Thailand — One of the World’s Most Attractive Residence Programs
7 June 2017
Dominic Volek, Managing Partner, Henley & Partners, Singapore and Head of Southeast Asia
Thailand is one of the most sought-after destinations in Southeast Asia. Offering an affordable and convenient standard of living, Thailand’s attractions include spectacular ancient ruins, scuba-diving sites, golden beaches, tropical islands, an exciting nightlife, palaces, Buddhist temples and several World Heritage sites.
The capital city, Bangkok, also known as the ‘City of Angels’, lies at the heart of the country. Here, a thoroughly modern city seamlessly blends in with a vibrant local atmosphere and offers an urban lifestyle on a global metropolitan scale. Thailand's popularity as a tourist destination owes a great deal to its climate, with the north being predominantly tropical wet or savannah dry, while the south and the eastern tip of the country have a tropical monsoon climate.
Thailand has a population of 68 million people who are well known for their friendly disposition — Thailand is known as the ‘Land of Smiles’. Thai people are extremely proud of their cultural heritage. Their lifestyle is influenced by the Buddhist and Hindu religions, and their ethnic and cultural diversity is celebrated and revered.
Over the last four decades, Thailand has made remarkable socio-economic progress, moving from a low-income to an upper-income country in less than a generation. Thailand has been widely cited as a development success story, with sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction. Besides being rich in agriculture, its industrial production facilities in automobiles, electronics, healthcare and jewelry are global leaders. Thailand is also a member of the WTO, APEC, and a founding member of ASEAN.
The Thailand Elite Residence Program
There is increasing competition worldwide to attract wealthy and talented global citizens as more and more governments realize the considerable benefits of investment migration programs.
In early 2017, Henley & Partners, the leading international citizenship and residence advisory firm, formed a partnership with Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited (TPC) — a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, under the Royal Thai Government — to promote Thailand to foreigners through the issuance of a special residence visa that provides unlimited access and the right to live in the country.
To receive the Thailand residence visa, foreign investors must become a member of Thailand Elite, an exclusive program developed by TPC. Thailand Elite is the first program of its kind worldwide and was initiated by the Royal Thai Government in November 2003. It allows foreigners to live in Thailand for up to 20 years, depending on the package chosen.
The Thailand residence visa is a multiple entry visa which is valid for five years — and is renewable depending on the Thailand Elite package chosen. Applicants are also granted an exclusive length of stay for each visit from the regular 90 days to one year. Remarkably, applicants can stay in the country for an unlimited period of time like a Thai citizen as the one-year stay extension can be made every year without the usual need to cross the border — an attractive prospect to those seeking to make Thailand their second or primary home and enjoy the country’s spectacular nature, temperate climate, friendly inhabitants and beneficial tax regime.
Taxpayers are classified as either ‘resident’ or ‘non-resident’. Resident means any person residing in Thailand for a period(s) aggregating more than 180 days in any tax year. But even a resident is only liable to pay tax on income from sources within Thailand and that portion of income from foreign sources that is remitted into Thailand in the same year it is earned. A non-resident on the other hand is only subject to tax on income from sources within Thailand. Personal income tax rates are progressive up to a maximum of 35%.
There are seven different options ranging from a five-year residence card for approximately USD 15,000 up to a 20-year card for approximately USD 60,000. It is also the only residence program that offers holders VIP services, such as expedited transfers through the airport with a golf cart, express passport controls, complimentary limousine transfers to the city and a 24-hour member contact center.
The three most popular options are the Elite Ultimate Privilege, Elite Privilege Access, and Elite Easy Access.
The Elite Ultimate Privilege option offers a 20-year residence visa with complimentary VIP services for applicants over of the age of 20. The one-off fee is approximately USD 60,000, with an annual fee of approximately USD 600. This package includes VIP assistant services, hospitality services, and government concierge services.
The Elite Privilege Access is designed for family applications and provides a 10-year residence visa valid for each family member, with complimentary VIP services. The one-off fee is approximately USD 30,000 for the main applicant and USD 22,500 for each dependent, with no annual fees or age restrictions. Dependents may include parents, step-parents, spouses, children, and step-children. The residence visa cannot be transferred.
The Elite Easy Access option provides a five-year residence visa and is a popular option for expats or business people seeking to enter and exit Thailand regularly and easily. The one-off fee is approximately USD 15,000, with no annual fees or age restrictions. The residence visa cannot be transferred, but can be upgraded to the Elite Ultimate Privilege option for approximately USD 45,000.
The Growing Trend of Global Citizens
In a rapidly changing world where we are more interdependent and mobile than at any other time in human history, countries are finding themselves not only competing for international talent, but also for investors, entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals and their families.
Increasingly, governments are seeing investment migration programs as an innovative way of driving economic growth, securing much-needed foreign investment as well as enriching their own nations by attracting people to their shores who have proven business success, many talents and valuable networks.
The Thailand Elite program is an excellent offering and provides a mutually-beneficial solution that meets both the needs of the government and global citizens seeking to establish Thailand as their second home.
- Approximately USD 15,000 for a special residence visa for five years (Elite Easy Access), or approximately USD 60,000 for a special residence visa for 20 years plus an annual fee of approximately USD 600 (Elite Ultimate Privilege)
- Residence in Thailand is possible for a few days, a few months, or an unlimited period within the validity of the chosen package. There is no minimum stay requirement
- Attractive tax benefits — successful applicants are only taxed on income sourced in Thailand. Foreign-sourced income is tax-free so long as it is not remitted to Thailand in the same year in which was earned
- It is possible to acquire a tax number if you have income sourced in Thailand (e.g. rental income). Tax certificates are available for residents who stay for more than six months per year in Thailand