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Working legally in Thailand

The Helping Hands radio program from NBT radio station 93.25 was established in 2001 and started English language programming for the expat residents of Chiang Mai. In conjunction with this idea of offering local expats as much knowledge and information as possible, they organized a seminar with head of the Work Permit Department at the Labor Office Rhuchuchai Potha and Immigration Investigative Division officer Witthaya Singmanee at the Imperial Mae Ping on Wednesday, June 7, 2011.

The evening saw over 60 people attend dinner and a further 40 fill the room to hear their questions answered. Since it was a live broadcast on the radio, host Wouter Van der Stichel read the submitted questions aloud in English which were then translated into Thai by the Thai announcer.

Some time was spent offering up descriptions of the duties of their offices and the legal definition of work that is used by the Labor Department; “to engage in work by exerting energy or using knowledge whether or not in consideration of wages or other benefits”. Additionally Khun Rhuchuchai pointed out that beyond the application, is the intent. If it’s clear there is intent to work with a goal to profit from that labor, either on the part of the foreigner or of the business, then that is also illegal.

A key question that was asked was in regard to performers who wish to perform a one off show for charity or otherwise. He said there is a temporary permit to work for not longer than 15 days, free from his office and considered on a case by case basis. But, he pointed out several times, you must apply for it. He reiterated that he supports those who wish to perform legally, and will be happy to approve such applications for these kinds of shows once applied for and considered on a case by case basis. Anything over the 15 days requires a legal work permit, which requires a sponsoring business or charitable organization.

Volunteer work, he pointed out, requires a work permit, however, many charities are looking for volunteers and are willing to sponsor people and he suggested that he could offer guidance to those interested in such a work permit. For those who wish to work at multiple organizations, he pointed out that that initial work permit is required but it is possible to add an employer or job to the work permit once its issued. This would also apply to musicians who wish to play at different venues.

He noted that the office offers different periods of work permits, from a year for 3,100 baht to 6 months for 1,550 baht and 1-3 months for 750 baht.

He added that there is no “freelance” work permit, that one must be sponsored by a company. However, when asked about specialists offering advice for overseas clients in overseas markets, he felt that so long as they did not offer that advice to Thais or foreigners in Thailand that would be acceptable.

A company started by a Thai person and employing and paying social security for 4 Thai employees can offer one work permit for a foreigner without needing the required 2 million baht in registered capital.

The Immigration officer, Khun Witthaya, addressed the issues of overcrowding at the Immigration office noting that they have requested budget for expansion but the money must come from the Ministry of Interior in order to expand the premises, or parking. He added, he knows there are problems and that queueing can be very long and recommended to people that until any funds are granted, they avoid visiting after a holiday. He pointed out that the ratio of officers to foreigners resident in Chiang Mai is quite high and that the officers work as fast as they can but, especially on busy days, they reach capacity and go no further. When asked if there were plans to allow a fast track service for longer term resident foreigners, Khun Witthaya said that he had asked the main office this question and the answer was a clear “no”, there was going to be no fast track option.

Retirement visas were introduced and he reiterated the qualifications; must be age 50 or over, and must have either 800,000 baht in a Thai bank or a pension of 65,000 baht a month that must be certified by the Consulate or a combination of both. He added that the money must be in the bank for a minimum of 3 months on the first application. Permanent residency was introduced and while he said applications are taken usually once a year, he is not sure when the next announcement will be. He said a non-immigrant visa for 3 years is necessary, and either working in Thailand, having invested in Thailand or married to a Thai national will offer eligibility to apply for permanent residency. Khun Rhuchuchai pointed out that if you obtain PR you must still get a work permit to work.

The issue of musicians being arrested for performing at jam sessions was discussed and it was said that if a complaint is made then they must investigate. Venues that offer regularly and publicly advertised shows are clearly obtaining a benefit from the performance and that this shows the intent to profit from it. Khun Rhuchuchai said, there is no problem with a spontaneous jam session, and a work permit is not needed for that. But at a regularly advertised show, the intent is clearly to make a profit from performers. He added they didn’t just swoop in and arrest people but investigated the venues and visited them regularly to ensure that this was a regular occurrence.

He reiterated to performers that for one off shows a free, 15 day permission can be applied for at the Work Permit office. He said, you must request it properly that you perform and he has no problem granting permission for that.

As one of the organizers pointed out later, while not all questions were answered as comprehensively as some may have hoped, the officers did seem to make an honest attempt to answer all questions to the best of their knowledge and ability.

Source: Chiang Mai Mail

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