Elite Card Feedback
When I first arrived to stay in Thailand over 3 years ago, I had an ED visa and attended Thai languages classes as per the requirement. I was able to get new ED visas and extensions for a little over 2 years before that option was no longer viable. Of course, over time it became increasingly inconvenient with trips to immigration granting extensions for only 60 days, going to the Ministry of Education for an interview to test my Thai language skills, huge piles of paperwork carefully stacked in the correct order by my language school, getting and submitting visa photos, etc. Only a couple times did I have to demonstrate my skill to immigration, but it was nothing more than short conversation and reading the officer’s name in Thai from her name tag, for example.
Frankly there’s no excuse for someone not to make the effort to learn to speak Thai if they want to stay here for more than a year. It makes life so much easier if you can read and learn proper pronunciation of the tones and sounds that are not in our native languages. It opens up a lot of doors in daily life and not to mention makes it much easier if you’re interested in meeting a “farm-fresh” lady who hasn’t been around the block a million times. I’m still learning and have a long, long way to go before I could consider myself fluent, but what I do know goes a long way and I plan to continue to keep improving for as long as I’m here.
Since I’m unmarried, not working for a Thai company, and not yet 50 years old, there really was only one option for me to stay here long-term without hassle, worry, and time spent. I paid for the Thailand Elite Easy Access Membership in November last year. I did the math and considering the money spent for Thai language school, time spent getting extensions at immigration, etc. and the value you get for the ease of traveling in and out of Suvarnabhumi (and a few other airports) for international flights, it was a no brainer.
The application was short and easy. E-mails back and forth to the staff to answer questions and send copies of documents were quick and efficient without any confusion. The hardest part was getting the money to them since my bank back in my home country refused to wire money to Thailand. Fortunately, I already had a standing wire order to my own bank account here which worked previously, so my bank accepted that. After receiving the wire funds in my Thai bank account, I just went to a bank branch here and ordered the bank transfer for a nominal fee. After submitting a copy of the transfer slip, I was accepted as a member.
I didn’t need to leave to country to get the new visa affixed to my passport, but I already had plans to visit Vietnam for a nice relaxing holiday, so I took advantage of the limousine and concierge service. When I returned, the concierge arranged for my new visa to be affixed and went through immigration painlessly. I have since used the airport service a couple times and every time has been as quick and painless as possible. I actually enjoy traveling through Suvarnabhumi now. One time I was out the gate and into my limousine within about 5 minutes. I don’t have to think twice about making an international trip because there’s too much hassle or might face scrutiny when I return.
I have a good friend that is here on a retirement visa that I went to Thai language school with and still study with him on our own every week. We had a conversation about the new retirement visa option that nobody seems to know if that will be the only option available or not. He lives quite frugally and the 3 million baht required in a Thai bank account for a period of a year (or proof of 100,000 baht income per month), and the health insurance requirement would not be possible for him. The 500,000 baht option for 5 years of Thailand Elite would be a bit too much for him too, considering that is much more expensive that what is required of him now.
There is another option though that might be even better for someone who knows they want to stay here for the really long term. There is a new Thailand Elite Superiority Extension Membership that started earlier this year that offers 20 years membership (with multiple 5 year visas included) for 1 million baht with VAT included. So it’s effectively half the cost of the well-known 5 year/500,000 baht Easy Access plan. The only difference is the limousine service is not included, but the concierge, fast track immigration, and use of the lounge is included. This option would work for my friend if the existing retirement visa rules change since he could scrounge up 1 million baht if he needed to do so.
Just wanted to throw that out to you and your readers.