Thailand Flexible Plus Program: Attracting High Net Worth Investors
In March 2022, Thailand officially launched the Flexible Plus Program in order to attract wealthy foreign investors. The program is open only to Thailand Privilege Card holders and offers international investors the opportunity to convert their privileged entry visa to a non-immigrant (B) visa, which will then allow them to apply for a work permit.
The program is overseen by Thailand Privilege Card Co. Ltd, a public company under the supervision of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), a government agency mandated to promote the Thai tourism industry.
The Thailand Privilege Card company offers foreign high-value investors a “privileged entry visa” which 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$29,164) to receive and is valid for between five and 20 years, depending on the type of card. Additionally, holders of this visa enjoy a variety of benefits and services to facilitate their stay in the country, ranging from airport transportation to annual health checks.
Who can apply?
Only Thailand Privilege Card holders are eligible to join the program. In addition, members must hold one of the following three types of Thai Privilege Cards:
Holders of any of the mentioned cards must have a membership validity of at least 10 years or more and whose membership fee exceeds 1 million baht (US$ (US$29,164).
Once a Thailand Privilege Card member has the right type of card, they must invest at least $1 million in three different sectors in Thailand. These are:
- Real estate;
- Thailand Stock Exchange; and
- A Thai Limited Company or Limited Company.
These investments must be made within one year of the approval of the Flexible Plus program.
- Holders of the Thailand Privilege Card already enjoy the following privileges:
- Exclusive expedited immigration pathway for arrival and departure;
- Exclusive access to the airport lounge;
- Assistance with banking services, including opening bank accounts;
- Access to a 24/7 call center to help members with emergencies, questions and service reservations, among others;
- Assistance with legal, real estate and insurance services;
- Special discounts at selected establishments such as hospitals, golf courses, department stores; and
- Free annual health checks.
What other benefits does the Flexible Plus program offer?
In addition to the benefits offered by Thailand Privilege Card membership, those eligible for the Flexible Plus program can convert their Privilege Entry visa to a non-immigrant visa. Once the visa has been modified, the applicant can apply for a work permit.
Additionally, the program allows the applicant’s legal spouse and up to three children (under the age of 20) to also change their visa to a nonimmigrant visa. Family members also enjoy the same privileges as the applicant.
To maintain the work permit, the applicant must register and provide evidence of their investments to Thailand Privilege Card Co. Ltd every year for five consecutive years from the start of the investment.
Attract high-value investors
The Thai government aims to attract some 400 members to the Flexible Plus program by 2022, which will generate at least 15 billion baht ($438 million) in direct investment. There are also already 16,000 members of the Thailand Privilege Card program.
TAT is expected to launch the program in European markets by the end of the year and establish 27 sales offices to cover Asian and US markets.
Attempts to revive Thailand’s struggling tourism industry
Thailand’s economy has been one of the worst performers in Asia, given its reliance on tourism, and exports have been hit hard by the pandemic. The country has lost some 50 billion dollars in tourism revenue in 2020, a fall of 82% compared to the previous year. This is a significant loss since tourism accounts for 20% of GDP.
In response, the government has launched several initiatives to stimulate the industry. First in 2020, the government sought to domestic tourism to help revive the industry, targeting $28 billion in revenue. However, that was a far cry from the US$64 billion that 39 million international tourists brought to the economy before the pandemic.
In July 2021, Thailand launched the Reopening of the Phuket sandbox for the purpose of recovering international travellers. This initiative offered fully vaccinated tourists to stay on the island of Phuket without the need for quarantine. They were forbidden to leave the island. The economic improvement of the program was moderate, generating $48.8 million in revenue. However, a rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide prompted the government to close its borders to domestic travelers while tourists from Europe and the United States kept the country off their travel list due to the high risk of infection.
Finally, in September 2021, the cabinet passed a resolution that introduces incentives for immigration, taxes and land ownership for foreign investors and qualified foreign professionals.
Qualified applicants could receive a 10-year resident visa to live in Thailand and enjoy the same tax rates as Thai citizens; they could also ask for a fixed tax rate of 17% for investments in the Eastern Economic Corridor.
The incentives targeted four categories:
- Wealthy Global Citizens – People with at least $1 million in assets and at least $80,000 in income;
- High net worth retirees – Retirees with a pension of at least USD 40,000 per year and aged 50 or over;
- Working Thai Professionals – Professionals who work away from Thailand and have earned at least $80,000 in income over the past two years; and
- Highly Skilled Professionals – Professionals with an income of at least $80,000 in the past two years or $40,000 per year who work in targeted industries such as digital systems, infrastructure, and university professors.
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