Thailand Work Permit: A Practical Overview

Restricted Jobs for Foreigners in Thailand

The employment of foreigners is regulated by the Royal Emergency Decree on Managing the Work of Foreigners B.E. 2560 (2017), which was amended by the Royal Decree (No 2) B.E. 2561 in 2018 (the “Emergency Decree”).

With some exceptions, a foreigner is not entitled to work or provide services without obtaining a work permit issued by the Department of Employment at the Ministry of Labor.

The Royal Decree defines ‘Work’ as ‘engagement in any occupation, with or without an employer, but excluding the business operations of a licensee under the foreign business law’.

In April B.E. 2563 (2020), the Ministry of Labor of Thailand issued the ‘Notification Re: Prescription of Prohibited Occupations for Foreigners’. This Notification specifies the types of jobs/occupations that foreign workers are allowed to engage in, as well as those for which they cannot obtain a work permit under the Emergency Decree.

This Notification not only enumerates the jobs prohibited for foreigners but also provides definitions for each of these occupations at the end of the document.

Notification in Thai language.

Jobs that are prohibited or restricted for foreigners are divided into four lists.

List 1: Jobs Strictly Prohibited for Foreigners

  1. Wood Carving
  2. Driving Motor Vehicles: Except piloting international aircraft or forklift driving.
  3. Auction
  4. Cutting or Polishing Diamond or Precious Stones
  5. Haircutting, Hairdressing, or Beauty Treatment
  6. Cloth Weaving by Hand
  7. Mat Weaving or Utensil Making: From reeds, rattan, hemp, straw, bamboo, bamboo pelicle, grass, chicken feather, coconut leaf stick, fiber, wire, or other materials.
  8. Mulberry Paper Making by Hand
  9. Lacquerware Making
  10. Making Thai Musical Instruments
  11. Nielloware Making
  12. Gold Ornaments, Silverware, or Pink Gold Making
  13. Bronze Ware Making
  14. Thai Dolls Making
  15. Alms Bowl Making
  16. Silk Products Making by Hand
  17. Buddha Images Making
  18. Paper or Cloth Umbrella Making
  19. Brokerage or Agency Work: Except in international trade or investment.
  20. Thai Massage
  21. Cigarette Rolling by Hand
  22. Tour Guide or Sightseeing Tour Operation
  23. Peddling
  24. Manual Typesetting of Thai Characters
  25. Silk Reeling and Twisting by Hand
  26. Clerical or Secretarial Work
  27. Legal Services or Services in Legal Proceedings, except for the following occupations:
    (A) Performing duties of arbitration
    (B) Providing assistance or representation in the arbitral proceedings in the event that the law applicable to the dispute being considered by the arbitrators is not the Thai law.

List 2: Jobs Prohibited for Foreigners with Specific Exceptions

Foreigners are restricted from certain occupations, with exceptions allowed under international agreements or legal obligations to which Thailand is bound:

  1. Accounting Services: Prohibited, except for:
  • Occasional internal audit work.
  • Work authorized under international agreements, with qualifications certified by the Professional Association.

2. Civil Engineering: Prohibited in areas such as counseling, project planning, design, calculation, construction supervision, manufacturing, inspection, administrative work, research, and testing, except for:

  • Professionals registered under the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA).
  • Other international agreements related to cross-border engineering services.
  • Licensees in civil engineering under Thailand’s Engineering law.

3. Professional Architectural Services: Prohibited in activities like project study, design, construction management, supervision, inspection, or consulting, except for:

  • Architects registered under the ASEAN MRA for architectural services.
  • Other international agreements on cross-border architectural services.
  • Licensees under the Architects law of Thailand.

List 3: Prohibited Jobs for Foreigners, with Exceptions for Skilled or Semi-Skilled Work

Occupations that are prohibited for foreigners, except where foreign workers are allowed to engage in skilled or semi-skilled work when employed by an employer:

  1. Agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, or fishery
  2. Bricklaying, carpentry, or construction works
  3. Mattress or quilt blanket making
  4. Knife making
  5. Shoemaking
  6. Hat making
  7. Dressmaking
  8. Pottery or ceramic ware making

List 4: Prohibited Jobs with Exceptions Under Treaties

Occupations prohibited for foreign workers, yet permissible under specific conditions of employment and entry into Thailand as per Immigration Law and in accordance with MoUs or agreements between the Thai government and foreign governments, include:

  1. Labour: Manual work and simple tasks requiring physical strength.
  2. Shop Front Sellers: Selling goods at wholesale or retail establishments, stalls, or shops in markets or along roadsides.

Penalties for Illegal Employment in Thailand

For Foreign Workers: Engaging in work without a valid permit can lead to fines of 5,000 to 50,000 baht. Further consequences include deportation and a two-year ban on obtaining a Thai work permit.

For Employers: Employing foreigners without the required permits involves severe penalties. Fines range from 10,000 to 100,000 baht for each foreign worker employed illegally. In cases of repeat offenses, these fines can escalate to between 50,000 and 200,000 baht per worker. Additionally, repeat offenders may face imprisonment for up to a year and a three-year prohibition from employing foreigners.

How to Obtain a Work Permit in Thailand

Foreigners need a work permit to legally work in Thailand, whether they are employed by a Thai employer or starting their own company, and need a work permit to work as a director or in another role. Obtaining a work permit can be particularly tricky when starting new businesses and for foreigners setting up their own companies, as there is no support from existing Thai employers.

Work Visa in Thailand

Typically, a work permit is issued to those holding a Non-Immigrant B Visa (Non-B), commonly referred to as a “business visa” or “work visa.” The term “work visa” is conditional in Thailand, implying a Non-B visa in conjunction with a work permit. Besides work, the Non-B visa is also intended for business and other cases. Furthermore, holders of investment visas, LTR, and SMART visas, as well as those married to Thai nationals or having Thai children with non-immigrant type “O” visas, can also obtain work permits. Work permits can also be acquired by those with Thai permanent residence. However, in this article, we will focus on the most typical case: the Non-Immigrant B Visa.

Usually, a foreigner obtains a Non-Immigrant visa at one of the Thai embassies or consulates based on documents provided by the future Thai employer (which could be your company if you are starting a business). A key document for processing the work visa is the approval letter that the Thai employer must obtain from the Department of Employment, form WP.3. Companies with projects approved by the Board of Investment (BOI) process BOI letters instead of WP.3. When applying for a visa, it is important to consider the requirements of the specific embassy or consulate. The validity of such a Non-B visa is 90 days.

After entering Thailand, a work permit is processed based on documents from both the employer and the employee, typically for one year (although it might be less for newly founded companies). With a Non-B visa and a work permit, you can obtain an extension of stay at the local Immigration office, usually issued for one year.

Basic Requirements for the Employer

Registered Capital

To employ one foreigner, two million baht of registered capital is required. This amount is one million baht if the foreigner is married to a Thai national. For foreign companies, this amount is three million baht.

Thai Employees

For each foreign employee, there should be no fewer than four Thai employees (no fewer than two if the foreigner has a Thai spouse). This rule does not apply to holders of LTR visas. For representative offices of foreign companies and regional offices, the rule is “one work permit – one Thai employee.”

Number of Foreign Employees

Typically, an employer company can hire no more than ten foreigners. There are some exceptions based on economic indicators, taxes paid, the number of Thai employees, certain types of activities, etc.

BOI Projects

Special rules apply to companies whose projects have received BOI benefits.

Three Key Steps to Obtaining a Thai Work Permit

1. Obtaining a Pre-Approval Letter (WP.3 Form)

Secure the WP.3 form, a pre-approval document from the Department of Employment.

2. Securing the Non-B Visa

Obtain a Non-B visa at a Thai consulate abroad.

3. Getting the Work Permit

After entering Thailand, process the work permit based on documents from the employer and the employee.

For visa and work permit support, the employer is responsible for understanding and managing the process. If you are setting up your own company, it is typically advisable to hire a lawyer, law firm, or other professionals to help you through the process, to ensure all legal requirements are met accurately.

Getting Pre-Approval (WP.3 Form)

What is the WP.3 Form?

The WP.3 form verifies that your company is authorized to employ foreign workers and is a prerequisite for applying for the 90-day business visa at a Thai embassy abroad. This form acts as confirmation from your employer in Thailand, verifying your intention to work for their company. If you are already living in Thailand, you will need to leave the country to submit the application, as it can only be submitted if the foreigner is not in Thailand.

Required Documents for WP.3 Application

Personal Documents:

  • Completed WP.3 form
  • Employment certification form
  • Copy of the first page of the passport of the foreign candidate
  • Copy of the education certificate or determination form (if you don’t have an educational certificate)
  • Copy of the occupation or professional license (if applicable)
  • Power of Attorney from the employer
  • Copy of the employer’s identification card and a copy of the grantee’s I.D. card

Company Documents:

  • Copy of Thai company registration and recent shareholders’ list (updated within 6 months). For foreign juristic persons, a copy of the Business Operation of foreigners and documents about money import
  • Copy of VAT registration
  • Copy of the employer’s work permit (if applicable)
  • Relevant company licenses (e.g., factory, restaurant, hotel, tourism, hospital, etc.)
  • Copy of social security payment (1 month), balance sheet (last year), and VAT payment records (1-3 months)

Need for a Thai Director

If you want to obtain a work permit for the position of director for a new company, the application must be signed by a Thai director. Therefore, ensure you appoint a Thai director first.

Submitting the Application

The employer submits the WP.3 form and required documents to the Department of Employment.

Awaiting Approval

The Department of Employment reviews the application, which can take several days.

Receiving the Pre-Approval Letter

Once approved, the employer receives the WP.3 letter, necessary for applying for the Non-Immigrant B Visa. Most consulates accept scanned copies, so the employer or a representative can email a pre-approval letter to the employee.

When WP.3 is Not Needed

In some cases, the WP.3 form is not required. Here are the exceptions:

  • Companies Approved by the Board of Investment (BOI): Companies that have received approval from the BOI can use a letter from the BOI instead of the WP.3 form.
  • Japanese Nationals: Japanese nationals are exempt from submitting the WP.3 form per the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA).
  • Other Documents: Other documents can replace the WP.3 approval letter, such as letters from universities, schools, international organizations, or charitable organizations.

Obtaining the Non-Immigrant B Visa

Once you have received the WP.3 form, you can apply for the Non-Immigrant B Visa at a Thai consulate abroad. It is important to decide which consulate to apply at in advance, as the documents from the company need to be addressed to a specific consulate. Requirements can vary. Please note that some consulates require an appointment in advance. Below are example requirements for the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Documents Required

  1. Passport: Valid for at least 6 months.
  2. Visa Application Form: Completed and signed.
  3. Photograph: A recent 4 x 6 cm photograph attached to the visa application form.
  4. Guarantee Letter from Thai Company: This should include Job position, Salary and Employment Duration.
  5. Employment Agreement: Although not listed on the consulate’s website, it is required based on the experience of our clients.
  6. WP.3 Letter: Or other approved letters such as the BOI letter or Work Permit Book.
  7. Corporate and Financial Documents of the Thai Company:
  • Business Registration: With capital registration and paid up not less than 2,000,000 Thai Baht. This means providing the full company affidavit.
  • List of Shareholders.
  • Company Profile and Details of Business Operation.
  • Map Indicating the Location of the Company.
  • Balance Sheet and Statement of Income.
  • Tax Reporting Documents: Por Por 20 (VAT), Por Por 30 for the last 3 months, and Por Ngor Dor 50 for the latest year.
    Note: As a newly founded company, not all documents may be available. It is important to submit an explanation letter from the company.

8. Educational Qualifications: Diplomas and other relevant certificates. If these are not in English or Thai, it is strongly recommended to provide a legalized translation.

9. Resume and Employment Certification: A detailed resume and certification of previous employment.

Signatures: All copies must be signed by the Board of Directors or authorized managing director and affixed with the company seal. A copy of the ID of the person signing the documents is required. It is recommended that these documents be signed by a Thai director.

Applying for Non-O Visas for Family Members

If you have family members, they can apply at the same time to get a Non-O visa. Using the requirements of the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) as an example, here’s what you need to submit:

  1. Passport: Valid for at least 6 months.
  2. Visa Application Form: Completed and signed.
  3. Photograph: A recent 4 x 6 cm photograph attached to the visa application form.
  4. Company’s Guarantee Letter: Addressed to the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City, stating that the applicant is a spouse or family member of the person working or studying in Thailand.
  5. Copy of Passport Pages: Including the personal data page and all pages with Thai visa stamps of the family member working in Thailand.
  6. Copy of Thai Work Permit/WP.3/BOI Letter: To prove the employment of the family member in Thailand.
  7. Marriage Certificate (for spouse): Must be translated and legalized.
  8. Birth Certificate (for child): Must be translated and legalized.
  9. Copy of Business Registration: The company affidavit.
  10. Applicant’s Financial Statement: Proof of adequate finances is required, specifically a 6-month bank statement.
  11. If Financial Statement is Insufficient: If the family member does not have a sufficient financial statement, submit the bank statement of the main applicant along with their guarantee letter.

Obtaining the Thai Work Permit

Once you have secured your Non-Immigrant B Visa and entered Thailand, you will be stamped with 90 days. The next step is to apply for your Thai work permit.

Employee-Provided Documents

To apply for a work permit, the applicant must provide the following documents, either in English or Thai:

  1. Completed Application Form: Including job description, a map showing the workplace location, and an explanation of why the company is hiring a foreign employee.
  2. Passport: Copies of every page, signed by the employee.
  3. Curriculum Vitae (CV): Signed English or Thai version to prove the applicant’s educational qualifications.
  4. Medical Certificate: Not older than six months, from a recognized hospital or clinic in Thailand, stating blood type and confirming the applicant is in good mental and physical health (free from leprosy, acute tuberculosis, elephantiasis, narcotic addiction, alcoholism, and stage III syphilis). In Bangkok, MedConsult Clinic is recommended for its efficiency.
  5. Photographs: Six photographs (3 x 4 cm), full face, taken in business attire (no hat, suit and tie if required). Taken within six months before the application.
  6. Power of Attorney: If someone other than the applicant is filing the application, including a 10 THB duty stamp.
  7. Additional Licenses: If applicable.

Employer-Provided Documents

The employer must provide the following corporate documents:

  1. Business Registration
  2. Shareholders List
  3. Factory License: If required, issued by the Factory Department, Ministry of Industry.
  4. VAT Certificate (Phor Phor 20)
  5. VAT Filing (Phor Phor 30)
  6. Withholding Tax (Phor Ngor Dor 1)
  7. Social Security Payment Filing

Note: All documents must have the company seal stamped on every page and the true and authorized signature(s) of the Managing Director and/or Directors next to the seal.

Application Submission and Approval

  1. Submission: Submit the application to the Ministry of Labor (if in Bangkok) or the province’s Department of Employment or city hall (if outside Bangkok).
  2. Processing Time: Once submitted, the application review typically takes 5 to 10 business days.
  3. Receipt and Approval: Upon submission, you will receive a receipt with a return date for picking up your work permit book.

Collecting Your Work Permit

After the review period, the foreign applicant must personally visit the Labour Department office to collect the work permit booklet.

Work Permit Validity and Renewal

The work permit is generally valid for one year but may sometimes be issued for shorter periods such as six or three months. The duration can depend on various factors including the applicant’s nationality, the newness of the company, and the validity of the applicant’s passport. It is essential to renew the work permit as required to ensure the foreigner can legally work in Thailand.

Minimum Wage for Foreign Workers

For foreign workers in Thailand, minimum wages depend on nationality. Below is a table of minimum wages based on the region of origin, according to Annex A to Order No. 327/2557 of the Royal Thai Police Bureau, dated June 30, 2014.

Region/CountryMinimum Monthly Wage (in Baht)
Western Europe, Australia, Canada, Japan, USA50,000
South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong45,000
Eastern Europe, Asia, South and Central America, Mexico, Turkey, Russia, South Africa35,000
Africa, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam25,000
Minimum Wage for Foreigners in Thailand

Employment law and contracts in Thailand

Further Reading: For detailed information on employment law and contracts in Thailand, please see our comprehensive article:

 Employment contract in Thailand

If you have any questions about labor law in Thailand, please email me or use the form below.

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

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