Without a work permit you cannot work in Thailand. You cannot do any kind of work at all. You can own a business, but you cannot do any of the work. If you own a restaurant, for example, without a work permit you cannot take any orders, clean a table, or even refill a water glass. Without a work permit you cannot help a Thai friend with his business. You cannot even help him rearrange his shop, help him bring in any merchandise, or even provide transportation in your own vehicle to help him bring in items from his supplier. You also cannot do charity work or volunteer work without a work permit.
Thailand is highly restrictive about what foreigners can and cannot do regarding any form of work a Thai citizen could have done. If you have any questions or confusion about what you are allowed to do, inquire at your local Immigration office or consult a Thai attorney before engaging in an activity that could be construed as work. If you are caught working without a work permit, you are subject to arrest, heavy fines, and even prison terms and deportation.
You are eligible for a work permit only if the work you intend to do is work that otherwise would not or could not normally be conducted by a Thai citizen. If you are hired by a company or as a teacher, the company or school usually handles most of the details involved in obtaining your work permit and often pays the fees. However, do not let them convince you to begin working until you actually hold the work permit. Having an application in process does not allow you to begin working.
Many foreigners try to earn extra income by means of offering private language lessons. Again, you are not allowed to do so without a work permit.
You must hold a non-immigrant visa in order to be eligible for a work permit. The application process can be long and complicated. If the company your work for does not assist you in the application process, or if you are to be self-employed, then it is best to seek the assistance of a Thai attorney. Regulations involving work permits tend to change periodically, which also makes it a good idea to have a Thai attorney involved.
The fee for a work permit is variable, depending on the length of time the permit is to be valid. The fees normally range from 750 baht to 3000 baht.
Once you have your work permit, you must meet several additional requirements:
The permit must either be on your person or available in your place of work. Failure to have it with you when working is a 1000 baht fine.
You can only do the work set forth on the work permit. You cannot do any other kind of work and you cannot change the location of your work place. Violations can result in a 2000 baht fine and/or 1 month imprisonment.
The work permit will have an expiration date. You must obtain a renewal prior to the expiration date. If you work beyond the expiration date without new approval, the fine is 5000 baht and/or 3 month imprisonment.
If your work permit is lost, stolen, or damaged, you must report and apply for a replacement within 15 days. Failure to do so is a 500 baht fine.
If you resign or are fired, you must return the work permit to the Thai authorities within 7 days. Failure to do so is a 500 baht fine.
You must report any address or contact changes, such as a telephone number change.
The work permit automatically expires on the date your current visa expires, regardless of the expiration date of the work permit. If you renew your visa, then the permit will expire on its own expiration date, provided that date comes before you visa renewal expires.
It all seems very rigid and complicated. In reality it is not as complicated as it may seem. A great many foreigners hold work permits, but Thailand is strict about violations once you hold the work permit. If you make sure you understand and follow the requirements you will not have any problems and will be able to work in Thailand.
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