Acquiring Permanent Resident Status
John, a Brit currently living and working in Zagreb e-mailed with this question. "Ideally I would like to buy a hotel/apartment building in Phuket and acquire Permanent Resident Status. I understand the visa situation in Thailand, but to your knowledge is there a way to acquire PR Status? Maybe 2-3 years following a reasonable level of inward investment? The prospect of no real eventual 'permanency' in Thailand is not very appealing for me."
John, there are indeed several routes to obtaining residency or even eventually
nationality in Thailand. The exact qualification requirements tend to
change in their fine detail and numerical values on a regular basis,
but typically involve one or more of the following, inward remittances
invested in bank deposits or approved businesses (which can be your
own business - and in some instances even a directly owned property
such as a condominium), maintaining that investment for a minimum of
three years. Retirement residency visas are more simply acquired based
upon age requirements and demonstration of relatively modest local deposits
and sources of offshore pension income being remitted to Thailand. Obtaining
Nationality requires in addition to the forgoing as a first step, the
ability to read and write Thai and some good local references.
The process, it must be said is relatively complex, bureaucratic in nature and often difficult to understand (largely as a result of the continually ongoing minor revisions and changes to the process that are not well publicized). As such very few people are in practice either applying for or receiving permanent residency. As such you would be advised to seek professional advice in this regard from an expert in immigration matters if you wish to pursue this route. The process while daunting is not impossible.
That said, it should be noted that Thailand is generally a very easy place to live, whether simply on a recurring basis on a tourist visa (who must leave briefly every 90 days), or as someone with local investments and/or employment and /or family with an annually and locally renewable Non Immigrant Visa. There are several thousand foreigners, myself included, who have been living in Phuket as de facto permanent residents for decades with no real threat to their right to remain in country beyond the almost ritualistic song and dance associated with the annual renewal of the non-immigrant visa (and work permit.)
So long as you are complying with the local rules and regulations ( which have in the past sometimes been enforced rather selectively - allowing significant non compliance - but are increasingly being enforced more completely - thereby creating a perception that visa renewal approval has become somewhat regressive), their will be no significant problem renewing your right to stay indefinitely.
While I appreciate that as a person considering a lifestyle change and major investment into Phuket - and who has possibly come from a part of the world where upheaval of whole ethnic populations has made the issue of residence highly topical - a de facto permanent status might be of concern - I believe that it need not be. If you remain insistent that you need permanent residency, for your peace of mind, then there is a definite route to that end if you are prepared to put in the effort to pursue it.