Thailand Flexible Plus Program: Attracting High-Net-Worth Investors
In March 2022, Thailand officially launched the Flexible Plus Program in a bid to attract high-net-worth foreign investors. The program is only open to Thailand Privilege Card members, and offers international investors the ability to convert their privilege entry visa into a non-immigrant (B) visa, which will then enable them to apply for a work permit.
The program is supervised by the Thailand Privilege Card Co. Ltd, a state-owned company under the supervision of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), a government agency mandated to promote Thailand’s tourism industry.
The Thailand Privilege Card company offers high-value foreign investors a ‘privilege entry visa’ that allows the holder to travel in and out of Thailand without the need for a re-entry permit. Foreign investors must pay a membership fee of up to 1 million baht (US$29,164) to receive and is valid for between five and 20 years, depending on the card type. Further, holders of this visa are provided a variety of benefits and services to facilitate their stay in the country, ranging from airport transport to annual health checks.
Who can apply?
Only Thailand Privilege Card members are eligible to join the program. Further, the members must hold one of the three following Thailand Privilege Card types:
Holders of either of the mentioned cards must have a membership validity of at least 10 years or more and whose membership fee is more than 1 million baht (US$(US$29,164).
Once a Thailand Privilege Card member has the correct card type, they must invest at least US$1 million in three different sectors in Thailand. These are:
- Real estate;
- Thailand stock exchange; and
- A Thai limited company or public limited company.
These investments must be made within one year of being approved for the Flexible Plus Program.
- Thailand Privilege Card members are already afforded the following privileges:
- Exclusive fast track immigration lane for arrival and departure;
- Exclusive access to airport lounge;
- Assistance for banking services, including opening bank accounts;
- Access to a 24/7 call center to assist members with emergencies, questions, and service bookings, among others;
- Assistance for legal services, real estate, and insurance;
- Special discounts at selected establishments such as hospitals, golf courses, department stores; and
- Complimentary annual health check-ups.
What further benefits does the Flexible Plus Program offer?
In addition to the benefits provided with the Thailand Privilege Card membership, those who qualify for Flexible Plus Program can convert their privilege entry visa to a non-immigrant visa. Once the visa has been changed, the applicant can apply for a work permit.
Moreover, the program allows the legal spouse of the applicant and a maximum of three children (under the age of 20 years) to also change their visa to a non-immigrant visa. Family members are also afforded the same privileges as the applicant.
To maintain their work permit, the applicant must report themselves and evidence of their investments to the Thailand Privilege Card Co. Ltd every year for five consecutive years, from the beginning of the investment.
Attracting high-value investors
The Thai government aims to attract some 400 members to the Flexible Plus Program for 2022 which will generate at least 15 billion baht (US$438 million) in direct investments. There are also already 16,000 members of the Thailand Privilege Card scheme.
The TAT is expected to launch the program in European markets by the end of the year and establish 27 sales agencies to cover the markets in Asia and the US.
Attempts to revive Thailand’s struggling tourism industry
Thailand’s economy was one of the worst performing in Asia, given its dependence on tourism and exports were heavily impacted by the pandemic. The country lost some US$50 billion in tourism revenue in 2020, an 82 percent plunge from the previous year. This is a significant lost since tourism accounts for 20 percent of GDP.
In response, the government issued several initiatives to stimulate the industry. Firstly in 2020, the government looked to domestic tourism to help revive the industry, targeting US$28 billion in revenue. However, this was a far cry from the US$64 billion that 39 million international tourists bring to the economy before the pandemic.
In July 2021, Thailand launched the Phuket Sandbox reopening in an effort to recapture international travelers. This initiative offered fully vaccinated tourists to stay on the island of Phuket without the need for quarantine. They were prohibited from leaving the island. The economic uplift from the program was moderate, generating US$48.8 million in revenue. However, a nationwide increase in COVID-19 cases prompted the government to close its borders to domestic travelers while tourists from Europe and the US kept the country of their travel list due to the high-risk of infection.
Finally in September 2021, the cabinet passed a resolution that introduced immigration, tax, and land ownership incentives for foreign investors and skilled foreign professionals.
Qualified applicants could receive a 10-year resident visa to live in Thailand and receive the same tax rates as Thai citizens; they could also apply for a fixed 17 percent income tax rate for investments in the Eastern Economic Corridor.
The incentives were targeted at four categories:
- Wealthy global citizens: People with at least US$1 million in assets and at least US$80,000 in income;
- Wealthy pensioners: Retired pensioners with a pension of at least US$40,000 per year and aged 50 or older;
- Work from Thailand professionals: Professionals who work remoted from Thailand and earning at least US$80,000 in income over the last two years; and
- Highly-skilled professionals: Professionals with at least US$80,000 in income over the last two years or US$40,000 per year who work in targeted industries such as digital systems, infrastructure, and university lecturers.
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