Thai government officials back in 2014 took a long look at the property market as well as the existing immigration policies and astutely made the observation that investors in the property market were being short-changed, if not ignored, by Thailand’s immigration policies.
These investors were giving a boost to the Thai economy, but were being forced to adhere to immigration policies that were meant to address tourists or retirees only.
They correctly recognised that they needed to offer encouragement in the immigration policies of foreign individuals participating in property investment in Thailand in order to continue to make it attractive in the eyes of foreign investors. This encouragement would also underline the stability of Thailand as a continuing investment destination and act as an incentive to invest even more in Thailand’s future.
Setting the Bar High
In 2014, as a result of these observations and studies, the Thai government introduced the 1-Year Investment Visa. Unfortunately, the qualifying criteria for such a visa still leave a lot of investors out in the cold.
The minimum investment that a foreign individual must invest in order to qualify for the visa is ten-million Baht. When you consider that the average small condo or apartment can be purchased for less than 20% of this figure, this means that the government is setting the bar, ahem, just a bit high.
They mitigated the expected gasps by foreigners in announcing this amount by specifying that the investment doesn’t need to be in a single entity. They just state that the entire amount of the investment must be in Thailand, whether in property, a state-issued bond or a fixed deposit in a Thai bank.
New Investment Visa Ups the Ante
This new Investment Visa superseded the Investment Visa introduced in the wake of the financial crisis of 1997. The old visa had a lower limit of 3 million baht and many people had no problem in meeting these requirements.
Of course, under the new requirements the government is simply offering the visa as an incentive to encourage further investment in Thailand. And, this may well encourage people to leverage their existing property holdings and make further investments in the property market. This is especially true for younger foreign residents who are wealthy and looking for advantages in investing their money in Thailand.
It gives people under 50 a visa option that they previously didn’t have and encourages them to re-invest in Thailand. However, let’s look take a closer look at the idea of the Investment Visa.
The visa is aimed at existing foreign residents of Thailand who are current property owners. One of the stipulations of being able to qualify the visa is that the foreign applicant must already have a non-immigrant visa. Applicants holding tourists visas cannot apply.
A foreigner who is a property-holder and current legal resident of Thailand would seem to have no need of the visa, unless they were not married to a Thai citizen, were not working in Thailand and were under 50 years of age.
So, the visa seems to be aimed squarely at young, single foreigners who are independently wealthy. This is perfectly fine if the government has some data indicating that this demographic of foreigners is worth targeting.
Yet, if the purpose of the visa is encourage more and future investments in Thailand, wouldn’t it make more sense to offer a multi-year visa, as they recently announced for foreigners of retirement age? Surely if the foreigner is investing almost 5 times the average price of a condominium, they deserve a little reassurance that they’d also be welcome to reside in Thailand for the foreseeable future.
The government also seems to be ignoring the middle-class residents who are probably much more numerous than the wealthy. Wouldn’t it make more sense to cap the minimum investment at, say, 5 million Baht and attract more people to the party? As the requirements for the Investment Visa are presently written, it seems that only a small segment of foreign residents would derive any benefit from it at all.
What do you think about the investment visa? Do you have one? As always we would love to hear your thoughts and comments on it below!