Thailand is known as the ‘Land of Smiles’. With some 21.5 million international tourists arriving in Bangkok alone every year, Bangkok is rated by some as the most visited city in the world. And, of course, many of these international arrivals extend their stay and remain in Thailand to live and work for the long term.
If you’re thinking of joining the international community in the Land of Smiles then you’ll probably need a work visa before you can get a job. To find out more, check out this guide to getting your Thai work visa.
All foreigners wishing to work in Thailand need the proper documentation to do so and, in most cases, this will mean acquiring a non-immigrant visa as well as a work permit. The visas are processed through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has all visa types clearly set out on their website. Work permits are then usually arranged once you arrive in Thailand.
It's worth noting that many prominent web pages that originate in the Kingdom of Thailand are currently very dark colours out of respect for the late King. The sites work as usual, but are muted for a period of mourning that's likely to last throughout 2017.
When you're deciding whether or not you need a work permit for your activities in Thailand, it’s important to understand that the Thai definition of ‘work’ is rather broad. It includes both voluntary and part time work as well as attending conferences and meetings.
Before you can work legally in Thailand, you must have a non-immigrant Category B visa (which is split into different streams according to the activities you undertake) and a work permit. It's very important to have both or you risk being fined or imprisoned. This is because the right to live in Thailand and the right to work there are covered by separate laws and different government departments (unlike in countries like the USA where they're rolled into one permit).
It's also worth noting that some professions are off limits for foreigners in Thailand. So, make sure that whatever you're planning to do there is considered a legal activity.
The visa is then usually processed through your local embassy or consulate, and lasts for up to 90 days along with the work permit arranged once you're in Thailand. If you’re already in Thailand with a different visa type (as a tourist, for example, or under the visa exemption scheme), then you need to convert to a B type visa and then arrange the work permit before you start your job.
The work permit is issued by the Office of Foreign Workers Administration closest to your workplace.
It's important to remember that before you can get your B visa and work permit, you must have a job. Your employer will play an important role in the visa application process and has to provide documents to prove the nature and health of the business.
When you’re applying for a work visa, you'll be asked to prove your financial standing. You should have the equivalent of 20,000 Baht if you're entering the Kingdom alone, and 40,000 Baht if you're travelling with your family. You might also need a clean bill of health if you come from a country affected by Yellow Fever. In this case, a health certificate must be provided along with your visa application.
You must also pay a visa fee when you apply for your B type visa. Currently this is 2,000 Baht for single-entry with 90 day validity and 5,000 Baht for multiple entries with one year validity.
The Thai Government website has an informative Visa FAQ page with different scenarios set out. This might prove helpful if you still have some dilemma about how best to arrange your Thai work permit.
There are many agencies who offer to help you secure your Thai work documents. This might be a helpful service, but it's costly. If your employer does much of the hard work, you might decide that this isn't necessary for you. However, if you do choose to use an agent, make sure they're well respected and experienced in their field before handing over any cash.
Whichever specific visa type you go for, you'll be expected to provide the paperwork to back up your application. Details may vary, so check with your local consulate when you're preparing your application - but you're likely to be asked to provide the following documents:
- Passport with validity of at least 6 months
- Completed visa application form
- Passport-sized photograph taken within the past 6 months
- Proof you have financial means to support yourself (and family if relevant)
- Letter of approval from the Ministry of Labour, which is provided by your employer
- Details of your prospective employer, including business registration and license, list of shareholders, details of business operation, balance sheet, statement of Income Tax and Business Tax
Any documents that are not originally in Thai must be translated and notarised.
There's no special process for part time or fixed term workers. You must apply following the process outlined above, even if you're going to be in the Kingdom doing voluntary work.
To work in Thailand as an entrepreneur, you must follow the same process as is outlined above. When you apply for a B type visa, you'll have to choose either the BA type, if you’re coming to invest in or work alongside an existing company, or the IB visa if you’re starting your own business.
IB visas are issued subject to certain criteria. You’ll basically have to prove how you'll contribute to the Thai economy, such as by employing local people or boosting exports. You must also prove that your business will not hinder existing local businesses.
If you’re opting for the BA type, it's probably easiest to have the company you’re investing in or working in partnership with, complete the paperwork, as they’ll need to provide evidence of their activities to the authorities. As with all B type visas, you must still arrange a work permit to be able to work legally once you arrive in Thailand.
When you apply for a B type visa, you can also have your family members apply at the same time. Your spouse, parents, and children under the age of 20 are eligible to apply for a B visa under your sponsorship. Visas are issued for a year at a time, and you’ll be asked to prove that you can financially support any family members joining you.
The first priority when you arrive in Thailand is to sort out your work permit, which is issued by the Office of Foreign Workers Administration closest to your workplace. In effect, this means applying in your city or the regional office closest to your workplace if you’re in a more rural area. It's this work permit that ensures that you're registered for income tax - and without it you can not legally work.
Once you send money to Thailand, consider using a money conversion service like TransferWise to avoid unfair exchange rates. There's a small transparent fee, and when your money is converted from one currency to another you’ll get the real exchange rate - the same one you can find on Google. Not only that, but TransferWise receives and sends money via local bank transfers instead of internationally, further saving you money by cutting out hefty international transfer fees.
If your trip is short or opening a bank account in Thailand isn't an option, you can always withdraw money from your foreign account using a Thai ATM. Just keep in mind it'll be more favorable to agree to be charged in the local currency, not your home currency.
Regardless of when you start your new job abroad, it should be fairly straightforward to get yourself a visa if you follow the right steps. The most important part is just to make sure to enjoy your new adventure.