LONDON — The Thai government has started offering «elite» residency visas for wealthy foreign citizens, allowing them to live in the country for around $3,000 (£2,403) a year, aimed at capitalising on increased global uncertainty over borders and immigration.
There are seven different packages, with the most expensive being the «Elite Ultimate Privilege» scheme.
It costs $60,000 for 20 years residency, along with a $600 a year membership fee.
Included in the price is a state-sponsored concierge programme, entitling members to VIP access to government agencies dealing with immigration, driving licences, and work permits.
The government will also provide complimentary return airport transfers, an annual health check up at a private hospital and 24 spa treatments and golfing trips a year.
The special residence visa is issued by the Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited — a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Pruet Boobphakam, president of the Thailand Elite program, told Business Insider that VIP residents would get extra help from the government: «We rise to the occasion for our members. We can apply for a work permit if they’d like to. We can apply for a driving licence if they’d like to. We are helping them to get those licences.»
He said he expects more than 1,000 people to apply for the programme, which is aimed at retirees.
Other packages include a $15,000 deal for five years with no annual fee called «Elite Easy Access,» and also a 10-year, $30,000 membership that includes discounts for family members.
«There has been a sharp increase worldwide in the number of individuals wanting to acquire a beneficial second or third residence or citizenship to globalize their family’s opportunities and expand their business interests in a changing and uncertain world,» said Dominic Volek, head of Southeast Asia for Henley & Partners, a citizenship consultancy firm.
«More and more governments are seeing these programs as an innovative way of driving economic growth,» Volek said.