Thailand will give out free five-year Elite Card visas to any foreigner buying luxury condos in the next two years.
The government earlier this month approved the plan to offer the lowest-level Elite Card residency visa, called Easy Access, to buyers of one or more condo units costing a total 10 million baht or more. The visa normally costs 500,000 baht.
The free-visa campaign is expected to begin after the new year and will run for two years.
The move is a bid by the government to breath like back into the country’s moribund real estate market by enticing foreigners to invest and live in the kingdom.
Somchai Soongswang, president of Thailand Privilege Card, which operates Elite visa program, said the five-year visas also include perks like a VIP guide at the airport, expedited immigration and passport control and free limousine transport from the airport to a hotel or residence 24 times a year.
Thailand’s property developers have been hemorrhaging cash and employees during the coronavirus pandemic with major firms like Sansiri and Pruksa each cutting hundreds of workers since the summer.
The Thai Real Estate Association estimates more than 2,000 industry employees will lose their jobs this quarter if the government doesn’t do something to bail out the sector.
Developers in Bangkok and popular tourism destinations like Pattaya and Phuket have spent the past the past five years in a building frenzy, all with an eye toward Chinese, Taiwanese and Singaporean buyers. Even now, as Pattaya teeters on the verge of economic collapse, the building cranes and hammering continues.
Elite visas first were introduced in 2003 to target high-net-worth investors, offering them visas lasting up to 20 years for a sum of up to 2 million baht up front. Most Elite Card visa holders are mainland Chinese, Japanese, South Koreans, Britons and Americans.
The Elite visas hit record new-membership levels for the fiscal year that ended in September: 2,674 new members were added, a rise of 24.8 percent year-on-year.