To legally work in Thailand, all foreigners are required to obtain an initial non-immigrant visa (Category “B” – business visa for work) issued by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then to be granted a work permit by the Thai Ministry of Labor. In essence, the work permit is a legal document that states a foreigner’s occupation, job position, job description and the Thai company he is working with in Thailand.
This article will summarize briefly the key legal issues relating to visa and work permit application in Thailand (not including those relating to Thailand Board of Investment (“BoI”)-promoted workers and some occupations relaxed by the AEC Treaty, the processes of which are much simpler and easier in practice than those set out below).
Pre-conditions to work permit application
In principle, any foreigner entering Thailand is not permitted to work regardless of their type of visa, unless they are granted a work permit. There are three pre-conditions to work permit application in Thailand:
- The foreigner shall first be granted an initial Category “B” business visa for work (the so-called “Non-B Visa”). It is possible for the foreigner to apply for the Non-B type visa either in their home countries or in Thailand but ideally the entire process would be more straightforward if the foreigner acquires such visa in their home countries prior to their arrival in Thailand.
- The foreigner shall have, or be offered a job by, an employer in Thailand with which the work permit will be associated.
- The occupation the foreigner is seeking to perform is not prohibited by Thai laws and the foreigner himself possesses qualifications as required by Thai laws in this regard.
Although work permits allow foreigners to work legally in Thailand, there are some occupations which are totally prohibited to foreigners. This means that no work permit can be applied for, or granted to, these occupations at all. Some samples of these prohibited occupations include tour guides, legal consultants, litigators, architects, accountants, civil engineers and etc.
Exemptions to work permit
Not all type of jobs will require a work permit if such jobs are of short-term, necessary and urgent nature. The period of short-term work in this context is not to exceed 15 days. Therefore, if a foreigner visits Thailand for the following purposes temporarily for a period of not exceeding 15 days, then they are not required to obtain a work permit:
(i) administrative and educational work (e.g. conference, seminar, business invitation events, special lecture and temporary internal audit);
(ii) technical work (e.g. technical training, movie-making and photography work);
(iii) overseas employment services (e.g. skills testing, job recruitment);
(iv) legal services or legal cases (e.g. arbitration);
(v) miscellaneous work (e.g. merchandise procurement, charity work without commercial benefits); and
(vi) other work as specified by the relevant Thai government agency.
Typical work permit application process
In principle, a work permit can only be issued once the foreigner has entered Thailand and already holds a Non-B visa as per Thai immigration laws. Ideally, the company wishing to hire the foreigner should therefore help arrange for an initial Non-B visa to be issued by Thai embassies or consulates to the foreigner prior to entry into Thailand. Once the visa is issued and the foreigner is present in Thailand, the foreigner can then apply for a work permit. The work permit application together with all supporting documents should be filed with the Ministry of Labor within the validity period of the visa (typically 90 days).
Criteria for work permit issuance
The granting of work permit is typically considered and evaluated on a discretionary basis. In such evaluation, several factors would however be taken into account. For example, the job description should be precise and can help demonstrate to those concerned that the foreigner has the required set of skills and knowledge for the job. The company hiring the foreigner must have the minimum amount of fully paid-up registered capital e.g. the fully registered capital of THB 2million is required for one work permit.
To ensure compliance, immigration police and social security officers perform random inspections at workplaces at their discretion so as to verify immigration compliance. All employers must ensure that their employees work within the scope of work specifically referred to under the relevant work permit and hold a valid visa. Employing foreign workers without a work permit will be punished with a fine of an amount up to Baht 100,000 per person. The foreign worker himself can be subject to a fine or banned from re-entering Thailand.
This article as provided by SBC Interlaw is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice from this law firm nor any of its attorneys. It was compiled from multiple sources, and while every effort has been made to verify the materials, Thailand’s immigration and employment rules can change from time to time. Hence, prior to acting upon any of the information contained herein, please first obtain professional advice from one of our lawyers at tel: 662-631-2066.
Immigration Act of Thailand B.E. 2522 (1979)
Foreign Business Act of Thailand B.E. 2542 (1999)
Alien Working Act of Thailand B.E. 2551 (2008)