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Finding work in Thailand

After the events of the 2014 military coup, Thailand went from boasting the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia, to one that was shrinking.

In an effort to reassure investors and to assist economic growth, the government has invested billions in infrastructure projects and is eager to do business with foreign investors — so now may be a good time to investigate different employment options. The World Bank ranks Thailand at 26th out of 189 countries in its Ease of Doing Business Survey 2015. And the country scores highly for getting electricity (13th) and protecting minority investors (16th).

Thai people are generally friendly and welcoming to expatriates looking for work, as long as their business customs are respected. It is a good idea to have in mind the kind of lifestyle you want before looking for a job in Thailand — whether you’re interested in a managerial position in the financial sector, or teaching diving in one of the Southern islands, will dictate where and how to begin your job search.

Depending on your existing skill base and desired lifestyle, many job opportunities for expatriates can be found in the bustling hub of Bangkok, which is home to plenty of multinational corporations. Though most businesses prefer to hire local professionals, if you have specialist skills, you may be in a position to negotiate a transfer in sectors such as the logistics industry or the financial sector. The highest paying employment opportunities for expats are found through overseas transfers.

Main types of work for expats

Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL)

A relatively easy sector to navigate, offering a higher income than local wages, is TEFL work. You can access higher wages if you transfer from overseas, rather than waiting to find teaching work when you’re already in Thailand. And if you have the right qualification, you can look online for transfer opportunities. If you’re already in Thailand, you can take a course that will qualify you to teach and the highest paying teaching jobs can be found at international schools in Thailand or English language schools.  

 

If you’re already teaching English at a school, you can consider taking on private students to substitute your income.  In smaller institutions, you may become frustrated with the lack of resources and the working day may be very similar to the kind of 9-5 you have left behind.

Tourism industry

Of particular interest to expatriates living outside Bangkok, are the good opportunities for expatriates with diving qualifications (PADI), or alternatively you can study and qualify for them while in Thailand. Diving instruction and/or ‘liveaboards’ — where employees live and work aboard a boat offering tours to tourists – is a popular choice in places such as Koh Tao, Phi-Phi Island or Krabi. Working in the industry affords a particular and different kind of lifestyle specific to Thailand, much easier to break into if you do not have the relevant specialist skills for corporate work.

Multinational corporations/specialised jobs

While most corporations prefer to hire local specialists, there will be openings for foreigners if they have the right experience or specific qualifications and many international companies have a base in Bangkok.   

Real estate/property

Some companies employ foreigners to sell timeshares or take care of developments — look up CBRE and Absolute.

Recruitment

Check what qualifications you need and whether you need them before you travel, or you can get them when you are in Thailand. Also, check how that will affect your wages. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the Job Section of English-language papers. And remember to network! Building good relationships is important in Thailand. Put together a CV and cover letter in the same way you would in the UK or U.S. and carry out unsolicited submissions, as some places will not advertise vacancies. Make sure you have the correct non-immigrant visa, as you will need this to apply for a work permit. Remember to negotiate your salary in home currency or U.S. dollars.  You can search online for expatriate jobs, for example on LinkedIn or The Thailand Life, or registering with recruitment agencies in the country could prove fruitful.

Visas and work permits

Currently, once you have secured a job in Thailand, getting a visa should be no problem. Requirements could change, so contact your respective embassy or consulate for up-to-date details. If you want to live in Thailand long-term, you need to make sure you meet the requirements of both the visa and the work permit you will be applying for, and can provide it in English or Thai language.

Everyone needs:

  • A passport that is valid for six months after the date of entry
  • Visa application forms
  • Recent photographs of the applicant
  • Proof of adequate finances for the duration of the stay

Tourist visa

Citizens of countries including the U.S. and UK are exempt from needing a tourist visa if the stay is under 30 days. Otherwise you will need a Thai tourist visa, which is valid for 60 days. All applicants for a tourist visa require proof of onward travel.

Non-immigrant visas — Types B & O

There are different types of visas for people wanting to enter Thailand without a tourist visa, whether they are coming to study or to work. All types of non-immigrant visas require the following:

  • Visa application forms
  • Passport valid for six months and a photocopy
  • Two recent passport photographs
  • Evidence of adequate finance
  • Letter of acceptance from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare

As an expatriate, you may need to provide additional paperwork. This is at the discretion of the Royal Thai Embassy. The most common visa for people wishing to live and work in Thailand is the Non-Immigrant Type B visa.  You will need a note from the local Thai embassy certifying the purpose of your travel, a letter of invitation from the company employing you, and a signed and sealed employment contract from an approved Thai employer.

The Non-Immigrant Type 0 visa is suitable for the spouse or dependant of a Thai citizen, or for foreigners wishing to retire in Thailand.

Work permits

Once you have secured a job and a visa, you’ll need to obtain a work permit from the Thai Ministry of Labour before you can start work in Thailand. When you arrive on a valid Non-Immigrant Type B visa, you’ll be granted an initial 90-day temporary work permit and you must then apply for a temporary work permit from the Ministry of Labour.  Once granted, you have a window to apply for a long-term work permit called the Extension of Stay Permit from the Immigration Bureau. Working in Thailand without the correct permit, leads to deportation and there could be a prison sentence. Make sure you have all the correct paperwork, as work permit requirements may vary depending on the job. Most will require:

  • The applicant to have the necessary experience and/or qualifications for the job
  • Passport-sized photo
  • Original passport
  • An employer’s letter confirming the applicant’s employment
  • Qualification certificates
  • Proof of residence in Thailand

See the following useful sites for further information:

Additional Sources

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