Luring visitors and assisting the economy

Thailand Privilege Card’s Flexible Plus scheme aims to bring skilled foreign workers to the country for the long term

Thailand Privilege Card recorded a net profit of 238 million baht in fiscal 2021.

In a bid to entice skilled foreign workers to move to Thailand and stimulate the economy, the state-owned Thailand Privilege Card (TPC) recently introduced new long-term visa perks that include a work permit. The novel programme is called Flexible Plus, which falls under the Elite Card scheme.

Q: What is the Elite Card scheme and why is the Flexible Plus option unique?

The Elite Card scheme is a membership club created by TPC that offers luxury benefits and high-end assistance such as airport concierge services, limousine rides and health check-ups, among others.

Foreigners visiting or living in Thailand can apply for the Elite Card if they meet specific requirements and pay fees. The Elite Ultimate Privilege package offers the most perks and costs 2 million baht, while Elite Easy Access hovers around 600,000 baht.

None of the existing packages come with an option to acquire a work permit, so the Flexible Plus programme was published in the Royal Gazette recently to fill that gap. It allows members to exchange their privilege entry visa for a non-immigrant visa category B and request a work permit.

Q: Who is eligible to apply for the Elite Card’s Flexible Plus?

Elite cardholders who paid a membership fee of over 1 million baht are eligible. These members must later make an investment of US$1 million (roughly 32 million baht) within a year after approval in any of three types of investments: real estate, a limited company or public limited company, or a stock exchange purchase.

Members’ dependents, including spouses and a maximum of three children under 20, can also request a non-immigrant visa category B.

Q: What are the reasons for Flexible Plus?

TPC conducted extensive market research and a survey to pinpoint specific demands of the high net worth segment. It later introduced the Flexible Plus programme to fulfil this group’s needs.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and chairman of the board at TPC, said the card aims to attract 400 members to the Flexible Plus scheme in the first year. This target should help generate at least 15 billion baht for the economy via direct investments, he said.

TPC recorded a net profit of 238 million baht in fiscal 2021, the firm’s only profitable year after nearly two decades of losses since its inception in 2003.

“We have to maintain profit in the long run, which remains a challenge,” said Mr Yuthasak.

“The profit gained last year was partly driven by lower service costs as members could not visit Thailand due to travel restrictions. The number of active members was only 300 per month, down from 3,000 in the pre-Covid period.”

There are roughly 16,000 TPC members.

Q: Who are the primary target groups?

The main target groups for the Flexible Plus programme are residents from China, Japan, Britain, Hong Kong, Russia, France, the US and Singapore.

The TAT is promoting the programme at its offices and other government agencies overseas, using online marketing tools via 27 sales agencies covering markets in Asia and the US. The launch in European markets is scheduled to occur by the end of this year.

Q: What is the difference between Flexible Plus and the LTR scheme?

The required investment value of the long-term residence (LTR) scheme is between $250,000 and $500,000, which is lower than the Elite Card’s investment threshold of $1 million, and LTR members must keep their investment for five years to maintain the work permit.

TPC said its member services differ from those offered to LTR members. For example, Mr Yuthasak said Elite Card members can enjoy concierge service in the immigration fast lane at the airport, limousine transfers, golf perks, spa options and professional personal liaisons.

He said the types of people who consider the Elite Card’s Flexible Plus programme also differ from those holding LTR visas.

“The target markets may differ as LTR is attractive for business-oriented individuals, while Elite Card will focus on so-called bleisure visitors, who combine leisure and business purposes,” said Mr Yuthasak.

The cabinet approved LTR privileges of a personal income tax waiver for three groups: high-income earners, retirees and those who want to work remotely from Thailand.