Chinese nationals top applicants for Thailand’s 10 year LTR visa

In September, Thailand launched the 10-year Long Term Resident (LTR) visa to attract foreigners with ‘high potential’ into the kingdom. Chinese nationals represent 60% of LTR visa applications made to date, according to Chinese media.

Before the pandemic, Chinese nationals topped the list of foreign arrivals in Thailand every year, mostly arriving in big groups on guided tours. However, bus-loads of Chinese tourists have been missing from Thailand’s major tourist destinations this year thanks to China’s Covid-zero policy. Right now, Chinese charter-group tours to Thailand remain banned.

Determined to get to Thailand, Chinese nationals have made applicants for 10-year LTR visas and Elite cards in Thailand instead. Thai authorities have not released official data regarding LTR visa applicants. However, Chinese media reports that Chinese nationals make up 60% of the 2,500 applications made so far. The Cambodian equivalent, the My Second Home Programme, has attracted a similar amount of applicants.

The LTR visa offers a work permit in Thailand but has not received as many applications as initially expected due to its lengthy, complicated and bureaucratic application process. Different documents and conditions are required of five target groups: wealthy global citizens, wealthy pensioners, high-skilled professionals, work-from-Thailand professionals, and dependents.

Sales of Thailand’s ‘Elite’ cards have also surged 185% among Chinese nationals amid Xi Jinping’s strict Covid-19 policy. Of the 20,000 members of the programme, 7,350 are Chinese. The most popular Elite card among Chinese nationals is the 5-year Elite Flexible Programme, which is a multiple-entry extendable visa.

The 5-year Elite Flexible Programme is designed for foreign investors who want to buy property in Thailand worth at least 10 million baht (US$320,000). Foreigners are currently permitted to buy a condominium unit so long as 51% of the units in the building are Thai-owned. The 5-year Elite programme can be extended to 20 years.

The Elite card does not offer a work permit but is still considered a more attractive option to most than the LTR visa. The Elite card comes with similar benefits but is cheaper, has an easier application process, does not require health insurance and excuses tax on foreign earnings.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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