Thailand and UAE Face Off Over Rich Foreign Investors in 2021 with Competing Investment Visa Offerings: Juwai IQI

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In November 2020, both the United Arab Emirates and Thailand faced off in the battle to capture the hearts and minds of rich investors. They almost simultaneously announced new visas that each hopes will help their economy and property market bounce back in 2021 after the difficult pandemic year.

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They compete for the same investors. The UAE provides more opportunities for entrepreneurs and talented professionals, while Thailand offers more lifestyle opportunities and includes everything from massages to elite golf courses in its visa packages.

In November 2020, both the United Arab Emirates and Thailand announced new visas that they hope will help their economies and property markets bounce back in 2021 after a difficult pandemic year. The two countries are facing off in the battle to capture the hearts and minds of rich investors.

Juwai IQI Group Co-Founder and CEO Kashif Ansari said:

"In 2021, the battle to attract foreign investors will be hotter than ever. The pandemic has made attracting investment even more critical than it already was in 2019. Thailand and the UAE are moving quickly and aggressively.

"They compete for the same investors with attractive lifestyles and long-term residency. The UAE provides more opportunities for entrepreneurs and talented professionals, while Thailand offers more lifestyle opportunities and includes everything from massages to elite golf courses in its visa packages.

"At first glance, the United Arab Emirates' golden visa is very different from Thailand's, but there is significant overlap in potential applicants. Applicants from India, China, Japan, and the United States can now play one country against the other as they decide where to wish to live and to invest.

  • Why the Wealthy Obtain Investment Visas

"Wealthy investors look for visas that offer them lifestyle and financial opportunities. The most important benefits are visa-free travel to desirable destinations, the right to reside, educational opportunities for their children, and lifestyle, career and investment potential.

"Investment visa firms are reporting that demand from wealthy investors is up 25% to 50% in 2020, compared to 2019. India is the number-one source of investment visa applicants, but demand from Americans is growing faster. The U.S. is now the second-ranked source of investor visa applicants, up from just sixth place in 2019. Investment visa enquiries from U.S. nationals surged by 235% in Jan through November 2020, according to a top investment visa firm, compared to the same period in 2019.

  • Thailand's New Real Estate Investment Visa

"The new visa that Thailand announced in November exchanges five-year residency for an investment of THB10 million (US$333,000) in residential real estate. That means that, for every 100 approved applicants, THB1 billion (US$33.3 million) in new investment will pour into the real estate market. The new real estate visa throws a lifeline to Thai developers struggling with an oversupply of new luxury condo units.

"Property investors will have to act fast because the Thai program will only be available for two years. It ends on 31 December 2022. The foreign buyer must choose a property of which you can take possession before that date. To apply, you need your passport, a foreign exchange transfer, the document showing that you own the property, and evidence that you are at least 20 years of age.

"Thailand already offers other long-term golden visas that provide tourism and lifestyle benefits for a fee, but it is new to give residency in exchange for property investment. Until now, Thailand's golden visas have required applicants to pay a significant amount to obtain a residency visa, and you don't get that money back. By buying real estate instead of paying a fee, you can potentially earn an income or resell your investment later.

"Thailand issued 2,398 of its Elite golden visas in the first three quarters of 2020, an average of about 266 per month. The least expensive visa options are the most popular. Only about one per cent of applicants took up the THB2 million (US$66,000) Elite Ultimate Privilege. About 57% of applicants applied for the Elite Easy Access visa, which requires THB500,000 (US$16,600).

  • The UAE's Visas

"The UAE offers long-term visas to property investors, entrepreneurs, and talented professionals and students. In November, the UAE announced a new policy. It will now grant 10-year golden visas to all PhD holders, physicians, high-performing university graduates, and engineers in several high-tech fields.

"Unlike Thailand, the UAE has long offered golden visas to real estate investors who put a minimum of AED5 million (US$1.4 million) into local property. That's different from Thailand's golden visas, which work to boost tourism and include benefits like spa treatments, golf games, airport transfers, and medical checkups. The UAE wants people to come to its country and work, while Thailand is less enthusiastic about professionals who might compete with locals in the job market.

  • Thai and UAE Real Estate Outlook

Somsak Chutisilp, Managing Director of IQI Thailand, said:

"Many investors believe this is an excellent time to invest in the Thai market. I have great faith that the market will gather pace in 2021. The pandemic is an external blow to the economy and not the result of intrinsic weakness.

Investors and migrants are more attracted to Thailand now than ever, as a result of its excellent handling of COVID-19. Economic growth is likely to bounce back at high rates after travel and trade recover. The outlook for the property market is good. Despite a surplus of stock now, planned projects have been cancelled, and the pipeline of new supply is limited, which supports prices."

Omer Ali Khan, Country Director of IQI-UAE, said:

"The outlook for Dubai's real estate market is similar to Thailand's. Both countries are suffering from a lack of activity due to the pandemic and an oversupply of new apartments. Both countries look likely to recover in 2021. Economic activity and property demand will return after this hiatus at a higher level than in 2019.

“Demand and transactions are on the uptick. In November, real estate and property transactions were valued at Dh3.9 billion from 1,400 transactions during the week ending Thursday, according to the Dubai Land Department’s weekly report. Sixty plots were sold for Dh412.83 million, and 944 apartments and villas were sold for Dh1.58 billion.

“We are looking forward to the rebound, with the UAE’s non-oil economy to expand by 4.2 per cent in 2021. That comes after a difficult 2020 in which GDP fell by 7.4 per cent. Oxford Economics believes the economy will return to pre-crisis levels by mid-2022.”

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