WHAT ARE THE VISA REQUIREMENTS IN THAILAND?
Thailand, like most countries, offers a variety of visas The popular name of the Retirement Visa is the “Non-Immigrant OA-Long Stay Visa”.
- Retirement Visas are issued when applicants offer proof of income. Currently, applicants are require to prove that they have an annual income which exceeds Baht 65,000 per month (approximately USD 2,000).
- An alternative to this is that the applicant must have a bank account with a balance which exceeds Baht 800,000 (approximately USD 25,000). If an applicant does not meet the requirements, other visas are available.
- Retirement Visa entitles the holder a stay of one year in Thailand.
- There are no financial requirement for dependents.
- During the 1-year period, the holder of the Retirement Visa can come in and out of Thailand. Every 90-days, Retirement Visa holders must present themselves to local authorities. This presentation is straightforward and takes less than 2 hours.
- The holder must renew the Retirement Visa every year; Retirement Visa holders can renew their visa within Thailand.
- The Visa grants the holder benefits that are not available to guests on a tourist visa. These include to open a bank account, obtain a mobile phone package, obtain a Thai driver’s license and study at Thai Universities.
- The Visa holder does not have the ability to work and receive a legal wage in Thailand.
- The applicant must be 50 years of age or over
- The applicant must meet the financial requirements
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WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS PURCHASING
PROPERTY IN THAILAND?
There are specific rules and regulations that govern the purchase of property by a foreigner in Thailand. These are summarized below.
- A foreigner can own a condominium freehold as long as Thai nationals own 51% of the condos or apartments in the building by sqM.
- If not, then leasehold is the only option available to foreigners.
- A foreigner can lease land or condominiums for 30 years, with an option for another 30 years. The owner can own the house which they build on the land. Based on our research, this option is commonly used when purchasing property in a modern residential development.
- A company can own property such as land and a house (and hence a foreigner can buy land and a house via their company) as long as total foreign ownership of the company does not exceed 49%.
A MORE DETAILED ANALYSIS OF BUYING PROPERTY IN THAILAND
The following is a summary of the basic principles of Thai property ownership.
Am I allowed to buy land/property? Although Thai law (the Land Code) prohibits foreigners from owning land in Thailand, there are legally tested ways in which foreigners can effectively own or have control of land and still comply with existing Thai laws. The following three procedures are the most common:
Foreigners can own a condominium in their own name, providing that not more than 49% of the aggregate unit space of the entire condominium development may be owned by foreigners.
Once the foreign quota is full, foreigners can still lease condominium units and these leases can be registered with the Land Department. Foreigners also sometimes establish a Thai company and acquire the freehold of the condominium unit.
Foreigners who are not resident (work) in Thailand must bring the money to purchase the condominium unit in from overseas and must provide evidence to the Land Department when transferring the unit.
Apartments (where the building is not registered as a condominium) can also be leased long term.
The purchase of land through a Thai limited company
Buying land property in a Thai company name is a popular choices among foreigners who wish to acquire an interest in freehold land in Thailand (as opposed to the leasehold option below).
In order to comply with Thai law, the majority of the shareholders of the company must be Thai and must hold at least 51% of all shares. The foreign shareholding can hold a maximum 49% of the registered share capital.
In previous years, nominee shareholdings (where the Thai shareholders were simply named individuals with no financial interest in the company and with weighted voting rights being given to the foreign shareholders) developed as a way of giving foreigners control of the company’s affairs. However, the Thai Government cracked down on Thai companies set up with nominee Thai shareholders.
Now every company with foreign promoter shareholders and/or directors is subject to scrutiny) and disproportionate voting rights, which has led to a change in the initial company set-up.
Registering of a leasehold interest
A registered lease is relatively uncomplicated and easy to acquire and register. A long term lease can be held and registered in your own name (no company required).
Foreigners are permitted to lease land in Thailand for a maximum of 30 years with an option to renew for a further 30 years. A lease registered with the Land Office remains in force throughout the term of the lease regardless of whether the freehold owner sells or otherwise transfer the freehold.
However, even though the land owner may agree to a renewal clause in the lease agreement it is uncertain whether this right can be enforced against purchaser/successor of the freehold interest.
If the lessor is a company and the company is sold, as opposed to the land held by the original lessor, the situation would not change and the new shareholder would then have to deal with the lessee based on the original lease agreement.
The vast majority of cases are transactions where landowner are companies. These lease agreements often have additional safeguards in relation to sale of the land by the company/owner. As opposed to land, a foreign buyer can have the ownership for a house registered in his own name although with only a lease of the underlying land.
Be aware that this is merely a summary as a reference guide. We suggest that you should seek advice from qualified legal counsel when leasing or purchasing a property in Thailand.