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Thailand 4 Year Smart Visas: S Category for Startups

Transcript of the above video:

As the title suggests, in this video today we are going to be talking about the four year Thai Smart Visas with specific emphasis on the sub-category pertaining to startups, that's Smart "S" category.

I'm taking some of this from a recent publication from the BOI, that is the Board of Investment here in Thailand and I'll be quoting directly. There are parts of this where I am going to be making my own commentary but I will also be quoting directly and I will let you know when I'm quoting directly. So quoting directly from BOI, “foreign startup entrepreneurs who wish to invest in targeted industries in Thailand. Qualifications: having a fixed savings account in Thailand or in a foreign country with a balance of not less than Baht 600,000 or equivalent and a remaining maturity term of at least one year”. So they're going to make you put this money, I think they're probably going to prefer it be in Thailand notwithstanding they say it could be in a foreign country, they are going to make you put it in a fixed account so that is presumably is sort of akin to what's called a CD, a certificate of deposit, which basically you can't pull it out of that account for that 1-year period. In the case of being accompanied by spouses and children, an additional amount of fixed savings of at least Bt180, 000 per person or equivalent is required, again in a fixed account. Having health insurance policy covering the entire course of stay in Thailand for the applicants of the Smart Visa and for the accompanying spouse and children. Participating in an incubation or accelerator program or  a similar program endorsed by a Government Agency such as the National Innovation Agency, which is a public organization, or the Digital Economy Promotion Agency. The programs must also be in the targeted Industries. Two things to take away from here. There's an endorsement mechanism happening here, that endorsement mechanism, there is going to be some kind of adjudicatory process because they're going to have to decide whether or not they want to endorse the start up in question. And moreover, the thing to take away is also it has to be in the targeted industry so they are going to have to make a determination whether or not one’s proposed activity or business activity I should say, in the Kingdom of Thailand is going to be considered within the scope of the so-called targeted Industries. To get into the specifics of the targeted industries I have another video on this channel specific to Smart Visas where we talked about targeted Industries but there are 10 of them; five of them are currently in existence here in the Kingdom, there's companies that are operating in some fashion in those industries.  There’s another five that are truly innovative and are basically things that Thailand really has not seen to this point that they want to promote here in the Kingdom. In case of not participating in an incubator or similar program, the applicant must receive joint venture funding or endorse by a government agency such as the Digital Economy Promotion Agency. So, as an exemption for going through that endorsement process, if a government agency if it is sort of a public-private partnership if you will, it is going to be possible to go ahead and not need the endorsement. The applicants must set up a company in Thailand within one year; the business or investment activities must be certified as being in the targeted industries by relevant government agencies. Again, they have to be certified which means there's an adjudicatory mechanism being set off here so you have to have “all your ducks in a row” with respect to undertaking this. Must be certified as being in the targeted industries by relevant government agencies such as the National Innovation Agency which is a public organization, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency. The applicants must hold no less than 25% of the company’s shares or assume a position as a director of the company. So there is some specific requirements for startups. It is not like one can just come over here with some money and willy-nilly say I'm going to do XYZ. No! They want to see what you are doing, they want to have it certified, they're going to endorse you for that or you need to be working in a public-private partnership type scenario in order to meet the qualifications. Privileges: one-year visa for the first time renewable for more than 2 years if requirements are met, so depending on the circumstances you are going to be able to get longer-term visas. No work permit required for working in the endorsed companies or projects. Again endorsements key here. Prior to any changes or addition of job, an official approval must be obtained.

A point to make with respect to work permits specific in this category. Yeah no work permit required per se, but the endorsement process and the certification process, those are going to have an inherent adjudicator nuance to them and they are also going to have sort of an inherent work authorization function to them so they are going to determine whether the foreign national, first of all their company is doing what they want them to do or whether or not the foreign National is bringing the skills to bear that they want brought into the country. So yes there is no work permit application per se but there is definitely a work authorization adjudication occurring sort of concurrently with these other certifications and endorsements. 90 day reporting to the immigration extended to one year, that's a real benefit, that's a real boon. Folks that are in the standard non-immigrant categories right now, the “O” the “B” the “ED”, the retirement visa, those folks have to do 90 day reporting every 90 days. These Smart Visas apparently are going to get rid of that and now you only have to do it every 1 year. It’s much less of a hassle on folks I would say. No reentry permit required: as discussed in other with videos I’ll reiterate it here, those who are in standard non-immigrant categories they have to get a reentry permit before they leave, less their visa, lest they fall out of status upon departing, their visa kind of dies while they're gone and when they return to the Kingdom they have got to start from scratch unless they get a reentry permit. It seems the Smart Visa Program is going to have the reentry permit function sort of inherent to the visa and you're not going to have to worry about that when you come and go. Spouses and children granted permission to stay in Thailand; spouse is granted permission to work with no work permit required. The jobs must not be on the prohibited list of occupations and professions for foreigners. So yes, yet again the thing to take away from this is spouses can work, again they can't work in a job that's prohibited to them but they could go get work authorization if they like, or they could just go work if they like but the thing to take away overall from this is, Thailand is trying to encourage a certain kind of technological exchange, they want to bring in experts from outside the country but they want to make sure they are experts, they want to make sure that these folks coming in aren’t just, you know it's not really totally about the money here. So I find it interesting that they are being very specific in the start-up category with respect to the criteria associated with issuing one of these "S" Visa category, Smart visas, I think because they want to make it very, very clear “look it's not just a matter of putting money into Thailand, it's a matter of having the skill set and bringing those skills to bear in Thailand so that the country can benefit overall”.