Pattaya Legal Corner: Today, all about Thai work permits!


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How is work defined in Thailand?

The definition of the Foreigners Employment Act 2008 is “to engage in work by exerting energy or using knowledge, whether or not in return for salary or other benefits” . It is a very broad definition. In practice, it is not so clear. It is true that the rules of recent times have not been applied in the draconian tradition of yesteryear. There is, for example, a nonimmigrant volunteer visa that requires the stamp of the sponsoring host organization. However, this visa cannot be the basis for a regular work permit and is not available in all provinces.

So what are the exceptions?

Embassies and other diplomatic staff do not need a Thai work permit. Another exception concerns foreigners here “for the benefit of education, culture, sports and the arts”. However, this does not cover “education” on a regular basis, but aims to cover competitive athletes etc. detailed letter from the company and de facto approval from the Immigration Office and the Department of Employment. Holders of the 4-year Smart Visa, designed for well-paid IT professionals, investors and entrepreneurs approved by the Board of Investment, do not need a separate work permit.

What if a company or a school offered me a job?

You must enter Thailand on a nonimmigrant visa. Ideally this should be a Type “B” nonimmigrant, but an “O” based on marriage is also acceptable. Due to travel difficulties during the pandemic, a retirement-based “O” can also – currently anyway – serve as the basis for an application for a work permit. You need to check locally. The company, which will have registered capital, will organize the work permit and provide the required documentation with your contribution, such as academic qualifications. The work permit will specify precisely what your work role is. Schools are not ventures in the same sense, but are registered with the Ministry of Education and are the main buyers of foreign language skills.

What if I want to start my own business?

Initially (assuming you have an acceptable nonimmigrant visa) you need to set up the business with a minimum capital of two million baht for each work permit. There must be a minimum of three Thai shareholders who jointly own at least 51% of the shares. You must make sure that your business does not involve activities prohibited to foreigners – for example you cannot practice the profession of lawyer – and that your role is specifically defined. Four Thai employees must work for each foreigner’s permit. Both the Department of Labor and the Bureau of Immigration have a work permit role and can both inspect premises or initiate legal proceedings. As a general rule, the permit and visa are renewable annually.

Can you give examples of gray areas?

One thing is obvious about digital nomads. They are clearly making money here, but maybe their clients are all overseas. Or online English teachers whose clients are all in China. Meanwhile, the Thai immigration authorities are primarily concerned with catching foreigners taking jobs from Thais or making a profit here that should be taxable. A lawyer with experience in labor matters can discuss your individual case.

What are the most frequently prosecuted cases?

Over the years, the majority of cases have been foreigners working illegally in schools or for companies who had promised a work permit and never issued it. Most institutions are legal, but some take the risk. Another category is the foreigner who “helps” to run a bar or restaurant, whether paid or not. The minimum penalty is a fine and the maximum penalty includes deportation and blacklisting. Most Asian countries have rules similar to Thailand, although Malaysia gives long-term retirees some leeway for part-time employment while Cambodia has a number of visas to suit. those looking for work as well as those who are currently working.


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