Registration, Work Permits
Any entity wishing to do business in Thailand must register with the Department of Business Development at the Ministry of Commerce. Firms engaging in production activities need to register with the Ministries of Industry and Labor and Social Welfare. If the entity falls under the definition of non-Thai national as defined by the Foreign Business Act, they have to obtain a 'foreign business license' (or a certificate for U.S. investors as mentioned above), which must be approved by the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) or Director-General of Department of Business Development at the Ministry of Commerce depending on types of restricted businesses.
U.S. citizens can enter Thailand without a visa for visits of up to thirty days. In order to apply for a work permit, a foreigner must enter Thailand on a non-immigrant visa (issued at Thai embassies and consulates) for a stay of three months or, for foreigners with well-defined work or business plans, for a stay of one year. Issuance of the three-month visa usually is completed within two or three days; the one-year visa requires approval from the Immigration Bureau of the Royal Thai Police in Bangkok. Upon obtaining a work permit, a holder of a three-month visa may apply for a one-year visa, which generally can be extended every year. Foreigners holding non-immigrant visas who have lived in Thailand for at least three consecutive years may apply for permanent residence in Thailand if they meet strict criteria regarding investment or professional skills.
Many occupations are reserved exclusively for Thai nationals, including professional services such as accounting, architecture, law, and engineering. The 2008 Alien Occupation Act, which lists these prohibited occupations, also states that all non-Thai persons working in Thailand must possess a work permit issued by the Ministry of Labor. Some foreigners already working in Thailand are exempt through a "grandfather" clause. Factors that influence the granting of work permits include the degree of specialization required by the position; the size of the firm in terms of number of employees and registered capitalization; and the ratio of Thai nationals to foreigners employed by the firm.
Foreigners working for the Thai government or working on projects promoted by the Board of Investment (BOI) usually have little difficulty obtaining work permits and typically receive their permits within seven days of application. The duration of the work permit is generally tied to the length of stay permitted by the person's visa. Government policy creates a preference for Thai nationals in the hiring of government consultants, although the government continues to hire foreign consultants. Work permits in other areas are sometimes difficult to obtain, despite the fact that senior manager and technical personnel are in short supply.