OVERVIEW OF THAI BUSINESS-RELATED LAWS
Principally, a foreigner requires a valid visa and work permit to perform duty or work not banned by the Foreigner Working Act, B.E. 2551 (2008) (the “Act”).
According to the Act, a foreigner cannot perform any work or service without a work permit issued by the Department of Employment, Ministry of Labor, unless exempted by the Act.
The term “work” is comprehensively defined by the Act, i.e. engaging in work by exerting energy or using knowledge whether or not in consideration of wages or other benefit. This extends to foreign directors of Thai Company who performs any work or duty, including attending directors’ meeting.
Any work that a foreigner may perform, in any area and at any time, must be prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations, taking into account national security, occupation opportunity of Thai nationals and demand for foreign labors as necessary for the development of the country. The prescribed criteria for consideration of granting work permits vary upon categories of employer or work. For instance, every company incorporated under Thai law is allowed to apply for one work permit for every THB 2 million of its capital. Furthermore, the official also considers other qualifications of the foreigner for which the work permit is applied, e.g. age, job title, job description, educational and working profiles.
To date, the occupations reserved for Thai nationals and prohibited to foreigners includes the following:
Agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry or fishery, except work requiring specialized knowledge, farm supervision
Bricklaying, carpentry, or other construction work
Driving motor vehicles or vehicles which do not use machinery or mechanical devices, except piloting aircraft internationally
Auction sale work
Supervising, auditing, or giving service in accountancy, except occasional internal auditing
Goldsmith, silversmith, or gold-and-copper alloy smith work
Making Buddha images
Brokerage or agency except in international trading
Professional civil engineering concerning design and calculation, systemization, analysis, planning, testing, construction supervision, or consulting services, excluding work requiring specialized techniques
Professional architectural work concerning design, drawing-making, cost estimation, or consulting services
Tour guiding or conducting
Clerical or secretarial work
Provision of legal services or performance of in legal work, except certain specified arbitrational work
Application for Work Permit
An applicant for a work permit must hold either a non-immigrant visa or a permanent resident permit. A non-immigrant visa must be obtained before entering Thailand, whereas a permanent resident permit can be applied only after the foreigner has resided in Thailand for at least three consecutive years with a non-immigrant visa. A work permit is issued for the individual expatriate. The permitted expatriate’s spouse is not allowed to work unless they have obtained their own work permit.
An employer or potential employer may file an application for advance permission for an employee to work before the foreigner enters the country. The work permit will be issued only after the individual enters Thailand on a valid non-immigrant visa.
A work permit can be granted for up to two years, regardless of the allowed period of stay shown on the foreigner’s passport, and valid only for the particular job and within the limited area as specified in the work permit. Working in a position or at a location beyond that specifically approved may result in termination of a work permit.
Foreigners may hold more than one position with one or more employers but must obtain specific work permit for each position and for each employer. Foreigners who perform necessary and urgent work which can be completed within 15 days are allowed to work without a work permit, provided the Department of Employment, Ministry of Labor, must be informed before the work begins.
Exemptions from Work Permits
The foreigners exempt from work permit requirements comprise:
Members of the diplomatic corps
Members of a consular mission
Representatives and officials of the United Nations and its specialized agencies
Personal servants employed by any of the above
Persons performing duties or missions under an agreement between the government of Thailand with a foreign government or international organization
Persons who perform duties or missions for the benefit of education, culture, arts, sports or other activities specified by a Royal Decree
Persons with special permission from the government of Thailand to enter and perform duties or missions in Thailand
Sanctions on Work Permit Violation
Working without a valid work permit, even for minutes, is a criminal offense. Sanctions for working without a work permit include imprisonment of not exceeding five years or a fine from THB 2,000 to THB 100,000, or both. Where a foreigner admits the crime committed and agrees to travel out of Thailand within the period of time prescribed by the interrogating officer, which must be no later than 30 days, the interrogating officer may impose a fine and arrange for said foreigner to travel out of Thailand without trial. An employer who hires a foreigner to work without a valid work permit is subject to a fine from THB 10,000 to THB 100,000 for each foreign worker/employee.
A work permit holder must carry the work permit booklet at all times while working in Thailand.
One-Stop Service Center
One-Stop Service Centers have been established to facilitate the handling of work permits and extension of stay for qualified foreign investors, experts, and correspondents, enabling issue of work permits and extension of stay within three hours.
The investors, executives, or experts, including their family members, qualified to submit applications through the Center, include:
An executive or expert eligible to the privileges granted under the Investment Promotion Act, the Petroleum Act, or the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand Act
An individual investor who brings in money from abroad of not less than THB 2 million for the purchase of shares in a private company
An executive or expert working with a company with the total asset value of not less than THB 30 million
Officers of branch offices of overseas banks, foreign banking offices of overseas, foreign banks in Bangkok, provincial foreign banking offices of overseas banks, and representative offices of foreign banks.
Foreigners who come to work for branch, representative, or regional offices of overseas enterprises
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.