🇹🇭 Overhaul of the ‘Smart-Visa‘ and a New Digital Nomad Visa Proposed 🏖
Thailand introduced some new visas to offer encouragement to travelers following the Covid-19 related foreign entry restrictions during 2020/21 while there are proposals to improve the Smart-Visa and introduce a new Digital Nomad Visa.
The under 50's who aren't married to a local and aren't old enough for a retirement visa but have income earned abroad are one group that haven't been properly accounted for as far as Thai one-year visas are concerned. This group may have ability to stay in Thailand without having to earn income from a Thai based employer or who can work remotely but their earnings are, for the most part, kept in a bank account abroad and brought into Thailand only to buy a property or to pay for living costs.
The investment visa introduced in 2015 is hardly helpful for most of the under 50’s as it requires a THB 10 million investment in Thai property, risky Thai stock market investments or Thai government bonds all of which the person may not be familiar with or willing to invest such a large amount in a foreign country. These visas also don’t really help those who like to travel around either within or outside of Thailand.
In September 2021, the government introduced visas for 10-15 years as alternatives to the one-year investment, retirement and conventional work-related visa extensions but with more conditions. The working visa as noted in the table below could be a suitable alternative for the under 50's but they'd need to declare and pay Thai tax on at least THB 1,200,000 in overseas income that is brought into Thailand.
Paying Tax in Thailand is often Preferred -The ‘Smart Visa’
Last year, the government also introduced the Smart Visa which has several categories but is geared towards earning income online while living as a tax resident and paying tax accordingly. It’s also expected that Thailand will introduce a digital nomad visa but one issue that hasn’t been resolved is how to overcome the Thai tax issue if a digital nomad resides in Thailand for less than the 182 days that is required to be a tax resident, while it will be difficult to check what money they may have withdrawn by an ATM card or spent using a card in the same calendar that it’s been earned. Having said that, many digital nomads might prefer to be taxed in Thailand than elsewhere as Thailand’s tax rate is relatively low and paying Thai tax can be evidence that they are Thai tax resident. We believe that being a Thai tax resident should be something to promote rather than worry about.
Currently, the “Smart-Visa” allows you to have obtain a work permit for 13 key sector industries. You can apply as:
• Smart T (Talent) – Science and technology experts with salaries higher than THB 100,000 per month
Attracting Digital Nomads?
The definition of "work" has changed. It no longer refers to a job in a certain place or location anymore. COVID-19 has led to the rise of Digital Nomads and is a globally recognized phenomenon where a person can travel around so long as they have an internet connection.
And of course, “Thailand” is one of the dream destinations for Digital Nomads, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan and Phuket have been ranked as the most popular places of the ‘Nomad List’.
Countries around the world are now starting to see the advantages of welcoming digital nomads and have started to offer special visas which are tailored towards attracting them but in Thailand there lacks the regulatory framework to support the lifestyle forcing digital nomads to exist in a grey area when it comes to visas, availability of health services and social security, taxes, and opening a bank account.
MBMG Provides visa related services for foreigners inside and outside of Thailand whether it be for working, marriage, permanent residency, or retirement.
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Digital Nomad Visa Solution in Thailand
The Thai government has mentioned plans to implement a visa for digital nomads and the local government of Phuket’s has tried to kick start the process into action.
The proposal being considered would allow eligible foreigners to get a work permit and stay in Thailand for between six months and a year. This scheme would also allow foreigners to open a bank account and buy health insurance but there remains the question of how to collect personal income tax.
Another option currently available for Digital Nomads is using a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (sponsored work permit) service. PEO services can help legally hire the foreign and local employees your company needs in Thailand without having to worry about major obstacles such as company incorporation, payroll and work permits while the ‘Smart Visa’ can allow additional flexibility for potential nomads who are in specific professions and see the benefits of declaring their salary and paying Thai tax.
Smart visas, launched not long before the pandemic, have been mainly limited to highly paid employees in the global tech industry.
Another proposal calls for overhauling this visa for digital travelers, so to allow them to remain in the Kingdom for up to four years without a work permit. Those able to obtain a new, multiple-entry Smart Visa under these terms of the proposal would be exempt from 90-day reporting or having to obtain re-entry permits. Family members would also be entitled to accompany them under the same flexible conditions.
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