New visa exemptions to attract more medical tourists to Thailand


Thailand has become a well-known medical tourism destination, and to remain competitive has relaxed its immigration law to promote medical tourism.

The new regulations allow nationals from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, to stay in Thailand for medical treatment up to 90 days without a visa.  A medical tourist may be accompanied by up to three individuals who are also Gulf state nationals-such as parents, children, spouse or maid- who also have a 90 days visa exemption. Nationals from South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru are also eligible for the 90 day visa exception.

Those seeking a 90 days visa exemption must present a document to prove they have a medical appointment issued by certified health institutions in Thailand. And they have to show financial support documents, such as health insurance, issued by authorities in their respective countries. For individuals accompanying patients, they have to show documents proving their relationship with the patient and the accompanying individuals, which can include a birth certificate, marriage certificate, house registration, or I.D. card for a family member. Employees and maids also have to show employment contracts and an affidavit of support form as prepared by hospitals in Thailand.

It is claimed that 60,000 Omanis visited Thailand for medical care in 2012, and with the relaxed regulations, numbers for 2013 are predicted at 75,000.To encourage medical tourism, some of Thailand's hospitals have established offices in Muscat so they can target Omanis seeking care. Oman Air is adding more weekly flights on the Muscat-Bangkok route.

Thailand is also promoting spa and wellness tourism. The government has set standards and criteria for Thai masseurs and masseuses and for businesses offering Thai spa and/or wellness within the country and abroad. Thai herbal medicine as well as massage and spa services can be offered.

The country’s medical council wants the government to do more to promote medical tourism by offering a cosmetic surgery and tourism package to include airfare, cosmetic surgical services, luxury accommodation and shopping trips. Rhinoplasty, double eyelid and sex change operations are popular with visitors from Asian countries and Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

According to Thai newspaper The Nation, local private hospitals, hotels and associations of dentists and doctors have formed ‘The Medical Tourism Association’ to promote medical services to foreign patients in Thailand.

Thailand plans to develop its logistics and transport routes to link with neighbouring countries Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam; and is seeking European investors.



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