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Major changes to Thai visas, retiree insurance requirements

Thailand visa

In a surprise move yesterday, the Thai cabinet gave the green light to a host of changes to visa conditions, including visa-free entry and compulsory health insurance for retirees.

In formalising the changes, the Thai Foreign Ministry says the measures, which include adding a raft of new countries eligible for visa-free  (visa exempt) entry, are designed to “stimulate tourism and boost the economy”.

Government spokesman Chai Wacharonke says the number of countries whose citizens can enter Thailand visa-free is being increased from 57 countries to 93. The maximum period of stay visa-free is also increasing from 30 to 60 days. SOME of the new countries being added to the scheme include Albania, Cambodia, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Romania, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan.

In September of last year, the government introduced visa-free entry for travellers from China and Kazakhstan, and later India and Taiwan, but while the arrangement was made permanent for Chinese visitors, it was due to end on August 31 for those coming from Kazakhstan.

The number of countries whose citizens are eligible for visa-on-arrival is also increasing from 19 to 31, according to a Bangkok Post report (that is when people arrive, have to apply for and pay for a visa BEFORE they head to the immigration officials).

Chai says that for travellers who want to both work and visit tourist attractions, a new ‘180 day + 180 days’ visa is being made available.

The visa, called the Destination Thailand Visa, allows for stays of up to 180 days, extendable one time for a further 180 days, valid for 5 years. Until now, such travellers could only avail of 2 stays of 30 days each (although extendable for another 30 days), so this is a significant change. But there are conditions on this new visa like having 500,000 baht in a bank account to guarantee your stay.

“This measure targets digital nomads, remote workers and freelancers, as well as those who want to learn Muay Thai and Thai cuisine. They can both learn and tour places.”

In addition, foreigner nationals in higher education in Thailand will now be able to stay for a year after graduation, instead of having to leave the country as soon as they complete their studies. Chai says there are currently around 40,000 such students in the kingdom.

“They can find work during the extended period, especially in the fields that we need.”

All the measures listed above come into effect from this Saturday, June 1.

Long-stay foreigners on retirement visas (OA visas applied for from overseas) are currently required to have health insurance coverage of 3 million baht. Under the latest revamp, this is being reduced to 440,000 baht. Of that, 400,000 is for inpatient cover, while 40,000 is for outpatient treatment.

And the long list of 17 different types of non-immigrant visas is going to whittled down to only 7, plus some more changes to the ‘retirement’ visa which are yet to be announced. These changes will come into effect from September this year.

In addition to the changes above, the cabinet also approved an increase in the number of locations offering electronic visa application services. From September, the number of Thai consulates and embassies offering the service is being increased from 47 to 94.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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