Foreign Employment in Thailand: Work Permit Exemptions

An introduction to exemptions for work permits in Thailand for foreign employees

According to information from Harvey Law Group, an international law firm specializing in corporate immigration for founders and investors, Thailand is becoming increasingly attractive as a place for foreign companies to get work permits and set up shop in Southeast Asia.

In 2019, Thailand’s exports and major investment projects have been progressively increasing, particularly in the infrastructure sector. Public and private investment is also increasing in the government’s megaprojects, such as those in the EEC investment zone (covering three provinces of Rayong, Chonburi, and Chachoengsao).

For this reason, many foreign employees and contractors might be looking to work in Thailand in the near future. Here are some of Thailand’s policies designed to help foreign workers settle in the country.

Is there a maximum number of foreign employees per company?

A company in Thailand can hire one foreign worker per 3 million Thai baht in capital and one foreign worker per four full-time Thai employees.

In other situations like joint ventures where Thai shareholders hold a majority interest, the ratio is one foreign worker per 2 million Thai baht in capital and one such foreign worker per four full-time Thai employees.

However, the total number can’t exceed 10 foreign workers unless the company has a Foreign Business License (FBL) or is approved by the Board of Investments (BOI).

Specifically, this ratio is not applicable to:

  • companies granted BOI status
  • representative offices
  • regional offices
  • branch offices
  • legal entities under the allowed business scope of the Foreign Business Act BE 2542
    (1999) (i.e., the representative office, regional office and branch office), in which case
    the ratio may be relaxed depending on the type of business conducted in Thailand.

Furthermore, under Immigration Police Order No. 777/2551 dated 25 November BE 2551 (2008), there is no quota requirement or restriction on foreign workers and volunteers working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Thailand. Hence, an NGO is entitled to employ foreign workers and volunteers without employing a corresponding ratio of Thai employees.


Want to expand your business to Thailand?

Greenhouse can connect you to pre-screened service providers to help set up your business in Thailand. Click here to learn more.


Which foreign employees don’t need work permits?

According to the Royal Decree on Management of Alien Workers BE 2561 of 2018, foreign nationals working in Thailand are not required to apply for work permits if they work in one of these categories.

International diplomats or government representatives

This category includes:

  • Members of diplomatic or consular missions
  • Representatives of the United Nations and other specialized agencies
  • Personal assistants to diplomatic missions

This also includes people conducting work on behalf of a foreign government or organization, specifically:

  • People performing duties or missions under an agreement by Thailand’s national government with a foreign government or international organization
  • Performing duties or missions for educational, cultural, artistic, sports or other purposes as prescribed in a ministerial regulation

Short-term activities or projects

Under the Royal Decree, business visitors doing short-term, necessary and urgent work for less than 30 days don’t need to get a work permit. However, they must file a notification letter to the Ministry of Labour before entering the country and after being in the country for 15 days.

This includes urgent works taking place without notice, such as:

  • Conferences
  • Petroleum-related technical work
  • Machine repairs or installation work
  • Other areas of work under the consideration of the Director-General of the Department of Employment.

Also, foreigners doing short-term educational or cultural activities related to their professions also don’t need to get work permits. This includes:

  • Organizing or attending a meeting, conference, public speaking event, lecture, training, workshop or seminar
  • Performing artistic and cultural activities or participating in sports competition or activities prescribed by the Council of Ministers

Founders or investors

Under specific cases, foreigners planning to establish a business or investment are also exempt from work permit requirements. This includes:

  • establishing a business or investment or possessing knowledge, ability or high-level skills beneficial to Thailand, as prescribed by the Council of Ministers; and
  • representing a foreign juristic person licensed to operate a business under the foreign business law (i.e., the director of such foreign licensed juristic person, representative office managers or branch office managers).

What’s the conclusion?

Thailand has long been a major hub of foreign investment in Southeast Asia, with several policies already in place to accommodate foreign companies. This makes it a viable next step or even headquarters to expand your business across Southeast Asia.

However, applying for work permits in countries like Thailand and Vietnam can still be a long and complicated process — especially if you’re also planning the first steps of your business in a new country.

You can start by contacting a law firm or service provider to help assess your needs and figure out the best option for you.


Want to expand your business to Thailand?

Greenhouse can connect you to pre-screened service providers to help set up your business in Thailand. Click here to learn more.

Information credit to Harvey Law Group, 2019.

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