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Thai Work Permits Associated With Representative Offices in Thailand

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests we are discussing work permits in the context of Representative Offices here in the Kingdom of Thailand. Why am I making this video? Well I am making this video actually upon request from some folks on social media who apparently have been having some confusion regarding work permits requirements for Representative Offices here. There is another video on this channel that I just made while doing this research, doing the research specifically on work permits, and I found an article which was discussing Foreign Business License requirements or the lack thereof, on Representative Offices here in the Kingdom and I urge those who are watching this video to maybe go and check that out as these two videos together will provide all the nuance regarding this overall with work permits.

But in short summary of the other video, basically as of last year, the requirement for Foreign Business Licenses on Representative Offices has been abolished, so Representative Offices do not need a Foreign Business License in order to operate here in the Kingdom and that is very different than times past when they did. Basically the Representative Office itself is now being considered sort of an exempted service, no longer falling under the need to have and file and obtain a Foreign Business License. What does that mean as a practical matter? Well what it means as a practical matter is those rep offices now can operate within the narrow scope that they are prescribed to, and there's another video where we discuss rep offices in detail on this channel and as we go into in that video, there is a very narrow scope of activity that rep offices can undertake. They can’t just do whatever they want. Generally speaking they cannot operate at a profit; they can't do certain types of business activity. They are basically here as a representative of the company. They are not a subsidiary, they are simply this representative that allows limited activity associated with, usually a given product. I usually think of it  conceptually  in terms of say there is a production company, a factory if you will, in Australia and they make a certain type of widget that various people in Thailand buy and as part of their mission to ensure that their customers are happy they may want to set up a Representative Office here in Thailand to ensure the distribution goes well etc, etc but they are using other Thai Corporations to actually do the work of things like distribution, marketing etc. but the rep office itself, its activities are very, very circumscribed to simply sort of making sure, on the ground, that their product is not being, for lack of a better word, its reputation is not suffering due to quality control problems or due to marketing problems etc. So the rep office structure itself is supposed to be very limited.

Now I first came upon this issue with respect to the Foreign Business License or the lack of need for a Foreign Business License and this work permit issue. I cannot find anything directly on point and we are still looking so I am not saying that this video is the “end-all-be-all” on this topic. If there is further information on this I am going to go ahead and provide it in a later video but as at the time of this video I cannot find any specific regulations which specifically exempt Representative Offices from the need for work permits.

That being said what I think people are perhaps getting confused about is that Foreign Business Licensing of Representative Offices is a very different thing to work permit requirements of one working in a Representative Office and let me explain the difference. For example, companies which are certified pursuant to the US-Thai Treaty of Amity receive "National Treatment" under the provisions of that Treaty. There is another video on this channel where we specifically discuss “National Treatment” but the end result is that companies are allowed to operate in Thailand notwithstanding the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. They are treated as if it is a Thai company and for that reason the Foreign Business Act does not apply. That being said, just because the Foreign Business Act does not apply does not mean the rules regarding labor violations, labor quotas, the labor quota generally does not apply to a given enterprise here in the Kingdom. So how do we look at this? Well there is the entity and there is the individual. The entity may be exempted from Foreign Business Licensing requirements as it would be under the Amity Treaty or the new rules abolishing such requirements for Representative Offices specifically. That being said that doesn't have anything to do with the individual foreigner who needs to have work authorization in order to work in the Kingdom. Now I am still doing the research on this and my team is trying to help me find this so if I'm missing something please put it in the comments below and we're happy to follow that link and if we are missing some component in this analysis we will very happily update it in the latest video. But that being said, the way I am looking at this is this is basically operating very similarly to an Amity Treaty structure so Representative Offices now no longer need an FBL,  a Foreign Business License, but notwithstanding the fact they don't need an FBL, they may still need a work permit because a foreign national working in Thailand. To further sort of muddy up the waters on this analysis and I don't mean to do that, the so-called Smart Visa system, which we have done many videos on this channel with respect to the newly created Smart Visa system and the protocols associated therewith, would seem to grant work authorization inherent to the visa itself. Now that doesn't mean that the individual does not undergo scrutiny with respect to the labor they are undertaking in the Kingdom, it just means they're trying to create this more streamlined visa and work permit process and basically make it all part and parcel of the same document. So it is not outside the realm of possibility. They may be, the authorities, the powers-that-be if you will, may be promulgating legislation or may have already done so, which basically exempts Representative Offices specifically from needing work permits. They certainly seem to have done this under the protocols associated with the Smart Visa, but what I think is actually in play here is folks may be a little bit confused as to the difference between Foreign Business Licensing and the requirement for a work permit on a foreigner in the Kingdom. Notwithstanding the fact that an Amity Treaty Company does not need to comply, does not need a foreign business license because they are Amity Treaty certified, the foreigners working within that company still need to get work permits. This is the same for a Thai company. Any Thai company operating within the Kingdom be it a hundred percent Thai, shareholders and directors, still needs to obtain work permit authorization for any of the foreign nationals who are working for that enterprise; so even Thai companies still have to adhere to work permit regulations.

So I think the confusion here is, is Foreign Business Licensing the same as work authorization for a foreigner? No they are not. For the entity or the representative office it seems the Foreign Business Licensing is no longer required. For the individual foreigner working in the rep office, it would seem that work permit requirements are still part and parcel of the package for that foreigner; they need to be work authorized in order to work in the Kingdom. But if there is a difference, or if there is changes on that that our research finds again anyone who has any contradictory information to this analysis, please feel free to put a comment in the comments below so that we can ascertain whether that is correct and if it is we will do an updated video on this issue and get it out as soon as we can.