BANGKOK — Expert expats with high salaries can apply for four-year professional visas starting in mid-January.
That’s when a long-awaited program offering visas that can be extended by four years at a time will be made available to foreigners earning 200,000 baht per month and up.
“More than any other type of visa, the Smart Visa will give the most benefits and privileges,” said Lt. Col. Thanarak Boonyaratkarin of the Immigration Bureau Police. “You will be able to stay for a long time and bring your family over.”
Starting in January, foreigners who meet the Smart Visa’s requirements can apply for them at Thai Embassies in their respective countries or the One-Stop Service Center for Visas and Work Permits at Chamchuri Square in Bangkok.
To be eligible for the Smart Visa, a foreigner must earn more than 200,000 baht a month in specialized industries such as tech, robotics, health care and more. The goal, Thanarak said, is to attract entrepreneurs and experts with technical know-how to stay in Thailand longer.
Instead of checking in with immigration every 90 days, Smart Visa holders only need to check in annually. They also are not required to obtain a work permit, according to a government website.
Smart Visa holders can be investors or entrepreneurs in said specialized industries to qualify for visas of two to four years, depending on their field.
Investors must have their investments approved by the Thailand Board of Investment.
The specialized fields are 10 fields identified by the government in its technology push under the so-called Thailand 4.0 initiative. Five are existing industries: automotives, electronics, medical tourism, agritech and food technology.
Looking toward the future, the other five industries are robotics, aviation and logistics, biochem, digital technology and medical services, equipment and pharmaceuticals.
The Smart Visa plan was first proposed in March 2016 by an umbrella federation of trade groups to attract investment and foreign talent.
Instead of one-year extensions, Smart Visa holders will be eligible for four-year periods. Spouses and children of the visa holder also automatically get four-year extensions. There is no age restriction for the Smart Visa.
There are plans to allow online application for the visa later in 2018, according to a report in state media citing government spokesman Sansern Keawkamnerd.
But nothing’s set in stone, Thanarak said, because they would need to find a way for applicants to submit proof of eligibility.
Update: This article has been updated with additional information.