Working Illegally in Thailand

Working Illegally in Thailand

In the year 2019, Thailand has shown a number of 3.9 million documented and undocumented migrant workers. In 2020, only a number of 2,065,742 migrant workers are documented. This means there are over a million who are undocumented migrant workers in Thailand.

Over a million undocumented workers mean over a million workers are illegally working in Thailand. If ever that you are an undocumented worker, and want to learn more about the consequences of working illegally and what to do to work legally, it is best to continue reading.

Foreigners Working in Thailand

It was stated in Thai law that a foreign national is allowed to work in Thailand. 

But though given the opportunity to work in Thailand, it does not mean that you are to just work in a country, that you did not originate from, without any notice from the Thai government, specifically in the Thai Department of employment or labor department.

It is important to know that if you wish to work in Thailand as a foreigner, you must obtain a non-immigrant visa, work permit and comply with the Alien Employment Act of Thailand.

Non-Immigrant Visa and Thai Work Permit Needed

Working in Thailand as a foreigner requires you to obtain a non-immigrant visa (B) and a work permit in Thailand.

A non-immigrant visa (B) is provided to foreigners who wish to conduct business or work in Thailand. Other visas, like a tourist visa used for the purpose to work in Thailand, are not accepted and will be considered illegal. It is suggested to apply for a proper visa in accordance with your purpose in Thailand to the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulates.

A Thai work permit which must be granted by the Ministry of Labour Department of Employment is a need for proof that you are a legal and is a documented worker in Thailand. Again, working without a Thai work permit will be considered illegal.

Alien Employment Act in Thailand

Alien Employment Act is a law set by the Thai government to accommodate, take charge, to keep a record of the activities of non-Thai nationals working in Thailand.

What can be found in this Alien Employment Act? Well, to give you an overview, the following are some information that can be found in the Alien Employment Act of Thailand, which will also be discussed as you continue to read:

  • Works that are Prohibited for Foreigners to engage in Thailand
  • Works that are Permitted for Foreigners to engage in and are to be granted a Work Permit.
  • What to do with a Work Permit once Received
  • Offenses and Penalty of Illegal Working in Thailand

Works that are Prohibited for Foreigners to Engage In

Given the opportunity of foreigners to work in Thailand, it is still the responsibility of Thailand to prioritize the opportunities of their own citizens. This means, there are specific works that are to be handled only by Thai nationals that non-Thai nationals are not allowed to handle.

The following are the types of works that a foreign national are not allowed to handle according to the Alien Employment Act of Thailand:

  • Pottery
  • Stonework
  • Hat making
  • Knifemaking
  • Goods selling
  • Dressmaking
  • Wood carving
  • Lacquer work
  • Making shoes
  • Front shop sale
  • Hand-typesetting
  • Auction sale work
  • Making Thai dolls
  • Making alms bowls
  • Niello ware making
  • Cloth weaving by hand
  • Making Buddha images
  • Cigarette rolling by hand
  • Making rice paper by hand
  • Clerical or secretarial work
  • Tour guiding or conducting
  • Making mattresses or quilts
  • Making silk products by hand
  • Making paper or cloth umbrellas
  • Making Thai musical instruments
  • Hand-twisting and unwinding silk
  • Haircutting, hairdressing, or beautifying.
  • Brokerage or agency except in international trading.
  • Labor work, with the exception of fishing boat labor.
  • Precious or semi-precious stone cutting and polishing.
  • Goldsmith, silversmith, or gold-and-copper alloy smith work.
  • Mat weaving or making utensils from reed, rattan, jute, hay, or bamboo.
  • Whether it’s bricklaying, carpentry, or other types of construction work.
  • Supervising, auditing, or providing accounting services. Except for infrequent internal auditing.
  • Professional architectural work concerning design, drawing-making, cost estimation, or consulting services
  • Driving motor vehicles or vehicles that do not employ machinery or mechanical devices. Except for piloting international aircraft.
  • Agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, or fishing, with the exception of employment requiring specialist knowledge, farm supervision, or labor work on fishing boats, particularly in the maritime fishery.
  • Professional civil engineering services, excluding tasks needing specialized skills. But include design and computation, systemization, analysis, planning, testing, construction supervision, and consulting services.
  • Engaging in legal activity or providing legal services (except arbitration work and work relating to the defense of cases at arbitration level, provided the law governing the dispute under consideration by the arbitrators is not Thai law)

Works that are Permitted for Foreigners to Engage In and are Granted Work Permits

Now that you have knowledge of what works are not allowed to be engaged by a foreigner in Thailand, you will now know what works can be engaged by foreigners that will be granted a Thai work permit by the Thai authorities.

Listed below are the following:

  • If you work for a Thai or non-Thai company with a registered capital of at least THB 2,000,000, you are eligible.
  • If you work in an establishment that has paid at least THB 5,000,000 in income tax to the Revenue Department in the previous three years.
  • If you work for a Thai or non-Thai company that does export business and remits at least THB 3,000,000 in foreign currency last year, you are eligible.
  • If you work in a place with more than 50 Thai employees.
  • If you are a working expatriate with an income of equivalent or more than THB 18,000 and are required to pay personal income tax to the Revenue Department, or if you have already paid personal income tax in the previous year of equivalent or more than 18,000 Baht.
  • If working for a representative office in charge of quality control, procurement, or market research.
  • If working in investment consulting, administrative consulting, technical and technology consulting, or internal auditing on a regular basis.
  • If working as a Tourism representative who brings in foreigners to travel in Thailand.
  • If working under International financial institutions approved by the Bank of Thailand.
  • If working in the temporary business of entertainment, religious, social welfare, cultural or sporting without intention to make a profit and paying income tax to the government.
  • If working as a contractor on projects with any government bodies or state enterprises.
  • If working on local raw material as an essential component in the production process or work that can reduce the use of imported raw material.
  • If working involves supporting the export of Thai products.
  • If working to produce new technology, which Thai people are not capable of, in order to distribute and transfer to Thai people.
  • If working in an area where there is a shortage of Thai labor.

What to do with a Work Permit once Received

A work permit is not just an ordinary permit where you can leave it in your house and only take it with you if needed. Work permits are a big deal in Thailand and will be checked by authorities. So, what do you do if you have a work permit?

  • You must have with you your work permits all the time
  • You will only perform the work that is written on the work permit.
  • You will have to apply for an extension of your work permit before the expiration of the work permit.
  • You will apply for a replacement within 15 days if ever the work permit is lost and damaged.
  • You will inform Thai authorities, to the Employment Service Office, if ever there are changes needed in your work permit
  • You will return your work permit if you are resigning from your work.

Offenses and Penalty of Illegal Working in Thailand

What happens if you do not follow rules set by the Thai authorities? What are the possible consequences? Will you get a prison sentence? 

Shown in the table below are the possible offense and the consequences you receive:



Working without a work permit

  • 5 years in prison or; 
  • A fine ranging from 2,000 to 100,000 Baht, 
  • Or both

Having a work permit but engaging work that are not stated on the permit

  • A fine of not more than 20,000 Baht

Having a work permit but not having it with you when the Thai police ask for it

  • A fine of not more than 10,000 Baht

Employers employing a foreigner who does not have a valid work permit

  • A fine of not more than THB 100,000 Ba per person will be imposed.


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