The Thailand Elite Visa
One of the lasting immigration policies of the Thaksin Shinawatra administration is the “Privilege Entry Visa”, also called the “Elite Visa”.
The Elite Visa is a multiple-entry visa, valid for five-years, which can be renewed easily upon expiration. But here’s the caveat: as long as the applicant still holds a valid membership in the Thailand Elite program.
Thailand Elite Program
That caveat right there is enough to dissuade many retirees from pursuing the thought of getting the Elite Visa. The Thailand Elite program that is a prerequisite to obtaining the Elite Visa is a program that was first instituted by the Thaksin administration to encourage a wealthier class of tourists to visit Thailand.
Essentially the program rolls out the red carpet to foreign visitors having the necessary funds to pay for it by offering a range of services and amenities designed to appeal to high, net-worth individuals, whether they are short-term visitors or longer-term residents.
The benefits of the program, if you can afford it, are many and they start right when you first enter the country as long as you fly into the Bangkok, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai or Phuket airports.
Your Elite personal assistants will meet you at the gate and expedite you through the immigration and customs formalities, which dispenses with the need to wait in queues. You’ll also be offered a complimentary limousine service to and from the airport and your hotel or place of residence.
Once you’re in the country you’ll be able to take advantage of 24 complimentary green’s fees for the golfers and 24 spa treatments for the self-indulgent per year. Add to this the discounts at stores, hotels and restaurants you’ll have available to you simply by flashing your Thailand Elite card and the benefits can definitely add up. They even throw in a complimentary health check-up every year.
The Elite assistants can also arrange to take care of the mandatory 90-day reporting (if you’re in the Bangkok area), and can even help with business registration, work permits and driver’s licences.
No Age Restrictions
One thing that may appeal to the under-50 set is that there are no age restrictions with the Thailand Elite program. To those who are under the age of 50 and looking for an easy way to avoid visa issues and headaches, this may be your answer.
However, take into consideration the fact that if you plunk down the 2 Million Baht membership fee, you’re paying for a 20-year membership that doesn’t include the annual fee of 20,000 Baht. So, while the deal may hold a lot of appeal for wealthy 30 year-olds, it may be less appealing to someone who’s closer to 50 and will be eligible for a retirement visa in a just a few years.
Look at the Visa as an Added Bonus
The foreign visitors that the Thailand Elite program was designed for are people who want, and can pay for, an elite level of convenience during their stay in Thailand, not people who are simply looking for a way to stay in Thailand longer than a tourism visa would allow.
That’s the way people who are interested in comparing the financial aspects of the Elite Visa against other types of visas should look at it. You’re not paying for the visa per se. You’re paying for the services that go along with the visa.
If the qualifications for the program as a whole stretch your finances or you’re looking at the program from the perspective that obtaining the visa is your only choice to stay in Thailand legally, you shouldn’t even consider it. You’re not the type of person who the program was designed for and you’ll probably be throwing away whatever money you do have down the line.
On the other hand, if you are able to easily afford the membership requirements and can appreciate and utilise the benefits that the Thailand Elite program has to offer, no matter what your age, then it can be an easy way around Thailand’s visa restrictions as well. It’s up to you to do the research and decide.
We would love to hear your thoughts and comments on the Elite Visa below. Does anyone you know have one and what do they think of it?