Virginia, US

Feb 06 2018

New SMART Visa Announced


At a Glance

Thailand’s Immigration Bureau has announced a new SMART Visa program, effective February 2018, which is intended to attract qualified foreign nationals in four categories ─ talent (experts), senior executives, investors and startup entrepreneurs ─ to work in ten targeted, “S-Curve”, industries in Thailand. This new visa program confers greater benefits to foreign nationals compared to the Long-Term Visa.

The situation

The SMART Visa is a new visa type designed to attract highly skilled workers and investors to help accelerate the development of the country’s 10 targeted “S-Curve” industries.

A closer look

The four SMART Visa categories include SMART “T” (Talent), SMART “I” (Investor), SMART “E” (Executive) and SMART “S” (Startup).

  • Benefits. Although each Smart Visa category has its own specific benefits, all four visas confer the following to its holders:
    • The foreign national may work during the validity of the visa without having to obtain a separate work permit.
      • Impact. Foreign nationals, under this category, will be able to commence work more quickly since they only require a valid visa to commence work.
    • Government reporting is done on an annual basis, instead of every 90 days, as currently required.
      • Impact. Foreign nationals will not need to notify immigration every 90 days regarding their status and will avoid penalties of noncompliance with this requirement.
    • The visa is a multiple-entry visa so foreign nationals will not need to obtain a re-entry permit every time they exit or re-enter Thailand.
      • Impact. Under the Long-Term visa, foreign nationals had to apply for re-entry permits to reserve their nonimmigrant status or risk having their visa revoked on re-entry.
    • Dependents.
      • Dependent spouse and children, aged 19 and under, may stay in Thailand during the validity of the principal’s SMART Visa.
      • Spouses will be allowed to work without the need to obtain a work permit, provided the job is not on the list of prohibited occupations and professions for foreigners.

  • Eligible industries. The 10 targeted “S-Curve” industries for which SMART Visa holders must apply are:
    • Next-Generation Automotive;
    • Smart Electronics;
    • Affluent, Medical and Wellness Tourism;
    • Agriculture and Biotechnology;
    • Food for the Future;
    • Automation and Robotics;
    • Aviation and Logistics;
    • Biofuels and Biochemicals;
    • Digital; and
    • Medical Hub.

  • How to apply
    • Applicants must first obtain a qualification endorsement letter from the SMART Visa Unit of the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) at the One-Stop Service Center for Visas and Work Permits (OSSC). This application can be submitted at the OSSC or Thai Consulate.
    • Within three business days of submission, the OSSC will coordinate with the related agencies to verify and certify the qualifications of the applicants. This can take up to 20 business days.
    • The OSSC will notify the applicant, Immigration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant agencies regarding the outcome of the application within seven business days.
    • Within 60 days of the issuance of the qualification letter, the applicant can apply for a SMART visa at a Thai consulate or at the OSSC if they are already a resident in Thailand.

  • Renewals. Foreign nationals should apply for a renewal of their qualification endorsement at least 90 days before their SMART Visa expires.

Impact to employers and foreign nationals

The SMART Visa is an alternative to the currently available visas. Employers and foreign nationals should work with their immigration professionals to determine whether they are eligible to apply.

Looking ahead

Fragomen will continue to provide updates as new details are provided regarding the SMART visa process and requirements.

We worked closely with Dej-Udom & Associates Ltd. to prepare this alert. It is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected].