OVERVIEW OF THAI BUSINESS-RELATED LAWS
Foreigners who want to visit or work in Thailand must fulfill the requirements of immigration of which the Immigration Bureau of the Royal Thai Police is in charge.
The major immigration requirements are as described below.
Foreigners who wish to enter Thailand, unless otherwise exempted, must obtain a proper visa from a Royal Thai Embassy or Royal Thai Consulate prior to arrival in Thailand.
Foreigners in transit and tourists from certain countries, including Bhutan, China (including Taiwan), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Maldives, Mauritius, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, can obtain an entry visa-on-arrival at designated points of entry in Thailand, allowing a 15-day-stay.
Foreigners in transit and tourists from the certain specified countries who enter Thailand by airplanes, including Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, UK, USA, are exempted from visa requirements. They are permitted to enter and stay in Thailand for 30 days without an entry visa, provided they must obtain an entry stamp on their passports at the immigration entry checkpoint.
For a stay longer than 30 days, all foreigners must have a valid visa which can be obtained from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate prior to entry into Thailand. The lists of countries are changed periodically by the Immigration Bureau. Foreigners from all other countries who do not have agreements with Thailand must obtain visas before coming to Thailand.
Classes of Visa
A visa authorizes entry into Thailand for a specified length of time varied upon the class of visa. The date of authorized entry and the permissible duration of stay will be specified in the passport or travel document.
There are a number of visa classes in Thailand, each of which is restricted to the purpose for which the visa has been issued, and foreigners are advised to strictly abide by the rules for each class of visas. Any change of address or status should be advised to local police within 24 hours.
Transit Visa or “TS”: Applicable to foreigners who enter Thailand with an intention to travel on to another country
Tourist Visa or “TR”: Applicable to foreigners who enter Thailand for sightseeing purposes only
Non-Immigrant Visa: Applicable to foreigners who enter Thailand temporarily for a specific purpose, including:
“B” for business purposes
“B-A” for business or investment
“IB” for investment purposes or other affairs associated with an investment promotion granted by the BOI
“IM” for an investment purpose approved by the competent ministries or Departments
“ED” for studying or observation
“RS” for scientific research or teaching in a research or educational institution in Thailand with approval from the relevant Ministry or Department
“M” for performance of duties connected with the mass media
“R” for missionary work with approval from the relevant Ministry or Department
“EX” for performance of skilled or expert work
“O” for other purposes as prescribed in the ministerial regulations (such as dependents, retired persons, or sports trainers; for family reunions, medical treatment, or legal proceedings
Diplomatic Visa or “D”: Applicable to foreigners who enter Thailand on a diplomatic or consular mission or for the performance of duties with international organizations
Official Visa or “F”: Applicable to foreigners who enters Thailand for performance of official duties involving the Thai government
Immigrant Visa (Permanent Residence): Applicable to foreigners who enter Thailand for permanent residence
Non-Quota Immigrant Visa: Applicable to permanent residents who wish to leave Thailand and return within a year
Courtesy Visa: Applicable to (i) diplomatic and/or official passport holders who enter Thailand for any other purposes than official duties, and (ii) ordinary passport holders who enter Thailand in response to an official Thai request
Period & Extension of Stay
The period and extension of stay for a visa vary upon its class.
Transit Visa, not exceeding 30 days, extendable by 7 to 10 days depending on the applicant’s nationality.
Tourist Visa, not exceeding 30 or 60 days, extendable by 7 days or 60 days (30 days each) depending on applicant's nationality.
Non-Immigrant Visa, not exceeding 90 days, categories “B” or “B-A” usually extendable by a period not exceeding one year from the date of arrival, “M” by not exceeding two years, and “IB” by two to three years, depending on the recommendation of the BOI and the size of the investment.
Diplomatic, Official, and Courtesy Visa, as necessary
The permitted period of stay is usually stamped or written in the passport upon arrival in Thailand. Any foreigner who overstays in Thailand will be subjected to a fine of THB 500 for each and every day of the overstaying after the expiration of the permitted period of stay up to a maximum of THB 20,000.
Change of Visa Class
Foreigners who did not apply for a non-immigrant visa before arriving in Thailand are allowed to change their visa class if additional period of stay in Thailand is required. This procedure may be done within the country. An eligible foreigner may have entered Thailand with a tourist or transit visa granted by a Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad or under 30-day visa exemption. The foreigner must apply for a change of class of visa no later than 21 days before the expiry date of their period of stay.
If a foreigner holds any class of visa for staying in Thailand and intends to leave and return to the country before the expiry of his or her period of stay without having to apply for a new visa, they must apply for a re-entry permit prior to departure. A re-entry permit allows them to continue their stay in Thailand for the balance of the existing period of stay. A re-entry permit may be obtained at Suvarnabhumi (Bangkok), Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai, and Sukhothai international airports, as well as other designated immigration checkpoints. It is recommended for foreigners who plan to travel out of Thailand for several times.
If a foreigner leaves Thailand before the expiration of his or her period of stay and wants to return but does not have a re-entry permit, the visa will automatically be canceled regardless of the specified expiration date. They must apply for a new visa from a Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad.
We have a team of qualified and experienced lawyers to provide work permit and immigration services, as well as other comprehensive legal and tax services. Please contact us if you need any assistance in this area or we can be of any other help for you.