Thailand: Immigration And Employment Laws

Last Updated: 5 June 2001
Article by Piyanuj Ratprasatporn

Expatriate Relocation

Immigration Laws: An Overview

Immigration into the Kingdom of Thailand is governed by the Immigration Act of 1979 and is administered by the Immigration Bureau of the Royal Thai Police Department, Ministry of Interior. To visit or work in the Kingdom of Thailand, immigration requirements must be met.

The major immigration requirements are:

    1. Any foreigner wishing to enter Thailand, unless otherwise exempted, must obtain a proper visa from a Royal Thai Embassy or Thai Consulate prior to arrival in Thailand. A list of countries whose nationals require a visa upon arrival at the Bangkok (Don Muang), Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai airports is attached as Appendix 1.
    2. Nationals of countries who have agreements with Thailand to visit Thailand for not more than 30 days are not required to obtain a visa before entering the country. However, these individuals must obtain an entry stamp at the checkpoint of entry. See attached Appendix 2.

These lists of countries change periodically. The Immigration Bureau adds and removes countries as circumstances dictate. For a stay longer than 30 days, all foreigners must have a valid visa with the exception of nationals of South Korea, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, who are currently allowed to stay up to 90 days without a visa.

A visa authorizes entry into Thailand for a specified length of time depending upon the type of visa. The passport or substitute document will show the expiry date of authorized entry. The permissible duration of stay is always entered in the passport.

In Thailand, there are numerous visa categories issued under the Immigration Act. Each category is restricted to the purpose for which the visa has been issued. Foreigners are advised to strictly adhere to the rules governing each visa category.

Exits may only be legally made at designated immigration control points. The crossing of any border is an exit for immigration purposes, whether or not the exit point is controlled. Thus, forays into neighboring countries are deemed exits, legal or otherwise, and returning to Thailand from such trips is a new entry, requiring a proper visa or re-entry permit. A re-entry permit allows a foreigner to re-enter the country and use the time remaining in his/her visa. If a re-entry permit is not applied for, the visa will automatically be canceled although it has not expired. It is advisable to request a multiple visa if one expects to be frequently traveling out of Thailand. This allows him more than one entry into Thailand during his travels. If one leaves Thailand before his visa has expired and wants to return but does not have a re-entry permit, he must apply for another visa.

Expatriate Relocation

Visas: A foreigner wishing to work in Thailand must apply for a non-immigrant type "B" visa (business visa) from a Thai Embassy or Thai Consulate abroad prior to entering Thailand. Once he is in Thailand, his employer can apply for a one-year visa from the Immigration Bureau. When the application is approved, a one-year visa will be stamped in his passport. Dependents of the expatriate shall apply for a non-immigrant type "O" visa from a Thai Embassy or Consulate prior to entering Thailand. The visas of the following dependents may be extended to correspond with the expatriate's visa:

    • wife by legal marriage;
    • children under 20 years of age or not married or disabled;
    • parents.

A common law wife is not eligible as a marriage certificate is required to prove the marriage. If the expatriate is a woman, her husband (even by legal marriage) is not permitted to extend his visa based on his wife's visa, unless special consideration is given which is done on a case-by-case basis.

Even though children may be permitted to extend their visas based on the expatriate's, in practice, the officials require that children over 14 years of age apply for a one-year visa under the non-immigration type "ED" visa (education visa). A letter issued by the school they are attending will be required.

Parents may be permitted to extend their visas based on the expatriate's depending on necessity as well as the occupation, financial status and income of the expatriate. However, in practice, fathers over 55 years of age will be required to apply for a one-year visa under the retirement visa category.

All others such as domestic servants, brothers, sisters or even live-in partner are not permitted to extend their visas based on the expatriate's.

Work Permits: Most foreigners who intend to work in Thailand are subject to the Alien Employment Act of 1978. Under the Act, a foreigner cannot perform any act of work or service unless a work permit has been issued. The term "work" is defined very broadly, i.e. "working by exerting one's physical energy or employing one's knowledge, whether or not for wages or other benefits". Therefore, although a foreigner may have obtained a non-immigrant visa from a Thai Embassy or Consulate and is permitted to stay in Thailand according to the length of his/her visa, he/she is not allowed to work until a work permit has been issued. A work permit is good only for the particular job for which it was issued and within the geographic limits specified in the work permit.

A work permit is issued for the individual expatriate. The spouse of the expatriate is not allowed to work unless he/she has obtained a work permit individually.

Facilitating Agencies

The Board of Investment of Thailand: Under the Board of Investment Act 1997, the Board of Investment is empowered to grant permission to a promoted entity to bring into the Kingdom foreign expatriates who are skilled workers or experts, including spouses and dependents of the above persons, in such numbers and for such periods of time as the Board of Investment may deem appropriate even in excess of quotas or periods of time permitted to stay in the Kingdom as prescribed by the Immigration Act.

The Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand (IEAT): Under the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand Act 1979, the Board of Directors of IEAT is empowered to grant permission to industrial operators and commercial operators (for export) to bring into the Kingdom foreign expatriates who are skilled workers or experts, including their spouses and dependents, in such numbers and for such periods of time as the Board of Directors of IEAT may deem appropriate even in excess of such quotas or periods of time permitted to stay in the Kingdom as prescribed by the Immigration Act.

In addition to the above two government agencies, the Petroleum Committee also has the power to grant permission to companies undertaking petroleum operations in Thailand as concessionaires or as contractors who have firm contracts directly with concessionaires, to bring into the Kingdom foreign expatriates who are skilled workers or experts, including their spouses and dependents, in such numbers and for such periods of time as the Petroleum Committee may deem appropriate even in excess of such quotas or periods of time to stay in the Kingdom as prescribed by the Immigration Act.

General Business Immigration Visa

General Immigration Procedures

Current Procedure for Obtaining a Non-Immigrant Visa


Technological Impact

The Immigration officials have computerized listings of foreigners sentenced for criminal and narcotics offenses in Thailand. The Immigration Bureau plans to submit these lists to the Ministry of Interior with a proposal to blacklist these foreigners. Blacklisted foreigners will be banned from entering Thailand until their names are deleted from the list.

Records of arrival and departure of all foreigners are computerized and updated at the Central Immigration Bureau in Bangkok. In suspicious cases, the officials do use computer reading devices to check the genuineness of a passport and detect any alteration, e.g., change of photograph, change of personal information, falsification of immigration arrival or departure stamps or extension of stay, or fake passports made by unauthorized persons.

Appendix 1

List of Countries that Require a Visa upon Arrival at the
Don Muang, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai Airports

American Continent

Antigua & Barbuda
Republic of Bolivia
Republic of Chile
Republic of Colombia
Republic of Costa Rica
Dominican Republic
Republic of Ecuador
Republic of Guatemala
Republic of Haiti
Republic of Honduras
Republic of Panama
Republic of Paraguay
Republic of Peru
St. Christopher-Nevis
Saint Lucia
St. Vincent-Grenadines
Republic of Surinam
Republic of Trinidad & Tobago
Republic of Uruguay
Republic of Venezuela

Asian Continent

Kingdom of Bhutan
Republic of India
Republic of Maldives

Australian & the Pacific Continent

Republic of Kiribati
Republic of Nauru
Solomon Islands
Republic of Tonga

African Continent

Republic of Botswana
Republic of Burkina
Republic of Burundi
Republic of Cameroon
Republic of Cape Verde
Central African Republic
Republic of Chad
Equatorial Guinea
Republic of Gabon
Republic of Gambia
Republic of Guinea
Republic of Guinea-Bissau
Republic of Ivory Coast
Kingdom of Lesotho
Republic of Liberia
Republic of Malawi
Republic of Mali
Republic of Niger
Republic of Rwanda
Democratic Republic of Sao Tome & Principe
Republic of Seychelles
Republic of Sierra Leone
Democratic Republic of Somalia
Kingdom of Swaziland
United Republic of Tanzania
Republic of Togo
Republic of Uganda
Republic of Zaire
Republic of Zambia

European Continent

Principality of Andorra
Republic of Cyprus
Principality of Liechtenstein
Republic of Malta
Principality of Monaco
Republic of San Marino
Vatican City

Appendix 2

List of Countries Whose Citizens May Enter the Kingdom as Tourists for a
Maximum Period of 30 Days Without a Visa

Hong Kong
Korea (North)

Papua New Guinea
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland
United States of America
Western Samoa

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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