By not legalising digital nomads, Thailand is also missing out on the tax revenue these remote workers might bring to the country. “[China Market Consulting] suggested to BOI that they should have something that’s a little cheaper than creating your own company,” said Henriksson, another advocate of a dedicated digital nomad visa. He suggested having a work permit that costs around $1,800-$2,400 yearly, with digital nomads having to pay an income tax.
TAT is studying the potential of the digital nomad sector, said Cheawsamoot. The government is aware that applying for a long-stay visa and work permit is a priority concern for digital nomads.
The winds of change are blowing, though.
In December 2020, BOI’s proposal to amend the existing Smart Visa program to suit digital nomads was approved by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, a government agency. If passed by the Thai Cabinet, digital nomads and freelancers can work remotely in Thailand for up to four years without a work permit.
The amended Smart Visa, when implemented, will usher in a much more flexible and friendlier climate for digital nomads in Thailand. “You don’t have to jump through the hoops as the normal ex-pat workers,” said Jones. In recent weeks, Bylaws is already seeing a spike in inquiries from digital nomads exploring a move to Thailand, he added. The Thai government has announced a wider reopening of the country from 1 November.
However, there’s no timeline or further information available on the implementation of the amended Smart Visa.
Digital nomads looking to stay in Thailand can only hope that things will speed up post 1 November.
This was partly a move out of necessity for the Thailand-based businessman slash website developer, who shuttles between Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Phi Phi, where he owns a hotel. Armitage and his network of entrepreneur friends have so far been renting private villas to stay and work whenever they are in Phuket. “I want to capture that market while building a nice workplace for myself,” said Armitage, who considers himself a digital nomad.
“Understanding this lifestyle can be complex, and many people and destinations are still unsure of what it means. The number of digital nomads was steadily increasing year by year, but Covid-19 drastically increased this market, catching many destinations, accommodations, local business, and tourism boards unprepared,” Diego Arellano, a digital nomad and marketing specialist at Adventure Travel Trade Association, wrote in a new research report.