Thailand Elite Visa Review: What You Should Know Before Applying (2022)

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Have you heard of the Thailand Elite Visa?

It was introduced in 2003 after the Thai government approved the Thailand Privilege Card project proposed by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

It’s the most convenient visa to live in Thailand with.

How convenient is it?

In short, you can get a five- to 20-year visa straight away without having to deal with paperwork or visit the immigration office.

It’s also an underrated visa since people ignore it after hearing about the application fee.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at the Thailand Elite Visa, including its benefits, packages you can choose from, restrictions, and application costs.

The two most popular packages are the Easy Access at THB600,000, which gives you five years in Thailand, and the Superiority Extension at THB1,000,000, which gives you 20 years in the country.

You can fill in the form at the end of the article to apply or learn more about it.

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Residence Program

Thailand Elite visa is a residence program allowing you to stay in Thailand from five to 20 years without having to worry about your visa conditions, paperwork, and extensions.

The Thailand Elite visa comes with various privileges, including access to airport pick-up services, privilege passport lanes, airport lounges, visa assistance, golf club memberships, and discounts on various services in Thailand.

The Thailand Elite Visa is run by Thai Government and aims to attract affluent visitors, businessmen, investors, and expats to stay in Thailand long-term. 

Who is it for? 

The Thailand Elite Visa is for anyone who lives or regularly comes to Thailand but doesn’t want to deal with Thailand’s bureaucratic visa system.

This includes digital nomads that don’t want to do visa runs, retirees who don’t want to be stressed with the new complicated regulations that have been regularly introduced, or investors or business people who need to fly in and out of Thailand several times a year. 

Benefits

Let’s take a look at the benefits that come with the Thailand Elite Visa. 

Long-Term Stays

The best part about the Thailand Elite Visa is that you don’t need to worry anymore about your visa. You can stay in Thailand for at least five years straight without having to do border runs or repetitively abusing tourist visas, which can result in later bans. 

As of now, visa options for Thailand are quite limited for long-term stayers. There are a lot of people who can’t get a visa just because the Thai Government doesn’t have a suitable visa for them.

This is especially true for digital nomads. This group of people is having problems getting a legit visa. They aren’t employed by a company. They can’t get business visas. And they aren’t qualified for the SMART visa, which is the new visa that was first expected to be a visa for digital nomads.

Another group is those who want to retire in Thailand but haven’t reached the age requirements or other conditions required by the retirement visa.

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There’s also another group like investors or a business people who need to visit Thailand many times a year and find none of the current visa options suitable for them.

Visa Assistance

Another great benefit of the Thailand Elite Visa is the visa assistance that can get you out of the bureaucratic system in Thailand.

Thailand is a land of paperwork. Everything you need to apply, renew, or extend your visa, you need to prepare at least five different sets of documents from various organizations.

Long-term visas normally require much more than that.

Then, you need to visit the Thai embassy or the immigration office early in the morning and spend at least half a day there.

In addition, visa regulations change frequently. For example, a retirement visa now requires you to have health insurance, and you need to put 800,000 baht in your bank months before applying for the visa.

For the Elite Visa, you only need to give a copy of your passport to the Elite Visa agent. They will handle everything for you.

Then, you can go to your local Thailand embassy where they will affix your Elite Visa to your passport, and fly to Thailand.

You can get the Elite visa right at the airport when flying in or out Thailand.

If you are already here in Thailand, you still need to go to the immigration office. Again, you will meet the visa agent who will take you to a privilege passport lane, and handle everything for you.

The visa should be done within 30 minutes instead of spending at least half a day at the immigration office.

Once you get your visa, you won’t need to worry about it anymore. Also, the regulations of the Elite Visa barely change.

Because of the visa assistance benefit, there’s a group of people who go for Elite Visa despite being eligible for other long-term visas. They just want to avoid lines and the stress of dealing with visas.

Note that you still need to do 90-days reporting with the Elite Visa. But you can drop your passport at the agent’s office and let them handle it for you. 

Airport Services

The Thailand Elite Visa program comes with airport services. The elite visa agent picks you up right inside the gate and escorts you to the fast-track lane at immigration. You can’t get this service from a normal airport transfer service.

You also get access to airport lounges in both departure and arrival halls at Suvarnabhumi, Chiang Mai, and Phuket airports.

Discounts

Originally, the idea of the Elite Visa was raised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to bring high-end visitors to Thailand. Therefore, the Thailand Elite Visa program has partnered with many travel related service providers throughout Thailand.

These partners are golf associations, hotels, travel agencies, department stores, cooking schools, and even Muay Thai camps.

By showing your Thailand Elite Card, you immediately get discounts for you, your family, and your guests. 

Thailand Elite Card

You will get a Thailand Elite card once you are approved for the Thailand Elite visa program. It’s like a membership card. You can use it to get all the benefits from the Thailand Elite Visa program.

You will get this card once your Thailand Elite visa is approved. 

Other

With the 20-year visa package, you can play golf and have spa treatments 24 times a year free of charge at any golf associations or spas that are partners of the Thailand Elite program.

In addition, you can get one free health checkup a year and also have access to a member contact center who can provide support for anything you need while living your life in Thailand.

You also get access to the Thailand Elite Visa support center.

Restrictions 

You can’t get a work permit with the Thai Elite visa. Legally speaking, without a work permit, you can’t do any activity that generates income in Thailand. However, you are still able to hold company shares or invest.

You can still buy a car, invest in a condo, open a bank account, and get a driving license with it

Requirements

Everyone can apply for the Thailand Elite visa. You don’t need to find a job like with a business visa, reach a certain age like with the retirement visa, or marry Thai like with a marriage visa.

The only thing you literally need is the application fee, which should be paid in full during the application.

Other requirements are:

  • You need to obey Thai laws.
  • You need to have a passport that isn’t Thai.
  • You can’t have any criminal background in any countries.
  • You haven’t declared bankruptcy. 
  • You aren’t of unsound mind, incompetence, or quasi incompetent.
  • You haven’t overstayed your Thai visa more than twice in the past

Costs

Cost are the main requirements of the Thailand Elite Visa. The application fee for the cheapest program, the Easy Access, is 600,000 Thai baht–around $20,000. It gives you a five-year visa and other benefits mentioned above.

Although the number seems high, it isn’t as high as you may think. 600,000 Thai baht for a five-year visa means you pay 120,000 baht per year or 10,000 baht per month.

If you aren’t eligible for a long-term visa in Thailand and need to do a visa run, you need to pay around 10,000 Thai baht on average for a three day, 2 night trip to a nearby Thai embassy outside of Thailand. And each visa runs gives you 90 days here, all for around 3,300 baht per month.

It’s definitely cheaper. But it doesn’t count the time you need to spend traveling back and forth. Or the stress you need to deal with at immigration offices.

In addition, visa run aren’t entirely legal. Thailand can ban you from abusing it.

You won’t need to do border runs anymore with the Thailand Elite Visa. 

You can opt for an education visa by taking a Thai language course. However, this option is now only available to those who seriously want to learn Thai. You need to attend classes regularly every week.

And you need to take a Thai language test at the immigration office when extending your education visa.

Membership Packages

You have seven different Elite Visa packages to choose from. All packages come with visa assistance, airport services, discounts, and the Elite card.

Their main differences are the amount of years you get to stay in Thailand, and other perks like access to golf courses and spas, health checkups, and airport transfers.

Here are the top three most popular Elite Visa packages. They are the most valuable in terms of cost and benefits.

Easy Access (5-Year Visa)

The Elite Easy Access package is the starting point for this program and let’s you stay in Thailand for five years. 

This package cost THB600,000. So, with this option, you pay THB10,000 per month for your visa. 

The Easy Access package also comes with 24 free airport pickups per year. This starting point is a good option for those who want to try the Elite Visa program. 

Superiority Extension (20-Year Visa)

The Superiority Extension package gives you a 20-year stay in Thailand for THB1,000,000. 

Many expats who plan to stay in the country for long-term go with this option because it’s the most valuable package in terms of visa fees and duration of stay. 

With this package, it will cost you around THB4,166 per month.

The benefits are the same as the Elite Access package, minus the free airport pickup service. 

Family Alternative (Family Visa) 

The Family Alternative package is known as a family visa in the Elite Visa program

It’s a 10-year visa that costs THB800,000. 

The most outstanding feature of the Family Alternative package is that you can add your family members to the plan for THB700,000 baht per person, making it the cheapest option for those who want to live in Thailand with their family under the Elite Visa program. 

Family members include your spouse, parents, step-parents, children, and step-children. 

Package Comparison 

Check out the below table for a quick overview of the Elite Visa packages. 

Benefits/ProgramEasy AccessFamily AlternativeSuperiority Extension
Year5 years10 years20 years
Fee (VAT included)600,000 baht800,000 baht1,000,000 baht
Additional Family Member700,000 baht 
Short Haul Transfer Service (within 80 km from airport)*24 times/calendar year

*For international flights only.

How to Apply for the Elite Visa

Applying for the Elite Visa is a straightforward process.

You have to fill in the application and include a copy of your passport and a passport-size color photo. Then, you send those documents to an Elite Visa representative.

The rep will forward these documents to Thailand Immigration, who will do a background check that takes roughly one to three months.

After that, you’ll get an approval letter and an invoice for the Elite Visa fee amount. Once you pay the fee, you should receive a welcome letter with your membership number within a few days.

Then, you can schedule a date with an Elite Visa rep to have the Elite Visa added to your passport at the immigration office.

If you’re not yet in Thailand, you can pick up your Elite Visa at the airport when you arrive here.

Is it worth It?

The answer totally depends on you. If you‘re able to afford 10,000 baht a month and live hassle-free with this visa, then it’s totally worth it with all the conveniences you get.

On the other hand, if you’re eligible for other long-term visas and don’t mind dealing with paperwork and the bureaucratic system, then the Elite Visa isn’t for you.

Is it Legit?

Thailand Elite Visa is totally legit. The program itself is run by the Thai government. 

Can Elite Visa Holders Enter Thailand During COVID-19?

Elite Visa holders can easily fly to Thailand.

Moreover, if Thailand closes the borders again in the future, it’s expected that Elite Visa holders will be one of the first groups that are allowed to enter the country.

Can you work with an Elite Visa?

Elite Visa holders aren’t allowed to get a work permit, which means that they cannot work in Thailand unless you are a part of the recently introduced flexible plus program.

On the other hand, it’s no problem to run or operate a business overseas with an Elite Visa, as long as the visa holder isn’t paid a salary or working for a company in Thailand.

What is the Thailand Elite Flexible Plus Program?

This is a new program available for the Thailand Elite visa, mainly for the 20-year package.

If you invest $1,000,000 USD in Thailand within a year after getting your Thailand Elite Visa card, you will get a work permit and a non-B visa allowing you to legally work or run your company in Thailand.

Can I Get a Work Permit with the Elite Visa? 

Since the beginning of 2022, it’s now possible to get a work permit with the Elite Visa under the Flexible Plus program we mentioned above. 

Do I need to have health insurance?

As of now, you don’t need to have health insurance in order to apply for the Elite Visa. However, depending on the COVID-19 situation in Thailand, you might need COVID-19 insurance for coming to Thailand.

Do I need to have proof of funds?

Similar to health insurance, you don’t need to show any proof of funds. As long as you can pay the application fee in full and don’t have a criminal record, you should be able to get the Elite Visa without any problem.

Can I Get Thailand Tax Residency with the Elite Visa? 

Generally speaking, you’re a tax resident in Thailand if you stay in Thailand for more than 180 days in a calendar year.

By becoming a tax resident, you need to pay Thailand income tax for all of the income you make in Thailand. As for income made abroad, you don’t have to pay Thailand income tax as long as you do not transfer the money into Thailand during the same calendar year in which you earned that money. 

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To get a Thailand tax certificate, you need to file Thailand income tax. 

Please note that tax is a complicated matter. It’s also different from expat to expat. So, it’s best to get advice from a tax advisor or an accountant

Elite Visa vs. LTR Visa

With the official release of the long-term resident visa, known as the LTR visa, in September 2022, many people are wondering if they should apply for it or the Thailand Elite Visa. 

Here’s a quick comparison.

The LTR visa gives you 10 years in Thailand. However, it comes with strict requirements, such as investing at least US$500,000 in Thailand or working for a major company that pays you an annual salary of US$80,000. 

On the other hand, the application process for the Thailand Elite Visa is much easier if you can afford the package – and with it, you don’t have to pay income taxes in Thailand. 

Therefore, if you don’t want to invest a lot of money in Thailand or work here full-time, the Thailand Elite Visa is the better option.

Elite Visa Experience

An Expat Den reader just successfully got the Elite Visa for himself and wanted to share his experience to other readers.

“The process of applying for and getting approved for the Elite Visa was super smooth. Once you send in your elite visa application they forward it to immigrations for a background check. They told me the background check would take 2-3 months. In my case I received the approval letter one month after sending in the application.

From there they sent me instructions on how to settle the payment for the visa. Two days after making the payment I received a payment confirmation and was able to schedule an appointment with Thailand Elite at Chaengwattana Immigration. I met the Thailand Elite staff outside the immigration office where they picked up my passport. I waited outside and within 20 minutes they returned my passport with the visa affixed.

Overall the process was very convenient. The Thailand Elite staff speak very good English so it’s easy to communicate with them. Lastly, the fast lane service at the airport is a nice little bonus.”

How to Get it

You can apply for the Thailand Elite visa anywhere. All you need to do is to send a soft copy of your passport to the Elite Visa agent. Then, they will work with Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the consulate from your country to do a criminal background check.

Once it’s done, you need to transfer the application fee, wait a few days, and then get your Thai Elite Membership ID number.

After that, if you’re in Thailand, you can go to the immigration office, meet a visa agent, and get the Elite Visa right away.

If you’re outside of Thailand, you can get the Elite Visa at your local Thailand embassy.

The whole process takes around three months. But it’s often much faster than this. In certain cases, it even takes less than two weeks.

You can even do it while on a connecting flight from Thailand to another country.

Your Elite visa duration will start after you receive the approval letter, you the application fee in full, and receive the welcome letter.

The process of applying for the elite visa is very easy and straightforward. It’s the most convenient visa option in Thailand.

Now, on to You

You can fill in the form if you want to apply or find out more about the Thailand Elite Visa. An official representative of the Thailand Elite Visa program will get back to you shortly.

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Saran Lhawpongwad is a Bangkokian by birth. He loves to share what he learns based on his insights living and running business in Thailand. While not at his desk, he likes to be outdoors exploring the world with his family. You can connect with him on his facebook.

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