Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Amity Treaty Company’

11th July 2016

In a previous posting on this blog the issue of single person incorporation of Thai companies was discussed. Back in September of 2015 it was revealed that the officials with government offices such as the Ministry of Commerce and the Department of Business Development were reviewing the possibility of amending the existing corporate laws in Thailand so as to allow an incorporated entity such as a limited company to be owned by one individual person. This would be similar to legislation in countries such as the United States which allows individuals, acting alone, to set up structures such as limited liability companies on their own.

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that some new developments have taken place with regard to this topic. To quote directly from the website of The Nation Newspaper:

THE Business Development Department has reviewed a new draft law and added in the document that a foreign individual cannot register a business in the Kingdom. The move aims to prevent |foreign enterprises from competing against Thais in many businesses that should be preserved for Thais. The original draft, known as “one person, one company,” states only that a single person can register a business in Thailand.

As readers of this blog and website may be aware there are many provisions enshrined in Thai law designed to protect Thai enterprises from foreign competition in Thailand. Most notable is the Foreign Business Act which specifically designates the type of business activities which are restricted to foreign nationals. As the website of Coconuts Bangkok noted:

This addition to the draft is designed to keep foreign businesses from competing against Thai companies in the long list of industries that the government has deemed reserved for Thai nationals only.

The aforementioned list of industries is detailed in the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. Currently, Thai law requires that a limited company have at least 3 shareholders in order to be registered pursuant to Thai law. This proposed law would change those provisions. It appears that Thailand would be the third country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to adopt this type of change while Malaysia is apparently reviewing similar legislation.

The final draft of this proposed law remains to be seen, but it seems logical to assume that easing of corporate regulation of Thai company structures will result in increased business activity.

It should be noted that pursuant to the terms of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity, it is possible for American citizens to own virtually 100% of their companies in Thailand notwithstanding the provisions of the Foreign Business Act. It remains to be seen how these changes to the law will impact the registration of so called Amity Treaty Companies.

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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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1st September 2013

Many people living in Thailand establish corporate entities in order to conduct business in the Kingdom. This is no different for foreign nationals wishing to do business in Thailand. In the past, it was relatively easy for foreign nationals to set-up a Thai company. However, over the years the rules regarding corporate formation have grown increasingly complex as the business environment has evolved. At the same time, Thai officials have implemented policies which foster foreign investment (most notably recent regulations which have decreased the Thai corporate tax rate from 23% to 20%). All of these issues gain a new complexion when one considers the fact that as Thai laws regarding corporations have developed so too have the agreements creating the infrastructure which underlies the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In the past, Thai authorities did not, in general, heavily scrutinize Thai companies with all Thai shareholders, even such entities having a foreign director. In fact, there was a time when simply maintaining a majority of Thai shareholders provided a degree of protection against substantial official examination. Thai partnerships (both limited and ordinary) were also somewhat immune from significant governmental oversight even where a foreign partner controlled a stake the firm. However, it should be noted that pursuant to the provisions of the Thai Foreign Business Act virtually all Thai business entities with a foreign majority ownership structure have been required to obtain either a Foreign Business License, a Treaty Certificate pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity, or some other form of documentation showing either licensure from the Ministry of Commerce pursuant to Thai law or exemption based upon a Free Trade Agreement.

As of January 2013, a new policy regarding newly established Thai companies came into effect. Thai companies with any foreign directors must now prove that the registered capital has been paid into the company by the relevant shareholders. This is even the case where the company is wholly owned by Thai nationals. Furthermore, where a foreign national maintains 50% (or more) interest in a Thai partnership evidence must be provided showing paid up capital in the enterprise. Registered capital has always been an issue for Thai authorities, but it would now appear that the rules regarding registered capital will be applied more stringently especially where there is a foreign director or partner involved in the Thai company or partnership.

As the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is set to come into existence in 2015 and based upon the fact that Thailand has signed various international agreements pertaining to international trade and foreign direct investment there are some who argue that the time is quickly coming when Thai regulation of foreign run businesses will be liberalized. Until that time comes, the rules imposed upon foreigners setting up businesses in Thailand are likely to be more strictly enforced compared to times past.

For related information please see: Thailand Business Registration.

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30th July 2013

In a previous posting on this blog regarding partnerships in Thailand, Thai Ordinary Partnerships and Thai Registered Ordinary Partnerships were discussed. There is another type of partnership structure in Thailand which may be more familiar to those from Western countries: the Thai Limited Partnership. Limited Partnerships have been a method of structuring an enterprise in jurisdictions such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth nations for quite some time. Meanwhile, jurisdictions in the Eurpoean Union allow for similar structures. Thailand was a relatively late jurisdiction when it came to allowing for use of such structures, but now it may be possible for promoters of a business to form this type of partnership.

A Thailand limited partnership generally consists of, at a minimum, at least one Managing Partner who manages the business and at least one Limited Partner. Depending upon the unique circumstances of a given business enterprise there could be one or more managing partners and one or more limited partners. Although managing partners are personally liable for partnership debts, limited partners are not persoally liable for partnership debts and are only personally liable for the their capital contributions, especially if said contributions have been removed, in whole or in part, or if said contributions were never submitted. It should be noted that limited partners may lose some degree of their limited liability if the limited partner engages in the managment of the partnership or allows his or her name to be used in the Limited Partnership’s legal name. Limited Partnerships in Thailand must register their partnership agreement with the Ministry of Commerce in the same manner as a Registered Ordinary Partnership. As a general rule, Limited Partnerships are taxed in much the same manner as Registered Ordinary Partnerships.

Limited Partnerships which include a foreign national may be subject to the provisions stipulated in the Foreign Business Act. Therefore, where a foreign national owns a majority interest in a Thai Limited Partnership the Partnership may need to apply for a Thai Foreign Business License. However, American Citizens wishing to structure a limited partnership in Thailand may be eligible to obtain an Amity Treaty Certificate for the partnership pursuant to the terms of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. If a foreign national owns simply a minority interest in a Thai limited partnership as a limited partner, then the partnership may not be required to obtain a foreign business license. However, the foreign national would not be able to manage the limited partnership.

Limited partnerships are able to be converted into limited companies so long as such conversion complies with relevant Thai corporate law.

For information regarding Thai Limited Companies please see: Company Registration Thailand.

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3rd April 2011

While surfing the internet recently this blogger came upon a very interesting posting on the ILW website which discussed the issue of naturalization in the United States and how the naturalization process operates when a prospective United States Citizen who may seek naturalization remains outside of the United States while working for an American company with offices abroad.  To quote directly from an article written by Attorney Cyrus D. Mehta on the website ILW.com:

It is not uncommon for a permanent resident to receive a plum posting for an American corporation overseas or for its subsidiary. This is a frequent occurrence these days in a globalized world, and especially when jobs have become more scarce in the US since the economic downturn. While such an assignment may provide a great boost to the permanent resident’s career, he or she may still wish to preserve the ability to naturalize, but the overseas posting presents a challenge since it may be difficult to maintain continuous residence. One of the key requirements for applying for US citizenship under INA § 316(a) is the need to be physically present for half the time in the US during the qualifying period, which may either be five or three years (if one is married to a US citizen) and to have also resided continuously during this period. The challenges of maintaining residence while on an overseas assignment were addressed in a prior blog, Naturalizing In A Flat World, http://cyrusmehta.blogspot.com/2010/07/naturalizing-in-flat-world.html.

Those reading this blog are well advised to click on the hyperlinks above to read the above cited article in its entirety as the article is very insightful.

Those who are unfamiliar with the overall immigration process should note that visas such as the CR-1 visa and the IR-1 visa (utilized by the immigrant spouses of American Citizens) can place the visa holder on something of a “path to Citizenship”. That being stated, the CR-1 visa only provides the visa holder with conditional lawful permanent residence upon entry as such visas are issued to couples who have been married for less than 2 years at the time of admission to the USA. Meanwhile, the IR-1 visa provides unconditional lawful permanent residence upon admission to the USA and is issued to spouses of American Citizens who have been married for 2 years or more. After remaining in permanent resident status in the USA for 3 years, and maintaining the requisite physical presence required under relevant US law, a permanent resident, married to an American, can file for naturalization to United States Citizenship.

This issue also relates to the K-1 visa (a non-immigrant US fiance visa) because those who enter the United States in K-1 status, get married, and apply for adjustment of status may begin accruing time toward eventual naturalization as soon as the adjustment of status petition is approved. Once an adjustment is approved for a K-1 visa holder, then that individual essentially becomes a CR-1 visa holder with Lawful Permanent Residence. Therefore, the K-1 holder, now permanent resident, must still apply for a lift of conditions before being granted unconditional lawful permanent residence which must precede an eventual naturalization application.

As noted in the article cited above, there may be some US permanent residents who can accrue time toward naturalization while not actually physically in the United States if such an endeavor fits within some of the exceptions present within the statutory framework of relevant US Immigration law. American companies with offices abroad may fit the statutory exception scheme for naturalization notwithstanding foreign residence. However, the unique facts in any case require that those truly interested in this issue must either conduct their own thorough research or retain the assistance of an American attorney as this issue can be highly complex.

Many American companies operating out of the Kingdom of Thailand opt to conduct their affairs pursuant to the privileges accorded to Americans and American companies under the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. So-called “Treaty of Amity Companies” may allow for an American individual or company to own virtually 100% of a Thai enterprise conducting business in Thailand. Amity certification allows American businesses to operate with “National Treatment” and thereby circumvent some of the restrictions placed upon foreign business enterprises pursuant to other relevant Thai law. That said, Amity Treaty certification may not, in and of itself, mean that one working for such a company can accrue time toward naturalization while abroad as such issues are likely best analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

For related information please see: Thai Company or US Company Registration.

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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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26th September 2010

Those who track this blog may have noticed that there has been an increase in political activities which have disrupted the otherwise calm political and economic environment in the Kingdom of Thailand. There are many who feel that these disruptions are only temporary and will not prove detrimental over the long term. In the short term, individuals and businesses in Thailand are analyzing some new risks which have manifested themselves over the past 9-12 months. To quote directly from Westlawbusiness.com:

Several companies have recently disclosed risks arising from the political turmoil in Thailand. For example, Priceline.com, an online hotel auctioneer, recently disclosed that “civil unrest in Thailand, a key market for our Agoda business and the Asian business of Booking.com. This may result in “significant year-over-year declines in booking volumes in this market….Thailand has experienced disruptive civil unrest in prior years as well and continued or future civil or political unrest could further disrupt Agoda’s Thailand-based business and operations.”

Communication cable manufacturer General Cable is also reporting that it is subject to business risk arising from unrest in Thailand. The copper, aluminum, and fiber optic wire and cable products provider recently disclosed that its “business is subject to the economic, political and other risks of maintaining facilities and selling products in foreign countries. . . Thailand recently experienced significant political and militant unrest in certain provinces. The country’s elected government was overthrown in September 2006, with an elected government only recently restored.” [emphasis in original]

Political turmoil can have substantial unforeseen consequences for some businesses and business models operating throughout Asia. This is why retaining the assistance of local legal counsel can be advantageous for multinational corporations as professionals with on-the-ground knowledge of local business customs and practices can guide clients away from unforeseen legal, and in some cases; business, risks.

There are many, this author included, who feel that the current political turbulence in Thailand is simply a “bump in the road” eventually leading to overall tranquility and economic prosperity in the Kingdom of Thailand as well as the South East Asia region. Bearing that in mind, those wishing to establish a business or corporate presence in Thailand are well advised to conduct research and due diligence before making irrevocable business decisions as  maintaining a corporate presence in Bangkok, or the emerging markets in Cambodia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Malaysia, and Vietnam can be fraught with unforeseen legal and business issues which may not arise in jurisdictions such as the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, or Canada.

Many wishing to do business in Thailand opt to do so under a Thai Limited Company as this type of juristic person provides a measure of limited liability. Limited Liability is often one of the first methods employed by those wishing to hedge against unforeseen future business risks. American businesses may also enjoy many benefits pursuant to the language of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. Regardless of the type of corporate structure, any foreigner wishing to work in the Kingdom of Thailand must obtain a Thai work permit prior to taking up employment pursuant to Thai labor law.

For related information please see: Bangkok Lawyer or Amity Treaty Company.

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14th February 2010

The Treaty of Amity between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand (US-Thai Treaty of Amity) allows American Citizens to own virtually one hundred percent of a Thai company. This can prove highly beneficial to American expatriates in Thailand who wish to conduct business. That being said, there are restrictions to the types of activity that an Amity Treaty Company can undertake. Most notable amongst the restricted activities are: land ownership, internal communications, internal transportation, fiduciary functions, and the liberal professions.

Under Thai law, there is a de facto prohibition placed upon foreigners when it comes to land ownership. This means that foreign nationals are not permitted to take freehold title to Thai property without first obtaining permission from the Thai Minister of the Interior. This prohibition is not all-encompassing as foreign nationals are permitted to take freehold title to Thai condominiums. However, the condominium complex must comport to the relevant provisions of the Thai Condominium Act. Most notable among the requirements in the Thai Condominium Act is the provision that a Thai condo complex must be primarily owned by Thai nationals, meaning that 51% of the Condo units must be owned by Thais while 49% percent of the units may be owned by foreigners.

In many cases, a condominium complex is owned by a company in Thailand. Some opt to own a condo in this way in order to make selling the condominium easier, while others initially purchase the condo indirectly through a corporate entity. In either case, the practice is technically legal. Although, use of so-called “nominee shareholders,” is illegal in Thailand and Thai authorities are increasingly on the lookout for corporate structures utilizing nominees. That being said, the definition of “nominee” is somewhat vague.

This leads us back to the issue of Amity Treaty Companies. Amity Companies are specifically precluded from ownership of Thai real estate pursuant to the provisions of the Treaty of Amity, while the Thai Condominium Act allows foreigners to own a Condominium outright. This begs the question: can an Amity Treaty Company own a Thai Condo in the same manner as a foreign natural person could? This author has not adequately settled this question in his own mind and welcomes any comments regarding this issue. The provisions of the Treaty of Amity preclude land ownership and although many believe that Condo ownership is simply ownership of a unit, the Chanote does pass title to an interest in the underlying land, so there would seem to be a compelling argument that a condo owner is something of a landowner and, if so, this practice would likely be precluded under the provisions of the Amity Treaty.

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24th December 2009

Many people in Thailand, both foreign and Thai, choose to incorporate Thai businesses. Thailand is one of Southeast Asia’s major trading locales and as a result many individuals and business concerns need a corporate presence in the Kingdom of Thailand. In many cases, companies are incorporated with substantially similar articles of incorporation. That being said, some companies opt to incorporate with unique provisions regarding different types of shareholder rights in the corporate charter. These different types of rights can have a major impact upon the running of the business because these rights can have a collateral impact upon employee compensation, shareholder vote tabulation, and banking issues. Therefore, an understanding of share classification can be helpful to those who are thinking of incorporating a Thai company.

In the articles of association (also known as articles of incorporation) of a Thai limited company, one could denote the rights associated with different share classifications. Therefore, some shares could simply hold an equity interest in the company while not having any voting rights at shareholder meetings. Other types of shares could hold little or no equity in the company, but maintain voting rights regarding the Directors of the company. If a company owns Thai property, there could be specific shares that have certain rights in relation to the Thai property concerned. For example, a Thai company that owns Thai real estate could place special rights in the hands of certain shareholders with regard to said real estate. If a Thai company owns a Thai Condo, then share classification could be used to delineate the rights of individuals with regard to the Condo premises.

For those who are interested in Thai limited companies certified under the US-Thai Amity Treaty, these same principals could apply to an Amity Company. One shareholder could retain a sizable equity holding while another holds certain voting rights. The same could be said about a Thai limited company that has obtained a Foreign Business License. A company such as this could incorporate special shareholder rights in the provisions of the articles of association or incorporation.

These issues bleed into the realm of Thai Immigration because the shareholder in a Thai company could apply for a Thai business visa. The basis for such an application could be an impending shareholder’s meeting that the foreign national must attend. The approval of such an application would depend upon the Thai Embassy or Consulate concerned. If present in the Kingdom on another type of visa, an O visa, for example, it may be possible for the shareholder to attend a meeting in order to vote his or her shares.

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14th December 2009

Thailand has become a major epicenter of trade in Southeast Asia. The Kingdom also remains one of the most important trading partners of the United States of America, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. Many businesspeople who do business in Thailand must deal with restrictions imposed upon foreigners under the Thai Foreign Business Act. American Citizens enjoy some benefits under the provisions of the US-Thai Amity Treaty. This Treaty was promulgated in the mid-60′s. In Thailand, Treaties are considered the “law of the land,” and are considered superior to locally drafted legislation (this notion is similar to many of the ideas codified in the American Constitution, specifically the Supremacy Clause).  As the Amity Treaty is the “law of the land,” it supersedes the Foreign Business Act.

A Thai Limited Company certified under the provisions of the Treaty of Amity is a good vehicle for conducting business in Thailand, but the Treaty does have caveats and Companies conducting certain types of business cannot obtain Treaty Certification. Most importantly for some, Amity Treaty Companies cannot own land. Even though an Amity Company is accorded “National Treatment,” the company is barred from holding property in the form of Thai Real Estate. Although, technically it may be possible for an Amity company to purchase a Condo in Thailand.

Aside from ownership of Thai property, there are other activities which an Amity Company cannot engage in, such as: Inland Transportation, Communications, Fiduciary Functions, and the Practice of Professions. Each of these types of activity are reserved to Thai nationals and/or Thai Companies. Even still, the Amity Treaty provides American Citizens with the opportunity to own virtually 100% of a Thai company. For many types of businesses the Amity Treaty is a perfect solution to the problems imposed upon foreigners by the Foreign Business Act.

Some have postulated regarding the possibility of using American Citizens as nominees in order to obtain Amity Treaty benefits. This is basically impossible as nominee shareholders are illegal under current Thai law. That being said, delineating whether or not an American Company is “American,” could be difficult. The relevant agencies of the Thai Ministry of Commerce adjudicate Amity Treaty Certification applications on a case by case basis and come to a decision based upon the makeup of the corporate shareholders in question.

An Amity Treaty Certificate is somewhat similar to a Foreign Business License. However, the two documents are issued based upon different legal foundations. There are some US Immigration benefits accorded to Thai nationals under the US-Thai Treaty of Amity in the form of E visas, but there is not a direct counterpart found under Thai Immigration law.

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