Thailand is an appealing destination for international contractors, but immigration requirements have tightened up in recent years. This means that you will have to take a methodical approach to obtain visas and work permits in Thailand. This overview will outline the various options and requirements, so you are prepared ahead of time.
The days of working on a tourist or student visa and taking ‘visa runs’ are all but over. Violations of immigration rules can lead to being banned from the country for years, so it pays to be informed and compliant.
The proposed expansion of the Smart Visa program
The Thai government is not completely opposed to foreign contractors and is looking to expand its Smart Visa program to digital nomads. Previously, the Smart Visa was reserved for investors, startups and even high net worth medical tourists.
The purpose of this new expansion is to attract a foreign talent pool to the country. However, digital nomads would not be allowed to work with Thai clients and work remotely. They would have to show at least a six-month contract with a foreign company, as an employee or contractor.
The visa would be valid for up to 4 years and can be applied for while visiting on a tourist visa. There is no 90-day reporting requirement, and it is a multiple entry visa. But if you want to work with Thai clients you will have to go the traditional route of securing a work permit.
Working in Thailand
If you have a proposed or existing contract with a Thai company, then that will be the easiest path to working in Thailand. Contractors who want to enter the country and look for clients will have a more difficult time of it. One option is to set up your own limited company, but that may be too complicated and cumbersome for many contractors.
Another hurdle is that unless the company is a multinational, some Thai language ability will be necessary. Thai business culture is also unique, so it may take some time to learn the customs. The real barrier aside from language and culture is obtaining a long-term visa and work permit.
What type of visas are required to work in Thailand?
There is no self-employment visa in Thailand, so you will need a valid work permit sponsored by a Thai company. Work permits in Thailand will only be valid for a specific occupation, which will require documentation of education and experience.
The first step is to obtain a 90-day Non-B (non-immigrant visa), applied for outside of Thailand in a consulate or embassy. With the visa in hand, you can enter the country and you will have 90 days to secure a work permit. The visa will be stamped valid for one year once the work permit is approved. The work permit holder will also have to report to an immigration office to register every 90 days.
How can I apply for a Thai Work Permit?
The Thai sponsor applies the work permit, which must be a registered entity with a certain level of capitalization. This will likely be your client, who may need to hire you as an employee. The sponsor will need to meet a long list of documentary requirements to satisfy the immigration department.
The job must also be of a type that cannot be easily filled by a Thai worker. These requirements will not apply if:
- First, you are exporting Thai products
- Secondly, you have a separate certificate of residence
- Or you are married to a Thai citizen
You may be able to use the services of an umbrella company that could sponsor your visa so that you can work with Thai clients. The umbrella company is a registered Thai entity and will know how to navigate the immigration rules. Their staff will speak Thai and can also act as support and intermediary with your Thai clients.
Are there any important considerations or regulations that I should know about my Thai work permit?
Once you have the work permit, there are other regulations to follow:
- You must keep the work permit with you while in the office or during work hours
- You can only perform work in the occupation stated in the work permit (violation = one month in prison)
- Any changes to the work permit such as address have to be made at the Employment Service
- Upon resignation, the work permit must be returned within 7 days
How can I extend my Thai work permit?
Your work permit is valid for the same amount of time as your Non-B visa (one year), so you will need to apply to extend both each year. The process is the same as the initial visa and permit, but you won’t have to leave the country. Because of all the business documentation required, your sponsor will have to assist you with extensions.
How Contractor Taxation can help you in Thailand
If the process of getting work permits in Thailand seems daunting, then we can help you through our licensed umbrella companies in Thailand. They can assist you with a wide range of contracting issues so that you can concentrate on serving your clients.
The umbrella company will:
- Handle all client payments, tax withholding and any social contributions
- Issue you a payslip each month, to a local or foreign account
- Can sponsor visas, work permits and extensions
- Help set up the contract with the client
- Moderate any disputes with your client
- Advice on access to totalization and double taxation treaties
Contractor Taxation has experienced umbrella companies in Thailand who are ready to help you with your work permit right away, even before you leave home. Please contact us for more information on how an umbrella company can be your essential partner in international contracting.