Thailand is putting an end to visa runs for its digital nomads.
Earlier this year, Thailand approved legislation to introduce a new Smart Visa for business professionals. Available from January 2018, Thailand aims to further cement its status as a hotspot for digital nomads. Since the announcement, I’ve been (im)patiently waiting on eligibility details to go public. Sadly, that’s still up for debate as it looks like it will remain a secret until January. I suppose I can wait a few weeks to plan out my visas for the next year.
What has been confirmed about the new Smart Visa?
Although much of the details everyone wants are still a secret, there’s quite a bit confirmed already. The Smart Visa will last up to 4 years, likely with options for 1 or 2 years. Requirements for longer visas will be more strict, just like any other business visa. Thailand has 3 types of people in mind for Smart Visas: investors, startup entrepreneurs and highly-skilled professionals. What highly-skilled means in this context is heavily debated for the time being. What it likely means is that you will need to prove your income either with a bank statement of current balance or monthly earnings. Smart Visas will allow you to remain in Thailand without doing visa runs, just an annual check-in with the immigration office. Obtaining a Work Permit will become a thing of the past for nomads.
Unfortunately, not every digital nomad will fit the bill, Thailand’s way of screening out lower quality professionals. Wantrepreneurs entranced by the digital nomad lifestyle without a real plan will likely have a rougher time obtaining a Smart Visa. On top of this, border runs on Thai tourist visas are becoming more strict as time passes. Maybe this will serve as a wakeup call for entrepreneurs and freelancers to get their act together.
The digital nomad boom has been a growing trend since 2014. Estonia’s e-residency program and France’s tech visa are noteworthy examples of nomads gaining ground. Thailand has been at the forefront of this movement. The country boasts its cheap living costs, modern infrastructure and booming economy. Chiang Mai is constantly rated as one of the top cities globally for digital nomads. Bangkok itself is a business hub for southeast Asia, providing its own unique advantages. HUBBA has multiple coworking spaces near expat-friendly areas of the city and TechSauce is the largest startup conference in the region. With Thailand 4.0 underway, the announcement of its Smart Visa was no surprise.
More details available on PMDU Thailand. For any of our Thai readers, translation of the information they posted would be very much appreciated.
How much will a Thai Smart Visa cost?
Out of personal curiosity, I reached out to NomadVisa.Tech to see if I was eligible for a Smart Visa next year. Response was much quicker than visa agencies I’ve used in the past. I was delighted to hear that not only was I eligible, but that it would only cost 75k THB ($2290 USD) for my first year and then 45k THB ($1375 USD) for proceeding years. When I think about all the stress and wasted time on visa runs, it’s more than worth it. Nothing is more of a hassle than putting your momentum on hold for a weekend visa run trip.
Have you ever had this happen to you? Let’s hear about your nightmare visa run trips in the comments. ?