Work Permits & Visas
Foreigners are generally not permitted to work in Thailand, regardless of the visa they hold, unless they have a work permit. They also generally must have the correct type of visa to apply for a work permit. Even business visitors who come to Thailand briefly to attend business or board meetings in Thailand, negotiate contracts, conduct audits or compliance investigations, and engage in similar activities that would not be considered work in other jurisdictions are often engaging in activities that are considered “work” under Thai work permit laws. Typically, an “urgent work permit” valid for up to 15 days is sought for such short term “work”. A violation of Thai work permit laws can result in detention or arrest, a fine, deportation and, in extreme cases, imprisonment.
There is an important difference between a work permit and a visa. A visa is a document acquired by an individual to enter a specific country while a work permit is a document issued to a person permitting that person to perform work.
A foreign applicant for a work permit and his or her employer are subject to different requirements. A work permit applicant must meet certain education requirements, provide evidence that she or he has certain skills, meet health requirements, provide a resume, and satisfy other requirements. The applicant cannot apply for a work permit to perform work that a foreigner is not permitted to perform, such as working as a lawyer or a tour guide.
An employer must submit documents showing that the company is a duly registered juristic person, meets certain minimum capitalization requirements, provide a list of shareholders, VAT documents, social security documents and other documents. Generally, there must be four Thai employees for each work permit.
The process of collecting and submitting the documents for a work permit application is paper and time intensive.
There has been some incremental reform over the years and there is a new push for reform following Covid. The American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand (AMCHAM) is taking a leading role in pressing for reform and LAA’s managing partner is a member of the AMCHAM task force pressing for this reform.
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