kingdom is suffering not only a severe weakening of its manufacturing base but also capital flight.

Government is looking for new answers as economic prospects have darkened. Moves announced involve new visas and some streamlining of the current system

Faced with deteriorating economic data on all fronts, the government is looking for answers. The answer they came up with on Tuesday is to boost tourism numbers and receipts.

It includes a large range of measures representing both a streamlining of the country’s complicated and archaic immigration system.

In summary, it includes an expansion of visa-free entry from 57 to 93 countries.

For instance, the additional countries include Albania, Cambodia, India, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Laos, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Romania, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan.

Furthermore, visitors arriving from these countries will be able to stay for up to 60 days.

At the same time, visas on arrival will be granted to 12 new countries, bringing the number to 31.

DTV visa changes could make it a game changer but final details are not yet available. Key questions remain to be answered about the ‘live and work’ visa

Significantly, perhaps the most imaginative new measure announced on Tuesday was an extension of the DTN or Destination Thailand Visa.

This is aimed at digital nomads. In brief, the stay for digital nomads who can live and work in Thailand has been extended from 30 days to 180 days.

Certainly, there is a steep fee of ฿10,000. In addition, each DTV visa applicant must show that they have access to ฿500,000 for the duration of their stay.

At the same time, the stay can be extended for a further 180 days with a further fee of ฿10,000.

The visa, once granted, is valid for 5 years. Details about this visa remain unclear and uncertain.

At this time, the government has announced that the visa will only be available from June 2025.

For instance, does the visa mean that in a five-year period, a digital nomad may live and work in Thailand only for 360 days? Or can it be issued annually?

Certainly, there would be avid interest in such a visa if it allowed foreign workers to travel to Thailand and work online permanently.

However, it is unclear if this is the case.

New visa holders will not be allowed to work for Thai-registered firms. The kingdom is a very attractive proposition for foreigners as a top place to live

At the end of the second extension of 180 days, the visa expires.

Therefore, is it possible for a foreign traveller or nomad to apply for a new DTV visa the following year, even if it is from outside Thailand?

A key provision of this visa is that it does not allow the holder to work for a Thai-registered firm.

Nonetheless, it allows the digital worker to work for foreign employers or clients. Undoubtedly, such a visa, if approved on an extended basis, would be a winner for Thailand. This income, if remitted to Thailand, would become a service export. Even if the nomad uses bank accounts outside Thailand, it becomes a tourism remittance.

Thailand is a particularly attractive bet for Western workers seeking a new and cheaper lifestyle.

In recent weeks, the story of Jessica Ward from the United Kingdom is a key example. Ms Ward, who works in the media industry, moved to Phuket with her partner and young daughter.

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Certainly, there are more like her.

However, the problem and bugbear has been and continues to be the immigration process.

This includes too much bureaucracy and red tape. A simple and easy DTV visa, which could be extended annually, could revolutionise Thailand’s economy.

Foreign nationals living and working in Thailand could also bring ideas and innovation in addition to boosting the local economy in terms of receipts

Furthermore, the more Thailand’s economic planners do to make such visas as unrestricted as possible, the more success will be had.

In short, these skilled digital nomads could bring with them ideas and innovation to Thailand.

In addition, the visa also covers the spouse of the visa holder as well as legal children under 20 years of age.

At length, the government is promising further information on the new visa on June 1st, 2024.

The message was clear on Tuesday. Attracting more people to visit and stay in Thailand is essential to the country’s current economic challenges.

It set a target of ฿3 trillion for tourism this year. Presently, that seems unlikely.

In 2019, Thailand’s tourism economy earned a similar figure with ฿1 trillion of this coming from domestic tourism. 

In 2024, foreign tourism on track to generate ฿1.254 trillion, far short of nearly ฿2 trillion generated in 2019. Cabinet wants ฿3 trillion in receipts

Therefore, foreign tourism generated ฿2 trillion five years ago with 39.8 million tourists. At this point, the government should exclude domestic tourism from the picture or at least from the analysis when it concerns the current account.

In brief, foreign tourists to Thailand spent an average of ฿33,903 per visit in the first three months of 2024.

Presently, the government’s target is 37 million visitors. That would give an income of ฿1.254 trillion.

Among the decisions announced on Tuesday was a move to reduce the number of Immigration O visas from 17 different types to 7.

At the same time, the insurance requirement for retirement visas was cut significantly. Formerly ฿3 million, it was reduced to ฿400,000 for inpatient coverage and ฿40,000 for outpatient medical costs.

In addition, the cabinet also ordered that e-visa application services be made more available at Thai consulates and embassies abroad. The number of sites is to expand from 47 to 94.

Pandemic era showed a close relationship between foreign residents and tourism. Market trends show that there is an ongoing demand to live in Thailand

Details of the package of measures were given to the media by Mr Chai Wacharonke, the government spokesman.

He also announced that the Immigration Bureau was looking at new technology-based systems for screening and tracking foreign nationals and visitors.

Mr Chai explained that the measures announced would see the Thai government lose approximately ฿12.3 billion in fees and revenue. Nonetheless, its potential to transform the tourism economy was high.

Undoubtedly, Thailand learned during the pandemic era that there was a cross-over relationship between foreigners living in Thailand and overall foreign tourism.

Any cursory analysis of market trends over the last twenty-five years will show this. At the same time, it must be observed that government policy has been both erratic and at times less than helpful.

Every year thousands of foreigners risk imprisonment to live and work in Thailand illegally. The question is why they come and how can it benefit Thailand

Certainly, the previous government’s hamfisted response to the pandemic crisis did little to improve Thailand’s perception abroad. In particular, among its key tourism markets.

In truth, the incessant campaign of crackdowns and arrests enforcing outdated legal provisions should be looked at.

For instance, someone should ask, why are these foreigners risking imprisonment to come to live in Thailand?

Then, following this, see if the government can find a way to meet this foreign demand. In effect, allowing more foreigners to legally live and work in Thailand without negatively impacting existing economic concerns.

Notably, the immigration Thailand is experiencing, unlike in Western countries, is self-financing, sustainable and one which adds value. Unquestionably, it also has the potential to bring an impetus for future growth and innovation. This would be in addition to taxation and revenue generation within the wider economy.

Thailand’s government’s answers to its economic doldrum. Part of it may be opening up the country to foreign, self-funded talent on a legal and safe basis

It is understood that the initiative for this package of measures has come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under new Minister Maris Sangiampongsa.

Another measure also announced was to allow foreign students who complete their education at Thai universities to remain in the kingdom for one year.

On Tuesday, it was revealed that there are forty thousand of these young people each year. In that period, they may secure full-time employment.

The raft of initiatives unveiled on Tuesday is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

It comes with a country whose economy is mired in private sector debt while public borrowing was last reported at 63.7% of GDP.

Simultaneously, manufacturing output has fallen for six successive quarters while the country’s uncompetitive firms and products have left exports just treading water.

Thailand has been told by the World Bank and other bodies that it could be facing low growth of approximately 2% for another twenty years. It is presently the lowest economic performer in Southeast Asia.

The kingdom is facing mammoth structural problems that will take that length of time to fix. In the meantime, it badly needs a short-term answer.

The idea of opening up the country as a base for self-funded foreigners to live and work legally should be pursued.

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