A new requirement that tourist-visa applicants have at least a half-million baht in savings for past six months likely won’t last long, visa professionals predict.
The hefty financial prerequisite was first introduced with the long-stay Special Tourist Visa for visitors from low-risk countries, but last month was included with the reintroduction of the single-entry tourist visa. But, last week, the 500,000-baht requirement was dropped from the STV program and visa agents predict its just a matter of time until it’s rolled back entirely.
“I am quietly confident that this will be reduced ‘soon’,” said Stephen Williams, a Special Tourist Visa agent for Bangkok’s Trunk Travel. “I don’t know when, but I’m confident that either the amount, the length of time, or hopefully both, will reduced as it is a ludicrous amount for a ridiculous period.”
As the requirement began rolling out in mid-October an upswell of anger and disbelief swelled around the globe. Until now, tourist-visa applicants had only to show they had a minimum of 20,000 baht in the bank. Now Thailand was requiring proof of 500,000 baht in savings for the past six months.
However, the requirement has been almost universally misunderstood and misreported as requiring that the half-million baht be kept in a bank account for a half-year.
In fact, the official MFA requirement that applicants prove they have “the equivalent of 500,000 baht in personal account(s) for the last six months. This can include savings, investments, shares, company accounts (but in this case you must be able to show that you are the proprietor of the business). It can also include any accounts that you hold in Thailand or if you are the owner of, or in the midst of purchasing a property in Thailand.”
Given the many ways the 500,000 baht can be accounted for, it’s not as draconian a requirement as the critics complain.
Not all embassy and consulate websites have been updated with this information. For example, the Washington D.C. embassy has the 500,000-baht requirement while the Los Angeles consulate site doe not. Make no mistake, however, it’s now a worldwide policy and “it is absolutely down to (sites) not being updated,” Williams said.
“There are embassies and consulates around the world that haven’t updated their visa information at all, so in actual fact, the U.S. is one the best for up-to-date information,” he added.
What many also don’t know or realize, is that there is another financial requirement that, like the 500,000-baht savings prerequisite, will impact backpackers and younger travelers the most: An income requirement.
The Certificate of Entry that is required of all travelers trying to enter locked-down Thailand requires proof of at least US$16,000 in verifiable income over the past six months. That’s on top of the US$100,000 baht in Covid-19 insurance coverage.
Clearly, Thailand has little interest in drawing back skint tourists and is finally flexing some muscle behind its long-stated goal of attracting only “quality tourists”.
But, for those with the financial resources – or those lucky enough to live in a country that has managed the coronavirus outbreak well – Thaialnd is again open for business.
Along those lines, the Public Health Ministry on Thursday again updated its list of “low-risk” countries where the Special Tourist Visa is available. Brazil, which somehow ended up on the most-recent list, has been banished.
In all, the STV is now available in 22 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Norway and much of East Asia.
The STV allows stays of 90-270 days without having to leave the country, no longer requires bank statements and requires only that 20,000-baht of post-quarantine accommodations be prebooked.
The single-entry tourist visa, by comparison, is available worldwide, but, of course, requires a long list of tests, certificates, insurance, prepaid quarantine and more.