New Smart Visa to include “digital nomads” working in Thailand.
To attract more foreign talent into the country, The Board of Investment (BOI) revised its Smart Visa scheme to include “digital nomads” working in Thailand. The proposed rules have already been approved by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and are currently awaiting the Cabinet’s approval.
If approved, the visa requirements changes would allow foreign freelancers or digital nomads to apply for/transfer their tourist visa to the Smart Visa – a visa that was previously reserved only for entrepreneurs investing in new businesses, highly-skilled professionals, and executives.
The changes to Smart Visa eligibility would come as a huge relief. This year many had to get creative to stay legally in the country due to the inability to travel abroad and extend their visas (or do visa runs).
Who’s eligible for the new Smart Visa?
Despite the BOI’s loose use of the phrases such as “freelancers” and “digital nomads”, there’s a barrier to entry. Successful applicants will need to have the following:
- An employment contract with a foreign firm lasting at least six months
- A proof of qualification and professional experience (to be screened by BOI partners)
In reality, most true freelancers and digital nomads typically working in co-working space will be left out of this scheme again as most of them are unlikely to have long-term employment contracts.
Besides remote workers, the new rules will also help foreign executives (by reducing of the ten years’ experience and education requirements) and academics to teach subjects beyond science and technology. These would include innovation, technology management and entrepreneurship.
Hoping to tap into foreign talent pool
The BOI hopes that by loosening the rules, more foreign remote workers will be attracted to Thailand. This would create a talent pool that Thai businesses, government organisations, and universities could tap into.
The Smart Visa was launched in February 2018. It was “designed to enhance Thailand’s attractiveness in drawing science and technology experts, senior executives, investors and startups.” Since then, however, only 514 foreigners have been granted the Smart Visa. Approximately half of them work in digital businesses, followed by automation and robotics. About 47% of them work in startups.
Despite the renewed hope, the new changes will only favour experienced remote workers with employment contracts rather than actual freelancers and digital nomads.