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What is going on with the Thai Work Permit Rules?

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are going to be discussing Thai work permits specifically some rather big news, or I should say some news that has gone viral here around Thailand with respect to Thai work permit rules and the rules regarding how the permits operate. There has even been some speculation about whether or not one needs a work permit anymore. As I will get to in both this video and another video I did contemporaneously with this one, I do believe work permits continue to be a necessity although certain aspects of the work permit are no longer necessarily required so certain restrictions are being lifted; it would appear.

Now I want to be clear as I preface this video. No one should take this video as the "end all, be all" when it comes to work permits. This video was made at the end of July 2018, early August 2018. It is not definitive. My personal opinion is that probably these rules are going to see another re-draft as they have before as the current rules as they seem to operate with respect to work permit holders in Thailand, basically they seem to operate now in a certain way, I think it is very possible we could see another re-draft rather shortly that can see them operate in an entirely different way in the foreseeable future. So how that is going to play out remains to be seen.

I have actually discussed some of this at length before. A lot of these changes came about as a result or would seem to be coming about as a result of migrant labor issues that have been an issue in Thailand over the last about 18 months. Basically they really overhauled the regime with respect to work permit holders from countries such as the Kingdom of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia but everybody sort of gets hit with the same broad brush because foreigners are foreigners in Thailand and certain labor rules are going to apply to them all.

A recent article that I think was very good published Monday was very good published Sunday 29th July 29, 2018 by Jerrold Kippen in the Phuket news, Phuket, the article is titled "Phuket Law: Royal Decree Blows Work Permits Wide Open". Quoting directly from that article “Under the old rules, foreigners who needed a work permit were prohibited from doing any work, for any employer, anywhere, under any such conditions if such were not detailed and therefore, permitted in the work permit itself. That is no longer the case.” This is a very long article; my hat's off quite frankly to the author of this article because they do a really good job of going through two different emergency decrees that changed the laws as they were set I think about 10 years ago, yes about 10 years ago, back in 2008. Frankly with respect to regulatory and legislative changes, 10 years is a good interval. I think we are seeing some changes that are going to be relatively fixed for a fairly long period of time; probably another 10 years. If exactly what they’re talking about in this article is going to be what we are fixed with for 10 years; that remains to be seen.  As the author of this notes and as I take note of in the past, there are actually two different emergency decrees that operate with respect to this. One was essentially passed I think back in 2017 right around this same time last year. There was another one back in March. There has been some vagueness surrounding it. Obviously it pertains to foreigners but it is written in Thai and not only that, it is legal language so it can be a little bit difficult at times to understand. Yet hats off to the author of that article and I urge those who are watching this video to go and check it out because he does go ahead and go through in fairly good detail about how the old rules were amended and then subsequently re-amended resulting in some of this.

I think this was probably a long time coming. I do think a lot of them I do think that they are going to pop off a lot of the sort of inherent restrictions to work permits. When I first came to Thailand some 10 years ago, there was still operating some rather older rules with respect to Thai work permits.  Most notably there was a field of thought that stated that essentially you were confined to exactly the address that was noted in the work permit when working. Later on that seemed to, in my opinion that was kind of loosened up especially when they added, specifically they denoted the province in the work permit and from that point forward I always sort of took the position as long as you were in the province of the work permit and operating within the general scope of the work permit, probably it was going to be okay. Again this is all subject to interpretation as well as Executive Actions with respect to officers at the Labour Ministry etc. but by and large, I think it was pretty safe to say that you could operate within the province. Now again according to this analysis, and I think it is fairly solid on this point, I think I are going to go ahead and lift certain restrictions with respect to issued work permits. Now there seems to be some and in my opinion I am not totally clear on it and I may need to do another video entirely on this. There seems to be some question as to whether or not work permits are even required at all with respect to certain types of companies. It would appear that things like BOI companies may at some point in the future become exempted from work permit rules.   I have seen some speculation about other types of foreign businesses like representative offices etc. may not be required to have work permits. I am going to hold off my final opinion on that, or at least my more concrete opinion if you will on that topic until a later date because I am still reading through this stuff and it is kind of hard to conceptualize on the best of days and I still am not certain that this anti-foreign or this, if it's a foreign company issue, has fully been sussed out. Again there's another video I made contemporaneously with this one discussing work permits in an Amity Treaty context. Exactly how that is going to play out I think it is fairly clear with respect to Amity or at least in my mind it is relatively clear.

That being said, one final thing of note especially and let me be clear with the respect to the non-work permit issue, what I think and this may be me trying to interpret the spirit of these regulatory changes, what I think they are trying to do is that there is going to be certain kinds of temporary workers coming to Thailand who it is just not feasible to process them through to get a two-week what permit or something. I think one thing that is being articulated or they are trying to articulate in these  regulatory changes is certain types of temporary workers coming in from out of the country, may not have work permit requirements on them. Another one, and I think this may probably be more to the point is from my reading it again I am not going to go so far as to say I believe this concretely,  I am simply saying I think I see in the interpretation of these new regulations, some basis for making the following assertion which is,  it may be possible that they are going to allow Directors who are not based in Thailand to perhaps fly in to sign various relevant documentation and those individuals will not be required to have a work permit. I can see based on how the regulations are currently written, or these emergency decrees how they are composed, their framework for lack of a better term, I can kind of see where one could interpret that look yes folks that have to fly in, to sign off on a audited financial statement because the director is not based in Bangkok but the Company is a subsidiary in a larger regional or global operation, those individuals may not necessarily be required to have work permits in the future. That being said, they might. I can see this thing interpreted one or two ways on that particular topic. But for temporary folks I think it is fairly clear that it might not be required depending on the way that the Company is structured, that someone with signing authority necessarily needs to have work authorization.

That being said and bringing it back to the main point, Yes, I do think what permit regulations are being relaxed. Does that mean one does not necessarily have to have a work permit?  I would say that that is not the case. I think we are still going to see work permits being required for most things moving forward although again it's sort of remains to be seen.

Finally the other thing that I would take note of is, I haven't seen how this interacts with immigration regulations so this is why I am somewhat believing there may be certain work permit exemptions for those who are not residing in Thailand or living full-time in Thailand because again those folks can maybe fly in, temporarily be here for some corporate purpose and then leave rather quickly, whereas those who are living here I can see maybe they have a relatively similar function but they are still required to have work permits, long-term. Again it remains to be seen. I have yet to see and I have discussed with immigration officers over the past week or so, kind of in an offhand way, but yes we have asked him the question, "Do you see any changes with respect to B Visa extensions and work permits?" and as of yet I haven't heard from anyone that has told me that anything is fundamentally going to change on that. That being said, tomorrow I could have somebody tell me something totally different. So maybe stay tuned to this channel I could provide some more clarity. I don't mean to be overly vague in certain parts of this but quite frankly when you are in a state of flux with some of these rules there are certain aspects that are vague. So moving forward we will try to do another update on this and provide some further clarity.