Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Govt mulls visa rule overhaul for expats, tourists, investors

The online filing system for 90-day reports has been down for more than a month. Photo:

The government could revamp immigration rules this year to make it easier for expats and long-term tourists to stay in the country, part of a strategy to boost investment and tourism revenue once the pandemic eases.

The proposed changes could mean foreigners would no longer have to file 90-day reports of their whereabouts — a deeply unpopular requirement, particularly now that the online filing system has been down for more than a month.

Expats trying to file online have been greeted with a flashy animation painting the immigration service in a glamorous light, followed by a simple text message that the system is “temporarily closed for maintenance”. No further information is given, including when the system might be repaired. Hotel staff have also been frustated because the TM-30 reporting system has also been down.

“Immigration rules are the key pain point” for foreigners working in Thailand, Chayotid Kridakorn, 54, a former head of JPMorgan Securities (Thailand) who’s leading a government task force to smooth investment into Thailand, said in a phone interview from Bangkok. “We want to make it easier for foreigners to live and work in Thailand.”

Authorities contend that making it easier for foreign companies to bring in skilled workers and for western retirees to stay in Thailand will boost the economy, which suffered its biggest contraction in more than two decades last year. Gross domestic product growth won’t return to pre-Covid levels until the third quarter of 2022, according to the Bank of Thailand.

A detailed framework to boost investment and tourism will be proposed to the government’s economic panel within a month, Mr Chayotid said. Plans include improving regulations on immigration, visa applications and work permits for foreign experts, including relaxing the requirement for foreign workers to report their whereabouts to authorities every 90 days.

The framework also will include inducements for foreign investors such as corporate income-tax cuts, relaxed property-holding rules and incentives for retirees and start-up companies.

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