Thailand has long operated a paid visa program for entrepreneurs to be able to purchase residency status in the Kingdom. But a combination of dissatisfaction with the Trump Administration and fears of how the US has handled the Coronavirus outbreak has helped the Thailand Elite Residence Program with a significant increase in applications from US citizens. As Thailand grows as a refuge for Americans, the dynamics between the two countries may change.
The growth in Americans looking to move to Thailand since the start of the year and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented.
The latest sales figures reveal that the number of US applicants in the first three months of 2020 is already more than 50% of the total US applicants for the whole of 2019. This is due in part to coronavirus-induced travel restrictions, with US citizens currently in Thailand opting to stay and enjoy the benefits of living in Thailand on a more permanent basis. However, US application numbers from outside the country have also spiked, with Q1 2020 recording a 100% increase in US applicants compared to both Q1 2019 and Q4 2019.
Dominic Volek, Managing Partner and Head of Southeast Asia at leading international residence and citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners, says Thailand continues to be the destination of choice for entrepreneurs and investors. “Entrepreneur investors remain the largest category of applicants for the thanks to Thailand’s excellent global reputation as a business center and innovation hub.”
A similar recent surge in demand to reside in Thailand can be seen in applicants from Australia, afflicted this summer by both devastating bush fires and the coronavirus. Compared to Q1 2019, there was a staggering increase of 228% in Australian applicants in Q1 2020, and 130% when compared to Q4 2019.
The program has grown by 70% over the past three years and now has over 8,600 members — a figure that is expected to cross the 10,000 mark this year. Over the past three years there has been significant uptake by certain nationalities in particular; the numbers of British and French applicants have increased by 75% and 73%, respectively, while the number of Japanese applicants has risen by a remarkable 161%.