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(My mistake, correct salary is 200 000บ/month Document here (Thai language): https://www.boi.go.th/upload/smart%20visa%20details_Thai_25Jan%202018_51278.pdf)

Thailand has a "smart visa" for high-skilled foreign workers in engineering, IT, Ph.D, etc, but requires the a 200 000บ/month salary. But the average salary in Thailand is only 15 000บ/month salary. Very few jobs in technology in Thailand pay a salary high enough for this visa (very few government jobs in Thailand pay over 200 000บ/month). Is this visa just for show, so the government can say it is like Japan or Taiwan (soon South Korea) when the government knows very few people can get it?

Compared with other country in region:

Japan (Nippon) has a similar "Highly Skilled Foreign Professional" visa with no minimum salary requirement, but higher salaries get more points for the visa. The average salary in Japan is about 305 000円/month (≈85 000บ/month).

Taiwan has the Plum Blossom Card (梅花卡), which has no minimum salary requirement but has a minimum for all type work visa of about 48 000元/month (≈48 000บ/month). The average salary in Taiwan is about 50 000元/month (≈50 000บ/month).

I use and round numbers for avarage salary here: https://tradingeconomics.com/japan/wages

  • Anecdotal, so not worthy of an answer, but I have a friend who moved to Asia to pursue a job opportunity that turned out to be not as presented to him, and he eventually settled in Thailand because living there is so cheap, and the people are very pleasant. I think it's probably a potentially attractive destination because of the low cost of living, and the government wants to avoid people who can't contribute from choosing to settle there just because of that aspect. – PoloHoleSet Dec 2 '19 at 16:26
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    Independent of the exact value of the salary figure, defining a 'highly skilled worker' via salary is one of the easiest and most fair definitions. Defining what exactly counts as highly skilled is complicated and messy but the consequence, 'if you are highly skilled, you should be able to command a high salary' is very straight forward. What exactly is a suitable salary cutoff is of course a totally different question. – quarague Dec 3 '19 at 11:40
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100,000 THB is about 3,000 euro or $3,300. I don't know if the numbers are before or after taxes, but looking at Stack Overflow's survey, specifically on salary. Those figures aren't very high globally, when considering specialist jobs. You're comparing to averages, but that also includes many low skilled workers which Thailand isn't looking to attract (at least not with this visa).

Considering that, there is probably a trade-off. If the salary bar is set too high, many specialist workers won't meet it. That means companies based in Thailand willing to employ foreign specialists won't be able to pay them, they will be too expensive to fit in this visa category. If that's the case, companies may be inclined to base themselves elsewhere where there are more possibilities of employing specialists at a lower rate because they have more favorable visa criteria.

If, however, the bar is set too low, there may be an incentive, especially for foreign companies, to prefer foreign workers over Thai workers, even for simpler jobs that could be done by Thai citizens. Foreign workers may be easier for a multinational, for example because they've worked for the company in a different country already. A government will want to benefit from those multinationals in their country by employing locally, so their citizens benefit more. So that's a reason why the bar probably isn't set much lower.


To put the numbers further into context, we can look at the salary requirements for other Thai visas. Thailand is a popular among the elderly for its good weather, development of infrastructure in the area (at least compared to other countries in South East Asia), and relatively cheap cost of living compared to the West. The retirement visa requires a monthly income of 65,000 THB or saving of at least 800,000 THB in a Thai bank account. So the salary requirement for retirees is somewhat lower, but it's certainly in the range of the 100,000 THB for specialist workers.

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    Friend (Thai person CEO of Thai company in Thailand) tell " the salary was first set at 45 000บ/month but raised up to 200 000บ/month. Not many companies can hire at this amount. We can get cheaper digital people from Philippines and India." This salary level only help foreigner outside Thailand work outside Thailand (no tax money for Thailand government). – Châu Dec 3 '19 at 22:55
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    @Châu yea my guess is that these visas are mostly aimed at large multinational companies with a branch in Thailand, not medium to small Thai companies. For those larger companies, this can be an easy way of getting employees from one branch of the company into a Thai branch. It's just not aimed at getting "cheaper digital people" as there many of those (either working remotely or recruiting from within Thailand). Those people are valuable to the company, but they're not what this visa aims to attract. – JJJ Dec 4 '19 at 1:15
  • I think your answer is correct: "for large multinational companies with a branch in Thailand". Easy for multinational companies move employee to Thailand and still restrict even large Thai company hire foreigner. Very clever! – Châu Dec 4 '19 at 2:30

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