Types of Thailand Visas and Work Permits
Thai regulations governing the entry and exit of foreign nationals are complex and strictly enforced. People intending to live or work in Thailand should check with the Thai embassy or consulate before departure to get the most up-to-date information. Those trying to enter without the proper documentation often have to leave the country, reapply for the correct papers, and then return. This process can be very time-consuming, costly, and – due to the language barrier – confusing. It also is prudent to arrive at the border looking sharp. As in most Asian countries, proper dress is very important, and hippie look-alikes are likely to be hassled at customs.
Citizens of Canada or the United States who will be in Thailand for a short stay may arrive in Thailand without a visa at all. As long as you have a confirmed date of departure by air from Thailand, you can stay for thirty days. To stay up to sixty days, a tourist visa is required. Apply from an embassy or consulate before you leave home. Tourist visas cost US$15 per entry, and the traveler may have up to three entries put on the visa. Canadians must enter Thailand within ninety days of issuance of the tourist visa, but U.S. citizens may take up to six months to enter the country. If within the thirty-day period (if you arrive without a visa) or the sixty days allowed under the tourist visa, you find employment, you can try to apply for a non-immigrant visa through the Immigration Division in Bangkok. This status conversion is given “at the discretion of the immigration officer,” and is by no means guaranteed. You may even find that you have to leave the country and wait a considerable amount of time as bureaucratic offices shuffle your papers around; therefore, when you go to the Immigration Office, it is important that you have a letter from your employer, the proper supporting documentation (your passport, two photos, completed application), and show proper humility and deference to all officials. Present yourself as a clean, well-dressed foreigner who really had no idea when you arrived that you would be so enchanted by Thailand that you would want to extend your stay to work. Be advised that this option is risky at best, and you will save yourself bureaucratic headache if you arrange for a non-immigrant visa from home before you leave.
Most people who plan on teaching English in Thailand must get a non-immigrant visa. You must enter Thailand within six months of issuance of this visa, which is good for a ninety-day stay in the country. You may apply for more than one entry, which means that if you apply for a three-entry visa, you could stay for up to nine months. You could use a multiple-entry non -immigrant visa in the following manner: stay in Thailand for eighty-nine days, take an overnight trip to Penang, an island off the northwest coast of Malaysia, then return to Thailand for another eighty-nine days. This process could be repeated a third time for a maximum stay of nine months. This process is somewhat of a hassle, but is the option often chosen by teachers. After three entries you cannot renew the visa without help from your employer or your embassy outside of Thailand. The cost for this type of visa is US$20 per entry.
There are three categories of non-immigrant visas: business, educational, and other. If are already hired by school before leaving North America, you may apply for the educational non-immigrant visa by obtaining a letter from your employer in Thailand. This letter should include an official statement of employment and a recommendation that you receive this kind of visa. When you arrive, your employer will usually help you with paperwork on extending the visa and getting a work permit. This procedure is a change from previous years, when it was very difficult to get work permits. The Thai government seems to want to know who is working there so that taxes can be collected, although few people actually pay them.
If you don’t know where you will work yet, you could apply for the “other” category of non-immigrant visas. People who obtain this category of visa are people who want to stay in Thailand longer than the sixty-day tourist visa allows. Generally these people are writing books, visiting family, studying culture or religion, getting married, or doing some other activity. One source’s recommendation is to be honest about why you want to stay in Thailand more than sixty days – you could even say that you are planning to teach English there and will change to an educational visa after you get a job. Multiple entries are possible in this category also.
All visa applications require two passport-size photos. If you overstay your visa, you can ask for help from the Department of Immigration, and you will have to pay a fine of US$4 per day. Extensions are at the discretion of the staff , so be patient and dress well. The department is located at the following address:
Soi Suan Phlu (off South Sathorn Road)
(02) 286-4230 or (02) 286-4231
Once you have an educational non-immigrant visa and a teaching job, you may apply for an official work permit. Your employer will apply on your behalf with the Department of Skill Development, Ministry of Interior. You will need your passport, information about your education and previous jobs, a medical certificate from a Thai hospital, and your employer’s business registration. There is a fee of US$40 per year. Applications outside of Bangkok may be made with the Provincial Labor Office in Bangkok at the following address:
Alien Occupational Control Division
Department of Skill Development
Mit Maitree Road, Phayathai
Bangkok, Thailand 10400
(02) 245-1702, (02) 2450-3700, (02) 245-2723, or (02) 245-3759
There is no set rule about which schools will help you extend your visas or get work permits. This is a question you should ask prospective employers; however, because of the Thai government’s change in policy, more schools are able and willing to ensure that their teachers can stay and work legally for a longer time. Keep in mind that work permits are valid only for the type of work listed in your application. Under Thai law, it is illegal for aliens to engage in many types of work, including retail, tour guiding, secretarial work, or fabrication of most types of crafts. Also keep in mind that all visitors who have earned money while in Thailand are required to pay income tax. If you have a work permit, you will be asked to show tax clearance when you leave the country. Tax returns are due by the end of March of the year following the year of employment. Contact your District Revenue Office or the Revenue Department in Bangkok for more information:
The Revenue Department