Every foreigner performing is legally required to hold a work permit in Thailand. It is a document issued by the government allowing the foreigner to work, collect a salary, and register for benefits. There are exceptions stated in the Working of Alien Act but they are few, for instance people working in an embassy. This permit is needed above and beyond a visa. No matter what your work is, even if you are working as a volunteer, you need a permit to work in Thailand.
A work permit in Thailand a blue book like this one.
Obtaining a Work Permit
To obtain a work permit in Thailand, you normally must first hold the correct visa. Tourist visas don’t cut the mustard – if you want a work permit, you’ll need a Non-Immigrant visa in your passport. This can be a Type B (business) for general employment, O (other) for volunteering or family matters (like if you are married to a Thai). In general, if you’re coming to Thailand to work, your employer will send you supporting documents to help you apply for this visa. This is important because it means that you already have an employer to act as guarantor for your work permit.
Your employer must be a registered business (like a Thai company), organization (such as a charitable foundation), or institution (like a public school) in order to support your work permit application. Most employers will arrange you paperwork for you if they have ever employed foreigners before, however some may be hiring you as their first foreign employee and may not have experience in preparing the application. In fact they may not even realize that you must hold a work permit to work for them. Some may try to delay the application or try to convince you that you don’t need a permit to work there, but do not be put off.
Coming to Thailand
If you’re coming to Thailand specifically to work then your employer can apply for the work permit on your behalf before you enter Thailand. Processing can take from a few days up to a month or more, so doing this in advance can help you save time. However, your work permit is only officially issued when you present yourself to the labour office and sign for it.
If you are the first foreign employee, or if you are starting your own company, then you may need assistance in preparing documents for your work permit. It’s important to note here that a company hiring foreigners must have a certain amount of registered capital per foreigner. It is normally 2 million Baht, half if the employee is married to a Thai. But it is 3 million under the treaty of Amity for Americans. The company must employ 4 Thais for every foreign employee. It is half if the foreigner is married to a Thai. BOI companies have special rules.
The paperwork required will vary depending on the type of organization you’ll be working for and the type of work that you’ll do. It may also take several tries to get the paperwork approved in case subtle details are incorrect or omitted. In most instances, it makes sense to hire a law office to prepare and submit your application for you unless the employer has experience applying for work permits.
A medical report is needed
One more thing that you’ll need is a health check. You can go to any public hospital in Thailand to have your general health checked (heart, blood pressure, chronic diseases, etc.) and to receive a report which must accompany your work permit application. This generally takes less than an hour varies a lot from a place to another, from 100 baht to maybe 800 baht. Here’s a copy of the medical report from 2023 click here. Few years ago, the same form had 5 diseases. Be sure that your form is updated.
When your application is ready, you’ll need to take it to the Department of Employment (grom gan jat ha ngan)of the Ministry of Labour (gra-suang raeng ngan) for your province or region. Once submitted, in can take up to 6 weeks to process your application. When it’s ready, you’ll be invited to the office to pay for your permit, sign your name, and receive a small blue book (WP4) that must be kept with you or at your place of work during working hours. If your visa is only valid for few weeks, you may not be granted a long period, probably only until your visa runs out. Work permits used to be valid for a maximum of 1 year but since 2008, they can be granted for a maximum of 2 years.
List of Necessary Documents
** Please do verify because documents are constantly changing. This is just a guideline to help you.
1. Passport with valid Non-Immigrant visa
2. Copy of passport with all pages signed by applicant (including TM6 Departure Card)
3. 3 photos of the applicant, bigger than passport but same style, 5 cm X 6 cm
4. Medical certificate (There is special form to fill with 6 diseases mentionned)
5. Resume showing relevant experience and/or education. This must be translated into Thai.
6. Copy of degree and transcripts or professional certificates for jobs that require these (ex. TEFL or TESOL certificate for teaching English). They must be translated into Thai.
7. Marriage certificate if married to Thai national (this halves the hiring company’s obligation to register capital)
8. When applying for a company, they company will have to submit tax documents, VAT registration, registration documents, audit reports, list of foreigners working for the company, etc. The list is quite long.
Work Permits and Visas – An Intricate Dance
As a foreigner working in Thailand, you need to have a visa and a work permit. Issued by two different ministries, these two documents are related in a frustrating and inefficient way:
1. Get Your Visa. To apply for a work permit, you need to have a visa first. Initially, your Non-Immigrant visa will be issued for only 90 days.
2. Get Your Work Permit. When you apply for your work permit, it will be issued only for the time that your visa is valid. So you will get your permit issued until the date that your visa is set to expire.
3. Extend Your Visa. Roughly one month before your visa’s expiry date, you can apply to extend your visa up to a year. So if you have 90 days first, they will grant you another 275 days to add up to 365). You need to hold a valid work permit in order to extend your visa based on working extension. Do note that BOI work permits are different, faster and easier to get.
4. Extend Your Work Permit. Once your visa extension is obtained, you can return to the work permit office to extend your work permit for another 275 days, or to the end of your visa’s period of validity. This also requires an extra fee.
Extension every year or two years
Now you’re set for your first year. Every subsequent year, you can apply to extend your visa for the next full year or two. Once that extension is granted, you can extend your work permit for another year or two. Since 2010, work permits can be issued for 1 year (3000 THB) or 2 years (6000 THB). This is very convenient if you are planning to work for longer than 1 year in Thailand. You can get an extensions every 2 years, even though your visa will still need renewal each year.
What’s In The Work Permit in Thailand?
Each work permit is given a unique identity number and remains the property of the provincial registrar with the Department of Labour. The document will contain your photograph, name, date of birth, nationality, address, and signature.
Your work permit can be used as official proof of address in Thailand, which is useful for anything from buying a car to applying for a driver’s licence.
The information required in your application will be added to the book, including your position, job description and more. You’ll also notice a field that says ‘Locality permitted to work (Province)’, indicating the province where you’re legally allowed to perform work.
The last page of the work permit gives 6 warning with the following rules and corresponding punishments (2023 rules). To see what is it written, click this link and see on pages 18 and 19.
Making Changes to Your Work Permit
What do you do with your work permit if you want to change jobs or employers? Changes to details in the work permit (position, job description, working locations, address, etc.) are possible. You must do them in person at the Labour Department office. It cost about 1000 THB per change.
Changing employers is more involved, but still relatively simple process. If you have a year’s contract and wish to sign a contract with a new employer for the following year, then you can have your new employer prepare the necessary documents for guaranteeing your work permit (just like the initial supporting documents). This will include a new contract for your new job and we suggest to make a 2 years contract. You can take the documents to the labor department and request to extend your work permit. There is a fee of 3000THB per year. We suggest you to extend for 2 years as it avoids the same work but double the lenght.
It is possible to have more than 1 job description in a work permit. You can even have 2 different job descriptions in 2 different provinces of Thailand. (I know, it happened to me!)
Your work permit is your official proof of address and evidence of your status as a worker in Thailand. Any work performed without one is illegal and can carry grave consequences like fines and prison terms. For any work that you do in Thailand, make sure you have a permit that’s in-line with the law.
DO NOTE THAT SOME MODIFICATIONS HAPPENED IN 2018. Since 28 March 2018, foreigners are allowed to work for other companies and entities according to this article (clikk this link).
- Ministry of Labour Department in Thailand (official website in English)