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New and improved Smart Visa to make life easier for digital nomads in Thailand

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr / Nenad Stojkovic

The government is considering proposals to reform the Smart Visa to make it easier for digital nomads to legally work from the Kingdom. According to a Pattaya Mail report, the Tourism Authority of Thailand says the Board of Investment and the government’s Covid-19 task force have already agreed on the detail of the proposal.

Digital nomads have fallen through the cracks of Thailand’s immigration and tax laws for years, mostly needing creative visa agents to find ways of applying for a visa to stay in the country. Some tinkering with the Smart Visa category allowed some additional flexibility for potential nomads but only in specific professions and requiring a high minimum monthly salary.

The Pattaya Mail reports that the current Smart Visa has had limited take-up, mainly limited to highly-paid employees in the tech industry. The significant cost, involving a big cash investment or proof of a high salary, in addition to the usual complicated bureaucracy in obtaining the visa, has put most people off. The current proposal is to overhaul the visa, to allow digital nomads to remain in the Kingdom for up to 4 years, without a work permit.

Holders of the new, multiple-entry Smart Visa would also be exempt from 90 day reporting or having to obtain re-entry permits. According to the Pattaya Mail, their family members would also be entitled to accompany them, under the same flexible conditions. Foreign nationals in possession of tourist visas could transfer to the Smart Visa once they have proof of at least 6 months’ employment and evidence of qualifications and experience.

Watch our video about digital nomads in Thailand HERE.

A similar system is already in place in many other parts of the world, including a number of European countries, the Caribbean and Mexico. The Pattaya Mail quotes a spokesman from pressure group International Flexitravel, who says this is an opportunity for Thailand to lead Asia in legalising digital nomads. The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed how and where people work and for many, there may never be a permanent return to the office.

“The legalisation of digital nomads has hardly begun in Asia. The current situation whereby nomads keep quiet and police hopefully ignore them is unsatisfactory. Thailand now has the opportunity to be a market leader because the latest technologies make the wholesale resumption of traditional office-based working less and less likely.”

SOURCE: The Pattaya Mail

 

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Stephen Kelly

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 9:45 am

    This is great news, but if and only if the Thai government understand the breadth and scope of the fields of work that are open for a digital nomad to pursue. There is of course also the elephant in the room, income TAX and who should get it. Does the digital nomad suddenly pay tax where they are currently living and working, or in their home country?

  2. Avatar

    Macman

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 9:52 am

    All the visas in the world will not Mac a difference if they cannot sort out testing and clvaccinatuons for local

  3. Avatar

    Gion

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 10:07 am

    Smart visa good, but only for a few hundred people. What about the thousands of foreigners who are legally and truly married here and who have the appropriate visa? They have to report every 90 days, submit a new visa application every year and if they want a resident visa it is a bureaucratic effort and associated with exorbitant costs. Get rid of this bureaucratic madness and help these foreigners because most of them spend a lot of money here, have families, apartments or houses and are well integrated even if they do not have a Thai passport. These foreigners help the Thai economy on a small scale and if thousands spend three to eight hundred baht every day, that’s billions every year.

  4. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    Some English judge once said a citizen has no moral duty to pay tax, just a legal one.
    I cannot remember the name of the judge, but he was wearing a very obvious wig.

  5. Avatar

    Frank

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    Well I ‘hope they REALLY going to do once what they say and not have in the end some nasty small rules attached that makes it not easy anymore. But you will see minimum income will be insane high or something because in the end they always about money

  6. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    So they won’t need a work permit, re-entry permits, visas for their family, to do 90 day reporting, or (possibly) to pay tax, and they’ll get a four year visa.

    But those working here, married to Thais will.

    Somehow, I don’t think this has come from a recognised government source, but is from someone at “International Flexitravel” who’s now laughing quietly to himself seeing it repeated.

  7. Avatar

    Not Moby

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 1:59 pm

    As long as they attach a requirement for proof of “employment” this will miss the target. Digital nomads are almost all self-employed freelancers. In many countries they don’t even need to register as a business, so there is no paper trail to prove self-employment. Unless Thailand relaxes the documentary requirements, this revamped visa will be about as successful as the soon-to-be extinct STV. If the goal is to encourage mobile entrepreneurs to base themselves in Thailand (paying rent, buying local food and services, traveling locally), the visa should be available to anyone who can demonstrate basic financial independence and has a clean record with Thai immigration. Make it easy and people will sign up. Wrap it up in any kind of red tape, even with fancy names, and you will deter the target group from coming. Lots of options around the world competing this segment of traveller. It would also be wise for the team working on this idea to consult with people they hope will use the visa. Too many of these ideas seem to be generated without understanding what motivates the the target group.

  8. Avatar

    Dreqo

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    Yeah, nah. 555

  9. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 2:22 pm

    Just googled the “pressure group International Flexitravel” – no entries or mention at all, anywhere, apart from the one time by the Pattaya Mail repeated here.

    Hmmm …. April 1 was a few weeks ago ….

  10. Avatar

    Ralphie Boy

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 5:33 pm

    the underlying motive….

  11. Avatar

    Frank

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    Not Moby

    Yep that will probably be it proof of employement.. omg

  12. Avatar

    Jeff

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 9:34 pm

    I am married to a Thai national, work, pay taxes, have a work permit, yellow house book and pink Thai ID and Thai driver licenses in Thailand. So, why should I have to jump through all the whoops, do the 90 day reports, keep large sums of money in the bank and things that people who just ride into Thailand with their laptops don’t have to? How are they going to pay taxes for income earned while being here? How is their contribution to Thai welfare and society valued more than mine that they get special privileges? This is quite stupid but normal for Thai government.

  13. Avatar

    Dreqo

    Monday, April 26, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    @Jeff
    Just because you bit the hook, doesn’t mean everyone else has to nor will. Sorry, not sorry.

  14. Avatar

    Just Looking

    Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 3:40 am

    @Thaiger,

    This news has been around for a while but I still fail to understand what exactly they are trying to propose. They probably use very unfortunate wording but I read it as the Thai government wants to crack down on digital nomads and drive them out of the country (or rather ensure they do not return after Covid). If a person is not a tax resident in Thailand, they do not owe Thailand anything on their non-Thailand income, so references to the digital nomads “failing through the cracks of the tax laws” fail to convince me. The tax due is nearly always exactly zero.

    So it is either hunting down and deporting people who conduct remote business or work for non-Thailand entities while staying in Thailand as tourists, which is in general technically not illegal. It is not clear how exactly it can benefit Thailand if ruining its generally digital nomad-friendly reputation and losing a bunch of long-stay paying tourists can count for benefits.

    Or it is hunting down those who stay in Thailand most of the year and are technically tax residents but do not pay Thai taxes on their worldwide income? Sure, the Thai government has every right to collect such taxes however just by itself it does not equal to “making life easier”, rather it sounds more like potential double taxation.

    If the latter is their plan, are they planning to offer “official” Thai tax residency, ability to open a personal Thai bank account without a work permit, issue a Thai tax id number, and ensure a trouble-free transfer of dividends from a foreign business account, all of the above without giving the person a work permit? If so, it would make sense to a couple of people (not even thousands I am afraid) but it simply does not sound like it.

    Or is it simply cracking down on Youtube bloggers making money on their videos about Thailand “for free”, where a Thai person could play that role? Like Indonesia/Bali does?

    Could you clarify what exactly is being proposed, if anything, and how the proposal can make digital nomads life easier? I am very curious.

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