Integrity Legal

1st Sep 2009

Speculation abounds as rumors circulate about possible price increases for Thai work permits. A common misunderstanding regarding Thai law is that the right to work is built into a foreigner’s Thai visa. This misconception is particularly acute with regard to the Thailand Business Visa. It is easy to believe that a business visa would entitle the holder to work in the country, but in Thailand, as in the United States on a B1 visa, foreign nationals are only allowed to work after obtaining Thai Ministry of Labour approval in the form of a Thai work permit.

The Nation, in conjunction with is reporting on the matter, to quote their report:

“The Phuket Gazette has learned that recent rumors of substantial increases in work permit fees may be well-founded. Discussions are underway in the Department of Employment that could once again lead to massive hikes in these annual fees.”

This situation appears quite alarming to expats in Thailand because within recent memory another dramatic fee increase caused consternation due to the enormity of the difference in cost before and after the fee increase took effect. To quote further from the website:

“The last hike in work permit fees occurred in September 2002, delivering an impressive 200% hike, an event that triggered lively and colorful comments on ThaiVisa.Com, host to Thailand’s largest English-language Web forum. Some recent comments in that forum, albeit from sources undisclosed and/or unofficial, foreshadow this month’s hike as likely to be something well over 100%.”

Six thousand Thai baht is only roughly equivalent to approximately two hundred United States dollars and compared to the Immigration system in the United States, United Kingdom, or many countries in the European Union the fees are relatively low when one takes into account the fact that the bearer of a work permit is given the right to work in a foreign country. Even keeping these factors in mind, an increase of one hundred percent is still considerable and substantial, particularly for the small Thai business employing foreigners or for the expat living in Thailand and running a small business.

One explanation for this fee increase could be economic. Although not as hard hit by the worldwide economic crisis, Thailand still has had flat numbers in tourism and the economy is sagging. Further compounding the problem is the prospect of another less-than-optimal high season and the specter of new demonstrations causing foreign investment to flee in search of economies with more stable government. These factors could explain why this fee increase is being brought forward at this time as protectionist attitudes and the need for government revenues increases. It is uncertain if or when the fee increase will occur, but one thing is certain: some foreigners will always want to work in Thailand and they will probably always have to pay some sort of government fee for the privilege.

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