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Posts Tagged ‘Amity Company’

9th August 2018

In recent months, the rules upon which the regime for issuing and maintaining Thai work permits and visas have been undergoing some changes. However, the permanence of these changes remains to be seen and the practical implications of these changes are also open to speculation. Hopefully the following posting with provide some clarification with respect to where work permit and visa rules currently stand.

Work Permit Restrictions Appear to be Loosened

Since the promulgation of the Emergency decrees regarding work permits in Thailand analysts seem increasingly convinced that regulations regarding time, place, and manner of work in Thailand have loosened. In the past, Thai work permit regulations (and the enforcement agencies associated therewith) viewed the rules very strictly when it came to the specific locations where foreigners could undertake labor, the specific functions foreigners could perform, and the timing of when a foreign worker could begin working. For example, foreign temporary workers had to await issuance of a work permit book or temporary work document in order to begin working. Meanwhile, those issued with long term work permits were at one time restricted to performing their job only within the premises of the business acting as the work permit sponsor. Later, the geographic scope of labor endeavor was expanded to allow foreigners to undertake work throughout a specific province in Thailand. However, under any circumstances the foreign national with work authorization had to be circumspect in their endeavors as the work activities they undertook had to fall within the boundaries of the job description specified within the provisions of the work permit itself.

Pursuant to the provisions of the second emergency decree regarding the management of foreign workers in Thailand it appears that many of the restrictions regarding geographic scope of activity have been lifted. Meanwhile, the strict scrutiny of job functions appears to be a thing of the past as well (although a list of occupations restricted to Thai nationals is still in force so long as the activity in question is not specifically in violation of that list the foreign worker should be free from sanction). Furthermore, it appears that certain temporary workers who are brought into Thailand for a short period of time may be able to perform their function in a much more immediate manner compared to the past as, depending upon circumstances and subject to the aforementioned list of restricted activity, many workers may be able to immediately begin performing their functions.

The Return of the One Year Multiple Entry Visa?

It would seem that there is another possible change to Thai regulations regarding work authorization and business visas in Thailand. Apparently, regulations now stipulate that some of those working for a foreign company in Thailand (such as a Representative Office) are no longer required to obtain a work permit. This new exemption apparently only extends to Directors of such organizations. Furthermore, it appears that so-called Amity Treaty Companies (those corporations certified as American and therefore accorded protections pursuant to the US-Thai Treaty of Amity) are now subject to such exemption. Under such circumstances the directors of such companies are able to apply for a 1 year multiple entry visa from their country of origin. As of the time of this writing, this blogger has yet to personally deal with a matter arising under these new rule changes, but the creation of new immigration options is always noteworthy. It should be noted that these regulatory changes appear to be exclusive to Labor matters. Thai immigration regulations have not changed with respect to the rules regarding visa extension in the Kingdom. At the present time a work permit appears to still be required for those wishing to remain in the Kingdom long term via a Thai business visa extension application.

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20th September 2015

In a recent article in the Bangkok Post it was reported that the current government in Thailand is taking measures to foster growth for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand. It would appear that the present government is eager to provide encouragement for small and medium sized businesses in Thailand. Furthermore it seems as though Thai officials are attempting to position the country as a location of choice for small business start-ups within the greater framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). However, of particular interest to this blogger was the mention of possible rule changes with regard to Thai corporate regulations pertaining to Thai Company registration and the shareholdings thereof. To quote the aforementioned article directly:

Mr Pongpun said the authorities were improving regulations on the incorporation of private companies to allow the incorporation of a juristic person registered by only one person.

At present, corporations (also referred to as juristic persons) in Thailand must have a minimum of three (3) shareholders in order to incorporate under Thai law. It should be noted that prior to an amendment to Thai corporate law at approximately the turn of the century it was required that all companies registered in Thailand have a minimum of 7 shareholders in order to incorporate pursuant to Thai law. Many at the time felt that the 7 shareholders requirement was too cumbersome and for that reason the statutorily required number of shareholders was reduced to 3. Since then, there have been those who have noted their belief that allowing Thai corporate structures with only one shareholder would bring Thai corporate law more in line with similar bodies of law globally. For example, in many American jurisdictions Limited Liability Companies or LLCs are only required to have one member/shareholder, while similar Limited Company (Ltd.) structures are allowed in Britain and the Commonwealth nations and many European jurisdictions allow for similar corporate structures as well.

It remains to be seen whether Thai corporate law will be amended to allow for single shareholder corporations in Thailand. It is a good sign that such structures are being considered by Thai officials especially since such structures would be especially beneficial to small business owners in Thailand. Of special note to American readers, pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity it is possible for American Citizens to own 100% of an Amity company registered in Thailand. Should the aforementioned changes take place it could result in Americans being able to own their small business singularly without any Thai shareholders.

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16th August 2013

Recently, the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand visited the United States of America and was welcomed by the American Secretary of State. Some of the remarks made in a press conference may be notable to those interested in American foreign policy and the relationship between the United States and Thailand. To quote directly from remarks made by Secretary of State John Kerry in a recent State Department press release:

I want to thank our friends in Thailand, who represent the longest security relationship, the longest partner that we have in Asia – 180 years of a treaty relationship with Thailand. They are our partner in the largest multinational field exercise that takes place in the region.

The Treaty noted above is the Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations Between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States of America (sometimes colloquially referred to as the US-Thai Treaty of Amity). This Treaty could be viewed as an update of previous Treaty agreements made prior to the Amity Treaty’s ratification in 1966. The Treaty of Amity represents one of the best sources of legal protection for American Citizens and American Companies conducting business in Thailand as it provides “National Treatment” to American companies in Thailand. So long as American companies (or American owned Thai Companies) receive certification from the Thai Ministry of Commerce, they arre permitted to legally operate in Thailand notwithstanding the provisions of the Thai Foreign Business Act. There are some restrictions on the business activities which an Amity Company may undertake, but overall the Treaty is a significant boon to American businesses operating in Thailand.

The Treaty not only symbolizes strong Thai-American relations in the commercial sphere, it also is seen as a symbol of America’s long standing diplomatic and security relationship with the Kingdom of Thailand, as Secretary Kerry noted in the aforementioned quote. Thai Foreign Minister Dr. Surapong Tovichakchaikul also commented upon the close relationship between Thailand and the United States, citing a relatively recent visit to the Kingdom of Thailand by President Obama:

Last November, President Obama visited Thailand as his first stop in Southeast Asia after his reelection. His visit served to strengthen our strong partnership. My meeting with Secretary Kerry today will be a good chance to continue dialogue on our future partnership, especially as we mark 180 years of Thai-U.S. diplomatic relations this year.

Those wishing to read this press release in detail are encouraged to click HERE.

As the prospect of an integrated ASEAN Economic Community draws near, it stands to reason that the United States and Thailand will continue to maintain their close relations as Thailand will likely prove to be a significant participant in the pan-ASEAN economic bloc. This important role for Thailand within the ASEAN framework could also prove beneficial to American business in Thailand. Only time will tell.

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25th January 2011

The administration of this blog recently noticed an article from the Reuters news agency in which the Chief Executive Officer of General Electric was commenting upon the economic situation in China and how this impacts the relationship between the United States of America and Peoples’ Republic of China in both the economic and political spheres. To quote directly from the Reuters News Service:

(Reuters) – For Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric (GE.N), the 130 year-old American industrial behemoth, the financial crisis marked the end of the age of America’s economic dominance.

This blogger has noticed that there seems to be a level of pessimism regarding the American economy. Although it is currently going through economic turbulence, and has been for a while, the US economy, in this blogger’s opinion; remains one of best countries in the world for trade and economic activity. Those doing business in the USA may enjoy the benefits that come from the American financial, economic, and physical infrastructure. Hopefully, the optimism for which America has, in the past, been noted for will return once the economy returns to an “even keel”. Reuters continues:

But Mr. Immelt said the future will be different. For the next 25 years, he said, the American consumer “is not going to be the engine of global growth. It is going to be the billion people joining the middle class in Asia, it is going to be what the resource-rich countries do with their newfound wealth of high oil prices. That’s the game.”

A lot of that game will be played in China. At a moment when it is compulsory on the American right to pay homage to the exceptionalism of the United States, Mr. Immelt, a lifelong Republican, is matter-of-fact about China’s inevitable rise.

The interesting piece of information that this blogger noted in the aforementioned article was the fact that the G.E. CEO took notice of the fact that the middle class is growing rapidly in Asia. The thought of an Asian middle class numbering 1 billion or more is truly staggering when one takes into account the economic impact of such growth. As Asians in general become more affluent the side effects will likely be increased trade and economic activity as these newly minted members of the middle class use their new found wealth to make purchases of property, goods, and services (in Asia, the EU, UK, and the United States). The most poignant line of this Reuters article, in this blogger’s opinion was:

“It is going to be the biggest economy in the world,” Mr. Immelt said of China. “The only question is when.”

There is little doubt that China has an incredible capacity for growth and those looking international investment or business opportunities are well advised to research the Chinese market. That said, China does not represent the only country in Asia which has economic opportunities that are becoming more readily available to investors and entrepreneurs due to globalization. The Kingdom of Thailand, a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has investment opportunities in the form of Thai Property, Thai Real Estate, and Thai businesses. Furthermore, for Americans conducting business in Thailand can prove profitable especially since the US-Thai Treaty of Amity allows Americans to own virtually 100% of a Thai Company with Amity Treaty certification (sometimes referred to as an Amity Company).

Meanwhile, the landlocked country of Laos recently opened a Lao Securities Exchange in an effort to raise capital through equity investment. The Kingdom of Cambodia recently announced that a Cambodian Stock Exchange is to be unveiled in mid-2011 while recent reports have noted that Burmese officials hope to be in the process of creating a Myanmar Stock Exchange as well. Such developments remain to be fully realized, but such examples clearly indicate that Mainland China is not the only “game in town” when it comes to investment opportunities and economic growth in Asia.

For related information please see: US Company Registration.

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24th November 2009

Thailand is one of the major trading centers in Southeast Asia. As a result, many foreign nationals wish to conduct business in the Kingdom of Thailand. However, the Thailand Foreign Business Act precludes foreign ownership of Thai companies. Strictly speaking, foreign ownership is not technically illegal, but operating such a company for profit is against the law.

When we say, “foreign ownership,” we mean foreign majority ownership as foreign nationals are allowed to own a minority stake in a Thai company, up to forty-nine percent. If a Thai owns fifty-one percent of a company in Thailand, then that company is considered to be a “Thai Company.”

There are some who incorporate “Thai companies” that utilize so-called “nominee shareholders.” A nominee is one who owns shares in a Thai company on behalf of another. A nominee is not an “active shareholder,” in a company. Under current Thai corporate law nominee shareholders are illegal. However, defining what constitutes a “nominee shareholder,” can be difficult.

Thai law does provide for a way around the restrictions imposed by the Foreign Business Act. There are ways to license a Thai Company, with majority foreign ownership, to conduct business in Thailand.

On method of facilitating a foreign company to conduct business in Thailand is through a Foreign Business License. These documents can be difficult to obtain and the process for obtaining a Thai foreign business license can be very time consuming. Once granted the license will specify the exact nature of the business and the company will be precluded from conducting any other type of activity, unless another license is obtained.

Another method of facilitating foreign ownership of a Thai company is through the US-Thai Amity Treaty. As the name suggests, the US-Thai Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations is a bilateral agreement between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States of America. A company certified under the terms of the Treaty is given “national treatment,” allowing it to operate in the same way as a “Thai Company.” The major exception being that an Amity Treaty Company is precluded from owning real estate in Thailand. Other types of Thai property could be owned by an Amity Company, such as a Thai Condo. Also, the provisions of the Treaty grant the aforementioned benefits exclusively to United States Citizens. Therefore, this method of certification is not for everyone.

The Australia-Thai free trade agreement provides some special benefits to Australians in Thailand as Australian Citizen may be allowed to own a majority stake in certain types of Thai companies.

A final method of licensing a foreign company in Thailand is through the Board of Investment or BOI. A BOI company can receive special benefits in the form of rights to operate and some BOI companies can own land. That being said, BOI companies are very difficult to incorporate and require a great deal of legal expertise to set up. BOI Companies are generally not advisable for those thinking of establishing a small Thai business. For large enterprises, such a setup may be advisable due to the fact that a Thailand visa and/or work permit is generally easier to obtain for a BOI company.

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8th August 2009

The government of the Kingdom of Thailand has announced that they will be launching investigations into the buying of agricultural Thai real estate by foreign nationals in the Kingdom of Thailand.  Apparently there have been rumblings among the Thai farming community concerning an influx of foreigners buying land in Thailand in order to grow crops for eventual sale on the open market.

Many individuals are concerned that a foreigner will use a Thai company to own land and thereby circumvent the laws on the books regarding foreign real estate ownership. The Nation Newspaper in conjunction with ThaiVisa.com is reporting on the issue, to quote their article:

“Concerned Thai officials will continue monitoring whether foreigners have violated law on buying or renting farmland to engage in agriculture in the kingdom although initial investigation found that such a practice does not exist, Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said on Saturday…Farming as an occupation is reserved for Thais only and the probe was conducted following an outcry by some farmers that foreigners have bought numerous plots of farmland here and hired farmers to provide the labour.”

People moving to Thailand or wishing to live part time in the Kingdom should be aware of the somewhat xenophobic attitude of many Thai people when it comes to the subject of Thai property law. Regulations regarding Thai real estate reflect a negative attitude toward foreign ownership of Thai property. Many Thai people consider Thai property ownership to be a right that ought to be held in reserve for Thai citizens. That being said, there are exceptions to this general mood. Most Thai people do not see a problem allowing foreign nationals to own a Thai Condo in freehold. Further, obtaining a Yellow Tabien Baan (foreign house registration booklet) is becoming somewhat commonplace. However, this nonchalance does not extend to feelings regarding ownership of farm land and Thai government policy is a reflection of these feelings.

Evidence of this attitude can be found throughout the Thai foreign business act. A Thai company that is owned by a foreign national is specifically barred from engaging in business activities involving Thai farming. Even the US-Thai Treaty of Amity specifically precludes land ownership and agricultural activity. An Amity Treaty Company, although accorded preferential “national treatment,” is still subject to somewhat stringent regulation regarding Thai agriculture.

With the current global economy still in a somewhat less than optimal condition, it seems logical to assume that these restrictive measures will remain part of the law of the Kingdom of Thailand. It does not seem likely that the Thai government will allow foreigners to engage in farming activities in the near future.

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24th May 2009

The US-Thai Treaty of Amity is an agreement between the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States of America that provides benefits for Thai investors and businessmen in the USA and also provides economic benefits to Americans in Thailand. The most important benefit conferred by the Treaty of Amity is the right of Americans to form a Treaty of Amity Company. A Treaty of Amity Company is a corporate structure similar to a Thai limited company.

The major difference between a Thai limited company and an Amity Treaty company is the fact that an Amity Company can be one hundred percent owned by non-Thais provided the owners are American Citizens. Under Thai law there must be at least three shareholders, but one shareholder could virtually own the Amity Company outright by owning 99% of the shares in the company.  

The content written heretofore begs the question: why is American ownership such a big deal? For those unfamiliar with the Thai legal system, a statute known as the foreign business act stipulates that a Thai company must either be majority Thai owned or an application for a foreign business license will be necessary. Foreign business licenses are somewhat difficult to obtain. That being said, the Amity Treaty preceeds the Foreign Business act and its provisions supercede the foreign business act.

A major issue regarding the Treaty is the fact that it only applies to Americans. No other group of foreign nationals is accorded the same level of economic protection as that conferred upon Americans doing business in Thailand under the Thailand Treaty of Amity. As a result, many prospective business owners from nations other than the USA often ask if it is possible to utilize nominee American shareholders in a Thai company in order to meet the technical requirements of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity.

In theory, such a scenario was once possible. However, amendments to the foreign business act have made nominee shareholders expressly illegal. Also, the Foreign Business Office of Thailand has determined that only an American or a Thai is allowed to be the Managing Director of a company with protection under the US-Thai Amity Treaty.  The upshot of both of these rules is that, as a practical and legal matter, only Americans or Thais can own a majority position of a Thai company with Treaty benefits.

For more details about US-Thai Economic Relations please see: Amity Treaty Thailand

(Nothing herein is meant to act as in the place of competent legal advice from a licensed attorney. No Attorney-Client relationship shall be formed between the writer and any reader of this piece.)

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