The current Immigration curbs for Expatriates in Thailand

Immigration Bureau deputy commander Pol Maj Gen Achayon Kraithong.

The current Immigration curbs for Expatriates in Thailand

Grimaces replace smiles for retirees

Interview: Law still imposes plenty of curbs on what foreigners can do

Based on the recent Annual Global Retirement Index 2022 by the travel magazine International Living, Thailand ranked 11th out of 25 in terms of the world’s most desirable places to retire this year.

When looking at destinations in Southeast Asia, Thailand was No 1, followed by Cambodia (14th), Malaysia (15th), Bali (16th) and Vietnam (18th). The index did not include Singapore.

Here, the Bangkok Post talks to Immigration Bureau deputy commander Pol Maj Gen Achayon Kraithong to find out if the current regulations support this claim.

How many foreign nationals have been granted retirement visas? What are the top three nationalities?

A total of 35,846 foreigners have obtained retirement visas with the top three nationalities being British, Germans and Americans.

Why are foreigners with a one-year visa or more required to report to immigration officials every 90 days?

They are required to do so under Section 37 (5) of the Immigration Act. However, to make it more convenient, they can do so via postal mail or online.

Why are foreigners with retirement visas not allowed to hold any type of job here?

The law governing the employment of foreign nationals, which is enforced by the Labour Ministry, says work permits are granted to those with a non-B visa, or those with permanent residence only. The details are specified in the regulations of the Department of Employment.

Why are expats who have lived, worked and paid taxes here for over a decade still considered non-immigrants, and ineligible for government healthcare or welfare benefits?

Regardless of their length of stay, unless they are undergoing a process to change their nationality, their status remains that of a foreigner. At present, no state welfare benefits are extended to non-Thais.

How many foreigners are granted permanent residence each year? Is there a quota? Can you provide the number of this group for the past five years?

The Interior Ministry usually makes an announcement on applications for permanent residence from November-December every year. There is a quota — 100 per nationality each year.

From 2017-2019, a total of 801 requests were submitted and 769 were granted [253 out of 265 requests were granted in 2017; 261 out of 272 were granted in 2018; and 255 out of 265 requests were granted in 2019.]

In 2020, 286 requests were submitted and 163 have been granted. Another 118 requests are being processed, while five have been cancelled. In 2021, 250 were submitted and the process of considering them is still under way.

Why must foreigners who are married to Thais apply for a visa every year? If their spouses die, can they stay here past their retirement?

Based on Section 37 of the Immigration Act, a renewed visa is valid for one year. If their Thai spouse passes away and they have children together, they can seek to extend their stay for reasons of child support. If they do not have children, they can seek other reasons to stay, such as for work or retirement, depending on their circumstances and how they choose to seek to renew their visa.

Is there any reason why the law does not say that foreign men who are married to Thai women can seek Thai citizenship, when it says that foreign women can seek Thai nationality if their spouse is Thai?

In both cases, foreign nationals can apply for Thai citizenship after their marriage to Thais under the Thai Nationality Act.

However, the process is more complicated for men married to Thai women. There are certain requirements they must meet: they must stay in the country for at least five years, have a good command of the Thai language, have a proper job, and receive approval from the interior minister.

Is it possible for Thailand to adopt the “green card” system?

The Immigration Bureau allows foreign nationals to apply for permanent residence in November-December each year. This is similar to the green card system in other countries.

Once they are granted permanent residence, they can stay in the country indefinitely, except that they do not have Thai nationality. They need to apply for Thai citizenship with the Special Branch Police and their applications will be reviewed by the interior minister.