Tourism Minister Talks Up 5-Year Visas

Numerous expats work at a cafe at the Thailand Creative & Design Center in Bangkok.

BANGKOK — A long-discussed plan to offer five-year visas for foreigners was floated again Tuesday by the nation’s top tourism official.

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.

Visas such as those offered in Malaysia are not valid for employment but hold appeal for retirees and students.

Kobkarn also singled out complaints about delays at the Chiang Mai immigration office, saying it needed to increase staff because it takes more than six times longer for expats to extend their visas there compared to offices in other provinces.

As the northern province is home to about 12,000 long-stay foreigners and a destination the government wants to promote as a medical hub, Kobkarn said her ministry would push the Immigration Bureau to loosen measures, such as dropping 90-day check-ins in favor of an annual system.

The population of long-staying residents is expected to grow 5 percent to 10 percent annually, she said.

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

In March, an umbrella organization of trade groups called on the military government to issue a new type of five-year visa to attract highly skilled professionals. No progress was ever reported.

 

Related stories: