New Thailand retirement visa issues to hit hard on elderly, sick expats in care homes

Published:  12 Feb at 6 PM
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Thailand’s recently announced changes to its retirement visa financial requirements are having unforeseen consequences for elderly residents in Chiang Mai’s several care homes.

Whilst the controversy about the new financial requirements for what’s known as the ‘retirement visa’ is still ongoing, posters on a local forum have been exploring its effects on long-stay elderly expats in the city’s private care homes. The expat community contains a number of elderly, long-stay retirees no longer able to fend for themselves due to conditions such as Alzheimers or the inability to walk, wash or cook for themselves. In addition, the care homes also provide a refuge for those recovering from major operations or who are, quite frankly, dying. In spite of their physical or mental disabilities, conditions or immediate states of health, these expats are still expected to comply with all immigration requirements on the due date. Many have lost all contact with friends and family in the home country.

Before the new rules were brought in, care home staff were able to obtain medical visas for the old and very frail, but immigration officials have now toughened up on these visas, with only those within weeks of death and immobile as a result being granted short-term permission to stay. The new income regulations of a monthly 65,000 baht transfer from overseas to a bank account in the recipient’s name is now causing problems as a few are not even able to maintain a bank account, meaning their families back home have been sending the monthly amount directly to the care home’s account. At present, there’s no information as to whether immigration will allow this.

The alternative requirement for a retirement visa, formerly 800,000 baht kept in a Thai bank account for three months before a visa extension application, is now 800,000 in the bank for two months prior to application and three months after, with 400,000 baht to be left totally untouched. The difference may mean those paying monthly for care home services cannot use their entire capital requirement during the year and top up again three months before an extension is due. Worse still, immigration authorities have taken to visiting care homes to ensure all their residents are there because they need to be, not because they are attempting to cheat on their visa requirements.

In addition, a local expat help group is reporting that immigration are now targeting frail, sick retirees who’ve mistakenly gone on overstay, bringing them before a judge and having them deported back to their home countries as soon as a suitable flight is found. A representative of the group is known to have accompanied Alzheimers victims and those who are unable to help themselves on flights as far as their transit airport in order to ensure they catch their onward flight to their home country. More than that cannot be done, even although elderly, sick or mentally impaired deportees may have no-one left in their country of origin.
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