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Immigration and Work

A visa from a Thai embassy or consulate or a permit-to-stay does not constitute permission to work. Such permission is only granted by the Alien Occupation Division of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare upon the issuance of a work permit to foreigners on non-immigrant or immigrant visa.

On 30 June 1997, the government established a One-Stop Service Center to facilitate the issuance of relevant work permits and immigration authorizations. The center’s service can be extended to investors who meet certain criteria.  Only investors from certain countries are eligible to use the Center.

The current process of procuring a work permit and related immigration approvals is extremely complicated and requires series of dealings with the Immigration Bureau of the Ministry and Social Welfare. The process could be time consuming and frustrating to foreign employees and their families and may, in some cases, require departure from and re-entry into the country.

Visitors to Thailand should be aware that overstaying a visa constitutes a very serious offence. The penalties may even include mandatory imprisonment. Another concern to keep in mind is that holders of permit-to stay must report to Immigration every 90 days to update their permits. Fines are now imposed against foreigners who fail to report to Immigration every 90 days. This requirement is not enforced against foreigners who exit and re-enter within the said 90 days as the exit constitutes reporting under this regulation. However, if foreigners intend to stay beyond the said 90-day period, then report must be made toward the end of their current 90-day stay.


Work Permits

Aliens Act B.E. 2521 (1978) requires all foreigners to obtain a work permit prior to actual work in Thailand. The definition of “work” is extremely broad and means “engaging in work by exerting energy or using knowledge whether or not in consideration of wages or other benefits.” 

The Act also lists certain occupations that are reserved exclusively for Thai nationals and for which a work permit cannot be granted. Generally, foreigners are prohibited from working in manual and industrial labour and some professional occupations.

With certain exceptions, (diplomats, United Nations Officers, and individuals performing duties under agreements between Thailand and a foreign government), all foreigners must obtain a work permit from the Foreign Occupation Division of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare before commencing work in Thailand. The granting of a work permit is discretionary. However, where government contracts or BOI-promoted companies are involved, there is usually no difficulty in obtaining one.

A foreigner must hold a non-immigrant or immigrant visa before a work permit is issued, and the permit is only valid for the duration of the holder’s authorized permit-to-stay under immigration law. Work permits are restricted to the particular occupation, employer, and locality for which they were issued, and any change necessitates an application for a new permit, or an amendment of the existing permit, depending on the nature of the change.

It is an offense for a foreigner to “work” in Thailand without a specific work permit or in an occupation or location other than that specified in the individual’s work permit. Working in prohibited occupations is penalized with imprisonment of up to five years.


Obtaining a Thai work permit in Thailand is perhaps the most convenient and most rewarding way for the enchanted visitor like you to enjoy the country`s many promising attractions while immersing yourself into the exotic and opulent Thai culture without worrying much about a Thai visa or time. Your Thai work permit allows you to work in Thailand as a skilled professional or even as an employer. You need to have the appropriate Thai work permit to be able to work legally in the Kingdom of Thailand .

Of course, there are some people who have been able to work illegally in Thailand or maybe currently working in Thailand without a Thai work permit but these illegal workers are not always in good plight. Aside from the constant fear of being caught and being deported by the Immigration police (the usual penalty for working in Thailand in a deliberately illegal way), most of the time, these workers end up being abused by their employers as they don`t have a Thai work permit.

Without a valid Thai work permit many of the employers don`t want to pay them in part or in full. Hence, without a Thai work permit or a company, no support and government protection for rights and privileges can be legally demanded.

To preclude inconveniences and abuses, securing a work permit is imperative prior to commencement of work in Thailand .

To be issued a work permit, a non-immigrant visa must be secured. Ideally, said visa has to be acquired prior to arrival in Thailand . However, JWS offers alternative ways to assist in obtaining it in the applicants home country or in country close to Thailand . In addition, JWS can also provide support to help convert a tourist visa to a non-immigrant visa without need of leaving Thailand which process can take up to 1 to 2 months.

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