Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Thailand eyes rich expats from Hong Kong, Australia for ‘coronavirus haven’ visa scheme

The Thailand Elite Card is a residential-visa scheme for affluent expats, investors and long-stay groups. Photo: AP

Thailand ’s “pay to stay” visa programme for wealthy foreigners is seeing an expansion opportunity, with visions of the country becoming a haven for expats from Hong Kong, Australia and farther abroad, thanks to its relative success in containing the coronavirus.

The Thailand Elite Card is a residential-visa scheme for affluent expats, investors and long-stay groups.

Membership, which ranges from 500,000 baht to 2 million baht (US$16,000 to US$64,000), provides for a renewable five-year visa.

It also comes with perks, which at the top end include limousine transport, jet and yacht charters, medical check-ups and golf at championship courses in Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya.

With borders currently closed and global travel at a near standstill, this would seem like the worst possible time for a visa programme. But Thailand Elite, which has been around for 17 years, is holding up during the pandemic.

Expats already living in the country on other types of visas have accounted for 70 per cent of subscriptions this year, having concluded that it’s better than dealing with one-year work, retirement or marriage permits that often require multiple trips to government offices, lawyers and fixed-deposits in local banks.

“We have refocused our business by targeting people who are within the country, want to stay for the long-term and are not confident of the virus situation back in their home countries,” said Somchai Soongswang, president of the card’s state-controlled operator, Thailand Privilege Card Co., in an interview.

The possibilities of attracting subscribers outside Thailand are currently limited because of the tight border controls, but Somchai believes there’s a growing market of people abroad who want a safe, comfortable home, with Thailand being a good choice.

Read the full article at South China Morning Post:

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