Thailand to offer smart visas to foreign digital freelancers

BANGKOK (Xinhua): Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) said on Tuesday (Dec 15) it is in the midst of designing new smart visa rules to attract more overseas talent to work in Thailand.

The BOI said that the smart visa offer had already been approved by the government’s Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Among the move’s aims is to allow digital freelancers currently working in Thailand to exchange their tourist visas for smart visas, said Narit Therdsteerasukdi, BOI deputy secretary general.

To be eligible, applicants must have an employment contract with a foreign firm lasting at least six months and proof of qualifications and professional experience.

After that, BOI partners will help in screening their professional backgrounds, Narit said.

After receiving the smart visa, their expertise could be tapped by universities, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, National Innovation Agency, National Science and Technology Development Agency, and others.

Known as digital nomads, the foreign freelancers currently work in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and even on Koh Phangan in Surat Thani province, where they have set up a co-working space, Narit explained.

The new visa rules will also cover experienced foreign executives in several businesses, helping to boost development of an investment ecosystem, especially for start-ups. Their expertise could be applied to innovation camps, co-working spaces, advanced materials and packaging, and 3D printing, said in the BOI press release.

The BOI also aims to lure academics to government universities to teach subjects beyond science and technology. These would include innovation, technology management and entrepreneurship.

Smart visa holders are permitted to stay up to four years in Thailand without a work permit. The visas also allow travel in and out of the country, as well as fast-track privileges at airports.

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