A number of South East Asian nations are offering attractive packages to prospective foreign investors with the target of attracting global tycoons and wealthy retirees to boost their local economies, although Thailand’s LTR (Long Term Residency) has so far not excited much public interest as it overlaps with other visa options, does not lead to permanent residency or a second passport and requires a 40 million baht (one million plus US$) investment to be eligible to buy a small plot of land. The Board of Investment has offered little comment to date, although deputy secretary general Narit Therdsteerasukdi says that Thailand can no longer rely on short-term tourists for much-needed income.
Commenting to Thailand’s LTR, prospective investors said, despite the fact that Thailand is far-more prospective country than the Philippines or Cambodia with favorable law and order condition, the amount of more than US$1 million for a Long Term Residency may not attract most of the people as its actually gives no right to the investor to avail permanent residency or a second passport, while the investor can buy only a small plot of land.
By contrast, the recently-announced SIRV (Special Investors Resident Visa) in the Philippines immediately offers permanent residency for as long a foreigner invests at least US$75,000 in business or securities. In return, investors can come and go as they like as well as including their wives and dependent children without additional registration fees. Gill Harris, spokesperson for International Move, said, “If the Filipino golden visa is marketed properly, its sheer simplicity will compare favorably with competing products in other countries”.
Talking about Philippines’ SIRV, many prospective investors said, this country has already earned extreme bad name being filled with scammers and frauds. While Thai nationals generally never make any foul attempt of cheating foreigners, the situation in the Philippines is just the opposite. Most of the people in the Philippines considers a foreign a “cash cow” and apply numerous forms of tricks in robbing them off.
Malaysia has also joined the fray with its PViP (Premium Visa Program) offering 20 years residence for an investment deposit of around US$220,000. However, it overlaps heavily with existing visa options such as MM2H (Malaysia My Second Home) and, according to Malaysian member of parliament Lim Lip Eng, suffers from ambiguity about financial details. The country also acquired bad publicity when it banned MM2H holders from entering Malaysia for a period of six months during the COVID crisis.
Cambodia’s CM2H (Cambodia My Second Home) attracted a lot of initial attention when first announced last July. It appeared to offer a possible path to citizenship within five years for investors bringing over US$100,000. However, the deal requires a property investment in the Khmer Home Charity Association, a registered charity, with close Chinese connections. None the less, the detail includes an automatic work permit as does the Thai LTR. The Malaysian and Filipino variants do not, even for digital nomads.
Gill Harris concluded, “All the golden schemes have their own idiosyncrasies. There can be exorbitant registration fees, as in the case of Malaysia, or a cumbersome bureaucracy with the Thai version. There may be half-promises about citizenship, permanent residency or the right to buy property which are not binding on governments. As things stand, the Filipino golden visa looks the best investment for expats wanting a regular base in south east Asia”.
Few more Asian nations, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal also are actively considering offering similar benefits to prospective foreign investors.