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Learn more about Work Permit

Foreigners wishing to work in Thailand must have a valid work permit; however, this permit is only issued by the Ministry of Labor if the foreigners in question are qualified and if the employer meets all the requirements for hiring a foreigner. Generally, a non-immigrant B visa is required to support the application under the immigration law. The alien must appear in person to obtain the work permit. The Employment Department of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare issues the work permit. If you need the documents and forms to apply, contact our visa officer to obtain the required legal services.

Table of contents

What is a work permit?

According to the Foreign Workers Act (2008), a foreigner who wishes to work in Thailand, with or without an employer, must obtain a work permit from the authorities. The work permit is an official document issued by the government labor office. It is in the form of a blue booklet including the information of the employer and the employee. It is valid for one year and can be renewed.

What jobs are open to foreigners?

Not all jobs are open to foreign citizens due to the restriction of Thai law. These are mainly manual labor and handicrafts, but also professions such as hairdressing or sales. In particular, foreigners are not allowed to do the following types of work:

➤ Heavy physical work, with the exception of the work mentioned below, in the fishing sector
➤ Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing, except for work requiring specific knowledge, supervision of farms and primary operations in the fishing sector, including deep-sea fishing
➤ Masonry, carpentry and similar work
➤ Shipping and logistics work, with the exception of international aircraft piloting
➤ Mail order sales
➤ Auction sales
➤ Accounting and auditing supervision, except for occasional internal audits
➤ Goldsmithing, silversmithing or other precious metal work
➤ Production of bronze objects
➤ In the clothing sector, various professions
➤ Brokerage and agency activities, except for international transactions
➤ Government or mechanical engineering with planning and calculation, research, inspection, supervision and consulting, except in areas where specialized expertise is required
➤ Architecture in terms of design, painting, supervision or consulting services
➤ Travel agent or guide
➤ Commerce (in part)
➤ Secretarial

However, foreign nationals with special permits can work in specific local jobs reserved for Thai citizens:

➤ Goods taken back are not drugs, chemicals, radios, televisions, cameras, explosives or firearms
➤ The repair of vehicles or bodies
➤ The sale of food and beverages

These lists should not be confused with those in the Foreign Enterprise Act, although they may be identical in some respects. All limitations are intended to protect Thai employees and businesses from foreign competitors.

Can a foreigner work in Thailand without a work permit?

Usually, foreigners cannot work without a work permit in Thailand, and they must have a license before the work begins. However, the conditions were relaxed with the March 2018 decree, and following the Royal Decree (“Decree No. 2”), the relaxation of these rules was issued. Here are the main points to remember: Thai law now allows foreigners to work in certain professions without a work permit. However, under certain circumstances, foreign nationals may be granted exemptions. The Foreigners’ Employment Act takes these situations into account.

Urgent and important work

Certain foreign nationals may benefit from a notable exception and not have to apply. Of course, their stay in the Kingdom must be temporary and meet the conditions set out in the Immigration Law. Under current law, the work must be of an “urgent and essential nature.” The duration of the job cannot exceed 15 days. This means that these foreigners can come to Thailand on a tourist visa or simply a “30-day visa exemption stamp” and can work legally in the Kingdom. They do not need to have a B non-immigrant visa. Section 9 of the Alien Employment Law provides as follows:

Section 9: “No alien may engage in any work referred to in Section 7, except for a temporary worker, who shall have the right to engage in necessary and urgent work for a period not exceeding fifteen days, and such alien may engage in such work after giving written notice to the Registrar.” Aliens in this situation must submit a specific form with their signature and validated by the employer. Once the application is filed, the Department of Labor (Ministry of Labor) will analyze it. Only one day is required to make the request. However, the term “necessary and urgent work” is precisely defined, and the issuance of the proposal is at the discretion of the authorities.

Work in connection with short-term congresses or exhibitions

Foreign nationals performing temporary work at a national convention or exhibition may be exempted from obtaining a work permit. However, for the exemption application, a foreign national may stay in Thailand for a limited period not exceeding 30 days. The activity must not be on the list of regulated professions. Before the seminar or exhibition begins, the employer must notify the Ministry of Labor. If the foreigner plans to buy or trade outside the convention or intends to interview manufacturers, a letter of invitation from a Thai company and a non-immigrant B visa are required.

Intergovernmental Zone

The following persons are also exempt from obtaining a work permit. These situations are mentioned in the legislation on employment of foreigners in Thailand. All of the following people do not need a WP to work in Thailand:

➤ Diplomatic or consular officials
➤ Representatives of Member States and officials of the United Nations and its specialized agencies
➤ Personal employees of the above mentioned persons
➤ Persons performing a function or mission under an arrangement between the Government of Thailand and foreign governments or national organizations
➤ Persons performing a function or mission in the field of education, promotion of culture, arts, sports or any other activity stipulated by royal decree
➤ Persons authorized by the Thai government to come and perform a function or mission
➤ Persons engaged in specific socio-cultural activities or missions, such as assisting the Thai government in promoting education, cultural and artistic cooperation, and participating in related meetings, workshops and exhibitions, for a maximum stay of 30 days only

Non-professional activities

Following the Ministry of Employment’s statement of March 6, 2015, the activities listed below are not considered “employment” and therefore do not require a WP:

➤ Participating in a conference, debate, or seminar
➤ Attending an exhibition or trade show
➤ Participating in a business trip or professional conference
➤ Be invited to an individual or academic conference
➤ Attend a technical course or workshop
➤ Purchase products at a showroom
➤ Attend a board meeting of your own company

How to apply for a work permit?

1. Overview

An applicant who wishes to work in Thailand must obtain a work permit. To do so, he/she must first hold a B non-immigrant visa or a residence permit. It is also possible for an O non-immigrant visa holder married to a Thai national to apply.

The employer can also apply before the foreigner enters the country. However, the work permit, in the form of a blue booklet, will only be issued upon the foreigner’s arrival in the country. The foreigner must have it delivered in person. To apply, the applicant must go to the Foreign Employment Division, which is part of the Department of Labor of the Ministry of Labor. All documents must be in the Thai language. Any other language used requires a Thai translation. If the application is rejected, an appeal can be made within 30 days to the Department of Labor. A suggestion is made within 15 days, but the Minister of Labor makes the final decision. Another 30 days are needed for the final decision.

There is a service for companies that receive investment promotion from the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI). This is the One-Stop Service Center, which is very convenient for work permit applications and visa extensions. Some companies can also use the One-Stop Service Center even if the BOI does not promote them. These include the following businesses:

➤ Regional or Representative Offices
➤ Companies that have been approved by the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand or the Petroleum Institute of Thailand
➤ Businesses with registered capital or current assets of at least 30 million Thai Baht

For these companies that are not promoted by the BOI, the One-Stop Service Center is only relevant for directors or consultants. Other companies must use the standard procedure. Firms that are not promoted by BOI must follow the same requirements to apply as under the standard procedure. However, the granting and renewal of work permits and visa extensions can be completed much more quickly and in the same location.

2. General Requirements

Companies that do not have a BOI must meet the following requirements:
Before incorporating the legal entity, the registered capital must be at least 2 million baht per foreign employee.

➤ If the foreign national is married to a Thai citizen and holds a marriage visa, the above capital requirements are reduced by half
➤ If the legal entity is a foreign company (more than 49% owned by foreign shareholders), a minimum capital of 3 million baht per foreigner must be transferred into the country, as a registered branch of a foreign company

Under Thai law, a Thai company can register. However, there are exceptions to this rule, as follows:

➤ The company has a workforce of at least 100 Thai nationals. In this case, the company is allowed to register more than one WP
➤ The company is engaged in export-related activities and has earned a minimum of 30 million baht in foreign exchange in the previous year. Another work permit is available for every 30 million Thai baht
➤ The tourism company may apply for an additional work permit for every 5,000 tourists
➤ Another work permit can also be applied for. For every 3 million in corporate taxes
➤ Paid by a Thai company, another work permit can be issued

In addition, all previous limitations on capital or number of work permits do not apply:

➤ The employee works for a foundation incorporated under Thai law with assets exceeding 3 million Thai baht
➤ The employee works in the entertainment industry with a limited time commitment
➤ Specialized skills and expertise are required for the employee to complete a project within a specified time frame
➤ The employee's duties are related to technology that Thai nationals cannot exploit, or the Thai labor market cannot provide such specialists. In this case, the technology transfer must benefit at least two Thai citizens for a specified period of time

All of these rules apply to all work permit applications and extensions.

For companies with a BOI, BOI-promoted companies enjoy significant advantages as they do not have to comply with the restrictions on Thai capital and employees. Foreign employees can benefit from the BOI visa and work after approval by the BOI.

3. Specific requirements for foreign legal structures

The following specific requirements apply if the employer is a foreign legal entity incorporated in Thailand:

➤ For the following types of activities in Thailand for the parent company, representative offices may apply for up to two work permits
➤ Updating the activity in Thailand for the company's headquarters
➤ Transmit information to the company's headquarters regarding new services or products
➤ Advise on various product issues for the company's headquarters for distribution to agents or end users
➤ For the following types of activities in Thailand for the parent company, representative offices may apply for up to five work permits
➤ Supply of products or services in the country for the head office
➤ Examination of products and quantity/quality control when purchased by the head office or when the products are manufactured in Thailand by order of the head office
➤ There is an exception to this restriction if the products or services from Thai manufacturers or suppliers amount to a minimum of 100 million Thai baht for the previous year
➤ Similarly, regional offices of a foreign entity may apply for a maximum of 5 work permits. There is an exception to this limitation if the local office brought more than 10 million Thai baht into Thailand in the previous year

What do you have to do after obtaining a work permit?

Duration: the work permit is renewed according to the visa that has been renewed or extended. Although a foreigner may hold a residence permit, the work permit must also be renewed every year. Before its expiration, the reissued work permit is an obligation not to expire. The foreigner can have his non-immigrant B visa extended for one year at an immigration office. Otherwise, he or she will have to leave the country every 90 days to obtain another valid permit. Upon receipt of a one-year visa, the applicant must declare his/her address every 90 days. There is a specific form for this declaration (TM 47).

Coverage: The work permit allows the holder to legally work and operate a business or trade. However, you cannot earn income from this activity, open a Thai bank account, apply for a Thai credit card or bank loan, bring personal effects into the Kingdom and apply for a one-year visa extension. The work permit holder is subject to pay taxes in Thailand. The foreigner must comply in all respects with the conditions mentioned in the permit. The employer cannot assign the employee to another job without changing the permit. Thus, the employee cannot perform any other function than the one mentioned in the work permit.

However, changes in working conditions are possible, and the employer must report them within 15 days. This can be a change of job, a transfer or the termination of the contract. Following the termination of an employee’s contract, the employer must cancel the employee’s work permit.

The place of work: The holder of the work permit is bound by the location indicated on the work permit. The work permit holder can only work at the location listed on the document. If the holder visits clients in their offices, he or she is in violation of the labor law. The permit may specify that the foreigner must work outside the office. This is necessary for engineers who need to travel throughout Thailand to see clients or for foreigners who regularly meet with clients. The work permit must provide full details of the employment.

A foreigner can have more than one employer or work in different fields. However, all activities are mentioned in the work permit.

What are the penalties for working without a work permit?

Any foreigner who works without a valid work permit or violates the conditions of employment specified in the work permit is subject to a prison sentence of up to five years or a fine of 2,000 Thai baht to 100,000 Thai baht, or both. If the foreigner is working in a prohibited field (reserved for Thai nationals), he or she is liable to a fine of up to 20,000 Thai baht. A foreigner who is caught will probably only have to pay a fine if it is the first time he or she has broken the law. But the court is free to make its decision. The foreigner will be expelled from the country and will usually be banned from returning for one year. If the foreigner does not have a work permit, the employer may be fined between 400,000 and 800,000 Thai baht. Otherwise, a fine of up to 400,000 Thai baht may be imposed. It depends on the offense committed.

Work PermitApplication Form (WP.1 & 3)

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