In our era of globalization, more and more people are seeking opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship outside of their home countries, and Thailand has become a major destination for these 21st-century global workers. Is there a chance your career will lead you to work and live in Thailand? If so, you need to have the most up-to-date information on Thailand’s business and employment situation, its overall economic situation, and the legal requirements and credentials needed for success in the kingdom’s growing economy.
Overview of the Thai Economy
Thailand is regarded as an emerging economy and one of the “Asian Tiger Cubs”; the country’s GDP was $673 billion as of 2013. Today, Thailand is recovering from its recent economic crisis and continues to offer significant benefits to both employees and business owners from abroad.
Although Thailand is still modernizing, in the major cities you will find many high-tech economic opportunities. These include the IT sector, hospitality and education. Major industries in the country also include textiles, rubber production, and electrical appliances. Thailand remains a popular vacation destination worldwide, and tourism by itself accounts for a whole 6 percent of the economy.
Opportunities for Working in Thailand
In this dynamic economic situation, highly-skilled foreigners are much in demand despite Thailand’s low unemployment rate. If you have qualifications in the IT or tech industries, in medical technology, engineering, finance or a number of other professional fields, opportunities will abound.
The tourism industry is also a major source of work in Thailand for foreigners. If you have professional experience in the service industry, particularly in restaurants or hotels, you will find many available positions in the resort towns and on the country’s world-famous beaches. Thanks to the popularity of Thailand’s coastal destinations, there is also high demand for diving instructors, operators of fishing expeditions and other similar workers.
Thai society continues to modernize, and so there remains significant need for development workers and others to perform volunteer work in Thailand. Both voluntary and paid positions are available, usually through international development organizations.
One of the most popular options for expats is to teach English in Thailand. Openings for certified teachers are available in major cities and in smaller towns and provide an excellent source of short or long-term employment in the country.
Beyond paid work in Thailand for those seeking employment, the country’s booming economy is also a fertile field for entrepreneurs from abroad. Thai citizens and foreigners have created a thriving start-up sector, and tech businesses are particularly prominent in Bangkok and elsewhere.
Requirements to Work in Thailand
Visas and Work Permits
Whatever your field, one of the most important parts of doing business in Thailand is awareness of local regulations. Before you leave for Thailand, consider seeking advice from a Thai attorney who deals with expat businesses and employment.
Getting an appropriate visa and work permit in Thailand is relatively simple for foreigners. Generally, you will have to enter the country on a business visa and have a prospective employer. Your employer will then arrange a work permit from the Thai government. With a work permit, you can work as a skilled professional or operate a business, but if you change jobs you must receive a new permit from your new employer. Most employees will also have to seek a tax ID card. You will have to apply for a re-entry permit if you leave the country and then return.
In the past, foreigners have attempted to enter the country under an educational visa, study the Thai language or another subject, and operate an online business at the same time. The laws regulating foreigners and business were written before the internet age, and so these situations remain a grey area. Nevertheless, most experts suggest avoiding any kind of work if you do not have the appropriate permit. These days, Thailand’s work permit requirements are usually very strictly enforced.
Education requirements are generally similar to those in English-speaking countries. Your prospective employer should inform you of their requirements and any relevant laws. Work in Thailand without a degree is certainly available, particularly in the tourist industry. Some fields, such as English teaching or diving instruction, will usually require specific certifications but may still be open to those without a college degree.
Regulations for Business
For entrepreneurs, Thai law requires that any business be Thai-owned in order to operate normally and employ people. However, the longstanding Thai-US Amity Treaty provides an exception for American citizens, who can own Thai businesses outright without restrictions.
For both employees and business owners, Thai law forbids foreigners from working in certain specific jobs. Be sure to consult the most up-to-date regulations before you make your move.
While speaking Thai is not absolutely required to succeed in Thailand, especially in Bangkok, it can be an advantage. Thailand has its own unique business culture, and it can be a challenge for foreigners to learn their way around it without the language. Nonetheless, entrepreneurs are highly regarded, and many young Thais are eager to start their own businesses.
For expat workers and business owners, a lot can depend on the region of the country in which you settle. Most IT jobs for foreigners, for example, concentrate in Bangkok. On the other hand, tourism positions are open all over the country. If you don’t speak Thai, you might also find it challenging to operate outside of the major cities or tourist centers.
If your work takes you to the rural areas of the country, you will notice the major discrepancies in development between the country’s various regions. The capital still houses most of the country’s financial industry, its tech startups and other globally-competitive industries. However, this is gradually changing. Chiang Mai, for example, has become popular for expat startups, particularly for entrepreneurs from other parts of Asia. If you work in an industrial field, you may also have contact with Thailand’s industry-heavy Eastern Seaboard region.