Longer Stays For Tourists And Digital Nomads

This week, Thailand’s government announced that it is significantly relaxing its visa program, approving longer stays for tourists, students and remote workers in an initiative that will allow travelers from 93 countries (up from 57) to stay 60 days (up from 30).

The changes will go into effect on June 1.

For digital nomads, as well as self-employed and remote workers, visas will extend to five years—a significant jump from 60 days—with each stay limited to 180 days, Thai government spokesperson Chai Wacharonke said at a press conference. Previously, digital nomads were allowed only two 30-day stays.

Foreign postgraduate students will be able to stay an additional year after graduation.

In addition, Thailand is drastically lowering insurance requirements for foreign retirees. Currently, retirees aged 50 years and up must have health insurance coverage of 3 million baht (nearly $82,000). The new requirement will be just 440,000 baht ($12,000).

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Thailand is hoping these moves will collectively help juice its stuttering economy. Earlier this month, the finance ministry reduced its 2024 economic growth forecast to 2.4% from 2.8%. The country is aiming for a record 40 million foreign tourism arrivals in 2024, with an anticipated revenue of 3.5 trillion baht ($95.3 billion).

Around the world, there’s a marked trend toward fewer countries requiring traditional paper visas affixed in a passport, according to UN Tourism’s latest Tourism Visa Openness Report, which revealed that just 47% of travelers in 2023 required a traditional visa, falling steadily from 77% in 2008 and 59% in 2018. Instead, travelers are finding looser rules and less friction when traveling to destinations around the world. Today 21% of the world’s population does not need any visa—up from 17% in 2008—and visa-on-arrivals and eVisas are popping up around the world.

This trend is most visible in the Middle East and Africa. Consider that in 2015, about seven in 10 people in the world needed to obtain a visa prior to visiting the Middle East. By last year, that figure had dropped to 57%.

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The list of countries soon eligible for visa-free short stays in Thailand include large tourism source markets like China and India, as well as U.S., U.K., Albania, Cambodia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Laos, Mexico, Morocco, Panama, Romania, Sri Lanka, UAE and Uzbekistan.

A Thai visa-on-arrival will soon be available for 31 countries (up from 19), including Armenia, Fiji, Malta, Saudi Arabia and Serbia.

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