Thailand Gets SMART


Doing business in Thailand is getting easier all the time. When the World Bank released its Ease of Doing Business report for 2017, the Kingdom of Thailand soared 22 places up the rankings to 26th in the world from 48th just one year earlier. The Bank recognized and rewarded the sweeping reforms undertaken by the Thai government to better serve business and the economy. But Thailand isn’t resting on its laurels. The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has vowed to go even further, and on February 1st it launched a new tool to make working in Thailand even more attractive:

The SMART Visa.

Designed to encourage highly skilled professionals to work or invest in the Kingdom, SMART Visas provide more benefits and privileges than any other type of visa issued by Thailand. SMART Visas relieve red tape and reduce hassles because they are valid for as long as four years as opposed to the usual one year; they eliminate the need for a work permit, and are also extended to spouses and children of those who qualify.

That translates into less time spent gathering documents, filling out forms and sitting in several government offices. All it takes is one quick visit to a One Stop Service Center where they can also obtain comprehensive information from the Board of Investment on investing, setting up a business or registering a company in the Kingdom.

SMART Visas are available for investors, executives, talented individuals and those involved in start-up incubators and accelerators. There is, however, one important requirement: at the moment, SMART Visa holders must be working in one of the 10 industries targeted by the Thai government as essential to advancing the Kingdom’s economy and level of development. Expanding the new visas to other industries, however, is under consideration.

The 10 targeted industries are: Aviation and logistics; biofuels and biochemicals; robotics; digital development; next-generation automotive; medical industries; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology, and food for the future.

These industries are the foundation of Thailand 4.0, a bold and visionary 20-year national strategy. Thailand 4.0 endeavors to transform the Kingdom’s economy from one reliant on manufacturing existing products designed by others to one driven by innovation, research and development, creativity and the development of higher technologies and green industries.

To support Thailand 4.0, the government is investing over $60 billion in new, upgraded and cutting edge infrastructure. Some of it will improve logistics and increase Thailand’s connectivity with neighbors, the region and the world. But a significant percentage of it will support the Eastern Economic Corridor, a three-province advanced development zone just east of the capital Bangkok that will be home to the 10 industries and serve as a showcase for Thailand 4.0.

Physical infrastructure represents the hardware of Thailand 4.0. Human resources are the software. Thai policymakers are now emphasizing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education to create the kind of workforce needed for the future. Thailand is determined, however, to progress toward its development goals today. That is where SMART Visas will play a crucial role.

SMART Visas will boost economic growth by increasing the numbers of high-level skilled workers and talented professionals employed by Thai businesses, giving those businesses a competitive edge. Those professionals will bring with them knowledge that can be transferred, and they can assist in the skills development of their Thai counterparts. Their fresh ideas and innovations can improve the operations, strategies and processes of Thai businesses.

With talented top-tier foreign professionals working alongside their Thai colleagues, the Kingdom can maintain long-term economic stability and achieve more dynamic growth, while establishing itself as a new center for innovation in the Asia-Pacific region.

SMART Visas are just one of many new policies the government of Thailand is planning to introduce to meet the needs and goals of business and the nation.

*For details on the SMART Visa program, please visit:

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With the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand