Thailand considers express visa issuance to lure foreign business

The Thai Government is planning to amend its foreign business law to boost inbound investment, as it tries to stimulate economic growth to catch up with its neighbors. 

The country's junta is considering measures it hopes will draw foreign businesses and investments to its eastern economic corridor, the much flagged special economic zone aimed at developing high tech industries such biochemical, petrochemicals, robotics, aviation, and electric vehicles. 

The measures under consideration include a "smart visa" program, which would give express visa issuance to selected applicants that the government as vital to economic development. It aims to attract science and technology expect, senior, executives, investors and startup business talent.

The government has sent clear signals to foreign businesses that it is willing to facilitate investments. Since the government launched the EEC in 2017, the board of investment has approved 259 news investments projects worth a total of 310 millions baht ($ 9.6 billions).

Foreign businesses say the outdated foreign business act of 1999 hinders their investment in several sectors such as logistics and tourism. The law was originally designed to protect domestic business. It prohibits foreign entities from taking a majority share of Thai company. 
The Thai chamber of commerce is studying how to amend the law to make investment easier. 

Other chambers of commerce also see the need for change in the foreign business law. The joint chambers are lobbying hard for foreign companies to bring in their own experts to work in Thailand. Last year, Apple struggled to bring in foreign staff for its first store in Thailand as its visa applications were rejected. 

The foreign chambers are expected to finalize the review of the law and propose it to the government by the end of the year. 

A senior official at the Thai Commerce Ministry, which drafts the law, said the ministry could set up a special committee of representatives from related parties to see of the current visa rules could be relaxed. But the official also said it was so unclear how long the amendments would take.