Simplifying Thai Immigration with the Elite Visa: Insights from Bastien Trelcat
Mr. Bastien Trelcat is the Managing Partner for Southeast Asia at Harvey Law Group (HLG), an international law firm that has been practising immigration law and advising people since 1992. Mr. Trelcat lives in Bangkok.
“Most people interested in living in Thailand approach our company initially to inquire about the Long-Term Residence Visa (LTR Visa Thailand), but the majority end up taking the Thailand Elite Visa (View the program) route as it’s less criteria and less complex,” said Bastien.
Thailand residency programs overview
- Both visas offer long-term stay options for foreigners in Thailand.
- The Thai Elite Visa is a program that requires a membership fee, while the Thailand LTR visa does not.
- The Thai Elite Visa offers more flexibility in terms of length of stay and visa renewal options.
- The Long-term Resident Visa requires proof of financial stability and may be subject to more strict regulations.
- The Thai Elite Visa provides additional benefits such as VIP services and discounts, while the Long-term Resident Visa does not.
What is the Thailand Long Term Residence Visa (LTR)?
Thailand officially launched its new Long-Term Residence Visa (View the program) on August 31st, 2022. Bangkok plans to position Thailand as a regional centre for lifestyle and business and to attract one million “high-potential” individuals in 4 categories:
- wealthy global citizens
- affluent retirees
- digital nomads
- and highly educated professionals
After the first 2 months, just over 1,000 people have applied, and over half of these are actually already residents of Thailand, so they are just changing visa types and not bringing in new talent (according to BOI data cited by research institute Fulcrum). The authorities have also declined a significant proportion of these applications.
Yet publicly available data suggests Thailand Elite is booming – confirming Mr. Trelcat’s comments.
What are the advantages of the Thailand LTR Visa?
At first glance, the LTR scheme offers some very desirable advantages that seem superior to those from the “Thailand Elite” visa. For example, Thai LTR holders can stay in Thailand for up to ten years without applying for new visas, and there is a 1-year mandatory reporting requirement instead of 90 days.
With the LTR visa, you can gain a work permit that exempts you from local employment quotas and excludes your overseas income from taxes in Bangkok. As well, you get a digital work permit.
The government caps the personal income tax rate of LTR Visa holders at 17 percent. This compares favourably with the previous maximum of 35 per cent. Further the LTR visa gives access to ‘Fast Track’ services at Thailand’s international airports.
What are the requirements of the Thailand LTR visa?
However, there are a number of other requirements for the LTR Visa. First, the cost is THB 20,000, or just under USD 600. That is not extravagant. It permits multiple entries and covers up to 4 dependents, such as a wife and minor children.
You must be able to prove an annual salary of at least USD 80,000 for each of the last 2 years. You must also have a master’s degree, have established series A financing for a project, or have demonstrable intellectual property rights if your personal income falls below the minimum annual salary.
Are there requirements for the LTR Visa Thailand of employers?
The restrictions do not just affect the applicant. Their employer must be a publicly traded company with at least USD 150 million in sales and have been so for the last 3 years. Applicants must demonstrate proof of at least 5 years of employment. They must also have health insurance worth at least $50,000 USD.
Not altogether surprisingly, submitting private overseas financial information to the Thai government, as required by the LTR visa, is also concerning to some people.
What about the Thailand Elite Visa?
By contrast, the Thailand Elite Visa, though more expensive, requires much less in terms of qualifications and other data and gives many privileges for its one-time membership fee.
The Thailand Elite Visa is more flexible. First, in terms of the duration (there are a number of options ranging from 5 to 20 years) and then the services provided (ranging from standard to moderate and top levels).
Second, it is undeniably more expensive with a one-time membership fee starting at 600,000 THB or USD 17,000 (at time of writing). However, it also allows multiple entries and has fast tracking for immigration and customs.
Is there VIP assistance with the Thailand Elite Visa?
Thai Elite Visa members are always assigned a Thailand Elite Personnel for assistance. It makes available VIP greeting, fast track, and assistance upon arrival and departure, with someone to answer questions and organise things that need immediate support. In addition, there is free VIP airport lounge access.
Whether you are in Thailand or overseas, there is 24/7 customer service in English, as well as varying levels of support in a number of other languages such as Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese. This is a huge advantage, as they will help organise everything from Thai bank accounts to a Thai driver’s licence for you and provide support on almost any of the daily activities required for a foreigner in a new country. This includes taking care of the regular immigration check-ins for you.
Again, there is tax exemption for any income outside Thailand, but unlike the LTR, Thailand’s elite does not require you to take out health insurance.
Are there discounts and other offers with the Thailand Elite Visa?
In addition, depending on what recreational or business services you need, Thailand Elite (View Program)offers access and discounts for shopping, golf, spas, excursions, resorts, restaurants, gyms, and much more. This alone is worth thousands per year for most members and adds up quickly over the years.
Lastly, other requirements are much less demanding with the Thailand Elite Visa. It simply requires you to have a foreign passport, no bankruptcy or criminal history, or similar issues.
You can submit your application for the Thailand Elite Visa online.
In conclusion, I can see Mr. Trelcat’s point. The Thailand Elite Visa is more expensive but probably represents far more value. It is not surprising, therefore, that it is surging in popularity at a time when the LTR Visa Thailand is not fulfilling its ambitions.
Who can I contact to help with the Thai Elite visa or the LTR visa?
Harvey Law Corporation (HLG) is a law firm specialising in investment immigration. HLG is duly authorised to submit residency & citizenship-by-investment applications on behalf of investors. HLG has been practising Immigration Law for over 30 years and has a number of offices around the world including in Bangkok, Thailand.
Please contact us by email at [email protected] to make an appointment and schedule a consultation.
HLG has offices in 20 cities around the world including in Paris, so we can help answer your questions in many languages.