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ResourcesVisa & Immigration LawThailand Immigration LawThai Retirement Insurance: Does it Apply to Visa Extensions?

Thai Retirement Insurance: Does it Apply to Visa Extensions?

Translation of the above video: 

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing Retirement Visas and specifically the insurance that has been announced will be required for Retirement Visas in the near future. 

Now the first thing to take away from this video, just as a preface. We are not aware of exactly what the regulatory structure looks like for the Retirement Visa insurance so all of this to some degree is speculation. That being said it is based on some rather deep research on my part  and it also results from translations of announcements directly from the Ministry of Public Health here in Thailand.

So the thing to take away from this video is there have been some comments made and the idea sort of gotten out into the collective consciousness amongst the retired expat community that Retirement Visa Insurance may not apply to those who are seeking extensions of stay within the Kingdom and may only apply to O-A retirees who are seeking their visas at Embassies and Consulates abroad. There is another video that we made contemporaneously with this one wherein we basically go into specifics on visas applied for abroad but I want to go ahead and go through this video because I think that the notion that this will not apply to retirees extending their stay in the Kingdom in the future. I don't think that that notion is particularly logical to maintain and I think based on prior announcements and announcements that happened subsequent to the initial announcement from the Ministry of Public Health, I think it is safe to presume that they are not going to strictly enforce this against those seeking visas abroad.

Basically, the first thing I am going to go ahead and do is put this up here. This is a copy of the announcement itself in Thai. We are going to go ahead and throw that up there but I am going to read a translation that we did here in the office on this and then I am going to go through some analysis and some further documentation and some further articles that have been written since this time that provide a little bit more nuance and a little bit more clarity on how this is going to work. So the translation and please note this translation is purely for informational purposes. We do not consider this definitive and also note this is a translation of announcement regarding future regulations that have yet to be promulgated. So this is not yet written in stone as it were and you should basically take away from this video, these are concepts but I think based on what we are seeing here, I think you are going to get a pretty good picture of the policy thinking moving forward after viewing this video. 

So to quote from the translation, "The Ministry of Health has added additional criteria to the end conditions regarding insurance for foreign senior citizens to reduce the losses caused at hospitals. Ministry of Health has advised that they are setting additional conditions regarding health insurance for foreigners who have a one-year Non-immigrant Visa type O-A. This was passed by the Ministry on April 2nd 2019. This is a new condition for health protection for tourists which will also reduce the burden of unpaid medical costs for hospitals. Doctor  Natthawut Prasertsiripong, the Director of Health Services Support of the Ministry of Health advised that  following the decision by the Ministry to increase conditions regarding Health Insurance for foreigners who have a one-year Non-immigrant Visa O-A. The pilot program will commence with senior citizens over the age of 50 who have a one-year visa and can extend year by year in order to protect life and health of the foreigner as it has been noticed that senior citizens in this age group have a chance to have more health problems than other visa holders. This condition has been set to protect the hospitals because some patients do not have enough assets to pay for their medical bills making the hospital have to take on the burden of unpaid bills. The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Department are now amending the relevant regulations and also agree that the Insurance Companies arrange channels to buy the insurance online in order to provide convenience for foreigners.  Doctor Natthawut further stated that the criteria for health insurance for foreigners with a one-year Non-immigrant Visa type O-A requires the visa holder must have Thai Health Insurance to cover them for the whole of their stay in Thailand with the amount of no less than Bt.40,000 outpatient and no less than Bt.400,000 for inpatient. The policy can be bought online at https://longstay.tgia.org. For those who have purchased a Health Insurance policy from a foreign company must have no less than the amount of insurance as set by Thailand and that policy can be submitted when applying for the visa. However, further discussion must be taken to find a method of inspecting the policies. Furthermore, those who have  health risks which are higher than what the Insurance Company can accept, the Insurance Companies have suggested that an additional amount be deposited in the bank in order that the foreigner has sufficient funds for living, health problems etc. while they are in Thailand. This must be further discussed with the Immigration Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs." That is a direct translation. Now I am going to go back into that translation here in a moment but let's go over how we have gotten this notion that this probably will only apply to visas issued abroad and then I will come back and discuss my analysis although I think that is probably an erroneous conclusion. 

So thaivisa.com had an article. It is entitled, Mandatory Health Insurance for Foreigners Aged over 50 in Thailand: Why it May not Affect You. Quoting directly, "The new requirements which were approved by Cabinet in April and announced by the Ministry of Public Health, and they cite basically the same thing we just put up, the announcement, state that people applying or renewing rather than reapplying for a Non-immigrant O-A Visa now need to have health insurance from either a Thai Insurance Company or from a policy bought overseas." Quoting further, "The requirement for mandatory health insurance appears to only affect those applying for a Non-immigrant Visa O-A; extensions of stay are not visas. Most retirees who stay in Thailand do so on an "extension of stay based on retirement". A Non-immigrant Visa O-A can only be applied for at a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate overseas. Anyone who has a Non-immigrant Visa O-A typically applies for this at the Thai Embassy or Consulate in their home country. An extension of stay based on retirement can only be obtained at an Immigration Office within Thailand. Now I understand the differentiation and what they are talking about here.  O-A Visas issued abroad are a different animal to some extent than an extension based in the Kingdom but from our translation of the announcement, it is pretty clear to me that this pertains to extensions as well and I will go into the exact language here in a moment but let me quote further. There was a recent article in the Phuket News, that is thephuketnews.com. That article is titled Cabinet Approves Mandatory Health Insurance for Long-stay Visas. Quoting directly, "Update: Phuket Immigration Chief Colonel Kathathorn Kunthieng confirmed to the Phuket news today May 14th that he has been informed of the new requirement but that he has yet to receive an order for his Office to start applying it when processing applications for 1 year Non-immigrant O-A permits to stay. Colonel Kathathorn also confirmed that the new insurance requirement applies only to Non-immigrant O-A retirement visas. Now in that context I believe what they mean is that category of visa or visa extension as opposed to Non-immigrant B visas, Non-immigrant O based on marriage, Non-immigrant O based on having a child or another family member in Thailand and Non-immigrant things like ED etc. So I think in that context they are only talking about O-A retirement category.  But clearly we are talking about the Immigration Chief in Phuket. That is the person who is going to oversee the extensions of stay so I think extensions of stay are covered in this. Or to go to another article from the Nation,  nationmultimedia.com, this article was published May 16th, 2019. The title of the article is: Mandatory Health Insurance for Retirement Visa Holders Likely to Take Effect in July. Quoting directly, "Foreigners aged 50 and above living in Thailand on a long-stay visa will likely have to buy Health Insurance from July onward as authorities are preparing guidelines to enforce new rules."  Quoting directly further, "We will ask the Immigration Bureau, the Foreign Ministry and the Insurance Department for additional details and implementation guidelines next week Saowapa Jongkittipong who leads the Health Service Support Department’s International Health Division said yesterday.” So a couple of things to take away from this. They specifically note:  "The Insurance Department, the Foreign Ministry and the Immigration Bureau. Now Insurance department obviously we know why there are bringing that up. The Foreign Ministry is specifically tasked with issuing visas at Thai Embassies and Consulates abroad so that clearly that is pertaining to visas issued outside of Thailand and finally they mention specifically the Immigration Bureau so again I think it is safe to presume we are looking at Visa extensions because the Immigration Bureau's job is to deal with extensions of stay in country for all categories of Immigrant and Non-immigrant Visas here in the Kingdom.  The other thing that I thought was of interest in here is they said the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Immigration Department are now amending the relevant regulations and also agree that the Insurance Companies arrange channels to buy the insurance online in order to provide convenience for foreigners.  So they are specifically noting Ministry of Interior again. Immigration Services operate under the Ministry of the Interior and they specifically yet again note the Immigration Department is amending relevant regulations. So I do not think it is particularly prudent at this time to presume that the upcoming changes with respect to Insurance pertaining to foreign retirees in Thailand is only going to apply to those getting their visas abroad. To me it looks like we are going to be seeing this apply to foreigners who are applying for their retirement Visa here in country. 

That being stated, as the preface to this video stipulated, we do not yet know exactly what these regulations are going to look like until they are actually promulgated. So we will make another video on this topic as soon as that transpires.