Thailand offers pricey Elite Visa to disenchanted British Brexit remoaners

Published:  7 Apr at 6 PM
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A charm offensive by Thailand’s tourism supremos is aimed at wealthy Britons feeling disenchanted by the prospect of Brexit Britain.

On offer is the Thailand Elite ‘exclusive’ long-stay visa scheme, run by a government-owned agency hoping to lure UK expats to try their luck in the Southeast Asian country rather than enduring two years of uncertainty and insecurity in their present EU member state homes. Also targeted are Brexit remoaners looking to avoid the consequences of a hard Brexit by packing up and leaving.

In its own highly individual way, Thailand has become a hub for Brits looking for a warmer, cheaper and more laid-back environment in which to spend their retirement but, as is true of any world country, all that glitters isn’t gold. Many British retirees find it difficult to manage on their frozen British state pensions, and living even a vaguely Western-style life is next to impossible due to high import duties on Western foods and drink forcing retail prices far beyond their equivalent in the UK.

Recently, Thailand’s tourism industry has been focusing on wealthier and preferably shorter-term, visitors, encouraged by the present ruling military junta. The Elite programme has been on offer since 2003 , but is hardly a financial success with its targeted membership of one million never reaching more than some 2,500 paid-up expats.

In 2009, after years of losses, an unsuccessful attempt to close the programme took place. Although it included assurances members’ visas would still be honoured, expats who’d previously considered joining lost confidence in the scheme. However, recent expat forum posts have been more favourable.

Nowadays, the scheme offers 20 years of residency with no need to renew visas annually, as is the case for all other visas in Thailand. The cost is considerable at £48,138 plus annual payments of £481, and includes perks such as VIP transportation and fast customs clearance but doesn't confer the right to own land. Two shorter-term visas were recently introduced, with the 10-year version costing £24,066 and the five-year version at £12,033, both of which also require annual payments.

At present, the number of British expats taking advantage of the service is just ‘a few hundred’, according to Thailand Elite’s president, Pruet Boophakam, who expects at least a 15 per cent increase due to its being showcased in the UK. Unfortunately, since 2003, the cost of living in Thailand has soared, especially in heavily tourist-focused locations, making it less of a lifestyle bargain basement than in former times, as even those who’ve paid up for the Elite scheme may feel the need to budget in the long term.

Source: Money International

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