entrepreneur thailand smart visa

The Thailand SMART Visa: Everything You Need to Know

When The Kingdom of Thailand first announced they would be adding a new 4-year “Thailand SMART Visa” in 2018, it debuted to a lot of hype and fanfare. In particular, remote professionals interested in conducting their business in Thailand were hoping this would be their ticket to an appropriate visa type and work permit. 

With one type of SMART Visa in particular, certain entrepreneurs and startup founders can qualify, but in general the SMART Visa is a new type of visa specially designed to attract top-qualified talent in a small handful of technical industries in Thailand.

At launch, however, it became instantly clear that this is in no way any form of digital nomad visa for Thailand. And if you’re simply looking to come start a business in Thailand, unless it’s in an advanced science or tech field, you also won’t qualify for a SMART Visa. So what is it, and who can get one? We’ll answer all your questions. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Purpose of the SMART Visa in Thailand


The official purpose of the SMART Visa is to attract highly-talented individuals involved in emerging technologies to Thailand. These include experts in science and technology, tech company executives, investors, and startup founders.

Thailand SMART Visa applicants must be working or investing in one of 13 so-called “S-Curve” or “Targeted” Industries.

Targeted (S-Curve) Industries in the SMART Visa Program

  • Affluent, Medical and Wellness Tourism
  • Agriculture and Biotechnology
  • Automation and Robotics
  • Aviation and Logistics
  • Biofuels and Biochemicals
  • Digital
  • Food for the Future
  • Medical Hub
  • Next-Generation Automotive
  • Smart Electronics
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Human Resource Development in Science and Technology
  • Environmental Management and Renewable Energy

The company they’re investing in or working for must also receive certification from a relevant government agency in Thailand to confirm that it belongs to one of these targeted industries.

Benefits of the SMART Visa

Beyond simple permission to stay in Thailand, there are a number of significant benefits that motivate people to apply for a SMART Visa. Specific perks depend on precisely which type of SMART Visa you qualify for, but most come with valuable incentives like:

  • The ability to work in Thailand without needing a work permit
  • Your visa allows you to stay in Thailand for up to four years at a time
  • Far more lenient administrative responsibilities as a foreigner in Thailand
  • Easy (and free) unlimited re-entries into the country for those who travel often

Who Can Apply for a Thailand SMART Visa?

SMART Visa issuance largely depends on whether you fit into one of the four types of SMART Visas on offer (five if you count the one meant for family members of primary visa holders). In general you have to be either a highly-qualified expert or entrepreneur in one of the S-Curve fields listed above, a serious investor, or a senior executive of an established international company.

We’ve broken out the requirements to apply for SMART Visa status based on the different versions of the visa in this next section.

Types of SMART Visa for Thailand

There are four basic categories of Thailand SMART Visa, plus a fifth type for their qualifying dependents:

  • “SMART T” – Highly-skilled Experts (Talents)
  • “SMART I” – Investors
  • “SMART E” – Senior Executives
  • “SMART S” – Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs
  • “SMART O” – Spouse and Children of SMART Visa holders

Each type has its own specific requirements and comes with its own list of benefits.

Highly-Skilled Experts (SMART T)

This category is intended for scientists, engineers, researchers, and highly-skilled technicians.


  • Minimum salary of THB 100,000 per month (roughly USD $2,850), or 1.2M baht per year of visa issuance
  • Employment or service contract for minimum of 1 year with a company or government agency in Thailand
  • Expertise in one of the targeted industries with an endorsement by a relevant government agency
  • The employing entity must also receive certification of engagement in a target industry by a relevant government agency

Benefits of the SMART T Visa

  • Visa up to 4 years, but not longer than the employment contract
  • No Work Permit needed for working in the approved company or government agency
  • Once a year Immigration reporting instead of every 90 days
  • No re-entry permit required to exit and re-enter the country

Investors (SMART I)


Yes, the SMART Visa is available to investors. The SMART I version aims to attract those willing to invest significant capital in companies using technology for delivering services or manufacturing products.


  • Minimum investment of THB 20 million (roughly USD $640,000) in one or more companies in the targeted industries in Thailand
  • Investment must be held for the entire duration of the visa validity
  • The company or companies invested in must receive certification of engagement in a valid industry by a relevant government agency

Benefits of the SMART I Visa

  • Visa up to 4 years
  • No Work Permit needed for working in the approved company or government agency
  • Once a year Immigration reporting instead of every 90 days
  • No re-entry permit required to exit and re-enter the country

Senior Executives (SMART E)

This category of visa is available to senior executives and management of companies engaged in one of the targeted industries.


  • Minimum salary of THB 200,000 per month (roughly USD $6,400), or 2.4M baht per year of visa permission
  • Must hold at least a bachelor’s degree and have a minimum of 10 years experience in the relevant industry
  • Employment contract for minimum of 1 year with a Thai company or a foreign company with a Thailand-based job post
  • Must hold a position in senior management
  • The employing company must also receive certification of engagement in a target industry by a relevant government agency

Benefits of the SMART E Visa

  • Visa up to 4 years, but not longer than the employment contract
  • No Work Permit needed for working in the approved company or government agency
  • Once a year Immigration reporting instead of every 90 days
  • No re-entry permit required to exit and re-enter the country

Startup Entrepreneurs (SMART S)


The S-type SMART Visa is for entrepreneurs building startups that fall into one of the specially-designated industries of Thailand. It’s unfortunately not for any business founder .Those hoping to gain access to Thailand’s SMART Visa program in this category by opening a restaurant or a small shop will fall short of the qualification endorsement requirements.


  • Must hold a fixed savings account with a balance of no less than THB 600,000 (roughly USD $20,000) with a minimum 1 year remaining on the maturity term
  • An additional amount of THB 180,000 (USD $5,800) included in the fixed savings account per person in the case of accompanying spouse and children
  • Must possess health insurance for the applicant and any accompanying spouse and/or children that covers the entire visa duration
  • Must either be participating in a business accelerator or incubator program with relevant government agency endorsement—OR—be receiving joint venture funding from a relevant government agency or be endorsed by the agency
  • Must set up a company engaged in one of the targeted industries within 1 year, with certification by a relevant government agency
  • The applicant must hold a minimum 25% share of the company or be a board member.

Benefits of the SMART S Visa

  • 1-year visa, with a possibility of renewal for up to 2 years
  • No Work Permit needed for working in the approved company or Thai government agency
  • Once a year Immigration reporting instead of every 90 days
  • No re-entry permit required to exit and re-enter the country

Assuming that the purpose of the savings account is to prove that one has resources to fund one’s living expenses during the first year, then why restrict the entrepreneur from touching this money for the entire period? And how many boot-strapping entrepreneurs would want to lock-up a large chunk of money in an account that will yield at most 1-2% interest?

The conditions for the “SMART S” visa clearly indicate that the goal is to attract a small number of elite startup entrepreneurs rather than a large number of “quit your 9-to-5 job, travel the world, and build a business from your laptop” type nomads.

Spouse and Children of SMART Visa Holders

A SMART Visa holder’s spouse and children are eligible for a visa of equal duration. Spouses are allowed to work without a Work Permit provided that the job does not fall into one of the occupations or industries prohibited to foreigners.

In the case of the “SMART T” type visa for highly-skilled experts, their children above the age of 18 are also eligible to work in non-reserved fields without a Work Permit.

How to Apply for The SMART Visa?


After you’ve fully understood everything you’ll need to qualify for the SMART Visa you wish to obtain, you can start by completing the online application

Endorsement from Government Agency and Thai Company

In all cases, the applicant must have their qualifications verified by a relevant government agency in Thailand. These agencies include the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), National Innovation Agency (NIA), and National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA).

In some cases, multiple government agency endorsements will be required. For example, a Biochemical Engineer applying for the “SMART T” visa to work at a private research lab must obtain one certification to show they have expertise in their scientific field and a second endorsement must be obtained from their employer to show that it operates in one of the specified industries.

Applicants should expect the government agency endorsements to take up to one month. If residing outside Thailand, the requested documents can be submitted at Royal Thai Embassies or Royal Thai Consulates.

If already residing in Thailand, the applicant can submit their documents to the SMART Visa Unit of the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) at Immigration’s One-Stop Service Center (OSS) in Bangkok.

Within 30 working days, the applicant should receive the result of their qualification endorsement application.

If the applicant is currently residing in Thailand on a non-immigrant visa, they must submit their qualification documents to the OSS at least 90 days before their visa expires. When it comes time to renew a SMART Visa, you have to re-apply for qualification endorsements with at least 90 days remaining on your current visa.

Completing the Visa Application Form and Process

Once you have received a letter of qualifying endorsements from the BOI, you can finally apply for the actual Thailand SMART Visa at any of the Thai Embassies or Royal Consulates (assuming you’re not already in Thailand). If you are residing in Thailand, you can submit the application form and required documents at the one-stop service center for visa and work permits.

Immigration Reporting

SMART Visa Holders must report to the SMART Visa Unit at the OSS once a year to submit documents showing their current employment and residence status. This replaces the 90-day reporting that other non-immigrant visa holders are required to perform.

For more information about the SMART Visa program, please see the official brochure put together by the Thailand Board of Investment.

Other Visa Options To Live and Work in Thailand

A laptop sits outside surrounded by tropical decor

Since the vast majority of people won’t qualify for Thailand’s SMART Visa, these are the alternatives most will want to consider in seeking a long-term stay in Thailand.

The Long-Term Resident (LTR) Visa

Only just announced in 2022, the LTR visa is very similar to the SMART Visa in terms of its target candidates and requirements, albeit a bit more attainable in some ways.

For an in-depth overview of what it takes to get one, check out this article.

In addition to experts in advanced fields of technology, environmental management, future automation, and similar STEM industries, the LTR visa is an option for remote workers—but only if they’re employed by publicly-traded companies.

You can also get one if you have a certain level of personal wealth (at least USD 1M in assets, plus income of $80,000 per year), and are willing to invest half a million US dollars in Thai property, government bonds or FDI.

Essentially this can make it a good alternative for anyone who might have considered a Thailand Elite Card, as the LTR visa is also work permit eligible.

The Business Visa

Iglu team members working on projects they've chosen at one of our many office spaces

The Business Visa is the go-to choice for talented professionals from a wider range of fields, including IT, software development, marketing and business management—provided you can find a registered Thai company to employ you.

While this isn’t a visa you can simply apply for as an individual, if you have the right skills it can actually be reasonably attainable.

Work For Iglu—On Your Terms

Established companies in business process outsourcing and technology solutions—like us here at Iglu—are constantly looking for qualified professionals to join our team. In our case, we offer our people unparalleled freedom and flexibility in their work lives.

As an Iglu employee you can live wherever you want in Thailand, work from our high-end, well-equipped offices or fully remote, and have full autonomy to choose which projects you work on.

All of our employees receive either a Business visa, LTR visa or SMART visa along with a work permit and lots of other valuable perks.

If you’re a skilled professional with experience in IT, software & web development, marketing or management and you’re serious about living and working in Thailand, get in touch with us today to talk about available positions with Iglu.