FOREIGN investors have welcomed the extension of their visas to a four-year term, but say the move is too little and have urged the government to speed up implementation of an online one-stop service.
Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT), yesterday expressed his satisfaction with the government’s latest move to facilitate foreign investment in Thailand, but said foreigners wanted the Thai government to deliver an electronic solution.
His comments came after the government announced on Friday a plan to introduce a four-year free visa grants for certain experts and those investors who get approval from the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI). For many years, foreign investors have requested that the Thai government offer them a more convenient way to get work permits and provide longer stays in the country. They had complained that the current two-year visa grant offered via the BOI was too short.
Kang said the implementation of an e-government platform for visas would make things more convenient for those making investments in, and trading with, Thailand.
“For example, the government should abandon immigration forms now that everything – passport and ID cards – has been digitised,” he said.
Travellers need not fill-in immigration forms when they visit Vietnam and Malaysia, he said, and it was disappointing that Thai immigration still required travellers to complete paper forms.
Marc Spiegel, former vice chairman of JFCCT, also welcome the latest measure announced by the Thai government.
“It is in the positive direction, but we have not yet seen its details” he said.
Rolf-Dieter Daniel, president of European Association for Business and Commerce, said the measure covers a limited number of technicians and foreigners who invest in certain industries.
“It is too little of a step forward,” he said. “It’s not really liberalising; it will not bring much more investment.”
According to Ampon Kittiampon, director for the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, three groups of foreigners would get visas for longer stays, with no work permits required.
The first group was experts such medical personnel, researchers and aviation engineers who apply to work in Eastern Economic Corridor projects. These experts would get a four-year visa-free grant. Their spouses and children would also get four-year visa term. They would have to report to the immigration office once a year instead of every three months as is currently the case.
The second group was investors who get investment privileges from the BOI and invest in 10 targetted high-tech industries. These investors would get visa terms ranging from two to four years depending on the industries in which they invest. The targeted industries are the next generation of automotive, high-income tourism and medical tourism, smart electronics, efficient agriculture and biotechnology, food innovation, robotics, aerospace, bio-energy and biochemical, digital, and medical and healthcare.
The third group covers those who invest in start-ups. They would get visas ranging from two to four years depending on the technologies they invest in. The government will start to implement this measure in January next year.