In addition to obtaining a Non Immigrant B Visa, an expatriate who wants to work in Thailand is also obliged to obtain a Work Permit.  A foreigner cannot perform any act of work or service unless a work permit has been issued by The Department of Employment to the individual. 


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There are, however, 7 categories of foreigners who are exempted from the work permit requirement as follows:

1. Member of the diplomatic corps
2. Members of consular missions
3. Representatives and officials of the United Nations and its specialized agencies
4. Personal servants coming from abroad to work regularly for persons under 1,2,3 above
5. Persons who perform duties or missions in the Kingdom under an arrangement between the government of Thailand and a foreign government or an international organization
6. Persons who are permitted by the government of Thailand to enter and perform duties or missions in the Kingdom
7. Persons who perform duties or mission for the benefit of  education, culture, art sports or other activities as may be prescribed by Royal Decree


The term "Work" is defined very broadly as "working by exerting one's physical energy or employing one's knowledge, whether or not for wages or other benifits". Therefore, a foreign housewife doing volunteer or charity work would theoretically need a work permit. Technically, even people who come to Thailand to speak at a conference, for a consulting gig, or to take part in negotiations are required to get a work permit in accordance with Working of Alien Act B.E.2551 (2008.)

There are two validities of work permits:
1. With validity of 12 months, which is considered a standard case or
2. With validity of 24 months, which is obtainable in special cases for companies with BOI & IEAT Privileges

work permit

A Work Permit appears as a passport-sized booklet detailing where the individual is allowed to work, the Job  Function etc. If there are any changes in these particulars, contact your immigration service provider immediately. Working in a location or position not stated in the work permit is illegal.

Please note that there are 39 occupations reserved for Thais which are prohibited to foreigners. These include manual labor, work in agriculture, animal breeding, forestry, fishery and farm supervision, carpentry, shop assistance, accountancy, hair dressing, civil engineering, architectural work, dressmaking and clerical or secretarial work among others.

Penalties for working without work permit may include fines, imprisonment, as well as expulsion from the country.

By law foreigners are obliged to have their original work permit booklet available at the workplace in case of inspection by The Department of Employment. Theoretically a foreigner is not allowed to bring his/her original work permit outside Thailand (or for that matter outside the province where the person works).

Hence, it is strongly recommended to always carry a copy of the Work Permit page 2 - 3 plus the page indicating current validity of the work permit. For a minor fee you can go to a photo shop to have those pages copied and reduced to the size of a normal business card and laminated for protection.



Foreign Engineers who are delegated to maintain or repair techical equipment with a local company, an "ordinary " longer-term work permit may not be the best option. In these cases,the Alien Working Act allows foreigners doing " necessary and urgent work " for a 15 day period by notifying the Department of Employment rather than going through the two to three week process of getting a longer-term work permit .

Managers at large foreign firms, who wish to perform short term work f.inst. attend business meetings, conferences, exhibitions with a duration of 2 weeks or longer a Non Immigrant B visa is recommended (although many in practice enter Thailand as tourists). .


Article created: December2012


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