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New Smart Visa rules in the works for digital nomads in Thailand

Caitlin Ashworth

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Digital nomads in Thailand might soon be able to apply for the Smart Visa, allowing an up to 4 years stay without a work permit. The Board of Investment, or BOI, is proposing changes to the visa requirements to allow foreign freelancers to apply for the Smart Visa. The rules have already been approved by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. The next step is Cabinet approval.

It’s really good news for foreign freelancers who have needed to get creative when it comes to legally staying in the country. Before the pandemic, many did border runs every few months, going from tourist visa to tourist visa. Now that borders are closed, some are on tourist visas that have been extended in the country due to the pandemic. Others are on volunteer visas. Some have even paid thousands of baht and signed up for classes just to get on an education visa to stay in the country.

Under the proposal by the BOI, those currently in Thailand on a tourist visa would be able to transfer to a Smart Visa. To apply for the visa, applicants need to have an employment contract with a foreign firm for at least 6 months as well as proof of qualifications and experience.

BOI deputy secretary general Narit Therdsteerasukdi says opening the Smart Visa to foreign freelancers will draw in more talent from overseas.

“The influx of talent will create a talent pool in the country.”

The Smart Visa was launched in February 2018 and was “designed to enhance Thailand’s attractiveness in drawing science and technology experts, senior executives, investors and startups.” Since then, only 514 foreigners have been granted the Smart Visa.

Along with allowing foreign freelancers to apply, the BOI also wants to loosen requirements to allow more executives, investors and startup entrepreneurs as well as science and technology experts to apply.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    They are starting to realise foreigners are not as desperate to return to Thailand as they thought.
    But they would rather not have the bar flys, and Go Go dance gazers.
    No they want: to issue a Smart visa to draw in foreign talent from overseas.
    Thais are desperately short of Smarts, and talent.
    Anyone ever seen a Thai read a map? They can only count to ten because then they run out of fingers.

    • Avatar

      Meoff

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 4:58 pm

      Have you ever suggested a good and smart idea to a Thai only for them to ignore it?

      • Avatar

        Rasputin

        Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 5:25 pm

        I’ve got 4 ‘smart’ suggestions for Thais:
        #1 take driving lessons
        #2 if you drink don’t drive
        #3 Don’t drive faster than your brain can function
        #4 Compel the police to enforce the existing rules

        They will kill thousands LESS of each other every year, now that’s SMART

  2. Avatar

    Stopbanning

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    why do I keep getting banned. My comments follow the rules.

    • The Thaiger

      The Thaiger

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 10:39 pm

      we’ve never banned any of your comments.

  3. Avatar

    Liam

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    I’m confused. A freelance visa that requires an employment contract from a company?! Sounds like someone hasn’t understood what freelance means! Unless they want a freelancer to just draft their own employment contract for themselves ?

    • Avatar

      Senechal

      Monday, December 21, 2020 at 6:33 pm

      And that “someone” is the writer of this article.

  4. Avatar

    Not Moby

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    Freelancers, by definition, are not employees. Requiring letters of employment will be an obstacle for anyone truly looking to be legal. Leave it to Thailand to take the smart out of a Smart Visa.

    • Avatar

      Ian

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 5:34 pm

      Toby you make me laugh keep it up,meoff it’s because it’s not thier idea,the only smart thing is to lift quarantine then this country will slowly get back and sort out visa paperwork no wonder the rain forests are depleting immigration demand for paper

    • Avatar

      Mister Stretch

      Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 6:55 pm

      Glad I wasn’t the only one that noticed that.

      Remote workers is what Thai government officials think they are going to attract, not freelancers. We freelancers work on multiple projects for multiple companies or organizations. I’ve not ever met a freelancer with a 6-month contract.

      And who vets their “qualifications and experience”? Hopefully, not a Thai. They wouldn’t understand half of what most freelancers do.

  5. Avatar

    Ian

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Toby you make me laugh keep it up,meoff it’s because it’s not thier idea,the only smart thing is to lift quarantine then this country will slowly get back and sort out visa paperwork no wonder the rain forests are depleting immigration demand for paper

  6. Avatar

    Mark

    Wednesday, December 16, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    Smart visa applications designed and created by stupid people. Many other neighbouring countries offer much more attractive Ts and Cs.

  7. Avatar

    Mel Burn

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 3:20 am

    When do people realize that even property ownership in Thailand does not guarantee ability to come to the country? Thai visa system is a mess. It could be a good thing that Covid exposed all the nonsense

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Where, exactly, does “property ownership … guarantee ability to come to the country”?

      (answers on the head of an extremely small pin to …..)

      • Avatar

        Mel Burn

        Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 11:19 pm

        Why don’t you learn to google and find out how many countries will give you _citizenship_ for as little as $250K investment in property? My neighbor in Bangkok has a million dollar condo and was not able to return to Thailand so far.

  8. Avatar

    albert zweistein

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 4:12 am

    Hub for freelancers.

  9. Avatar

    farangang

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 6:08 am

    “an employment contract with a foreign firm for at least 6 months” is something freelancers do not and cannot have by definition of “freelancer”. There will be a lot of fake contracts going around.

    • Avatar

      Preesy Chepuce

      Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 2:29 pm

      IT sounds like those “umbrella companies”, but I think they just mean that they want you to show you have at least one client outside the country, and something like a degree in something vaguely computery or technical. It’s sensible relaxation of rules that will benefit Thais in the long run.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 2:52 pm

      I doubt there’ll be many “fake contracts” as even if you got away with them, which is unlikely, you’d still be paying tax on your minimum 200,000 baht per month salary.

      Whatever else it may be, this isn’t a visa for the kee-nok farang Photoshop brigade.

  10. Avatar

    James Pate

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 6:12 am

    514 smart visas granted. I wonder how many applied. It would be interesting to see the rate of success. 6 months contract is not freelancing. I guess the real digital nomads are smart enough not to need a smart visa and would prefer not to submit their data to the gov’t.

  11. Avatar

    Issan John

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    Apart from not having to do 90 day reports or needing a re-entry permit, and spouses and children not needing work permits, I can’t see much attraction for more than a very few, at a cost of 10,000 baht per year plus tax on earnings.

    There are four categories, all of which need to be employed in one of ten “targeted industries” which are:

    Next-Generation Automotive
    Smart Electronics
    Affluent, Medical and Wellness Tourism
    Agriculture and Biotechnology
    Food for the Future
    Automation and Robotics
    Aviation and Logistics
    Biofuels and Biochemicals
    Digital
    Medical Hub
    Alternative Dispute Resolution
    Human Resource Development in Science and Technology
    Environmental Management and Renewable Energy

    The four categories are:

    SMART Talent (T) Visa, for science and technology experts who earn 200,000 baht per month.

    SMART Investor (I) Visa for investors who make a direct investment of 20 million baht into companies that use technology in their manufacturing process or deliver services.

    SMART Executive (E) Visa for senior managers that have at least a Bachelor’s degree, ten years work experience, and are earning a minimum of 200,000 baht per month.

    SMART Startup Visa (S)for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Thailand. To be eligible for this visa, you must deposit 600,000 baht in Thailand, have health insurance, and set up a company in one of the ten targeted industries within your first year.

    The SMART T, I and E visas are valid for up to four years, the S visa for only two.

    I’m not sure where the “really good news for foreign freelancers” comes in as they’d have to be regularly employed and declare their earnings, and pay tax on it which if they’ve been doing “border runs every few months, going from tourist visa to tourist visa … on volunteer visas … even paid thousands of baht and signed up for classes just to get on an education visa to stay in the country” they’ve avoided before.

  12. Avatar

    Issan John

    Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    As with so many other proposals, “why not”, but the numbers who are eligible are pretty limited.

    I can’t see it actually attracting anyone at all of itself, but for people who are eligible and either already here on a work permit or who would have been coming here on a work permit, in one of those industries, it’s a better option than a “normal” work permit but not much beyond that.

    For “freelancers”? Like others, I can’t follow the oxymoron of how you can be contracted and a freelancer.

  13. Avatar

    freelancer

    Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 8:41 am

    Just allow foreigners to apply for self-employment like Thais do, maybe add some kind of “farang” extra/minimum monthly charge and be done with it.

    Most people I know would be happy to pay their taxes in Thailand and stop with all this nonsense for once.

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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