Immigration Categories

A brief description of corporate immigration categories by assignment type follows. The appropriate immigration category or status for your employees will depend on their specific details and on your company. For details on non-typical categories not listed below (investors, special programs), please contact your representative.

Short Term Work Assignments and Business Visits

In Thailand, the following activities may be performed while in Thailand on a visa-free, visa-on-arrival or Business Visa basis:

  1. Attending conferences or seminars, gathering information
  2. Visiting/viewing Exhibition or Trade Shows
  3. Visiting businesses or holding meetings/ discussions
  4. Attending special lectures and educational forums (audience participant)
  5. Attending technical training and seminars (as an audience participant)
  6. Buying products at a Trade Show
  7. Attending Board or Directors Meetings in the traveler’s own company

However, should a foreigner enter Thailand for short-term business activities for a period of fifteen (15) days or less and their activities are NOT listed above, the appropriate work authorization is an Urgent Work Permit (UWP). This would include if the traveler is providing training or will be receiving ongoing training at a work site.

This area of the Thai law changed from March 2015.

The UWP is NOT renewable, and conversion from an UWP to a long-term Work Permit is not possible from within Thailand, so an UWP should only be sought where it is certain the period of work will be no more than fifteen (15) days. An UWP is immediately invalidated upon departure from Thailand. There must be a gap of at least forty-five (45) days to two (2) months between each UWP issued to an individual. It is anticipated that it would be difficult to secure multiple UWPs for the same employee within a year.

The UWP is not a visa. Travelers still need to enter either on a Business Visa issued by a Thailand Consulate OR on a visa-free basis. It is important to note, however, that some nationalities, even if they enter on a visa-free basis, may not be able to then acquire the UWP after arrival. Consult an Emigra Worldwide Consultant prior to travel.

Emigra Worldwide can assist to determine if work authorization is required in given situations where there is doubt.

Long-Term Work Assignments

Work authorization in Thailand for long-term assignments comes in the form of a Work Permit. However, processes to acquire the Work Permit vary. The immigration process for Thailand is primarily determined by

  • Set up of the sponsoring entity in Thailand
  • Overall assignment duration
  • Job title/designation of the employee and
  • Employee’s role and responsibilities during their assignment in Thailand
  • Company Address / Work Location within Thailand

Companies approved under the Board of Investment have a different process from those who do not. There is also a different process for those applying under the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand. Foreign banks will also have slightly different procedures.

Regardless of company setup, the Thai immigration process involves both pre and post-arrival steps. As well as a Work Permit, long-term assignees must acquire a long-term visa and re-entry permit.

Typical Process Overview

As discussed above, the application process for a Thai work permit is extremely variable. Approximate overall processing time from the time the first step is submitted to the time the employee is legal to work in Thailand will thus also vary. However, regardless of the process followed, lead time for document gathering at the start of the process should be factored in, as should processing time for completion of post arrival formalities. In Thailand, the document gathering stage of the process can occasionally be labor intensive, particularly for companies who have not previously or recently sponsored foreigners. See the “Application Materials” section below for further details.

While there is no “typical process” for Thai work authorization, all long-term work authorizations in Thailand will require the employee to acquire a Non-Immigrant B visa from a Consulate or Embassy of Thailand and their dependents to acquire a Non-Immigrant O visa. In some circumstances, the Thai Consulate will require a pre-approval from Thailand for the B visa. For those who will work for a Board of Investment company, a position approval will be required.

After entering Thailand, a Work Permit needs to be acquired, sponsored by the company in Thailand. Depending on the company type, this may be filed with the Employment Department, the Board of Investment, the Industrial Estates Authority of Thailand, or the Petroleum Authority. A Re-Entry Permit and Long-Term Visa must also be applied for from the Immigration Department, although for Board of Investment (BOI) companies in Bangkok, they may apply for all three of these documents at a One Stop Service Center (OSSC).  However, employees sponsored by Non–BOI companies qualifying to file for their Work Permit at OSSC cannot apply for the Long-Term Visa and Re-entry Permit at the same time as filing for their Work Permit. The Long Term visa must be filed separately – after the employee has first paid their monthly salary withholding tax subsequent to their acquisition of the Thailand Work Permit.

Typical Documents Obtained

The following immigration documents obtained are as follows. Typical validity is noted next to each document name. For details on the renewal process, please see the next section, “Renewal.” Passport validity can affect the length of visa approved.

  • Work Permit: Up to two (2) years. This is a booklet and not placed in the passport.
  • Re-Entry Permit: Up to two (2) years. This is a passport endorsement and is required for all family members.
  • Long Stay Visa: Up to two (2) years. This is a passport endorsement and is required for all family members.

Renewal

Renewal of long-term work permits is possible. Processing times will again vary. Please allow three (3) months lead time for document gathering and co-ordination to fit in processes around travel schedules.

Deregistration

The government of Thailand requires all applicants to deregister upon departing the country. The Board of Investment or Employment Department must be notified of the end of an assignment, prior to final departure from Thailand, so that the Long Stay Visa and Re-Entry Permit can be cancelled. The process involves the Work Permit being handed in and a letter being issued which facilitates the visa cancellation. The visa holder then has a seven (7) day grace period to leave Thailand.

For companies NOT under the Board of Investment (“non-BOI”), the stay period is 24 hours only after the last working day.

 Dependents

Dependent immigration status approval depends on the immigration status of the principal applicant. Where the principal applicant is in Thailand for a long-term stay, the following rules apply for dependents:

  • Minimum age (spouses): Eighteen (18) years
  • Maximum age (children): Twenty (20) years
  • Unmarried partners: Do not qualify for Dependent Visa
  • Same sex partners: Do not qualify for Dependent Visa
  • Non-traditional dependents (e.g. parents): This is possible for parents of the Work Permit holder.
  • Work authorization granted? No

Application Materials

Application materials vary depending on the immigration category being applied for and on the specifics of the case. We will advise you in detail regarding your specific case; however, general application materials for a Work Permit are likely to include the following:

  • General personal application materials include current resume (C.V.), diploma, birth and marriage certificates, etc.
  • Corporate documentation includes evidence of appropriate registration, a list of existing expats with their job description and job title, number of current Thai employees (as per the current payroll tax document), financial statements and taxation payment information, and, for BOI companies, evidence of their BOI status.
  • All documentation must be submitted in English or Thai. All corporate documents must be in Thai. Some documents will need to be legalized. Emigra Worldwide can assist with translation and legalization requirements.

Business Visitors

As noted above, some short-term activities in Thailand require work authorization (Urgent Work Permit) while others can be performed on a visa-free, visa waiver or business visa basis.

Change of Status

All foreign nationals who wish to acquire a Work Permit and long-term visa in Thailand must enter on a Non-Immigrant B visa, with no exceptions. Change of status from tourist or Urgent Work Permit holder is not possible.

Salary and Payroll

Payroll location does not affect the immigration process for Thailand.

Qualifications

Qualification requirements will vary from case to case and will depend on the immigration category under which the application is made. However, in general, the immigration authorities expect to see a bachelor’s degree as part of the application submission. Please contact your representative for more details.

Red Flags

In our experience, the following points are important to note at the start of the process. If any of the below situations apply to you, contact your representative immediately for further detailed advice.

  • Some Thai Embassies/ Consulates will require Work Permit pre-approval or BOI Visa Pre-Approval Letters prior to issuing the Non-Immigrant B and O visas.
  • Non-BOI Companies based in Bangkok with registered capital or total assets in their latest audited statements of THB30 million or more may use the One Stop Service Center (OSSC) for filing of Work Permits, Long Term Visa and Re-entry Permits for their senior and executive employees.  In the past, they could file all these three at one time at OSSC. However, effective July 2015 the employee will only be able to apply for a Long-Term visa extension and Re-entry Permit after they have first paid the monthly salary withholding tax after acquiring their Work Permit.
  • For other companies, filings must be made separately at the Employment Department and Immigration Bureau.
  • The absence of a degree, insufficient work experience or insufficient compensation.
  • Ratio of foreign to local workers – if a company has a high ratio of foreigners it can be problematic.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

The government of Thailand takes immigration non-compliance very seriously. Penalties for non-compliance may include fines, deportation, and imprisonment.

Employee Penalties:

Foreign nationals who do not possess valid Work Permits will be liable for imprisonment for a term not exceeding five (5) years and /or a fine between THB 2,000 and THB 100,000.

Employer Penalties:

Employers who hire foreigners or allow the foreigners to work without valid work authorization will be liable to a fine from between THB 10,000 and THB 100,000.

For more details, please contact your representative.

 Bilateral Agreements

The government of Thailand is not party to any bilateral agreements relevant to work other than the fact that citizens of Australia and New Zealand are eligible for a one (1) year Thailand working holiday visa. Applicants must be aged between Eighteen (18) and thirty (30) and have tertiary qualifications. New Zealand currently has 100 places available annually for Thai citizens to work in New Zealand, while Australia most recently had a quota of 500, although these vary from year to year.