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All about Thai Work Permits

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  • All about Thai Work Permits

    It's all about Thai Work Permits!
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    How is working defined in Thailand?

    The definition in the alien employment act of 2008 is, “engaging in various work by exerting energy or using knowledge, whether or not in consideration of wages or other benefits.” It’s a very broad definition. In practice, it’s not quite so clear-cut. It’s true to say that the rules in recent times have not been enforced in the draconian tradition of yesteryear. There is, for instance, a non-immigrant volunteer visa which requires the stamp of the host sponsoring organization. However, this visa cannot be the basis of a regular work permit and is not available in all provinces.

    So what are the exceptions?
    Embassy and other diplomatic staff don’t need Thai work permits. Another exception covers foreigners here “for the benefit of education, culture, sports and the arts.” However, this doesn’t cover “teaching” on a regular basis, but is meant to cover competing sportsmen and women etc. There is also an exclusion for foreigners doing “urgent and essential work for less than 15 days”, but this requires a detailed company letter and the de facto approval of the immigration bureau and the Department of Employment. Holders of the 4-year Smart visa, designed for well-paid computer professionals, investors and entrepreneurs approved by the Board of Investment, do not need a separate work permit.

    What if a company or a school offers me a job?
    You need to enter Thailand with a non-immigrant visa. Ideally it should be a non-immigrant “B” type, but an “O” based on marriage is also acceptable. Because of the difficulties of travel during the pandemic, an “O” based on retirement may also – currently anyway – be the basis of an application for a work permit. You need to check locally. The company, which will have registered capital, will arrange the work permit and provide the required documentation with input from yourself such as academic qualifications. The work permit will specify precisely what your work role is. Schools are not companies in the same sense but are registered with the Department of Education and are mainline buyers of foreigner language skills.

    What if I want to start my own company?
    Initially (assuming you have an acceptable non-immigrant visa) you have to set up the company with a minimum of two million baht capital for each work permit. There must be a minimum of three Thai shareholders who jointly own at least 51% of the shares. You need to make sure that your company does not involve activities which are banned to foreigners – for example you cannot be a practicing lawyer – and that your role is specifically defined. Four Thai employees must be working for every foreigner permit. The Department of Labour and the Immigration Bureau both have a role in work permit matters and both can inspect premises or take legal action. Typically, both permit and visa are annually renewable.

    Can you give examples of grey areas?
    An obvious one concerns digital nomads. They are clearly making money here, but perhaps their customers are all overseas. Or online teachers of English whose customers are all in China. Meanwhile, the Thai immigration authorities are essentially concerned with catching foreigners who are either taking jobs from Thais or making a profit here which should be taxable. A lawyer experienced in employment affairs can discuss your individual case.

    What are the most common cases prosecuted?
    Over the years, the majority of cases have been foreigners working illegally in schools or for companies which promised a work permit and never delivered on it. Most institutions are lawful, but some take the risk. Another category is the foreigner “helping” to run a bar or restaurant irrespectively of whether he’s paid or not. The minimum penalty is a fine and the maximum comprises deportation and blacklisting. Most Asian countries have similar rules to Thailand’s, although Malaysia allows longstay retirees some latitude for part-time employment whilst Cambodia has a number of visas to suit those looking for work as well as those actually in employment.

  • #2
    Step by step Guide to obtaining a Work Permit in Thailand

    So you’ve landed your dream job in Thailand, or maybe you’re just toying with the idea of packing your bags and working or opening a business in the Land of Smiles. Regardless, understanding the process of working legally in Thailand can be confusing, especially when it comes to getting a work permit. So to help you out, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting a work permit in Thailand.

    What is a work permit?
    A work permit is a critical document for any foreigner who wishes to legally work or establish a business in Thailand. This piece of paper doesn’t just allow you to work and operate a business as a skilled professional or an employer, but it also clearly outlines your current role, job description and the Thai company you’re associated with. Furthermore, this permit also functions as a license to carry out a job or an occupation permissible for foreigners within Thai boundaries. As you’ve probably already known, foreigners aren’t allowed to work in Thailand upon arrival, regardless of the type of visa they possess. As a foreigner, you must obtain the right type of visa, like a non-b visa or a non-O visa based on marriage, to be eligible to apply for a work permit. Crucially, the absence of a work permit isn’t something to take lightly. Working without a Thai work permit can lead to particularly serious consequences. In fact, a foreigner caught working sans permit might find themselves facing a hefty fine or even imprisonment.

    What are the requirements to obtain a work permit in Thailand?
    If you’ve set your sights on applying for a work permit in Thailand, you’re going to need to tick some boxes. Not just you but the company you’re planning to add your talents to will also need to square off some specific requirements.

    Company requirements
    The success of your work permit application doesn’t depend solely on you but also on the registered capitalization of the company that’s hiring you.
    • If the company is registered in Thailand (Thai Business Entities) and wants to apply for a work permit for a foreign employee, it must have at least two million baht fully paid-up registered capitalization. If the foreign employee the company wants to hire is married to a Thai national, on the other hand, then it only needs one million baht in capital.
    • If the company is a foreign company, meaning it’s not a registered company in Thailand (Foreign Business Entities), and it wants to apply for a work permit for a foreign employee, then it has to have at least three million baht in capital for each employee it wants to get a work permit for.
    In either scenario, all companies can only lay their hands on a limited ten work permits and must already have four Thai employees on their books before bringing in a foreign worker. However, these rules don’t apply if the company gets support from the Thai Board of Investment (BOI). These companies are exempt from these requirements and can hire foreign employees without worrying about the capital they have or how many Thai workers they have. But, this is only valid if the foreign employees meet the minimum requirements set by the BOI and the company can justify why they need a foreign employee.

    Employee requirements
    In order to be eligible for a work permit, there are certain requirements you need to meet. In general, you need to have a job offer from a company that meets the requirements above or start a company that meets the criteria. You’ll also have to make sure the job you’re doing is not prohibited for foreigners. You’ll need to bring your skills for the job you’re applying for, typically have a bachelor’s degree and some on-the-job experience. Moreover, you must have a non-immigrant visa. Health-wise, it’s important that you’re relatively fit, which means you don’t have any severe illnesses or addiction issues. But what if you don’t have a degree? Well, while the official stance indicates a ‘no’ for obtaining a work permit without a degree, there have been instances where agencies have secured work permits for their teaching staff. In some specific scenarios, teachers at government schools in remote areas have faced no difficulties at all. So if you’ve been browsing how to get a work permit in Thailand without a degree, the answer might boil down to connections and being at the right spots at just the right moments.

    What are the steps to obtain a work permit in Thailand?
    Now that you know the requirements, here’s what comes next:

    Step 1: Apply the correct visa type
    As mentioned before, you need a non-immigrant visa before you can apply for a work permit in Thailand. You can get this visa in your home country, in a country near Thailand, or even when you’re already in Thailand.
    If you want to obtain your visa from outside of Thailand, here are the requirements:
    • You have been offered a job or started a company in Thailand to employ yourself.
    • The company should request a non-immigrant visa for you, allowing them to apply for your work permit.
    • The company must strongly vouch for you to be respectful of Thai culture and steadfast in abiding by Thai law.
    • The company should prepare copies of registration documents and financial statements.
    It’s wise to plan ahead and make sure you apply for your visa well in advance of your anticipated move to Thailand. Ideally, you should apply for your visa within 30 days before your departure to Thailand. This gives you enough time to process everything and makes sure you can start your journey to Thailand with all the necessary documents ready. There are a few different non-immigrant visas you can get, but the most common are the non-immigrant visa B and non-immigrant visa O. Let’s look at your options.

    Non-Immigrant Visa B
    The Non-Immigrant Visa B, also known as a work visa, is the most common option among people who want to work in industries such as education, in a multinational corporation, or in other roles acceptable for foreigners in Thailand. It’s also the go-to choice for those who want to conduct business in Thailand.

    Non-Immigrant Visa IB
    The Non-Immigrant Visa IB is designed for foreign nationals who have the intention to work on projects or for companies that have received a promotion from the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI). These are the projects or companies that provide specific benefits to Thailand and are approved by BOI.

    Non-Immigrant Visa M
    The Non-Immigrant Visa M, or media visa, is for those aiming to work in the media sector in Thailand, which includes careers in print, online, or television. This supports roles such as news reporters, film producers, and media correspondents associated with foreign news agencies. These individuals could be contributing to newspapers, magazines, television, radio, or online outlets. It’s important to remember that the media visa is specifically for those working for foreign news agencies. If you’re a journalist working for a Thai media company, you should apply for the non-immigrant visa B. Moreover, journalists with short-term assignments will also need to look towards obtaining a non-immigrant B visa. You can apply and get your one-year media visa online via the MFA Media Online Service website.

    Non-Immigrant Visa O
    The Non-Immigrant Visa O is the one to go for if you plan on volunteering, marrying, or retiring in Thailand. If you’re working in Thailand and want your family to join you, they’ll also need this exact visa.
    However, this type of visa only grants the privilege of obtaining a work permit to foreigners who are married to Thai citizens and to those committed to volunteer work. Therefore, if retirement is your aim, obtaining a work permit with this visa isn’t an option.

    Apply for the work permit
    So you’ve met the requirements to obtain a work permit in Thailand, and your next step is to apply for it. To do this, you’ll need some documents. It’s worth noting that the required documents can change over time, so a quick check-in with the Ministry of Labour or the Board of Investment is always a great idea to ensure you’re on the right track.

    Employee documents
    Here’s a list of the documents you need to submit along with your work permit application:
    • Passport with copies of every page, all signed
    • Non-immigrant visa
    • The TM.6 departure card
    • Signed copies of your education degree
    • Signed copies of your transcript
    • If you have any signed certificates or licenses
    • A copy of your CV or resume that tells about your past jobs, what you did there, how long you were there, and where it was
    • Three photos that are 5 x 6 cm (not passport photos). These photos must show all your face, you must be wearing business clothes (some jurisdictions may require a suit and tie), and they shouldn’t be older than six months before you apply for the Thai work permit.
    • If you’re married to a Thai national, you’ll need your original marriage certificate and signed copies that have been signed. You’ll also need to bring your partner’s Thai ID card, your children’s birth certificates, if you have any, and household registration.
    • Medical certificate issued in the last 30 days. You can get one from any clinic or hospital in Thailand. All you have to do is tell them that it’s for a work permit.
    Keep in mind that Thai government officials might ask you to get your documents certified by your home country’s embassy. This means that you might need to take your degree, CV, licence or certificate to your embassy to confirm that these are true and original. You would usually need to pay a fee for this service. Plus, the government officials may also ask you to have these documents translated from your language into Thai.

    Company documents
    The following are the documents your employer needs to submit with your work permit application:
    • A certificate from the Commercial Registration Department that confirms the company you’ll work for is actually registered as a legal business, along with the names of its directors, what it does, and how much its registered capital is
    • A certified list of the company’s shareholders from the Commercial Registration Department
    • A Factory License from the Ministry of Industry’s Factory Department, if necessary
    • A VAT Certificate or Phor Phor 20
    • VAT filing, or Phor Phor 30
    • Withholding Tax record, or Phor Ngor Dor 1
    • Social Security Payment filing
    • An employment contract that states your position, what tasks you’ll be doing, your salary, and how long your contract is for.
    The Thai government has specific requirements when it comes to paperwork. Each page of every document needs to have the company’s seal, along with the signature of the Managing Director and/or Director(s) next to the seal.

    The process and where to go
    To apply for a work permit, gather all the necessary documents and head to the Ministry of Labour. After this, visit the Bangkok Immigration office to extend your visa to either one or two years. But, if a BOI-promoted company employs you, the process is a bit different. Go to the One-Stop Service Center at Chamchuree Square. There, you can extend your Non-immigrant visa B on the same day you make your work permit.
    Just remember that before you visit the One-Stop Service Center, the company must first get approval from the BOI. If you’re not in Bangkok, don’t worry. You can go to your local, provincial labour office instead.

    The cost
    Before proceeding with a work permit, a non-immigrant visa is necessary. The cost for a single-entry visa stands at 2,000 baht, and for those requiring multiple entries, the fee is 5,000 THB. Regarding the work permit, the application procedure involves several government fees:
    • An initial application fee of 100 baht
    • A fee of 750 baht for work permits valid for three months
    • A fee of 1,500 baht for work permits ranging from three to six months
    • A fee of 3,000 baht for work permits valid for twelve months.
    It’s true the process may seem daunting at first glance, but don’t let this deter you. It’s just a matter of following protocol, creating an inventory of tasks and ticking them off systematically. After all, this slight bureaucratic ordeal is a small price to pay for the privilege of living and working in the delightful Land of Smiles!


    • #3
      What are the biggest challenges for foreigners working in Thailand?

      Thailand has been among the top countries with the highest expat workers. With its flourishing economy and expanding job market, it’s no wonder why overseas professionals are irresistibly drawn to this Southeast Asian country. But while packing up your life to start anew in a foreign land, especially for work, is undoubtedly exhilarating, you must not overlook the potential hiccups that may come along the way. But remember, every problem has a solution. So to help you prepare for your journey, here are the biggest challenges for foreigners working in Thailand, and how to overcome them.

      Securing a work permit
      When you’re planning to work in Thailand, one of the first things you’ll need to do is get a work permit. This process, while necessary, can be time-consuming and complicated. A variety of documents are needed, including details of employer sponsorship. In many cases, employers are required to demonstrate that the role cannot be filled by a local candidate, which can further prolong the process. Moreover, you’ll need to check your forms carefully before you send them in. Any missing papers can slow things down. You’ll also need to hand in your passport in person so they can put a stamp in it to show you have a work permit. The rules about work permits can be different in different parts of Thailand. In Bangkok, you can hand your forms in at the Ministry of Labor in Din Daeng. But if you’re working somewhere else in the country, you have to go to the Employment Department in that area. Additionally, the time it takes to get a work permit can also vary. In Bangkok, you might get it in seven working days. But in some other places, like Phuket, you might be waiting up to two months. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and get started early.

      Dealing with complex bureaucracy
      This is related to the first point. For foreigners working in Thailand, navigating through the country’s complex bureaucratic system is a challenge that cannot be ignored. This not only includes obtaining a visa and work permit but also getting to grips with tax regulations, employment laws, and business licenses. For instance, getting an initial, single-entry Non-Immigrant B Visa is usually straightforward. However, securing a one-year, multiple-entry visa, the longest period available for workers, is not. It calls for a visit to the immigration department which can consume an entire day and may require the assistance of a lawyer or agent, as the department’s staff may not speak English. Once your visa period ends, you have to start the process anew, as there doesn’t seem to be a renewal system in place. Even with a one-year visa, you’ll observe a peculiar practice. Immigration will only stamp your passport for 90 days at a time. As a result, you’ll need to either leave and re-enter the country or report your address to immigration for an extension. Another example is obtaining a business license. This might not be applicable if you’re an employee, but for entrepreneurs looking to start a venture, it’s an essential step. Bear in mind that the process involves going through multiple government offices and might require the assistance of local consultants.

      Lost in translation
      Language barriers are a significant challenge for foreigners working in Thailand. If you are employed in an international company, where English is commonly used, then this might not be a big problem. However, if you are working in a smaller company or if you’re teaching English in a public school, learning Thai becomes a necessity. Moreover, although English is spoken widely in urban areas, its use is less common in rural regions. But even if you’re working for an international company, it’s still a good idea to learn Thai. Not knowing the language can create misunderstandings not just at work, but during day-to-day activities too. Think about the daily transactions with taxi drivers or food delivery personnel, interpreting public signs, or understanding cultural norms that influence regular behaviour. When you struggle to communicate or misunderstand the local language, it’s easy to feel rather lost. This is why it’s worth taking a language course before you move to Thailand, even if it’s just to learn the basics. It’ll help you settle in and find your feet much quicker.

      Culture shock
      Another challenge for foreigners working in Thailand is navigating cultural differences. Thai society, rooted in Buddhism, operates on principles of respect and hierarchy. This includes the concept of ‘saving face’, or preserving personal dignity and avoiding causing others to lose theirs, which is essential to grasp as you interact with Thai colleagues. The way companies work in Thailand also reflects this. For example, those lower down the chain often don’t speak up or share ideas with their superiors. So if you have something to say that might not be positive, it’s best to do so gently and subtly. If someone compliments you, be humble. It wins you respect. Exchanging business cards when you first meet someone is also common in Thai business culture. It’s good manners to have a card with both Thai and English writing. And when you give someone your card, remember to use your right hand. Sometimes, people will also give small gifts to help build a relationship, though it’s not a must. Additionally, whilst the Thai lifestyle may seem laid-back, business is an exception. Thai people expect you to be on time. They plan their meetings weeks ahead, and it’s important to stick to that. Being late is considered rude, regardless of the reason. Navigating these cultural differences can seem a bit tricky at first. But don’t worry, over time, you’ll pick them up and start feeling more comfortable. And in the meantime, Thai people are usually very helpful and understanding.

      Adapting to the climate
      When you visit Thailand for a holiday, the warm, tropical weather can feel like a nice break from colder climates. But when you actually move there for work, dealing with the heat every day can become a tough job. In Thailand, temperatures usually go over 30 degrees Celsius. For those who are used to cooler weather, getting used to this kind of heat can be hard. You also have to get used to the high levels of humidity and the tropical rains that are part of the package. It’s not just about feeling hot, either. This sort of climate change can also affect your mind and mood. Hot weather can make you feel tired and it can be hard to keep your energy levels up. Simple things such as deciding what to wear or remembering to drink enough water become more important. But with time, you’ll start getting used to the weather. Just remember, it’s your experience that matters – don’t worry about how fast other people are adapting. Even though it can take a while and you might have some rocky days, there’s also a bright side to tropical life, like seeing greenery everywhere and having different fruits to try. Above all, remember to be patient with yourself.

      Challenges for the family
      Moving to Thailand isn’t just a big change for you, it’s also a big change for your family if you’re bringing loved ones along. Balancing the demands of work and helping your family settle can feel overwhelming sometimes. For example, it could be challenging for your significant other to secure employment. Likewise, children may find building new friendships in a different country intimidating at first. While these issues aren’t directly job-related, they can certainly impact your work performance and overall satisfaction in your new settings. Planning ahead before you make the big move is crucial to manage these hurdles. Consider looking into job opportunities for your spouse or encouraging them to participate in local volunteer activities. These can provide rewarding ways to engage with the community and foster social connections For your children, researching schools in advance may provide insight into potential friendship groups of a similar age. Having open discussions as a family on how to navigate these changes can also be beneficial as every family member will have their viewpoints and ideas. Despite the challenges, many foreigners have successfully made Thailand their work base. Learning about these challenges in advance will better equip you to navigate the nuances of working life in Thailand.