Chinese citizens will be able to obtain Thailand eVisas from February 15 according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thailand. The electronic visas will be available for many other nationalities later on in 2019.
The new Thai eVisas will save visitors hassle by removing the need to physically go to an embassy or consulate. The ministry said the online application will be simple and they will process visa requests quickly.
The largest demographic of Thai visa applicants are Chinese citizens and his is why they are the priority. The ministry said the eVisa scheme will include all countries which have diplomatic relations with Thailand over a period of 3 years.
Chatri Archjananun, Director-General of the Consular Affairs Department at the ministry, said: "Last year, there were more than 8 million applicants for Thai visa, of this total, 85% applied for the tourist visa, and Chinese travelers constituted the largest group of applicants."
The next two eligible nationalities for the eVisa will be the British (on March 1) and the French (on April 1).
Many nationalities can currently enter Thailand without a visa for limited periods of between 14 and 90 days. Visa-exempt countries include the US, Canda, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, and Russia.
However, it may be the case that nationalities who are currently visa-exempt will need to apply for an eVisa in the future once the scheme has been expanded.
Government plan to boost tourism with the Thai eVisa
The launch of the eVisa is part of a wider government plan to boost tourism, which accounts for approximately 20% of the country's GDP. In October, the number of monthly visitors dropped for the first time since early 2017. The Ministry of Tourism is keen to boost the numbers.
Chatri said: "We will conduct a roadshow in January to make sure the world is aware of the new service, and also we have to prepare for the system".
Tourists who use the Thai eVisas to enter the county will not receive a visa stamp in their passport upon entry. Instead, they will receive an automatic alert by email. The information will also be transferred to the Thai Immigration Bureau.
As part of the eVisa application, it will be necessary to pay a fee. Kasikornbank will handle the payments and will accept credit and debit cards and bank transfers. Over 126 currencies will be accepted. To attract more Chinese applicants, they will accept WeChat Pay, Alipay, and China Union Pay.
Applicants will also need to meet a range of visa requirements which will include having a valid Chinese passport. The Thai Ministry will announce more information about the eVisa over the weeks leading up to the launch.