Why are some western expats less interested in retiring in Thailand? Thailand has always been a popular destination for international retirees who want to enjoy their golden years in a tropical paradise. Some western retirees are now moving away, and those who have enjoyed a cheap paradise are losing interest as the nation becomes more inaccessible with new restrictions.
But there is a way you can buy Thai citizenship, and it does not require you to have health insurance.
Before we get into that, here’s what some expats are saying about retiring in Thailand and about the retirement visa.
Thailand’s visa requirements are not difficult, particularly for the “rich”, who have a variety of alternatives. At the top of my head, the Elite and Investment Visas are the obvious two. They are only tough for those who are unable or unwilling to invest. This is not the demographic to which Thailand is attempting to appeal.
You’d be hard-pressed to find more straightforward or affordable visa requirements in the region; the Philippines is probably the only country with an SRRV (though this requires just as many, if not more, hoops to jump through), Malaysia recently doubled the financial requirements for MM2H, Cambodia has a dodgy business visa that could be revoked at any time, and I’m not sure Vietnam has anything.Mike
On the other hand, if you’re able and willing to invest in Thailand, living here is quite simple.
Why Some Expats Can’t Make It In Thailand
Following the Brexit vote, the pound’s value has plummeted by 30%, making British expats less financially secure. The strong baht has wiped off the income of many British expats who rely on fixed savings or pensions.
Before the border closure, not only had the UK pound plummeted, the Thai visa was more costly, and the expense of living has skyrocketed during the past several decades. However, a currency like the USD has done better, but inflation has eaten away at the savings of every retiree.
For expats who drink or smoke, both activities could cost twice as much. Even the food isn’t a long way behind, mainly Western cuisine. However, street food and food in fresh markets are still inexpensive.
The financial constraint combines with changes in visa policies for senior expats holding a retirement visa, such as the non-immigrant O-A, non-immigrant O-X, and the most common, the non-immigrant O-based on retirement. But as of February 2019, expats holding the non-immigrant O based on retirement must have a Thai bank account with a security deposit of 800,000 baht, or a monthly income of 65,000 baht, or a combination of both totalling 800,000 baht.
Most recently, the newly added requirement of a health insurance policy covering all expenditures for medical treatments, including COVID 19, is worth at least 100,000 USD of coverage.
The applicant must have health insurance for the duration of stay, with coverage for COVID-19 disease, with a total sum insured of THB 3,000,000 (100,000 USD) per policy year.
An applicant for the Non-Immigrant O based on retirement must have health insurance included in their application. According to an expert, those over 70 have a “huge dilemma” because the premium might reach 100,000 baht, or about $3,000 USD per month.
Making it very hard for expats over 70 to acquire a retirement visa, so Thailand as a retirement destination is out for those folks.
I’m the spouse of a Thai citizen on a Non Immigration O who has put THB 800k into an annual “retirement” extension at a Thai bank. In order to protect myself and my wife, I have a USD $1 million medical insurance policy.
Yet that same insurance does not meet the Thai immigration requirements, but when we use the insurance at the local hospital, we always get a “letter of guarantee”, and our insurance provider has paid all of the bills.
For some expats, the twelve or thirty Thai insurance firms listed on the TGIA website aren’t going to be able to provide medical insurance.
You’re out of luck if you’re over a certain age. In addition, “exclusions” abound, resulting in “incomplete” insurance coverage.
Insurers can no longer be self-insured. This means that many people are deemed “uninsurable.”
Why You Now Need Health Insurance
This is due to the Thai health care system losing more than 300 million baht, or about $9 million US, to foreigners fleeing without paying their medical bills. When we say foreigners, we mean non-Thais. They can be Burmese, Laotian, Russians, or Americans. The fact that it’s primarily tourists fleeing, and not expats or retirees, means it could be an excuse for Thai insurance providers to make more money.
The New Thai Visa Requirements
The new visa requirements have caught many senior expats off guard-who were accustomed to a carefree lifestyle. Many are anxious about their future, and some have already been pushed out of the country. The air of desperation is evident in Pattaya, a beach city with a sizable senior population.
Pattaya is best known for its nightlife activities and its adult entertainment business. Nevertheless, Pattaya is more than this, making it one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations.
Pattaya has also been a haven for older expats ever since the Americans flocked there for the sun, women, and nightlife during the Vietnam War, turning a sleepy Thai village into Asia’s sin city.
Until the pandemic hit, this resort’s town was almost always full of foreign and local tourists. Locals and expats are used to putting up with the four or five months of peak season because they know that the rest of the year will be much quieter and beautiful.
It is similar to the rest of the country, becoming a year-round tourist attraction ten or fifteen years ago. The evidence of that can be found in just about any major city. After a storm of tourists, many beaches are littered with sewage that hasn’t been adequately disposed of.
Thailand Retirement Visa Statistics
In 2018, Thailand issued approximately 80,000 retirement visas, a 30% increase from 2014, with the majority of those awarded going to Britons.
According to research conducted by Kasikornthai Bank, the number of foreigners over the age of 50 with long-stay visas increased by 9% in 2016.
Along with the new health insurance requirements, the country’s health insurance industry is pouring money into this new and lucrative market.
The elite visa program, which offers a one-time fee of 600,000 baht to 2 million baht for 5, 10, and 20-year visas, is boosting their effort to attract rich retirees—essentially allowing wealthy foreign citizens to buy citizenship for around $3,000 USD per year.
According to an expat bar owner in Pattaya, the push to attract wealthy foreign citizens has caused many current expats to feel they are being pushed out. On the other hand, the bar owner is optimistic that the Thai government may turn to expats to ease the negative effects of the country’s economic decline from the recent border closure.
Many of us arrived in Thailand decades ago, when it was a very different country. Just before everything started to go south quickly and without any end in sight.Sam, an expat in Pattaya
Some of us are lucky enough to be married to a wonderful Thai woman, and the quality of life is good even for those of us on a tight budget.
Furthermore, packing up and departing requires a significant investment in terms of time, finances, and effort.
The majority of us will consequently remain and continue to overlook the leadership and the foolish immigration policy for expats.
I’d only be here for four or five months a year if I were well-off enough to do so.
Unless you’re single and seeking action, Thailand would be on the list of possibilities. In that case, you may even consider the PI.
Who Can Make It In Thailand
It’s possible that more average-income retired expats might be more worthwhile to target. They are a type of “economic refugee,” looking for a bit more value for their restricted retirement pensions and other resources, but having more than others who get a little government pension.
Those are the people who can afford an 800,000 baht deposit, in addition to living in a decent property and spending an average of 65,000 baht or more every month.
There is almost certainly a plethora of them, but Thailand may be too tough to settle in, and as a result, it is likely to be lower on the list of preferred locations, if not avoided altogether.
Thailand’s attractiveness might be significantly increased if restrictions on “the good farang” were relaxed and they were allowed to enter. If the requirements are relaxed, it may be possible to do away with the need to submit several time-consuming 90-day reports, as well as less time-consuming paperwork when requesting yearly extensions of stay. The deposit may also be preserved in some form or another.
After a couple of years or three, during which the documentation requirements are a little more stringent, but still not as onerous as they are now. A kind of “permanent retiree residency” could be established for “the good farang” who have performed admirably over the previous years. With the documentation requirements a little more strict, but still not as difficult as they are now.
Will Money Solve All Of Your Problems?
On the bright side, this year’s currency has improved. The British pound is up about 10% to 44.8 baht per 1 UK pound from a year ago. The same is with the USD. There is now about a 12% increase from last year to 33.8 baht per 1 USD. Similar to the Canadian dollar, up about 12%, the Austrian dollar is up 6.7% from a year ago.
If you have money, you don’t have visa or insurance problems in Thailand.
Is Thailand still a good place for men to settle down? That’s a tricky one. But, if you’re wondering if Thailand is still a good place for men to find a partner or get cheap sex, the answer is yes.
Hmm, that’s a tough one. Let me think about it.
Sunny weather, affordable accommodations, exotic culture, top 5 cuisines in the world, beaches, and, oh yes, the ladies.
It’s only natural that retired men would go to Thailand. There aren’t many millionaires here, but those looking for a fun time in the sun, some excitement, some sex, and some delicious cuisine will come. The last forty years or so have seen a steady influx.
Alternatives To Thailand
What other options do you have?
China? The Philippines has terrible internet, high crime, homeless people everywhere, and yearly typhoons. The Caribbean is expensive. Spain is prone to be overrun by African nationals, has a high crime rate, and suffers from harsh winters. Vietnam – they don’t have a retirement visa. Malaysia: visas are too expensive.
Despite all of the criticisms about Thailand, the strict immigration restrictions, the high luxury tax, the horrible driving, and the absence of ownership rights for foreigners, these are minor inconveniences that one can put up with. Really, the only viable option is Thailand. One of the most, if not the most, desirable destinations for expats.
What do you think? Which nation do you think is a good alternative to Thailand?
Do you think the Thai government will step in to help ease the retirement policy, or is it already too late?