Thailand Vs Malaysia
Thailand's expat web forums host raging word wars on a regular basis over changes – both real and imagined – to the country's retirement visa program. In a nut-shell, anyone 50 years of age or older can apply annually for a one-year Type 0-A retirement visa.
The basic requirements are a Thai bank account holding at least 800,000 baht, or proof of monthly income of at least 65,000 baht, and paperwork including a medical certificate and background check showing you do not have a criminal record in your home country.
A retirement visa will allow you to import household goods tax-free and you can include your spouse on it as well, assuming they qualify under the same guidelines. However, employment of any kind is prohibited.
Each succeeding year, permit-to-stay renewals must be applied for and proof of funds provided. It remains at the discretion of the Immigration Office to approve permit-to-stay renewals.
I decided to check the facts on the most up-to-date rules and regulations with a Google search and ended up on a caterpillar-like gravy train of "legal service prouder" web sites and expat-focused infomercials. Finally, I arrived at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) web site (www.mfa.go.th) which provided only the most rudimentary details.
Clearly someone from the MFA marketing department didn't get the memo when they were organizing the website. With more questions than answers, it occurred to me: perhaps there wasn't a marketing department.
A yard stick or comparison is always helpful in decision making, be it for selecting future life partners or second home countries.
Glancing up from my keyboard, I spotted a giant blow-up balloon bottle of tequila floating by and decided to head south of the border – though in this instance, it was Malaysia.
A few more strokes on my keyboard brought up "Malaysia My Second Home Programme" (www.mm2h. gov.my).
So again, marketing didn't get invited to the domain name working lunch, but with the aid of my friends at Google, I now have a well-laid-out resource to whack over the head with my teak measuring stick.
Malaysia's "let's make a deal" starts at the golden age of 50 (there are stricter rules for retirees under 50). The requirements are similar to Thailand for getting a retirement visa, as you must either have an initial fixed bank deposit of about 1.4 million baht, or a monthly pension of 95,000 baht.
Malaysia's scheme differs from Thailand's in that after the first year, you can withdraw about 475,000 baht to use for purchasing property or qualified expenses. From that point on, you must maintain an account balance of about 950,000 baht.
Bells and whistles include the possibility of full property ownership in Malaysia. A minimum price of about 4.7mn baht per property applies, though in certain states the threshold is lower and land holding rules vary. Importation of a car, or local purchase with a waiver of excise duty and sales tax, is also a perk.
Additionally, one foreign maid is allowed for each retirement visa application. For those who have children under the age of 21, dependents are eligible. There is also the ability to work part-time or set up your own company, provided a number of qualifications and conditions are met.
Perhaps the best feature is the ability to either apply directly with the government agency or through qualified firms that have been approved by the Ministry of Tourism.
On initial inspection, Malaysia seems like an overall formidable competitor to "brand Thailand's" retirement initiative.
Making things easy helps, and while we have so much going for ourselves here in Phuket, the ability to tap inter broader overseas investment base of people who will come to live and buy property here is sorely needed.
There are important lessons to be learned from the guys down south. Let's hope the marketing department actually does exist and is included in the process.