1. Requirements for Business Visa

Business visas ("non-immigrant-B-visas") are issued by Thai embassies and consulates abroad. They can be issued for a 90 days period or for one year.

a) Non-B visa 90 days (from Thai embassy abroad)

Regarding the application for a 90 days non-B-visa, most of embassies/consulates (particularly in the neighboring countries may request an approval letter (WT3 form) which is issued by the Labor Department in Thailand. As a major requirement for this approval letter, the Thai employer who is supporting the visa application should employ four Thai employees for each foreigner, however in our experience, it is possible to negotiate, and the number may be reduced to 1-2 Thai employees. Such employees must be registered at the Social Security Office in Thailand and present the proof of its payment.

In our experience, not all embassies/consulates require this approval letter, and it is worth contacting the embassy/consulate in advance to inquire about their policy (particularly in western countries).

b) Non-B visa one year (from Thai embassy abroad)

Business visas can also be issued by the Thai embassy/consulate for one year.

It should, however, be noted that even for the one-year visa, the permission to stay is only 90 days for each entry. This visa is suitable for foreigners who travel and leave Thailand frequently. In other cases, foreigners holding this type of visa do so-called "visa-runs".

A new application at the Thai embassy/consulate abroad required after the expiration of the visa (after one year).

The same applies here regarding the requirement of a WT3 form, which requires 1-2 Thai employees.

c) Non-B visa extension for one year (from Immigration Office in Thailand)

The Immigration Office in Thailand issues visa extensions for one year without the need of visa-runs ('Visa Extension").

For this kind of permission to stay, the employer must strictly comply with a ratio between foreign and Thai staff of one foreign national per four (4) permanent Thai staff. Based on our experience, there is no room to negotiate with the Immigration Office regarding the number of Thai employees. Salary of each Thai employee must not be lower than the minimum wage in accordance with the Wage Committee Announcement. This is currently calculated at least THB 9,750 per month for employment of each Thai staff in Bangkok. Otherwise, the Immigration Office shall refuse the application for the one-year visa extension.

The employment of Thai staff must be evidenced by presenting detailed documentation, including

  • Evidence of monthly social security payments;
  • Monthly withholding tax of the company;
  • Photographs of each Thai staff in the work place while working with the foreigner;
  • ID card of each Thai staff;
  • Financial statements of the employer (the company) of the preceding year
  • Corporate income tax return of the employer of the preceding year

The Thai staff must have been employed and appeared in the documentation since at least since three calendar months before the date of submitting the application. It is notable that bank statements are not required to be presented.

2. Requirements for Work Permit

Also, the work permit in Thailand requires the employer to employ Thai staff.

a) Regular work permit

The employing company must employ four (4) Thai employees for each work permit. Also here, in the first year of business after the registration of a new company, the Labor Department may allow a ratio of only 1-2 Thai employees per foreigner working in the company.

Such employees must be registered at the Social Security Office in Thailand. The proof of social security payment is required for the work permit application.

It should be noted that the Labour Department if it accepts the initial application with employment of only two Thai staff, it will follow up in the following year at the time of the work permit renewal, and then strictly require that the employer employs 4 Thai staff.

b) If married to a Thai spouse

If a foreign employee is married to a Thai citizen, he/she is then entitled to apply for a work permit under privileged conditions from the Department of Employment. For such work permit, only two (2) Thai staff need to be employed for this foreigner. The registered capital requirement shall be half reduced or at least 1 million THB for the foreign employee.

There is no requirement for a non-immigrant-B-visa in connection with such work permit; the non-immigrant-O-visa is sufficient.

3. Conclusion

Many of our clients who seek to reduce the number of staff on the payroll to the lowest amount possible, in particular newly set up companies. In this case, we recommend the following:

  1. Applying for a one-year non-B visa at a Thai embassy/consulate abroad. For this type of visa, depending on the policy of the embassy/consulate, Thai staff may not be required;
  2. For the work permit application, at least in the first year of business, it may be possible to negotiate a reduction of the required Thai staff from 4 to only 1-2 employees.

Once the business operation is well established, the amount of 4 Thai staff are then often feasible from an operational perspective, and the issue becomes less pressing.

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.