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Thailand lures digital nomads with 10-year visa, ultra-low tax

The sandy beaches of Phuket, the bustling streets of Bangkok and the mountains of Chiang Mai could all soon become options for digital nomads looking for their next home.

Thailand will soon issue 10-year visas to potential long-term residents, with an application deadline of September 1. The program hopes to attract “high-potential and highly skilled foreign human resources.” , Narit Therdsteerasukdi, Deputy Secretary General of the Board of Directors of Thailand Investment, told Nikkei Asia.

The visa targets mainly people working in high-tech industries, such as electric vehicles, biotechnology and electronics. But the visa will also be for employees of foreign companies that want to be based in Thailand as digital nomads — or “experts working from Thailand,” as the visa describes them. .

Passport owners will be taxed at a lower rate — 17%, as opposed to 35% charged on income greater than $140,000. (For comparison, the United States levies a 35% tax rate on income between $215,950 and $539,900). The visa will also be for those with assets over $1 million or retirees with a steady income, similar to the so-called golden visa programs that provide residency services to wealthy foreigners.

Thailand is the latest country to look to remote workers as a new source of visitors, as hotspots try to rebuild and revamp their tourism industries in the wake of the COVID pandemic.

Thailand hopes to attract one million people from Japan, South Korea, China, the US and Europe. Therdsteerasukdi said to Nikkei Asia that he expects visa holders to contribute about $28,000 each to the local economy, with the entire program contributing a total of $27.6 billion.

Documents from the Investment Board of Thailand outlines the requirements to become a “professional working from Thailand:” You need to earn $80,000 per year for at least two years (with some exceptions) , have at least five years of experience and work for a company that has generated at least $150 million in revenue in three years.

Board is clearly interested in attracting remote workers. Its website solicits a survey from the workspace company Instant Office that designates Bangkok as the second best location in the world for digital nomads (after Lisbon, Portugal).

Digital nomads

Other Southeast Asian countries are also attracting digital nomads. Indonesia, home to the resort island of Bali, is considering a visa for remote workers that allows them to stay for up to five years. In June, Indonesian Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno told Bloomberg that he hopes the visa can attract higher spending visitors.

Uno describes the digital nomad visa as part of a broader initiative to rebuild the country’s tourism industry. “In the past, the ‘three S’s’ were sun, sea and sand. We are moving it towards serenity, spirituality and sustainability,” said Uno said at that time.

Research Professor Raj Choudury from Harvard Business School found that 33 countries offer official digital nomad visas. Most visas offer a stay of one to two years, with the longest being four years. These programs usually exempt local taxes on foreign income.

Thailand tourism recovers

The loss of tourists due to COVID-19 travel restrictions has created a huge hole in the Thai economy. Before the pandemic, travel contribute about 11% of Thailand’s GDP. Thailand lifted all COVID restrictions, including travel restrictions, on July 1.

On July 26, Thailand’s finance ministry expected that the country would welcome 8 million tourists This year. That’s up from the 6 million it predicted in April, but still far below the 40 million who visited the country before the pandemic.

Thailand is optimistic that tourists will return. Bangkok now hope to come back to pre-pandemic growth next year, thanks to a faster-than-expected recovery in international travel.

However, Chinese tourists – Thailand’s biggest source of tourism revenue before the pandemic – will likely stay at home as long as Beijing maintains a strict quarantine system for international visitors, including tourists. return schedule.

But another major source of tourists may be on their way back to Thailand. In October, Aeroflot will continue daily direct flights between Moscow and Phuket after the Russian airline Flight pause after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

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