The Thai Government has made their first permanent decision to introduce measures in opening up the countries tourism sector again with the cabinet approving special tourist visas that are valid for 90 days and extendable twice.
There are a bunch of strings attached to this visa such as prepaid accommodation for the first three months, the obligatory and costly 14 day quarantine post arrival as well as a chartered or private flight among other hurdles.
It’s seen as a first step after the tourism sector has crashed following Thailand’s border closure mid March although the numbers and methods proposed under this scheme seem once again alien to what attracts tourists to the country but it could be a niche for those who really want to max out this visa and stay almost a year.
So far there have been very limited options available for foreign individuals who want to stay in Thailand long term.
Aside from being married to a local, holding a job or being retired over 50 years of age the only viable solutions were short term tourist visas and then a border bounce to a neighboring country before coming back to Thailand, often just doing a u-turn (never made much sense to me but many did this). Of course with the borders closed this option doesn’t exist anymore for the time being.
According to details published in the Bangkok Post today the scheme now would allow 1200 foreigners per month into the country under application of a Special Long Term Visa that ranges from 90 up to 270 days if all extensions are utilized.
Thailand is moving cautiously to reopen its borders with a new plan to allow foreign visitors to stay in the country for 90 days, extendable up to 270 days under a special tourist visa scheme (STV), which is projected to generate 12 billion baht a year.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday the cabinet had approved the STV in principle and it was aimed at long-staying tourists who arrived intending to travel extensively around the country or access Thailand’s healthcare facilities, regarded as among the best in the world.
The policy is expected to become effective next month and last until November next year. …
So far this has only been approved in principle which means that in order for it to become law the decision has to be published in the Royal Gazette and then Immigration as well as Ministry of Foreign Affairs have to work on a process to accept applications and to issue the visa at foreign missions (Embassies and Consulates).
This will not benefit individuals currently in Thailand under whatever permission of stay that may be.
The article goes on:
… The PM said those awarded the special visa would be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at a hospital or certified alternative state quarantine (ASQ) hotel upon their arrival.
Traisuree Taisaranakul, deputy government spokesperson, said the STV had been proposed by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
The scheme, she said, was intended to lure quality visitors and prop up the tourism industry and related businesses hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Traisuree said the government was forecasting the scheme to require one to three flights a week for STV tourists, generating an extra one billion baht every month.
Tourists must also have proof of their long-stay plans, such as paying for accommodation or evidence of ownership of condominiums, where they will stay after completing their quarantine, plus a Covid-19-free certificate and sufficient travel and health insurance.
Ms Traisuree said the visa would last for 90 days and cost 2,000 baht but it could be extended twice, each for a further 90 days. Those interested would need to apply to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
In the meanwhile there were further details trickling out regarding this new option.
Richard Barrow tweeted this:
Here is more information about the Special Tourist Visa which could start as early as October. It looks like the Thai Longstay Company will be acting on behalf of the TAT and the government to help you with the visa. Much the same as the Thailand Elite company. More details soon. pic.twitter.com/sg9zj2Mkcb
— Richard Barrow in Thailand 🇹🇭🇬🇧 (@RichardBarrow) September 16, 2020
So on top of everything they want a police background check conducted in Thailand for the applicant of such a tourist visa and the accommodation has to be prepaid for the entire three months!? Unless you can provide proof of ownership or a tenancy agreement for a condo/house.
They made such a good start but the latter is where things get somewhat ridiculous again. Who is going to prepay accommodation for THREE months in advance without being able to see the place or keep the option open to move to another place? This is nuts.
Another issue is the transportation for these tourists utilizing the special visas. Charter flights or private plane? Let’s assume (at best) this means they would organize flights by Thai Airways as originally planned but this will also add to the cost and take away flexibility. Now someone who is planning to stay 3-9 months in Thailand certainly has a lot of flexibility but still.
I agree with the insurance requirement as I’ve stated so often in the past. Any traveler should have adequate health insurance especially during a long term stay.
As far as the minimum stay is concerned I guess even if there is a minimum attached to this visa process, they can hardly keep you from leaving. In how far that would result in any form of penalty for future visits nobody knows but let’s say you have to tend to a “family emergency” a few weeks after entry then so be it. This appears to be the only way into Thailand for now as far as common tourism is concerned.
I feel many people will try to get in on this offer and be it just to return to Thailand and to clear out their apartments or pick up personal property. I’d keep an eye on this and react quickly as it might be oversubscribed rather quickly especially because there is still a scarcity of quarantine hotels.
With the winter approaching in many parts of the world I can imagine that there will still be plenty of takers for this elaborate scheme Thailand has cooked up. Even with the 14 day quarantine which will set you back ~ 2000 Euro you can still justify the effort and expense by the low cost of the visa, no steep financial requirements like a retirement visa has and the ability to be able to stay in the country on once stretch without doing the border bounces.
All things considered Thailand wants to attract people who stay LONG TERM in the country and hopefully spending a lot of their disposable income. Not sure this is something that’ll be forthcoming. Those who own or rent a condominium don’t spend a lot of money compared to what they would pay to hotels. Most also eat more at home rather than eating out every day. The projections of how much money these individuals will spend might very well backfire and the numbers are unrealistic to begin with.