What are the main work and business permit categories used by companies to transfer skilled staff?
To enable the transfer of skilled staff to Thailand, one of the following types of visa is required:
- 90-day non-immigrant visa to conduct business or work;
- one-year non-immigrant visa to conduct business or work; or
- three-year non-immigrant visa to conduct business.
A non-immigrant visa grants the holder permission to enter and stay in Thailand for a limited period of time and is for business purposes only. If the foreign traveller wishes to work in Thailand, he or she must also obtain a work permit.Procedures
What are the procedures for obtaining these permissions? At what stage can work begin?
Any employer who wishes to employ a foreign worker must apply for a letter of approval from the Thai Ministry of Labour, prior to the foreign worker’s arrival in Thailand. Upon the employer’s receipt of such letter of approval, the foreign worker must apply for a non-immigrant visa at the relevant Thai embassy or Consulate-General in the country where such foreign worker resides. The foreign worker will initially receive a 90-day non-immigrant visa for the purpose of coming to Thailand and applying for a work permit. The work permit application must be completed within 90 days, according to the period granted by the non-immigrant visa. The period of permission to work will be in accordance with the period granted under the non-immigrant visa. The foreign worker whose application for a work permit is granted will be required to collect the work permit within 30 days.
If the foreign worker wishes to extend the period of permission to work, he or she must apply for a one-year non-immigrant visa. After this is granted, an application can then be submitted to extend the work permit to enable the foreign worker to work for one year, according to the one-year non-immigrant visa. The foreign worker may only commence work after the work permit is obtained. However, if the foreign worker requires permission to work under Thailand’s investment promotion laws, he or she may engage in authorised work while the application is being processed.Period of stay
What are the general maximum (and minimum) periods of stay granted under the main categories for company transfers?
There is no minimum period of stay for transferred foreign workers. The maximum period of stay for each entry of each foreign worker must not exceed 90 days consecutively. If the foreign worker is granted a one-year non-immigrant visa, he or she may stay in Thailand for more than 90 days consecutively; however, he or she is still required to report his or her current address to the local immigration office every 90 days.
Alternatively, the foreign worker may opt to leave Thailand and then re-enter, upon which the 90-day period of stay is recounted. If the non-immigrant visa does not permit multiple entries into Thailand, then leaving and re-entering Thailand will require a re-entry permit, otherwise, the non-immigrant visa will expire immediately upon such foreign worker leaving the country.Processing time
How long does it typically take to process the main categories?
The whole process of applying for a 90-day non-immigrant visa and temporary work permit takes approximately 10 to 15 days. It takes another 30 days or so to apply for an extension of stay and work permit, depending on the relevant official’s workload. Work permit issuance does not exceed 15 working days after a completed application and supporting documents have been received by the authority.Staff benefits
Is it necessary to obtain any benefits or facilities for staff to secure a work permit?
No. There is no requirement under Thai immigration or foreign employment law to provide any benefits or facilities to transferred staff to secure a work permit. Whether or not to extend such benefits and facilities depends on each company’s internal policies and procedures. Each employer is, however, required to provide transferred staff with the minimum benefits and welfare specified under other applicable laws, such as the labour protection law.Assessment criteria
Do the immigration authorities follow objective criteria, or do they exercise discretion according to subjective criteria?
Thai immigration authorities follow objective criteria that are specified under immigration law. However, in certain complicated cases, they do have the right to exercise sole discretion. For example, if they ask specific questions of an applicant, then they may request additional documentation for the purposes of verification.
While the immigration authorities do have the right to exercise sole discretion and apply certain subjective criteria, such discretion must always be used in the interests of national security or in consideration of either employment opportunities for Thais or demand for foreign labour as necessary for the development of the country.High net worth individuals and investors
Is there a special route for high net worth individuals or investors?
Yes. Foreign investors meeting certain criteria have access to a special ‘one-stop service’ route when applying for a visa and work permit. General investors whose office or work is located in Bangkok and who invest a minimum of 2 million baht may receive approval for one year. Foreign investors investing a minimum of 10 million baht may receive approval for two years. Foreign executives or experts working for a company with a registered capital or total assets of a minimum of 30 million baht may also have access to the one-stop service route, for which the entire application process takes just three hours to complete.
Is there a special route (including fast track) for high net worth individuals for a residence permission route into your jurisdiction?
Yes. Thai immigration law provides annual quotas for foreign nationals taking up residency in Thailand, which shall not exceed 100 persons from each country per year. However, if a foreign national transfers a minimum of 10 million baht in a foreign currency for the purpose of investment in Thailand, he or she may be permitted to take up residence in Thailand regardless of the provided annual quota.Highly skilled individuals
Is there a special route for highly skilled individuals?
Yes. Similar to high net worth individuals and investors, if a highly skilled foreign national meets any of the following criteria, he or she has access to a special one-stop service route when applying for a work permit or extension of visa:
- foreign executives or experts obtaining privileges under the Investment Promotion Act 1977, the Petroleum Act 1971 or the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand Act 1979;
- researchers and developers in the fields of science and technology;
- officials of branch offices of overseas banks, foreign banking offices of overseas banks, provincial foreign banking offices of overseas banks or representative offices of foreign banks certified by the Bank of Thailand; or
- foreign nationals working for a branch of an overseas enterprise.
Any foreign national who satisfies the above criteria is able to apply for a work permit or extension of visa at a one-stop service centre, for which the entire process takes just three hours to complete.
In addition, in 2018, the Thai government launched the SMART Visa programme, which allows foreigners and their dependants to stay and work in Thailand on special conditions. The following foreigners are qualified to obtain a SMART visa subject to the specific qualifications prescribed by the BOI:
- talented or highly skilled experts;
- senior executives;
- investors; and
- start-up individuals.
Qualifications are verified by designated agencies or government entities. Individuals who are granted a SMART visa are not required to apply for a work permit to work in the endorsed positions or companies.Ancestry and descent
Is there a special route for foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?
Is there a minimum salary requirement for the main categories for company transfers?
Yes. This depends on the nationality and the country of origin of the transferred foreign national. The specified minimum salaries of each nationality and country of origin are as follows:
- 50,000 baht per month for foreign nationals from Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan and the United States;
- 45,000 baht per month for foreign nationals from Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan;
- 35,000 baht per month for foreign nationals from Asian countries (except Cambodia, Hong Kong, Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam), Central America, Eastern Europe, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and South America; and
- 25,000 baht per month for foreign nationals from all African countries (except South Africa), Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Is there a quota system or resident labour market test?
Under Thai law, work permit issuance must always be in the interests of national security or in consideration of either employment opportunities for Thais or demand for foreign labour as necessary for the development of the country. To meet such criteria, the law specifies qualifications for both foreign nationals and persons who wish to have foreign nationals work in Thailand, which the authorities must always follow when considering work permit issuance.
Generally, the law prohibits foreign nationals from engaging in occupations reserved for Thai people. Any company that wishes to hire a foreign worker must have a paid-up registered capital of a minimum of 2 million baht in the case of a Thai-registered company, or, in the case of a foreign company operating a business in Thailand, inject funds into Thailand of not less than 3 million baht, and maintain a minimum ratio of four Thais for every foreign worker.
For Thai companies, an additional foreign worker may be hired for every capital increase of 2 million baht, subject always to the condition that the minimum ratio of Thais to foreign workers is met. In every case, the reason for not hiring a Thai person must be specified.
However, in certain cases, exemptions apply that allow employers to hire foreign workers as appropriate and necessary. For instance, foreign workers may be hired for a special project to perform work that requires specific expertise, which has an exact end date. In addition, if an employer has been granted an investment certificate under investment promotion law, then such employer may enjoy the privilege of hiring foreign employees at a ratio greater than the 4:1 minimum of Thais to foreigners.Shortage occupations
Is there a special route for shortage occupations?
No.Other eligibility requirements
Are there any other main eligibility requirements to qualify for work permission in your jurisdiction?
There are no other main eligibility requirements to qualify for permission to work in Thailand. However, the foreign national must still demonstrate the knowledge and skills that are required to perform the work stated in his or her work permit application. Copies of educational certificates (or determination forms duly filled out, if there are no educational certificates), as well as copies of professional or occupational licences (if the work is prescribed by law), must be submitted together with the foreign national’s work permit application.Third-party contractors
What is the process for third-party contractors to obtain work permission?
There is no process for any third-party contractor to obtain work permission on behalf of another company in Thailand. The foreign national is only permitted to perform work at the location specified on his or her work permit.Recognition of foreign qualifications
Is an equivalency assessment or recognition of skills and qualifications required to obtain immigration permission?
The foreign national must possess the requisite knowledge and skills to perform the work stated in his or her work permit application. Such foreign national is required to submit his or her educational certificates and professional or occupational licences (if any) as evidence. An equivalency assessment is not required.