Earlier this week, Juwai Executive Chairman Georg Chmiel spoke to local media about the need for Thailand to have a residency ‘Golden Visa’ programme that includes a real estate component. His reasoning is that it would help facilitate overseas investment into Thailand, primarily from China, at a time when residential property investment from overseas is on the downswing.
What he failed to mention was the fact that Thailand already has a visa to do exactly this. The THB 10 million (USD 328,175) investment visa was created in 2014 specifically to do what Chmiel was asking for.
The current investment visa can be renewed annually as long as the qualifying THB10 million investment is maintained. What this does is prevent wealthy individuals from investing in Thailand to obtain the visa and then divesting once the visa has been obtained, as is the case with the Greece ‘Golden Visa’ programme.
By granting a long-term visa for making an initial investment, but not requiring it to be maintained in the country, you essentially risk flooding the property market with international buyers who have no intention of keeping a property. With the Thai government wanting to keep speculators out of the market, it would make no sense to launch a ‘Golden Visa’ programme in the country trying to attract a different form of short-term buyers.
But what makes the least amount of sense for the ‘Golden Visa’ argument came from Chmiel’s admission that Chinese investors buy multiple apartments in addition to the residence they use in Thailand. If this is the case, the THB10 million investment visa is ideal for this group since the money can be spread across multiple properties.
For example, it is possible to purchase a trio of THB 4 million (USD 131,000) condominium units to hit the THB 10 million minimum investment requirement. If at anytime the investors wishes to sell one or more properties, they are still eligible for the visa as long as the money is deposited into a Thai bank account.
And if for whatever reason this is unpalatable, there is still the outstanding Thailand Elite visa programme which can provide 5-, 10- and 20-year visas with no investment needed. The competitively priced program continues to be popular with those who want to live in Thailand without worrying about the investment aspect.
At the end of the day, Chmiel is lobbying for a pathway that allows investors to obtain long-term visas in Thailand in exchange for what would essentially be a refundable deposit in the form of a condominium. Sure, Thai developers might like the short-term gain, but as we’re currently seeing, more long-term vision is needed to build a sustainable Thai property market.
Would the creation of a Thailand ‘Golden Visa’ help with this? Well, as they say, all that glitters isn’t gold. Perhaps it is time to better promote the already existing THB10 million investment visa as well as the Thailand Elite visa program instead of creating something new and potentially harmful.