Last week, we provided an update regarding the upcoming termination of the current Thai Elite visa programwhere we stated that those under the ‘easy access’ package, which gives holders a five-year stay permit, were required to upgrade their package by August 15. However, to the surprise of many in the business community, it appears that authorities have altered their decision regarding the deadline.
‘Easy access’ visa holders received an email from the Thailand Privilege Card Company last week stating that the new rule has been abruptly scrapped. Instead, they have the option of updating their five-year visa just three months before its personal expiry date, similar to the previous process. It is speculated that the cancellation of the rule change likely stems from legal concerns about altering terms and conditions with short notice. Currently, around 25,000-30,000 Elite members are under various programs, with the most popular being the ‘easy access’ option.
Nonetheless, applications for new Thai Elite visa applications and supporting paperwork must be submitted by September 15 to qualify under the old regulations, as the current programs will be replaced by new requirements starting in October. Thai authorities have yet to issue any updates or clarifications around what is to be expected when September comes.
As mentioned in our previous update, speculation suggests that the new Elite visas may be fewer in number and more expensive, with rumors of substantial price increases. While Elite membership under the current program does not grant holders the right to conduct business activities in Thailand, it offers several benefits such as fast-track immigration and discounts on various services.
It is also speculated that the introduction of such changes stem from broader concerns around the abuse of the Thai Elite visa program. This is due to several holders having been caught conducting illegal activities while holding Elite visas as well as reports of corruption involved in issuing the visas, with many applicants reportedly giving large sums of money to officers to skirt the requirements. This has sparked concerns about possible changes to all Thai visa programs in the future.
Backtracking and abrupt changes around visa policies are, unfortunately, not rare. This is why it is important to maintain close communication with visa experts such as Silk Legal to ensure that you do not run into any hindrances when the changes do occur. If you are a Thai Elite visa holder, or someone who is interested in applying for one under the current program, it is important to submit your application right away. Contact us at [email protected] for more information about the upcoming changes.