Thailand’s property industry – along with its eligible bar staff – have something to celebrate: the expats are getting younger.
Recent turbulence in the global economy has a silver lining for anyone whose retirement plan involves an early escape from the rat race. To prime its inflow of foreign residents, Thailand has revived the ‘non-immigrant investment visa‘, easing a new life in the Land of Smiles for expats under 50.
Expats seeking the easy life in Thailand previously had to reach retirement age to qualify for a non-working visa. Now, a permanent vacation is open to anyone with 10 million Thai baht to invest.
The sum of 10 million baht – about
€200,000, $300,000 or £180,000 – can be invested in property, state bonds or an account in a Thai bank. Or in any combination of these routes that hits seven figures in Thai baht.
One foreigner for whom the new visa is perfectly timed is Alain, a French accountant already eager to skip the rigours of France’s 35-hour working week at only 46.
‘Given the cheap cost of living, I already had enough to enjoy a comfortable life in Thailand without working,’ he says.
‘I found an apartment in Pattaya for about 8 million baht and I invested in state bond to bring my investments up to 10 million baht.’
As long as Alain renews his visa each year, his permanent residence in Thailand is secure. Expats who took up an earlier investment visa introduced after the Asian Crisis of 1997, but then withdrawn in 2006, have kept their residency rights – which came back then for only 3 million baht.
Cyrille Hareux of Company Vauban, an estate agency based in Bangkok, sees the revived visa as reinforcing Thailand’s appeal for early retirement.
‘The dream is a lot closer than many people realise. The cheap cost of living means that you can enjoy an excellent lifestyle even if you only have moderate means,’ he says.
But he adds that clients taking up the investor visa – which was revived in November 2008 – often continue their professional lives outside Thailand through short-term contracts or consultancy work.
‘For most of us, I think the perfect lifestyle involves the occasional challenge – to make all the hours at the beach or on the golf course more enjoyable,’ he says.