South East Asia for online entrepreneurs

For about a decade, Southeast Asia has been the top spot for digital nomads and online entrepreneurs. This is where stuff is happening; with booming economies, lots of start-ups and angel investors, and fast internet connections, your online business will have the biggest growth potential in this region. Add to that the low cost of living, the wonderful climate, and delicious food, and it’s logical to see why a long-term stay is irresistible. 

But how do you go about arranging such a long-term stay, or even permanent residency? Can you keep extending your tourist visa or should you go for a permit that is more relevant to your unique way of working? If you can’t see yourself doing visa runs forever, this is the blogpost for you. We’ve listed the visa requirements and options for the region’s most popular countries below, so check them out!

Thailand

Chiang Mai, the unofficial digital nomad capital of the world, is just one of the reasons why location-independent entrepreneurs head to Thailand. With lots to choose between exciting cities and laid-back islands, a low cost of living, world-class cuisine, and smiley faces everywhere you go, it’s no wonder this country is favourite with expats and other farang.

How long can you stay in Thailand on a tourist visa, what alternative visas are there, and how can you get residency if you want to stay longer? Let’s take a look at ways to enjoy Thailand for months or even years on end.

Short-term stays

Thailand’s Tourist Visa allows you to stay up to 60 days in the country. At your nearest Immigration office, you can request a 30-day extension, meaning that you can stay in Thailand for a total of 90 days. 

Long-term stays

While Thailand’s digital nomad is still in the making, there are alternatives that allow you to spend longer periods in the country. Your best bet is probably the 1-Year Non-Immigrant visa. While it allows you to spend up to one year in Thailand, there is a somewhat weird requirement: exit and re-enter Thailand every 90 days. You can apply for this visa at Thai embassies and consulates and mention that business is the purpose of your stay.

Becoming a permanent resident

After holding Non-Immigrant visas for three consecutive years, you are eligible for permanent residence in Thailand. A maximum of 100 persons per country will actually get this visa, so be sure to apply early. Each year, applications are welcome between October and December. If you apply in the investment or business category, you must show proof of a 10 million baht investment into a Thai company. This equals around € 265,000 or $ 320,000.

Indonesia

Indonesia is so much more than Bali, but when it comes to the digital lifestyle, this Hindu island offers the best of everything: lots of beaches suitable for surfing, big villas at low rental prices, modern coworking spaces, and a focus on healthy living. Other islands are cities are swiftly catching up, making Indonesia a great place to settle long-time.

Short-term stays 

If you’re traveling to Indonesia for the first time or you’re treating this as a reconnaissance trip, the Visa-On-Arrival (VOA) is perfect. You buy it upon arrival at the airport for about € 28 or US$ 35. This single-entry visa gives you 30 days to explore Indonesia, and can be extended at an Immigration Office for another 30 days. 

Long-term stays

Wanna stay longer? One option you have is doing visa runs: you leave the country on a flight to, for example, Singapore or Malaysia, and you return after a few days to get a new VOA. Because visa runs get tiring, this might not be the best long-term solution. 

A better option might be the Social-Cultural Visa or the Business e-Visa, both of which allow you to stay for a maximum of 180 days. To qualify, you will need proof that you can support yourself during your stay, a letter from a local sponsor, and a copy of the sponsor’s identity card. Visa agencies can help with this.

Becoming a permanent resident

The Indonesian resident permit is abbreviated KITAS. You can get one if your partner is Indonesian, if you study at an Indonesian university, or work at an Indonesian company. After five years on a KITAS, you can get a KITAP, which is the permanent stay visa for Indonesia. An agent can help you smoothen this process, which takes about ten weeks and costs around $ 4,500.

Malaysia

From steamy rainforests to islands full of backpackers and flashy coworking spaces: Malaysia offers a lot of variety to digital entrepreneurs like you. Kuala Lumpur is an exciting city full of start-ups, nightlife, shopping centres, and rooftop bars. It has excellent and cheap connections to cities in the region thanks to airlines like Air Asia, Jetstar, and Scoot.

Short-term stays

If you are exploring Malaysia, your first visa could be a tourist visa. Mind you, it’s technically not legal to work in Malaysia on this visa, so the tourist visa does carry a bit of risk, however little. You get this visa upon arrival and it allows you to stay for a maximum of 90 days.

Long-term stays

If your business is technology-related, you can apply for the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Programme. Start-ups and established entrepreneurs are required to work from one of the Malaysia Digital Hubs and can get a visa for one to five years, costing € 500 to € 1,000 (around $ 600 to $ 1,200).

Becoming a resident

The Malaysian My Second Home visa comes close to permanent residency. This programme offers a 10-year, multiple-entry visa that is renewable. It is linked to an investment in Malaysia, for example a property purchase, medical expenses, or education for your kid. It requires an approximate deposit of € 165,000 or $ 200,000 and a provable monthly income of around € 2,000 or $ 2,500 per month. 

Vietnam

From temperate to tropical, Vietnam has the perfect climate for you. This noisy, contrasting, entrepreneurial, and above all beautiful country, is a growth beast you’ll want to be part of. Vietnam traps you, in a good way. But what can you do about that legally?

Short-term stays

You can apply online for a tourist visa that you can pick up at your Vietnamese arrival airport. Choose between a one-month and a three-month version, either as a single-entry or a multiple-entry visa. With so many options and reasonable visa prices, this makes Vietnam a welcoming country. 

If you are not working low-key from your apartment, but want to sit at coworking spaces and attend conferences, the business visa would be the more appropriate permit for you. This visa type is also available in one-month and three-month options, either as a single-entry or a multiple-entry pass. The business visa, however, requires a sponsorship letter from a Vietnamese company. Visa agencies can help you get such a letter.

Long-term stays

If you want to stay in Vietnam for multiple consecutive years, you will need to be visa exempt. This exemption applies only to Vietnamese overseas, foreigners who are spouses, children of Vietnamese overseas, or Vietnamese citizens. Specifically, this will allow you to stay for a maximum of five years. An alternative is looking into Vietnamese residency.

Becoming a resident 

A Permanent Residence Card (PRC) is valid for three years and can be renewed after those three years. As a foreigner without Vietnamese blood running through their veins, the only viable way to get permanent residency is by marrying a Vietnamese person.

OF COURSE! It would be best if you also thought about your taxes; none of those countries is tax-friendly… Contact us to optimize your taxes if you stay in one of those countries. This is our job; we have several options!

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