Asia isn’t an easy continent for long-term immigrants. You often have just two options to live here indefinitely: marriage or investment.
Sure, most countries in Asia will let you get a work visa – but that requires keeping a local job. Likewise, retirement visas have a minimum age for applicants.
Investment visas are unique because anyone can get them regardless of employment, spouse, age, or nationality. You only must have enough money.
Thailand’s investment visa certainly isn’t the region’s cheapest option. Getting approved costs ten million baht (around US$300,000) which is a steeper price than, for example, Malaysia’s residence program.
A Thai property investment visa nonetheless allows you lifetime access to one of Asia’s most centrally located and dynamic economies. Of course, it lets you live in Thailand permanently as well if that’s your main goal.
I’m not a lawyer – nor do I think you need to be in order to simply apply for a visa. Yet I’ve personally gone through Thailand’s investment visa process myself and feel qualified to speak on the matter as a result of my own personal experience.
Buying the Asset
You can either buy real estate, put money into a fixed deposit account at a bank in Thailand, or purchase government bonds to quality under Thailand’s investor visa program.
Investing in a combination of those assets also works. You can purchase a 5 million baht condo and put another 5 million in a term deposit. Buying multiple properties works too – just as long as you meet the 10 million baht minimum.
With all of that said, most people choose buying a condo in Thailand in order to qualify under the investment visa program.
Note that you must purchase a new build condominium unit directly from a developer. Secondhand properties aren’t covered under the visa program. Foreigners cannot directly own land or houses in Thailand either.
Furthermore, ensure two important things when transferring the money to buy property in Thailand.
Payment must first be transferred from abroad, directly from a foreign account in your name, to the seller’s Thai account. The money can’t be sourced from within Thailand. It can’t be sent through any intermediaries besides yourself and the developer either.
Second, make sure the resulting currency exchange is done in Thailand. Don’t let your bank convert the money – sending foreign currency and having the seller’s bank exchange it into baht is crucial.
10 million baht can buy you approximately 75 square meters in Bangkok’s city center. Or a condo around the same size with an ocean view in Phuket.
Gathering the Documents
You must obtain several documents before applying for a Thailand property investment visa. Some of these are easy to get while others are a headache.
First, you need a foreign exchange transaction form (FET) from the seller’s bank. FETs serve as proof that you transferred 10 million baht from abroad. Any reputable real estate developer should do the legwork and easily give you the form.
Next, you must get a government appraisal which involves going to the city’s (or in in Bangkok, the district’s) land office. Land offices already have them on record and can usually provide it within one day.
Last, you’ll need the condo’s residence book, its title deed, and transfer tax receipt. The land office should have already given you those three documents when you initially bought the condo.
The requirements are more straightforward if you put ten million baht into a fixed deposit. Just show an FET and a bank statement proving your investment.
Apart from the obvious things like passport pictures along with a few copies, you’re now ready to apply for a Thai investor visa.
Keeping the Visa and Other Conditions
Unfortunately, the bureaucracy doesn’t end after you’re approved for a Thai investment visa.
You will receive a visa with a 90-day validity in the process described above. Afterwards, within two weeks of its expiration date, you must take the same set of documents to immigration once more to extend that visa for another year.
Thailand’s investor visa is a de-facto permanent residence. You can indefinitely extend it for another one-year as long as you maintain the original ten million baht worth of real estate, bonds, or deposits.
However, you still have to ensure your visa is maintained. It requires showing up at the immigration office annually at approximately the same time each year, within two weeks of your visa’s expiration date. Your visa will expire if it’s not extended again before its expiration.
This might prove difficult for anyone who travels a lot and doesn’t plan on living in Thailand full-time. Not everyone can be in Thailand for a specific two-week period each year.
One more thing: Thailand does have a history of changing the criteria for its investor visa. It also has a record of grandfathering in those who were approved under the previous requirements.
For example, the investment visa originally had a three million baht minimum. It was changed to 10 million baht in back the early 2000s. However, some people have lived in Thailand ever since then by extending their original visa with fewer requirements.
It’s a whole different story if you let your visa expire though. You’ll have to start from the very beginning and meet any new criteria.
Is a Thai Investor Visa Right for You?
Quite frankly, Thailand’s property investment visa isn’t a good deal when compared to other countries in Southeast Asia.
That’s not simply my opinion. Let’s quickly look at other programs nearby from an objective point of view and compare them with Thailand’s.
Malaysia and its MM2H program will give you a 10-year renewable visa for RM300,000 (~$70,000) in a term deposit. The requirements are only RM$150,000 (~$35,000) if you’re aged 50 or above. Plus, unlike in Thailand, foreigners can own land under their own name.
Likewise, the Philippines has a “retiree” visa program that only requires US$50,000 in a time deposit at a local bank. I put “retiree” in quotation marks because the minimum age to apply for this visa is 35 years old.
But not everyone wants to live in Malaysia or the Philippines.
Is your main goal to live in Thailand permanently? Are you below the minimum retirement age of 50? If you answered “yes” to both questions, getting a Thai investment visa is a clear choice.
Otherwise, consider looking at other options if you want a second residency in Asia but don’t have a specific country in mind.
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