BOI proposes new smart visa rules to lure foreign talent, digital nomads

December 15, 2020

The Board of Investment (BOI) will ask the Cabinet to approve new smart visa rules designed to attract more overseas talent to work in Thailand.

The new rules have already been given the green light by the government’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Among the move’s aims is to allow digital freelancers currently working in Thailand to exchange their tourist visas for smart visas. To be eligible, applicants must have an employment contract with a foreign firm lasting at least six months and proof of qualifications and professional experience. BOI partners will help in screening their professional backgrounds.

After receiving the smart visa, their expertise could be tapped by universities, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, National Innovation Agency, National Science and Technology Development Agency, and others, said BOI deputy secretary general Narit Therdsteerasukdi.

“The [resulting] influx of talent will create a talent pool in the country,” he assured.

Known as digital nomads, the foreign freelancers currently work in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and even on Ko Pha-ngan in Surat Thani province, where they have set up a co-working space. 

The new visa rules will also cover experienced foreign executives in several businesses – helping to boost development of an investment ecosystem, especially for start-ups. Their expertise could be applied to innovation camps, co-working spaces, advanced materials and packaging, and 3D printing.

The BOI also aims to lure academics to government universities to teach subjects beyond science and technology. These would include innovation, technology management and entrepreneurship.

The new visa rules would allow small businesses to tap foreign talent by reducing the minimum salary they can offer foreigners from Bt100,000 to Bt50,000. 

The new rules also relax requirements for executives, reducing the 10 years’ experience and education level (bachelor’s degree) currently required.

So far, 514 foreigners have been granted smart visas since they were adopted in 2018. About half work in digital businesses, followed by automation and robotics. About 47 per cent of them work in start-ups.

Currently, Thailand offers four types of smart visa – the SmartT for talent, Smart E for executives, Smart I for investors, SmartS for start-ups and SmartO for family members.

Holders are permitted to stay up to four years in Thailand without a work permit. The visas also allow travel in and out of the country, as well as fast-track privileges at airports.

Source: The Nation