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Thailand Business Law: Thai Work Permits

Transcript of the above video:

I am briefly using this video to give an overviews and provide some information on work permits and how they operate in the Kingdom of Thailand specifically to foreign nationals wishing to undertake employment activity in the Kingdom.

The first thing to note regarding the term “employment activity”. Work authorization, aka a work permit or WP1 as opposed to WP3, work authorization. A work permit may be required notwithstanding the fact that one’s work activities are “volunteer”. There are instances in Thailand where volunteers came to the country and engaged in as what could be described as work activity for no compensation but were still found to be in violation of the Thai Labour Code so before anyone comes to the Kingdom of Thailand, it’s probably a good idea to understand how Thai Labour Law works and who is effected by Thai Labour Law. The first thing to note is virtually all foreign nationals wishing to  undertake work are going to be impacted by the Labour Code and  for this reason, under said law, the  foreigners in Thailand are going to need a work permit.  It should be noted, a common misconception, especially as most other countries have visas with work authorization attached to them, Thailand does not operate under this system and a business visa does not automatically grant work authorization.  A business visa is simply a categorization pursuant to Thai Immigration Law and it does not have any bearing on Labour matter in the Kingdom of Thailand. One slight asterisk to what I have just said might be applied to those coming to the Kingdom of Thailand to work at a Foreign Embassy or Consulate as such visas issued to those types of people have work authorization attached to them but as such close embassies and consulates have extra-territorial jurisdiction or at least limited forms of extra-territorial jurisdiction which apply to them, the issue of work permits really don’t pertain to those individuals. Back to those who simply wish to operate in the Private Sector. As foreigners who operate in the Kingdom of Thailand business visa status does not necessarily entail work authorization so one coming into the country with a business visa would need to go ahead and obtain a work permit in order to undertake employment whatever that employment may be. Certain activities are prohibited specifically under Thai Labour Codes and regulations so even if one is attempting to get a work permit, there are certain types of labour activities which are just explicitly prohibited; one cannot get a work permit for certain types of activity.

Also, companies are restricted to certain types of activity pursuant to the Foreign Business Act and there are certain instances where a company may receive exemption pursuant to the Foreign Business Act, but the specific labour a foreign national wishes to undertake in Thailand does not in accordance with that exemption. So a company may be exempt from certain provisions of the Foreign Business Act, but an individual’s status in Thailand may not be exempt from Thai Labour Code so said activities may not actually be exempted. Again, due diligence is strongly encouraged for those wishing to come to Thailand especially those coming to Thailand to set up a small business and work for themselves in the Kingdom, because one needs to look at not only the Foreign Business Act and the provisions thereof and exemptions thereto, but also the Labour Code to understand whether or not, even if someone sets up a company, if that company setup, notwithstanding its exemptions under  relevant law regarding companies owned by foreigners, if someone can undertake the labour they wish to undertake underneath the umbrella of their corporation. Finally it should be noted, with respect to Thailand Labour Law and work permits in general, there are some specific exemptions which need to be discussed, most notably a Thai Marriage Visa may allow for work authorization.  One does not necessarily need to have a business visa in order to support or to use said visa as a platform for a work permit. A Thai “O” visa also known as a Marriage Visa can also operate as a platform for a work permit. A couple of other things is, every company or virtually every company with some exceptions which I will get into in a minute, virtually every company especially small businesses here in Thailand that wish to employ either the owner of said business or any other individuals who happen to be foreign nationals, any time a company wants to get a work permit for a foreign national, routinely that company will have to have 4 Thai nationals employed at a certain minimum rate of pay and said Thai nationals will have to have their Social Security  contributions  up to date in order to support a work permit. There is an exemption for the married spouse of a Thai national who is in the country on an “O” visa, those individuals generally can get a work permit even if the company they wish to work for has only 2 Thai nationals working for said company. And finally with respect to permanent residence in Thailand, there isn’t a requirement that a company have any number of Thai employees, so zero Thai employees can be on a given company or working for a given company and that company can still support a work permit for a permanent resident here in Thailand. Again, it’s very, very advisable that anyone coming to the Kingdom of Thailand wishing to undertake labour activities, conduct due diligence into not only the Foreign Business Act if they are going to be a small business owner, but also the Labour Code with respect to activities restricted to foreign nationals in the Kingdom of Thailand.