3 April 2017

Henley & Partners appointed global concessionaire for Thai residency programme

From left: Sunchai Kooakachai, Deputy MD, Colliers International, Pruet Boobphakam, Thailand Elite's President, Dominic Volek, Henley & Partners, Managing Partner and Head, Southeast Asia, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, and Kylie Luo, BDO Tax Advisory Executive Director.
From left: Sunchai Kooakachai, Deputy MD, Colliers International, Pruet Boobphakam, Thailand Elite's President, Dominic Volek, Henley & Partners, Managing Partner and Head, Southeast Asia, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, and Kylie Luo, BDO Tax Advisory Executive Director.

Henley & Partners, an international residence and citizenship advisory firm, has been appointed the global concessionaire to promote Thailand’s residence visa programme, Thailand Elite, which gives foreigners the right to live in the country for up to 20 years.

The Land of Smiles, as it is often referred to because of the friendly disposition of its citizens, has become one of the most sought-after destinations in Southeast Asia. An increasing number of wealthy families and retired individuals in Europe, the US, Japan and other developed nations are moving to Thailand because of its temperate climate, spectacular landscape and outstanding leisure facilities.

Thailand is also the best country to start a business, according to the 2017 Best Countries report*, which ranked 80 countries based on attributes such as affordability, bureaucracy, manufacturing costs, connectivity to the rest of the world and ease of access to capital.

Over the last four decades, Thailand has become an upper-income country. It has been widely cited as a development success story, with sustained strong growth and impressive poverty reduction. Besides being rich in agriculture, its industrial production facilities are global leaders in automobiles, electronics, healthcare and jewellery.

Initiated by the Royal Thai government, Thailand Elite is the first programme of its kind worldwide, to attract wealthy global citizens, families, investors and entrepreneurs who want to spend extended periods of time in the country and take advantage of its beneficial tax regime and affordable yet  high standard of living.

Wealthy individuals around the world are migrating or acquiring citizenship of other countries, in increasing numbers. The New World Wealth report* shows that global wealth is expected to rise by 35% over the next decade and approximately 82,000 high net worth individuals (HNWIs) migrated in 2016, compared to just 64,000 in 2015.  This trend is accelerating against a background of strong growth in global wealth and international mobility, says Henley & Partners.

Reasons why people migrate include a better quality of life, security, taxation, or skills acquisition.
Reasons why people migrate include a better quality of life, security, taxation, or skills acquisition.

Reasons behind migration vary. Apart from financial considerations such as better business opportunities and a favourable tax and regulatory environment, lifestyle factors such as warmer climate, higher quality of life, safer physical environment and better education for children are also high on the list of motivations**.  

Dominic Volek, Head of Southeast Asia at Henley & Partners, says: “The concept of global citizenship is gaining traction as a beneficial second or third residence or citizenship gives wealthy individuals more control, personal freedom, privacy and security, especially in today’s changing and uncertain world.  

“In response to these migration trends, governments are rolling out residence and citizenship programs as a way of driving economic growth, securing much-needed foreign investment as well as attracting people who have proven business success, talents and networks,” Volek explains.

To obtain the Thailand residence visa, foreigners must be a member of Thailand Elite, an exclusive programme offered by Thailand Privilege Card Company (TPC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The programme provides a multiple entry visa and allows holders to stay in the country for an unlimited period of time subject to the validity of the programme option chosen.

The normal one-year stay extension can be made every year without the usual need to cross the border. The application process is very efficient — it takes less than one month to get visa issuance and collection at designated airports — and there are seven different programme options available to meet different family and individual needs.

Volek concludes: “International residence and citizenship planning has become an important focus for mobile entrepreneurs, wealthy individuals and their families who are interested in a more global lifestyle and broadening their opportunities. We are confident that we can help make a significant difference to Thailand’s economy by promoting this world-leading residence programme to those wanting to establish Thailand as their second home for part of the year or even move there permanently.”

Why Thailand and why now? One strong reason is a growing economy, with tourism arrivals of over 32 million last year accounting for 12% increase in tourism revenues, said Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand. "With tourism comes trading and investment," she said in an opening address.

"We offer a good life," she said, noting that Thailand is a medical and wellness hub, a sports hub, a food hub, a shopping hub, and international education hub, and is working on improving port facilities to bolster its positioning as a hub for marine activities.

"'Born to eat', that is the motto of people in Thailand. Nine of Asia's 50 Best restaurants are in Thailand," she said. "We are a global city with a local heart, and once we become friends, we become friends forever."

In a panel session Minister Wattanavrangkul further shared that some 150,000 non-Thais are living in Thailand on long-stay or working visas. "We see many enquiries and many comments from them about being able to stay (for longer)," she said. "This programme will help to support what Thailand would like to be."

"We're promoting Thailand as the regional office for many sports; there are runs and marathons every two weeks, and you can find major sports events in Thailand," she said. "We have Thanyapura Health and Sports Resort which has been authorised for Olympics athlete development programmes. It is fully booked for the next one or two years.

Sunchai Kooakachai, Deputy MD, Colliers International, said that there are two drivers to investment, infrastructure, and to capitalise on the 32 million-plus visitors a year. He added that properties in Thailand are typically 30% cheaper than equivalents in Singapore. "Bangkok and Phuket are still the main destinations, and then Chiang Mai," he said. "Pattaya also sees strong demand from foreign investors."

Kylie Luo, BDO Tax Advisory Executive Director, added that the top tax rate may be 35% but the tax regime is both straightforward and friendly. "What the person needs to look at is their home country tax status," she said. "(You are taxed) only when you receive income. If you don't bring it into Thailand in the year it is derived, in this case it would not be taxable in Thailand."

Pruet Boobphakam, Thailand Elite's President, said that most of the HNWIs in the programme are from the UK, US, China, France, Japan and Australia.

Wattanavrangkul lists the attractions of Thailand.
Wattanavrangkul lists the attractions of Thailand.
We have everything," summarised Wattanavrangkul, listing six-star hotels, jungles, and quiet places to relax as some of the different environments that Thailand offers."It is not just sightseeing. This is a place where you can retire with investment."


The following are the most popular options:  

 Elite Ultimate Privilege — 20-year residence visa with complimentary VIP services for applicants over the age of 20 years, who pay a one-off fee of approximately US$60,000, plus an annual fee of approximately US$600

 Elite Privilege Access — designed for family applications and provides a 10-year residence visa, with complimentary VIP services. The one-off fee is approximately US$30,000 for the main applicant and approximately US$22,500 for each dependent with no annual fee or age restriction

 Elite Easy Access — a popular option with a five-year residence visa for expats or business people wishing to enter and exit Thailand regularly. The one-off fee for this package is approximately US$15,000, with no annual fee or age restriction

*The 2017 Global Wealth Review (GWR): Worldwide Wealth and Wealth Migration Trends   

**The Rise of the Global Citizen? – Barclay’s Wealth Insights 

***The 2017 Best Countries report by US News & World Report, Y&R’s BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania 

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