Digital nomads or remote workers currently can work in Thailand, but most would be in the grey area. We also explored this topic in our previous Thailand’s digital nomad visa article. Thailand is working on 2 special visas in 2021 which might be just what digital nomads need to enjoy a worry-free stay in Thailand.
Let’s explore the digital nomad visa available in Thailand now, and changes that are to come in the future.
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Digital nomad visa Thailand: SMART visa
The Thai government introduced SMART visa in 2018. This was an initiative to attract talents and investors to nurture Thailand’s development.
SMART visa can give you a renewable 2 to 4-year visa, which also allows you to work in Thailand without any work permit. The SMART visa comprises of 5 categories namely:
- SMART T (Talent): targeting highly skilled professionals. In this case, applicants must satisfy certain employment and salary requirement
- SMART I (Investor): targeting investors within the tech sector. In this case, applicants must satisfy certain investment criteria. Mainly the criteria have to do with having investment in targeted industries within Thailand
- SMART E (Executive): targeting high-level executives (Chairman or Director level). In this case, applicants must satisfy certain position, income, and employer requirement
- SMART S (Start-up): targeting entrepreneurs who look to set up a technology-based company in Thailand. In this case, applicants must satisfy company ownership and financial criteria
- Smart O (Other): mostly to help child and spouse of SMART visa holders
The SMART T visa
Smart T visa is the most relevant to digital nomad and remote workers. Currently, if you are an employee of a company within the targeted industry, have a minimum contract length of 1 year, and have a monthly salary of at least THB 100,000 (US$3,200), then your employer can help you to apply for the SMART T visa.
With the strict requirements above, a SMART T visa is not the most convenient for a digital nomad or remote worker to enjoy a long stay in Thailand. In fact, only 156 people have managed to get approval for this visa so far.
The government has recognized this as an important issue and they are looking to relax the requirement. This includes allowing employees to apply for the visa themselves and reducing the contract length requirement to 6 months.
Visa is often the last thing between digital nomads and a worry-free, long stay experience in Thailand.
Thailand digital nomad visa 2021 – the new 10 years visa
To some, 4 years with no renewal guarantee of the visa might be too short for a permanent/long-term migration. If you are looking for a longer-term visa then you are in luck.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has recently proposed a new type of long-stay visa in Thailand to the government for review and approval. The aim of this visa is to attract talent and stimulate the Thai economy.
The visa has 4 main targets:
- Wealthy (high earners and investors): to qualify, the applicant must have at least US$500,000 of investment in real estate or government bond + proof of annual income of at least US$80,000 in the past 2 years + US$100,000 coverage of health insurance
- Retiree (50 years or older with retirement income): to qualify, the applicant must have at least US$250,000 investment in real estate or government bond + proof of income at least US$40,000 of income per year + US$100,000 coverage of health insurance
- Digital nomad and remote worker (with overseas employers): to qualify, the applicant must have at least US$80,000 of annual income over the past 2 years (or US$40,000 per year if the applicant has a master degree / own IP / received series A funding) + have 5 years of work experience + US$100,000 coverage of health insurance
- Specialist (professionals within Thailand’s targeted industries or university professors). The same requirement as the above, but need to be within Thailand’s targeted industries – the details are not out at the moment
With this 10 years visa, there is finally a visa specifically for the digital nomad or remote worker. However, the requirement is still pretty steep.
It is still in its early days for the long-stay visa. But we hope to see that some of the requirements relaxed before government approval.
So, what’s the status of Thailand's digital nomad visa in 2021?
There are a diverse range of experiences that Thailand can offer to digital nomads. However, it is still not easy to get a visa and work with peace of mind as a digital nomad in Thailand.
The country has recognized the importance of having a proper digital nomad visa. That is visas to support foreign workforce who may not be working for companies in Thailand.
Whether it is through the Thailand SMART visa or the new 10-year visa, we hope to see the process made easier and simpler.
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