Interest in the Thailand Elite Residence Program is growing at a ferocious pace. Permit issuances are up 64% on the year, and have grown by a factor of eleven in just four years.
The Thailand Elite Residence Program has made a notable comeback over the last few years. First introduced in 2003, the program remained relatively unknown to the industry until it was re-marketed in 2014. Three years later, Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited (TPC), the government agency responsible for administering the program, re-engaged with world markets by appointing Henley & Partners as the program’s exclusive global concessionaire to maximize its reach.
The Thailand Elite Residence Program offers applicants 5-, 10- and 20-year options for privilege entry visas, which include a wide range of VIP benefits. Depending on the option selected, applicants can profit from an airport limousine service, expedited immigration formalities, airport lounge access, health check-ups, concierge services, contact call centers in different languages, and many discounts in hotels, shopping centers, golf courses, and more.
Applicants are required to pay a one-time membership fee and, subject to the selected program option, annual membership fees. Although the program does not provide a path to permanent residence or citizenship, Thailand offers an affordable and exceptionally high standard of living, with ever-expanding business opportunities in a country that is safe, secure, and financially attractive from a tax perspective.
Growth spurts in 2014 and again in 2017
After 15 years of operations, the program has over 7,000 members. Since the 2014 re-marketing campaign, the total number of members has grown by 4,031 (a 58% increase on the overall membership base), two-thirds of whom joined following the appointment of a concessionaire in 2017.
The Thailand Elite Residence Program offers seven options. The most affordable and popular program is the Elite Easy Access option, which starts at THB 500,000 (or just over USD 16,000) per person for a five-year visa. More than half of applicants choose the Elite Easy Access option, while another 18% opt for the Elite Superior Extension, which offers a 20-year visa for THB 1 million. 16% choose the Elite Family Excursion, which offers a five-year visa for THB 800,000 for two people.
The program is atypical inasmuch as it is subscribed to in almost equal measure by applicants from both the East and the West. The top ten most represented countries of origin for applicants are China, Britain, Japan, the US, France, Australia, Bangladesh, Russia, Germany, and Switzerland, with Chinese applicants representing the fastest growing segment over recent years.
Occupational statistics of the applicants show that more than 40% are entrepreneurs and investors. Retirees also make up a sizable chunk, with a quarter of all applicants labeling themselves as such. The data also reveal that, in general, applicants choose a single Elite Visa option.
With ambitious targets set for 2019, TPC recently announced the appointment of its new president, Mr. Mana Pongsanarakul, whose aim is “to constantly improve Thailand Elite services to ensure client facilitation, happiness, and comfort throughout their stay in Thailand.”
Image credit: kittikorn nimitpara
Stephane Tajick is a researcher in the field of investment migration, the developer of the STC database on more than 200 residence and citizenship by investment programs worldwide. He is a regular columnist at Investment Migration Insider.