Tax & Legal News Flash | Issue 34
Effective on February 1, 2018, qualifying foreign experts, executives, entrepreneurs and investors working or investing in the science and technology targeted industries may be eligible for a SMART visa.
This is a follow up to the immigration article issued by KPMG in January 2018 in order to provide further details and information on the qualifications, criteria and privileges provided under the SMART visa program.
We welcome the new visa program where candidates qualifying to receive a SMART visa gain benefits for themselves as well as their accompanied family members.
The SMART visa is offered to qualifying foreign experts, executives, entrepreneurs and investors who wish to enter into Thailand to work or to invest in the following 10 S-Curve industries:
10 S-Curve Industries
|Visa Type: Smart Category: T Purpose: Highly-Skilled Expert (Talents)|
|Visa Type: Smart Category: I Purpose: Investors|
||The privileges in Smart I are the same as those in Smart T, except that children of the Smart I holders cannot work in Thailand under the SMART visa.|
|Visa Type: Smart Category: E Purpose: Senior executives|
||The privileges in SMART E are the same as those in SMART T, except that children of the SMART E holders cannot work in Thailand under the SMART visa.|
|Visa Type: Smart Category: S Purpose: Startup entrepreneurs|
The privileges in SMART S are the same as those in SMART T, except:
|Category: O Purpose: Spouse and Children of SMART Visa holder|
|N/A||See privileges within each of the above categories.|
Both foreigners residing outside Thailand and foreigners already residing in Thailand can apply for the SMART visa, if the above qualifications are met.
Qualifying applicants must submit the SMART visa application along with supporting documents to the SMART Visa Unit, a newly established department under the Thailand Board of Investment (“BOI”) which is located at the One-Stop Center for Visas and Work Permits in Bangkok, Thailand. The SMART Visa Unit at the One-Stop Center will process applications, including assessing the technical qualifications, immigration issues and confirmation of whether the applied occupations are not legally prohibited by various designated agencies, obtain verification and endorsement etc. These processes will be completed before the SMART Visa Unit will issue a qualification endorsement letter which the applicant will use to apply for the SMART visa at either the Thai Embassies or Consulates (in case of residing outside Thailand) or the Immigration Bureau at the One-Stop Center for Visas and Work Permits (in case of residing inside Thailand). The qualification endorsement letter for the SMART visa is valid for 60 days.
The total processing time is estimated at 30 working days upon receipt of a completed application dossier by the One-Stop Center for Visas and Work Permits.
SMART visa holders must submit documents to prove their current qualification status to the SMART Visa Unit at the One-Stop Center for Visas and Work Permits on an annual basis (after receiving permission to stay in Thailand).
At first glance the SMART Visa appears to be an attractive program, however, we have certain reservations regarding the administrative and implementation process. From our review of the details of the program it may be difficult for individuals to meet the required criteria which could delay the 30 day processing time especially since in practice, additional documents may be required. For one, the employer companies and start-up companies must be certified by relevant government agencies in the targeted S-Curve Industries, which we anticipate will take time to obtain. Foreign start-up entrepreneurs under the SMART S visa must set up a company in Thailand in order to comply with the visa requirements. However, should the foreign entrepreneur wish to retain control of their company in Thailand they may be required, depending on the nature of their business activities, to obtain a foreign business license under the Thailand Foreign Business Act. The obtaining of a foreign business license could take up to three months. Furthermore, SMART visa holders would still need to prove their qualification status on an annual basis, which is no different from non-immigrant visa holders who need to renew their visas and work permits on a yearly basis (or every 2 or 4 years for those non-immigrant visa holders granted under special incentives programs issued by the BOI).Overall, if candidates can successfully qualify and be granted a SMART visa and continue to maintain qualifications throughout the duration of the visa, the benefits under the SMART visa such as not having to apply for a work permit or a re-entry permit or the extension of the 90-day reporting to Thai Immigration to a year are well worth the administrative efforts required to obtain the SMART visa.
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