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Thailand Updates Smart Visa Program To Improve Access

November 14, 2018

On November 6, Thailand's Cabinet upgraded the qualifications, criteria and incentives for the Smart Visa, a special visa issued to highly-skilled experts, investors, senior executives and startup entrepreneurs working in targeted industries.

The goal of the government's changes to the Smart Visa are to provide greater convenience for foreign investors and experts in targeted industries who are either already working or seeking to work in Thailand.

The objective of the Smart Visa is to support technology and know-how transfer to Thais, which will drive industrial development and transformation in the country.

Ms. Duangjai Asawachintachit, Secretary General to the Thailand's Board of Investment (BOI), confirmed that the changes had been approved.

Smart Visa conditions have been adjusted in three areas: 1) the number of eligible activities; 2) benefits for Smart Visa holders; and 3) qualifications and conditions for applicants.

The list of eligible activities has been extended to include services in alternative dispute resolution, science and technology-based human resource development, and environment and alternative energy management.

In terms of benefits for Smart Visa holders, the Immigration Office will allow Smart Visa holders to use fast-track services at all international airports, including fast lane access.

Conditions for Smart Visa applications have also been relaxed in many areas. For example, the government has changed the income condition for highly-skilled experts and senior executives from a monthly salary of no less than 200,000 baht to a monthly income that also covers bonuses and other incomes. The minimum monthly income for highly-skilled experts has also been changed to 100,000 baht and to 50,000 baht for experts in startups and retired experts. The adjustments are aimed at increasing the country's competitiveness and ability to attract more specialists.

Similarly, the government has improved various conditions in increasing access to capital for startups and strengthening venture capitalists. For example, investments can now be made through venture capital companies. Moreover, if invested in startups, incubator programs or accelerator programs, the minimum investment requirement has been lowered from 20 million baht to no less than 5 million baht.

Smart Visa conditions for foreign startups have also been changed from a yearly visa on first issuance with possibility for two-year renewals to three types of period: to 6 months, 1 year and 2 years. This will enable more foreign startups to participate in startup activities, such as startup camps. Relaxed conditions will assist professionals working for startups in the hopes that they will help make Thailand a regional center for startups activities.

"The changes on Smart Visa conditions have resulted from BOI's discussion with representatives of both the government and the private sector so as to improve our services," Ms. Duangjai said. "We believe the new conditions will better serve the government's policy and goal in attracting more highly-skilled experts, investors and foreign startups in targeted industries, to help transform the Thai economy and achieve the Thailand 4.0 goals."

The Smart Visa is a special visa type for expats working in targeted industries and is issued under certain conditions. Between 1 February and 30 September this year, BOI received a total of 1,078 inquiries, while 37 applications were also submitted. In addition, 28 people working in industries such as digital, robotics and automation have already been qualified and earned the right to obtain Smart Visas.

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