Work permits for employees in Thailand: A complete guide for employers


May 24, 2023

From the bustling metropolis of Bangkok, the sun-soaked beaches of Phuket, and the cultural hub of Chiang Mai, Thailand presents an attractive destination for foreign businesses looking to expand. But navigating the world of work permits in Thailand can be complex. It's crucial for employers—especially those from overseas—to understand the local laws and regulations related to work authorization.

If your employees aren't Thai nationals, they will need work permits. Non-compliance can result in severe penalties, including fines and potential bans on future employment of foreign nationals.

Ensuring that your foreign employees are legally authorized to work in Thailand is not just a matter of legal compliance, but also a key factor in avoiding hefty fines, and maintaining your company's reputation and business stability in the Land of Smiles—a blow that could be especially hard in Thailand's closely-knit business community.

What is a work permit in Thailand?

In Thailand, a work permit is a legal document that grants foreign nationals the right to work in the country. The most common is the standard Thai work permit, issued by the Ministry of Labour. There's also the BOI work permit for companies promoted by the Board of Investment, which comes with certain privileges such as a streamlined application process.

For example, a global software company expanding to Bangkok might be eligible for BOI promotion if they bring in unique technology skills that the Thai government wants to promote locally.

Who needs a work permit in Thailand?

Any foreign employee intending to work in Thailand needs a work permit. This includes even short-term assignments, such as a software engineer from Germany flying in to help the local team for a few weeks.

There are a few exceptions, like diplomats or volunteers for certain international organizations. The Thai government allowed a group of volunteer doctors from various countries to assist with the pandemic efforts without a work permit, underlining the exceptional nature of such exemptions.

How long does it take to get a work permit in Thailand?

The processing time for a Thai work permit varies depending on the type of work, the completeness of the application, and the workload of the Labour Department. On average, it takes around 7 to 30 business days for the Department of Employment in the Ministry of Labour to process a work permit application. However, applications submitted through the BOI One-Stop Service Centre often have a shorter processing time.

Types of work visas in Thailand

There are several types of work visas in Thailand, with the Non-Immigrant B Visa being the most common for foreign workers.

  • Non-Immigrant Visa “B” (Business Visa): This is the most common work permit that employers should be familiar with. This visa is for foreigners who wish to work or conduct business in Thailand.
  • IB Visa: Intended for investment and business, useful for investors and business owners.
  • BOI Visa: This is for workers in BOI-promoted companies
  • Smart Visa: This is a relatively new type of visa. In Thailand, the SMART Visa targets digital nomads and highly skilled professionals in high-demand fields, a result of the recent rise in digital nomad visas—an outcome of Thailand's efforts to attract tech entrepreneurs who could help solidify Bangkok's place as a startup hub in Southeast Asia.

While there are other types like the Non-Immigrant ED Visa for students and the O-A visa for retirees, they're less relevant to most employers.

Application process for Thai work visas

The application process for Thai work permits might be seen as quite formal compared to Western standards, often requiring several trips to the Ministry of Labor or the One-Stop Service Center, and paper application forms in duplicate or triplicate. In addition, many Thai government officials prefer documents translated into Thai, a factor to keep in mind during the application process.

The application process for Thai work visas involves a series of steps, usually initiated by the employer. Here's a basic checklist for employers to follow when helping an employee apply for a Thai work visa:

  • Secure a Non-Immigrant B Visa: The first step is for the employee to obtain a Non-Immigrant B Visa, generally issued for business and work purposes. This is usually done from the Thai Embassy or Consulate in the employee's home country.
  • Company Documentation: The company needs to provide copies of the company registration documents, VAT certificate, list of shareholders, financial statements, and more. This documentation process should be managed carefully—for example, it's not uncommon for Thai government officials to request additional copies or paperwork.
  • Job Offer or Contract: The employer must provide proof of job offer or employment contract that outlines the job description, salary, and duration of the contract.
  • Employee's Personal Documents: This includes passport-sized photographs, the employee's passport, and educational certificates. It's crucial to double-check every detail here. An oversight as simple as not having the right size for the passport photos can delay the application.
  • Submission and Verification: The company or representative submits the application at the Department of Employment, Ministry of Labour, or the One-Stop Service Center for Visas and Work Permits. The Thai officials will then review the application. This step includes an interview at the immigration office, and it's worth preparing the employee for this to make sure the process goes smoothly.
  • Work Permit Issuance: Once approved, the work permit booklet is issued, allowing the employee to legally work in Thailand.

Next, we'll move on to the FAQ section to address some common questions regarding work permits in Thailand.

Frequently asked questions about work permits for employees in Thailand

Do US citizens need a work permit to work in Thailand?

Absolutely. Regardless of their home country, whether it's the US or elsewhere, foreign nationals require a work permit to work legally in Thailand. In Thailand's eyes, not having the right paperwork is not a trivial matter—it can result in fines, imprisonment, and deportation for the employee, and serious penalties for the employer as well.

What are the required documents to apply for a Thai work permit?

The list is comprehensive. The employer will need to prepare copies of the company's registration, list of shareholders, VAT certificate, and financial statements. The employee, on the other hand, must provide their passport, educational certificates, and passport-sized photographs.

What’s the fastest way to get a work permit in Thailand?

The fastest way to get a work permit is through the Board of Investment (BOI). The BOI offers a One Stop Service Center (OSSC) which significantly simplifies and speeds up the process, often taking just 3 hours.

How much does it cost to get a Thai work permit?

Costs can vary based on the duration of the work permit. Generally, the application fee costs around 3,000 THB for a work permit for up to 3 months, 4,500 THB for up to 6 months, and 7,000 THB for up to a year.

Are family members included in work visa applications in Thailand?

Family members are not included in the work visa application. They will need to apply separately for a Non-Immigrant O Visa (Dependent Visa) if they plan to stay in Thailand with the work visa holder.

How do you renew your Thai work permit?

You can renew your Thai work permit by applying for a renewal to the Department of Employment before the current work permit expires. It's important to remember that renewing late can result in penalties.

Is there a limit on the number of work permits you can obtain in Thailand?

A company's ability to secure work permits is tied to its registered capital—generally, one work permit per 2 million baht of registered capital, up to a maximum of 10.

What is a re-entry permit in Thailand and how do you get one?

A re-entry permit ensures that a work visa isn't voided when the holder leaves Thailand. It can be obtained at the Immigration Bureau before the employee's departure, with the cost varying depending on whether it's a single or multiple re-entry permit.

What is single-entry in Thailand?

A single-entry visa allows the holder to enter Thailand once. If the visa holder leaves Thailand without a re-entry permit, the visa is invalidated, regardless of its remaining validity.

How does income tax work in Thailand?

In Thailand, income tax is based on a progressive scale ranging from 0% to 35% depending on the annual income. Employers have to withhold income tax from the salary of employees and remit it to the Revenue Department.

Is there a withholding tax in Thailand? How does it work?

Yes, withholding tax in Thailand is deducted at the source. Withholding tax applies to certain types of income like dividends, royalties, and service fees. The rate varies between 1% to 15% depending on the type of income. The person or entity making the payment is responsible for withholding the tax and submitting it to the Revenue Department.

What is the processing time for a Thai work permit?

The processing time of a Thai work permit varies from 7 to 30 business days depending on the applicant’s profile, nature of the work, and the completeness of the application.

How should foreign employers handle the work permit process for employees transferring within the company?

Intra-company transfers involve moving an existing employee from a foreign branch to a Thai branch of the same company. The first step is to ensure that the employee has a Non-Immigrant B Visa. Once the visa is secured, the Thai branch of the company can apply for a work permit on behalf of the employee. It's important to note that the work permit is job-specific and location-specific, which means that if an employee changes jobs or the location of work within the same company, the work permit will need to be updated.

What should an employer do if an employee with a Thai work permit leaves the company?

When an employee with a work permit leaves a company, the employer is required to notify the Ministry of Labour and return the work permit within seven days from the employment termination date. The company should also notify the Immigration Bureau about the termination of the employment. This will cancel the employee's visa and work permit, and they will need to leave Thailand unless they have another type of visa allowing them to stay.

Can a work permit be transferred if an employee changes jobs within Thailand?

Work permits in Thailand are not transferable. They are specific to the job and employer for which they were granted. If a foreign employee decides to change jobs, the new employer will have to apply for a new work permit. The previous work permit must be returned to the Ministry of Labour.

What are the rules for remote work for foreign nationals residing in Thailand?

The Thai government defines "work" broadly. As such, remote work or freelance work technically requires a work permit, even if the employer is outside Thailand and the employee is paid overseas. Violations can result in fines or imprisonment. It is highly recommended that any foreign national wishing to engage in such activities consult with a legal professional to ensure compliance with Thai laws.

Run your global workforce with Rippling

Rippling can connect you with immigration services to help you sponsor work visas around the world; enquire for more information.

Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting, or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: March 26, 2024

The Author

The Rippling Team

Global HR, IT, and Finance know-how directly from the Rippling team.