Thailand is launching a fresh charm offensive to lure more pensioners to the Asian nation as Britons begin considering alternative retirement destinations outside of Europe in light of Brexit.
The president of Thailand Elite, a government-owned agency tasked with running the country’s “exclusive” visa scheme, told the Press Association that Britain’s divorce from the EU was a chance to strengthen ties between the two countries.
Pruet Boobphakam said: “I think that Brexit will give us an opportunity to even open more, or to introduce Thailand even on a broader scale … you can live in Thailand for up to 20 years if you’d like to, therefore it would be a good opportunity for both countries, in terms of UK people and the Thai people.”
UK retirees who might otherwise look to settle down in warmer climes along the Mediterranean are facing uncertainty about their long-term rights in EU countries like Spain, where more than 300,000 Brits live, after Brexit.
The collapse of the pound in the wake of the referendum has also reduced the purchasing power of sterling-denominated pensions across the eurozone.
Thailand’s 20-year residence programme, which was originally launched in 2003, does not come cheap, costing 600 US dollars per year (£481), on top of a 60,000 US dollar one-off fee (£48,138), although promoters say the low cost of living can help make up for the bill.
It also offers 10-year residence for around 30,000 US dollars (£24,066), with perks like VIP transport services and annual health checks at a private hospital, as well as a five-year option for 15,000 US dollars (£12,033).
Juerg Steffen, group chief operating officer at Henley & Partners, an international residence and citizenship advisory firm that promotes the programme, said visa schemes like Thailand’s were providing a clarity amid Brexit uncertainty.
“If you would like to retire today somewhere abroad as a UK citizen, then suddenly because of Brexit it’s not as clear that you can do that.
“You have to wait for the next two years to see if you can settle in the EU … but with Thailand it is clear.
“So with Thailand you pay 15,000 US dollars (£12,033) and you can stay there for five years.
“So from that perspective, it’s very interesting for people who would like to retire abroad in the next few years.”
Mr Boobphakam said that while there were just a “few hundred” Brits paying for Thailand Elite’s residence programme, UK citizens made up 40% of participants ahead of other nationalities including the US.
He also expected the number of Brits taking part in the programme to rise by 15% this year.
“On top of that, it’s 10% higher than what we’ve expected,” he added.