The Thai Government has taken a series of efforts in driving the economy through innovation and attracting highly skilled talents (Smart T), investors (Smart I), executives (Smart E) and startup entrepreneurs (Smart S) in its targeted industries – the so-called S-Curve industries – to Thailand. Therefore, the Smart Visa program was launched, which offers some significant benefits for the applicant, like no necessity for a work permit (even for spouse and children), no 90 days report and no requirement for a re-entry permit. While it went viral quickly, the number of applicants was low, as its conditions were hard to reach. To raise attractiveness and practical relevance of the program, the BOI has now updated the criteria for the Smart Visa program on December 24th, 2018, just 9 months after the program was launched. The main changes are shown as follows:
Three more targeted industries were added to the S-Curve industries, “Alternative Dispute Resolution”, “Human Resource Development in Science and Technology” and “Environmental Management and Renewable Energy”.
The applicant's minimum income was reduced to 100.000 THB in general, for employees at a Startup, or retired Experts to 50.000 THB, while it was 200.000 THB before the Update. For experts working in a government agency, higher education institution, specialized training institution, or at an Alternative Dispute Resolution service, the minimum income was abolished.
If investing in a startup or an incubation or accelerator program – which is endorsed by a relevant agency – the required amount of investment is reduced from 20 Million THB to 5 Million THB. This amount can be invested in different companies. The business to be set up or invested in must be certified as technology-based in manufacturing or delivering services in the targeted industries.
No changes in the Smart E visa. It still requires a minimum salary of 200.000 THB / Month, 10 Years of work experience and a senior management position.
The Smart S Visa is now subdivided into 3 different types:
- Smart S for 2 Years: It is not required to attend in an incubation or accelerator program which is certified by relevant government agencies like DEPA anymore. Having established a Startup which is approved to be in the targeted industries and holding at least 25 % of the shares or being the managing director of such a company is sufficient for the 2-Years visa. All other requirements (deposit, health insurance) stay the same.
- Smart S for 1 Year: This type is new to the Smart Visa program. The applicant has to attend to an incubation or accelerator program in the targeted industries certified by the government, or receive joint venture funding with the public sector, or endorsed by relevant government agencies. All other requirements of the old Smart S visa need to be fulfilled (600.000 THB deposit, health insurance).
- Smart S for 6 Month: This new type of visa might be the most attractive, as it is way easier to obtain. The applicant just needs to have the plan to set up a tech startup which is endorsed by the relevant agencies or engage in an activity aimed to promote startups. A deposit is not required; only the health insurance for the whole stay is needed.
The update from December 24th, 2018 is a significant relaxation of the application requirements of the Smart Visa program. While it had almost no practical use in the past, it seems that the new regulations may increase its relevance in the future. It should be mentioned that the Thai Government has a keen interest in attracting foreign experts, investors and startups. Further, Thailand invested a lot in the marketing of the Smart Visa program. By saying that, further changes and reliefs of the program are not improbable, as the Government is keen to make the program a success.
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