Will Foreigner Talent Be Drawn to Thailand’s New Smart Visa Program?

Following a year of speculation plans for a new visa scheme to attract foreign talent, Thailand finally launched its “Smart Visa” on 1 February 2018. The Smart Visa targets foreign experts, executives, entrepreneurs and investors who work or invest in certain targeted industries, referred to as the “10 S-Curve Industries” as follows:

  • 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
  • Medical hub

There are five categories of Smart Visa, depending on the role of the foreign professional, each with different benefits as follows:

 

Visa TypeCategoryPurpose
SMARTTHighly-Skilled Experts (Talents)
IInvestor
ESenior executives
SStartup entrepreneurs
OSpouse and children of Smart Visa holders

One of the more touted benefits of the program is that Smart Visa holders and their families are entitled to stay in Thailand for up to four years and will not be required to have a work permit.  However, visa holders must still report to the authorities each year and submit documentation to verify that they still meet Smart Visa requirements.

While the Smart Visa program is intended to facilitate Thailand’s technological and innovation goals, it is still early days, and it is not clear if the Smart Visa program will prove superior to the existing visa and work permit schemes for foreigners.