Work Permits in Thailand

Getting work permits in Thailand can be really tricky. Seventeen foreigners have been arrested for not having work permits, working illegally following a raid on a condominium in Chiang Mai. The raid, which took place at 12.30am on Friday found 17 Westerners of various nationalities providing online English classes to people in China from a room in the ground floor of the Riverside Condo. The farangs were asked to produce their passports and work permits and, while twelve produced passports, they were unable to produce work permits. Among them were three Americans, a Canadian, a German, a Dutch national, two Irish women, two Britons and two Australians. A fourth American was on overstay.Work Permit

The remaining foreigners had passports and valid work permits but were in breach of work conditions: the foreigners had been hired by BOI 360, but the online language school was found to be operating without permission. The foreigners now have of face charges of working illegally in Thailand and are currently being held at Mae Ping police station. In order to work legally in Thailand farangs must have valid work permits and the appropriate Non-Immigrant visa/extension.

How does a farang get a legitimate work permit in Thailand? Why, find a specialist.

All Thai lawyers specialize in a niche of the law. Asking a non-real estate lawyer to do real estate work for you is to invite disaster. He won’t be up to date on regulation changes, which occur weekly, and he won’t have a sympathetic friend in the Land Office to guide him through the maze of paperwork.

My visa gal is great for residency visas and works miracles with the Thai Bureau of Immigration because she’s a former Immigration inspector. But ask her about work visas and she becomes hesitant because she doesn’t know anyone in the Labor Department – which is where Thailand’s work visas are issued. So I’ve been looking for a work visa specialist for over a year then, last week, a British friend introduced me to his labor lawyer and it was love at first sight.

His name, wonderfully enough, is Mr. Big. (That’s his Thai chue-len (ชึ่อเล่น) ≠ which is usually translated as ‘nickname’ but it’s much more than that. Thais use chue-len because they change their family names relatively frequently. And nicknames are a holdover from the belief that evil spirits (ปีศาจ ปีศาจ) are always looking for newborns to abduct and control, so using a chue-len instead of a normal Thai name confuses the spirits and helps to keep the child safe. The use of nicknames remains so widespread in Thailand that it’s not uncommon for friends to know each other for years and yet not know each other’s real name and surname).


Thailand Digital Work Permits

Thai work permits allow you to work or operate a business in Thailand as a skilled professional or an employer. Without a Thai work permit working in Thailand can have severe consequences. Foreigners arrested for working without a permit are usually fined or imprisoned.

Thailand’s Labour Ministry and the Immigration Bureau have together launched the first smartphone app for expats to lodge requests for work permits and have them approved–though you will still need to make at least two “offline” trips to specially set up centres to complete the procedure. The app, Thailand Digital Work Permit, was introduced to companies and foreign employees last Friday. The first person to be digitally granted a work permit was Japan’s Koichiro Suda. The permit was approved by Waranon Pitiwan, director-general of the Department of Employment (DOE). Mr Suda works as a domestic sales coordinator for Minebea Thailand Co Ltd, one of the firms supported by the Office of the Board of Investment (BoI).

The app resulted from a project jointly launched by the BoI, the Labour Ministry and the Immigration Bureau called Single Window.

According to Thai regulations a successful work permit application depends on the hiring company’s registered capitalization. Money talks. Thai ‘Business Entities’ wanting to apply for work permits for foreign employees must have at least two million baht fully paid-up registered capitalization. If you have a Thai spouse you only need 1 million baht, or US$30,000. Here’s what the regulations say:

Foreign Business Entities who had operated their business in Thailand can apply their employees for work permit if they bring at least three million baht per employee into the country. The business entities may be granted a maximum of 10 work permits each. Before you can apply or be issued with a work permit you must first have a non-immigrant visa. This is required to apply for a Thai work permit in the Kingdom. Ideally, it should be acquired prior to your arrival in Thailand. We can assist you in obtaining it in your home country or in country close to Thailand. In addition, we can help you convert a tourist visa to a non-immigrant visa without leaving Thailand.

But Mr. Big can get you a work permit for almost anything, under almost any circumstances. A friend who wanted to teach a crania-sacral adjustment workshop here in Chiang Mai was able to get a temporary work permit to do just that. It cost her just 1500 Baht plus Mr. Big’s fee, and she had it in 48 hours!

To apply for a work permit, you must have either a non immigrant visa or a residence permit. Ideally, you would also have a non-immigrant visa before entering Thailand, since residence permits are usually granted only after you have lived in Thailand for at least 3 consecutive years under a non-immigrant visa. Your employer or potential employer may file an application for advance permission to work before you arrive in Thailand. However, the work permit itself will not be issued until you arrive in Thailand on a valid non-immigrant visa. You file the application at your nearest Provincial (Changwat) Department of Employment Office. The following documents must be submitted when you apply for a work permit. Note that Thai labor officials make changes in the list of required documents whenever they consider appropriate. All supporting documents usually must be translated into Thai with appropriate certification.

All photocopies of documents must be certified as true copies by the authorized director(s) and affixed with the company seal. If the application is to be filed by another person, a valid Power of Attorney in the prescribed form must be attached with an affixed Baht 10 duty stamp.

On the application form, the job description entry must be completed with a detailed description of the job to be performed, how it is related to other employees, and what materials will be used in the said job. If the job applied for requires a license under a particular law in addition to the Alien Employment Act, a photocopy of such license, e.g., a teacher’s license, physician’s license, press card from the Public Relations Department, certificate of missionary status from the Religious Affairs Department, etc. must also be attached.

If you are married to a Thai national, the marriage certificate must be presented along with your spouse’s identity card, birth certificates of children, household registration certificate, and a photocopy of every page of your passport. If you are applying for a position previously held by another foreigner, a photocopy of your predecessor’s work permit, together with his/her notice of resignation from the company or a letter confirming his/her intended date of departure must be presented.

Previously, foreigners who needed to obtain a work permit in order to work were prohibited from doing any work, for any employer, anywhere, and under any such conditions if such were not detailed and, therefore, permitted in the work permit itself. That is no longer the case.

Until last year Thailand regulated foreign work permissions under the Alien Workers Act (2008) (the “Act”).

In 2017 the Emergency Decree on Non-Thais’ Working Management Emergency Decree, (2017) (“Decree No. 1”) repealed the Alien Workers Act (2008).

Decree No. 1, however, incorporated much of the repealed Act’s provisions and kept in force most of the regulations issued under it.

Then, on 27 March 2018, the Emergency Decree on Non-Thais’ Working Management (No.2) (2018) (“Decree No. 2”) was issued. Decree No. 2 amended Decree No. 1.

Section 70 of Decree No. 1 (and the Act) provided that “a person who is granted permission for working may not carry out the work of the type, with the employer, in a locality or on any working condition that is different from that specified in their work permit unless permission under Section 71 is obtained.”

Section 71 of Decree No. 1 (and the Act) provided that “a person who is granted permission for working, and who intends to change or add the following particulars, must obtain permission from the Registrar: (1) type of work (2) employer (3) location or (4) working conditions.”

And Section 73 of Decree No. 1 (and the Act) provided that “no person may allow a foreigner to work in a manner different from the requirements specified in the work permit.”

However, and very significantly, Section 37 of Decree No. 2 repealed Sections 70, 71, and 73 of Decree No. 1.

Furthermore, Section 28 of Decree No. 2 provides that a work permit holder may engage in any work that is not specifically prohibited to all foreigners on the “Official List” of work prohibited to foreigners.


When I arrived here I didn’t have much choice about making money in Thailand. My $1240 Social Security check was enough to live on but travel was not an option and I couldn’t even afford a car. So I pestered all the local expats who would listen and asked them what they did to make ends meet. The stories they told me about their mistakes, wins, and losses were inspirational and helpful: I adopted two of them for myself and also found that they’d given me enough material for a book. Here’s an outline of what it covers:

  • Fifteen ways to start a Thai-based business
  • How to sell Thai products back to your home market
  • How the Thai government helps you make money
  • Where to find products to sell
  • What kinds of products sell best
  • How to sell your services in Thailand
  • How to sell your skills abroad from Thailand
  • Getting a job and a Thai work permit the moment you arrive
  • How to understand Thai culture…and fit in
  • The 15 biggest pitfalls for doing business in Thailand

Making Money in Thailand GODFREE ROBERTS, ED.D.

  • “His wide-ranging knowledge of the expat community is evident from the real-world examples that give the book an authentic flavor.The book is written with the charming immediacy of someone who is passionate about the lifestyle he has chosen and wants to make the advantages of living as an active retiree in the land of smiles available to others”. – “Superb Guide to Retirement financial planning in Thailand” – Ian D. Griffin   “This is a great book to show you how easy it is to make money in Thailand through many well thought out and well described ideas. it is a second great book to read after reading his “how to retire in Thailand”  – Brilliant retirement in Thailand and making money to boot!!! – By Nick Ash   WANT TO KNOW…  What to Do Before Coming to Thailand? What it costs to live in Thailand? How to get a work visa in Thailand? Thailand’s business pitfalls and opportunities? What kinds of money-making opportunities are available? How Thailand’s business culture works. (Hint: not like ours). How to export from Thailand? What to export? Fifteen Ways to Start a Thai Business? What jobs are available in Thailand? What to pack and what to leave behind? Who you’ll meet when you get here? How to meet other entrepreneurs in Thailand? Real Success Stories from Real People How to interact with the bureaucracy?   Then download “Making Money in Thailand: a Retiree’s Guide”. It’s the best business investment you’ll make.   Plus…useful charts, step-by-step checklists, links, budgets, helpful guides and reviews you can use.   “If you’re considering moving to Thailand so you can enjoy a comfortable retirement based on having a small American retirement income (from Social Security alone, or perhaps with a small pension too) you should be interested in this book. Although many Americans and Europeans report that they can live a decent life in Thailand on approximately $1,200 per month, most would agree that having a bit more cash is always a good thing. Author Godfree Roberts has had this experience and, in this insightful, detailed and often witty book, explains to retirees how to make money in a nation that differs markedly from the Western world”. USEFUL BOOK BY A MAN WHO KNOWS – By M. LATORRA “Gozen” (Las Cruces, NM USA)
  • 112 pages


Making Money in Thailand
Making Money in Thailand

Also: Useful Charts, Step-by-step Checklists, Links, Budgets, and Helpful Guides to Preparing to do business in Thailand. And you’ll get useful reviews and smart tips to help you get started.

This Is How You Do It

Making money in Thailand is surprisingly easy. The economy is growing at 5% and the Thai Post Office goes so far as to make easy to sell Thai goods on EBay (door to door tracking and signature). Even though most of us who come to Thailand have at least a $1200 monthly income – the same as a Thai engineer makes – for two reasons we often get the urge to make a little more:

  1. The first is to afford the semi-luxuries that make life enjoyable, like travel. Now that you’ve got the time, why not take advantage of the local budget airline’s mid-week special fare of $29.00 to Bali, for example? Or spend the hottest month at one of Thailand’s fabulous beaches? Fares are $60 from anywhere to anywhere in Thailand, and accommodation is ridiculously cheap.
  2. The second reason is to have something to do, a challenge that gets you up in the mornings. Creating a new business from scratch in a new culture is certainly a challenge! But I’m enjoying it and so is almost every other expat I know here. That’s because there are so many opportunities.


So, if you want to get work permits in Thailand, let me know and I’ll introduce you to Mr Big. Now here’s some advice from a fellow expat:

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