:: Legal Issues for Foreign Investors  : 2. Work Permits

The Alien Occupation Law, adopted in 1973, requires all aliens working in Thailand to obtain a Work Permit prior to starting work in the Kingdom. An updated version of the Act, adopted in 1978, describes the procedures for issuance and maintenance of Work Permits and lists certain occupations from which aliens may be excluded. 

A. Exemptions
The Act grants exemptions from the Work Permit requirement to persons occupying the following professions:

  • Members of the diplomatic corps 
  • Members of consular missions 
  • Representatives of member countries and officials of the United Nations and its specialized agencies 
  • Personal servants coming from abroad to work exclusively for persons listed under the above items 
  • Persons who perform duties on missions in the Kingdom under an agreement between the government of Thailand and a foreign government or international organization 
  • Persons who enter the Kingdom for the performance of any duty or mission for the benefit of education, culture, arts, or sports 
Persons who are specially permitted by the Government of Thailand to enter and perform any duty or mission in the Kingdom. 

B. Special Cases
While most aliens must apply for a Work Permit, and may not begin work until the Permit is issued, the Alien Employment Act does provide special treatment in the following circumstances: 

Urgent and Essential Work:
Exemption from Work Permit requirements is granted to aliens who enter the Kingdom temporarily, but in accordance with the immigration law, to perform any work of any "urgent and essential nature" for a period not exceeding 15 days. However, such aliens may engage in work only after a written notification on a prescribed form, signed by the alien and endorsed by his employer, has been submitted to and accepted by the Director-General or his designee. 

Aliens entitled to this treatment may enter Thailand with any kind of visa, including a transit visa. The term "urgent and essential work" is not explicitly defined and consequently, the issuance of this sort of exemption is a matter of administrative discretion. 

Investment Promotion
An alien seeking permission to work in the Kingdom under the Investment Promotion Law must submit his application for a Work Permit within 30 days of notification by the Board of Investment that his position has been approved. An alien in this category may engage in authorised work while the application is being processed. 

C. Procedures
The Act requires that any alien working in Thailand must obtain a Work Permit before beginning work. Section 8 of the Act stipulates that while a prospective employer may file an application on the alien's behalf in advance of his commencing work, the actual Work Permit will not be issued until the alien has entered Thailand in accordance with the immigration laws and has presented himself to receive his Work Permit. 

The Permit initially will be valid only for the period of the alien's Non-Immigrant visa permits him to remain in Thailand under the Immigration law. The Work Permit will be subject to renewal in accordance with the renewed or extended visa. For aliens who are holders of a Thai Certificate of Residence, the Work Permit can be renewed annually. The Labor Department, subject to subsequent renewal, will in principle grant an initial duration of one year for the Work Permit. A Work Permit must be renewed before its expiry date or it will automatically lapse. 

Applicants for Work Permits may not enter the Kingdom as tourists or transients.