Work Permits Services

One of the unique aspects of ex-pat life is the visa run.  Visa runs are common enough throughout the world but are especially a part of life for foreigners living in Thailand.  Visa runs are usually required because of some archaic law that requires foreigners to leave the county in order to get the proper visa, which allows them to return and work in the country they just left.I recently changed jobs in Bangkok, and since there was a gap between when my old visa ran out and when I was to start my new position, I had to leave the country to get a new non-immigrant “B” visa so I could get a new work permit and continue to legally live in the land of smiles. I have previously made three visa runs to Penang, Malaysia, which involved a nearly 24 hour train ride each way.  Now Penang isn’t the worst place to spend a couple of days, but since I’d already been there and done that and really didn’t have the time for a time consuming journey, I ruled out Penang as a destination.  I have also previously done a visa run to Vientiane, Laos, which was an interesting trip but I thought, since I don’t have as many opportunities to travel these days as I used to, I might as well go someplace I have never been before and may not have the chance to see again.  I chose to make this visa run to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I only had a few days to make the trip, and I’m getting to the age where making long bus journeys over unpaved roads no longer seems very exotic, so I chose to fly.  It is possible to make the overland journey for the more adventurous, or cost conscience, by traveling to Aranyaprathet, Thailand, crossing the border over to Poipet, and traveling to Phnom Penh from there.

I flew on Bangkok Airways for a round trip cost of under $150; tickets are available at all travel agencies throughout Thailand.  The actual flight took less time than it took to get through Bangkok traffic and go from my house to the airport.  I didn’t bother getting a Cambodian visa before leaving Thailand since it is an easy affair to get a visa upon arrival in Phnom Pehn for a fee of $20. The Phnom Penh airport is very small and to get your visa and passport stamped, your paperwork has to go through the “line.” The line consisted of six uniformed men each performing a single task. The first one would place the visa sticker in your passport, the second would look at it and then sign it, followed by a third who would check it to make sure it was correct.  The other three did a similar procedure in order to give an arrival stamp in my passport.

A month previous, I did a border hop to Poipet, since my visa had expired and this was cheaper than having to pay 200 Baht a day for a month’s overstay, so this was my second trip to Cambodia, if you want to count the 10 minutes I stayed in Poipet.  In Poipet, the differences on the two sides of the border were extreme.  Thailand may seem by western standards to be very poor, but the children in Thailand are clean, well fed, and have the opportunity to go to school for at the very least a few years.  This is not the case in Poipet where the visitor is greeted by poor, obviously undernourished children, amputee beggars, and other equally depressing sights next to a multitude of garishly decorated casinos where rich Thais can come and lose some money. After this first experience into Cambodia, I was expecting Phnom Penh to be a city where extreme poverty was rampant.  But this was not really the case.

While there certainly is poverty, and some cases extreme poverty in Phnom Pehn, the thing that most struck me was how normal life seemed to be.  Most people seemed to have a place to go and things to do. While the pace of life is much slower than in Bangkok or New York, it didn’t appear (on the surface) to be very much different from a Thai provincal capitol.

Outside the airport I was told would be a multitude of motorcycle taxis to take me into town.  But when I arrived in the evening, the only transportation that was available was a regular taxi with a standard fare of $7.  There are number of guesthouses and hotels throughout the city with a variety of prices.  There are a number of cheaper places down by the Tonle Sap River, which seems to be the center for western budget travelers.  I ended up staying at a place called the Paris Hotel near the Central Market, which was clean, had very large rooms and about 60 channels on cable for $20 a night.  Whether this is a good deal for Phnom Penn or not I can’t really say but I was satisfied.  The hotel had a restaurant downstairs, a snooker room on the second floor, and a massage parlor on the third floor.  I don’t play snooker so I stayed off the second floor.

I used motorcycle taxis to get around.  There are regular taxis available, but they aren’t always easy to find, and bus service is extremely limited. I always paid a buck (US$ 1) for a trip; I’m sure old hands in the country pay less, but it seemed reasonable enough, and for that price the taxis would wait for you for the return trip.  Interesting use of money, the US dollar was the most commonly used currency and the local currency, the Riel, was used as the ”change.” The exchange rate was roughly 4000 to the dollar, so a thousand Riel note was used as a quarter would be used in the states. It was weird for me to be an American who had to change Thai Baht into US Dollars to go to yet another country.  A loaf of French bread or a glass, yes a glass not a cup, of coffee was 500 Riels or roughly 12 and a half cents, to give you some idea of prices. Unlike Thailand, they drive on the right in Cambodia, but since many of the cars are left hand drive seeing where you are going while driving seems to be more than a bit of a problem. Like in most SE Asian countries venturing out on to the roads is always an adventure. One very interesting thing I saw when I made a couple of trips around 11 kilometers outside of town was the use of homemade wagons where up to 20 people could sit attached to a common motorcycle as a crude bus service.

Getting my visa wasn’t much of a problem, dropped it off one day and picked it up the next.  There was a delay, probably because I didn’t have one official document that was required but used a photocopy of a brochure instead, on the second day, and I had to wait around the Thai Embassy for the better part of an hour.  While waiting I did watch a guy who made two cardinal mistakes of doing things in SE Asia and the difficulties he was encountering.

The guy, who was British, claimed to be a journalist for some obscure French organization and clearly his paperwork wasn’t exactly in order.  First mistake, he showed up wearing the typical backpacker’s uniform of shabby looking worn-out clothes with lots of pockets, and he needed to borrow a pen to fill out the application form. (A journalist without a pen?) Now, showing up claiming to be a journalist looking like this may impress on Khao San Rd. (the center for backpackers in Bangkok) but it surely will not help your cause when dealing with an individual who comes from a country where journalists wear suits and ties. When dealing with SE Asian bureaucrats leave the torn jeans, bandannas and tie-dyed T-shirts at the guesthouse.Second, he told the clerk that the clerk was wrong and demanded to see the Consulate General.  The clerk smugly agreed, and refused to further discuss the matter with him and said that the Consulate General would see him, when she (The Consulate General) found the time to talk to him. My guess is that wouldn’t be until after it was too late to get your application in for the day, but I didn’t wait around to find out. Don’t lose your cool and make demands.  No one likes confrontation, but it is especially disliked in SE Asia. Dress respectably and avoid raising your voice when dealing with bureaucrats, especially if your paperwork is a bit dodgy.

Food there was ok, but didn’t see a McDonald’s or any other western chain restaurants. Some of the guesthouses supply good western food at affordable prices, and there are a number of Khmer restaurants, also. The Khmer people are very friendly and don’t worry, you can always just point at things that look good.  There was a fast-food type place there called lucky burger, it was ok and the prices were low but it’s only for real fast-food addicts who need their fix.

There are not a great variety of typical tourist attractions.  I did go to the national museum, which is worth an hour of two of your time, as is the Royal Palace. I decided not to visit the “attractions” associated with the Khmer Rouge regime; I didn’t want to spend my few days there looking over morbid sights.  The Khmer people seem to have for the most part put that part of their history behind them and are now getting on with their lives.

I decided to check out the nightlife, and some of the places where a lonely traveler can find some companionship, strictly for research purposes mind you.  Sharkey’s Bar was an interesting place where a traveler can find a variety of ways to quench a thirst while playing some pool or chatting with individuals from a multitude of nations.  Strange thing, there seems to be an unusually large number of Khmer or Vietnamese women that appear to be very friendly to the weary traveler. Martini’s Disco is another interesting place, but I didn’t see a lot of dancing going on there, and many of the ladies would have been way too young to get into an American disco.  For the most part I found Cambodia to be a fairly normally place with isolated pockets of outlandish decadence.

One of my favorite things to do in a new place is to take long walks without really having a plan on seeing anything in particular, and I often did this in Phnom Penh. This was a great way to see how the average citizen of Phnom Penh lives.  However the Khmer people think this is crazy.  Why, do they ask, would anyone with money in their pocket choose to walk in the heat when they can ride ataxi or motorcycle to get where they want to go?  So every motorcycle taxi, and there are countless numbers of them, has to stop and ask if you need a ride.

One of the joys of taking a walk is to have some time to think while getting a bit of exercise, but this constant appeal for use of their services by the motorcycle taxis makes continuing any train of thought for over a few moments next to impossible which is a bit annoying.  I never felt unsafe during my time there.

The biggest problem the country has is obviously a lack of jobs, but there sure isn’t a lack of NGO officials driving around in Land Cruisers.  I wish I had the Land Cruiser dealership there.  The country would be better off if all the NGOs sold off all their Land Cruisers and used the money to open factories that would actually employ some common people.   Investors with the resources for some foreign direct investment could do some serious good for the people and would be most welcome.

All in all it was a successful visa run, I got the visa with a minimum of hassle, I went someplace new, meet interesting people, saw new things, didn’t spend too much and basically enjoyed myself.  If you have to make a visa run, or happening to be visiting SE Asia, you should consider making a short trip to Cambodia. 

 Last week I engaged in a common occurrence among expats here in Thailand—the visa run. Both my business partner and I were due for out 90-day excursion outside the Kingdom of Thailand, to satisfy our non-immigrant B visas granted to us for business purposes.

Visas and changes in visa policy are part of life as a foreigner in the Kingdom of Thailand. Until recently, visa and work permit requirements for most western developed countries and rich Asian countries were pretty relaxed. Visa extensions, long-term, and multi-entry visas could be had cheaply and hassle-free. 

All that changed with the terrorist bombing of a night club in Bali, Indonesia, which killed over 200 people, mostly Australian vacationers. In the past, each Thai embassy and consulate acted very autonomously, interpreting the law with their own twist. Visa agencies all over Thailand help foreigners with visa applications. They knew which Thai embassies and consulates were the easiest, fastest, and most likely to accept incomplete or improperly prepared applications. Singapore is an incredible hassle, but Penang in Malaysia, or Melbourne, Australia were always more accommodating. Earlier this year a new mandate for strict adherence to the rules was launched and everything changed.

Do It Yourself

I personally witnessed the misfortune of some folks who made the mistake of paying for a visa without actually leaving the country. For a fee, agents promised to take the foreign passports out of the country, have them stamped and new visas issued. Unfortunately, many of these agents took the money and forged the stamps. I saw two English women get detained at the immigration office in Ranong on the Burmese border. They had fake stamps in their passports and were required to reveal the agent that provided it. 

Now, the much sought after 90-day plus multi-entry visa is a bit more elusive than in the past. This results in more paperwork. And, apparently the new controls have been effective at thwarting terrorist activity. In fact, some of these changes were instrumental in capturing the mastermind of the Bali bombing who attempted to hide in Thailand.

Many foreigners are seen working in department stores in Thailand, especially in cosmetics sections of big department stores in Bangkok. Perhaps those people are staff of companies and have work permits that permit them to work in professions permitted by the law. However, if they work as demonstrators at cosmetic booths in department stores, they are, legally speaking, working as ‘beauticians’, which is a profession prohibited by law. If they are arrested and prosecuted, they will become persona non grata, even when they pay penalties and fines as stipulated by law and the prosecuting authority.

To be personna non grata in Thailand is very serious case—i.e., your name is recorded in a secret ‘Confidential List’, popularly known as the ‘black list’; and you will be banned from entering Thailand forever. It is extremely difficult to have your name removed from the ‘black list’.

Most foreigners who work in department stores, as mentioned above, or as vendors in areas such as Khaosarn and Silom Road, are English-speaking Caucasians. Both the work these people do, and their work environments, are very public and crowded. So far, police and legal officers have largely ignored these illegal alien workers, probably because the concerned officers fail to carry out their duties, are waiting for an order from their bosses, or perhaps are just too afraid to speak English. It is only a matter of time, though, before a serious crackdown is launched. So, be warned! Don’t become persona non grata.

Source: Skonchai & Oliver Law Consultancy Co., Ltd. For more details, visit or email Supat Skonchai at


To legally work and reside in Thailand, a foreign citizen must first fulfil all of the visa requirements which are enumerated in the Immigration Act BE (AD 1979). Through its own internal procedures, this Act is currently administered by the Immigration Bureau of the Royal Thai Police Department, Ministry of Interior. A foreign citizen should be familiar with the specific visa type, which he or she must secure in order to work in Thailand without unnecessary and costly delays.

There are many different types of visas, which are found under the Immigration Act, four of which usually concern an alien who is seeking to work in Thailand. A visa authorizes entry into the kingdom for a specified period of time dependent on the type of visa granted. A foreign citizen will usually enter Thailand after already having obtained any one of the following visa types: non-immigrant B (business), non-immigrant type IM (investment involving a Thai government department), non-immigrant IB (Board of Investment sponsorship), or a non-immigrant EX (skilled expert). A non-immigrant type 0 visa can be issued for any dependents of a foreign national desiring to work in Thailand.

A particular visa carries with it certain limitations regarding time and activities.

A particular visa carries with it certain limitations regarding time and activities. The permissible duration of stay inside of the country will be shown on the visa stamp entered into a person’s passport. If an individual remains in Thailand beyond the period allotted, he or she will be fined per day overstayed according to the official government fee, currently 200 baht per day. Furthermore, an alien is also prohibited from performing any function, which falls outside the specific visa category granted. An alien is well advised to comply with the limitations on a respective visa. If these limitations are disregarded (ie work is conducted on a tourist visa), the penalty could amount to one year imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding 10,000 baht.

A foreign citizen intending to work in Thailand usually enters the country on a non-immigrant type B visa obtained from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad. An alien should be cognisant of the fact that he or she will not be able to obtain the required working papers if entry into the country is made on a tourist (type TR) or transit (type TS) visa. A Thai Embassy or Consulate outside of Thailand usually requires an applicant to submit a number of items before it will grant a non-immigrant type B visa to an alien. A letter from a resident company in Thailand outlining the applicant’s position and prospective duties is the primary item that is usually necessary for the issuance of this visa type. An alien is advised to contact the chosen Thai Embassy or Consulate, in advance, in order to inquire as to what that specific Thai Government outpost requires for obtaining a visa in a respective category.

If an alien has been residing in Thailand for a minimum of three consecutive years on one-year type B visas, he or she can apply for permanent residency.

Beyond providing eligibility for a work permit, a non-immigrant type B visa can also yield other benefits. If an alien has been residing in Thailand for a minimum of three consecutive years on one-year type B visas, he or she can apply for permanent residency. Such a classification will allow an alien to avoid the trouble of yearly visa renewals, and it also provides for work permit renewal to occur on an annual basis. Furthermore, an alien with permanent residency status will be eligible to apply for Thai citizen- ship after 10 consecutive years under this classification.

A type B non-immigrant visa also entitles the holder to apply for multiple permits to leave and re-enter Thailand without having to obtain another visa. Aliens should be aware that a type B visa will be automatically terminated if an individual leaves the country without obtaining a necessary re-entry permit. An alien who will be frequently traveling out- side of Thailand is strongly advised to request a multiple entry visa in advance of leaving the country.

To further avoid delays and complications of an unwanted visa cancellation, an alien normally also obtains a one-year visa extension. The non- immigrant B visa which is initially granted will last for only 90 days. The issuance of an annual visa is considered on a case-by-case basis, and a number of documents are required to support the application for a long-term visa. The company information includes, inter alia, the following: tax records, financial data, and personnel records. Information on the applicant’s educational records and employment history will also be required. Finally, the applicant must also have already obtained a valid work permit before any consideration of a visa extension will be given by the Bureau.

It should be noted that the Immigration Bureau’s current policy is to disallow an annual visa extension if a company has fewer than seven Thai employees to each foreign national employed at the company. Representative and regional offices are the only types of entities, which are excluded from this requirement. This has presented practical problems for foreign investors who are small and/or just beginning to invest in Thailand. Often these companies desire to have an additional alien to perform certain skills, but they do not have the need to hire an additional seven Thai employees.

Notwithstanding, the Immigration Bureau requires tax records to verify that the current alien to Thai employee quota has been achieved. In lieu, a company can provide a written explanation stating that it does not require such a high number of personnel to run its operations. However, the issuance of an annual visa based on such an explanation becomes highly discretionary and will not ensure approval by any means. For a company that fails this requirement, a foreign national does have the option of leaving the country and obtaining an additional 90-day non-immigrant visa each time the previous visa expires.

The evaluation process for a long-term annual visa normally takes a few months. Consideration is undertaken at the Immigration Bureau in Bangkok or the province of the company’s principal place of business. An alien is granted a temporary visa while the Immigration Bureau considers the extension. Unfortunately, denial of a visa extension cannot be formally appealed by an applicant, and an alien is then required to leave the country upon the expiration of the temporary visa. However, in a limited number of cases, an application can be resubmitted after the applicant has remedied the areas of the application, which the Immigration Bureau found to be inadequate.

Source: Skonchai & Oliver Law Consultancy Co., Ltd. For more details, visit or email Supat Skonchai at



The recent closure of a Bangkok travel agency has highlighted the dangers for foreigners wanting to stay in Thailand without leaving the country to obtain a visa. Many customers of the agency found themselves undergoing uncomfortable interviews at the Immigration offices in Bangkok.


The proprietor of the agency offered a convenient service: instead of the foreigner leaving the country to get a visa, he would for a price send the applicant’s passport out of Thailand, have it stamped for exit and re-entry and provide a visa from the Thai Embassy in the country the passport was sent to.


The advantage to the passport-holder is that he can stay in Thailand during the process and save time and money. A visa run to another country is expensive when the costs in travel and accommodation are totaled and it’s clearly attractive and economical - to leave someone else to do the work while the passport- holder remains in Bangkok.


Typical costs: a tourist visa for 30 days 3200 baht, a non-immigrant for 3 months 7500 baht


The practice of using an agent to get a visa in this way is widespread - one Westerner spoke of having used this method for over 10 years without leaving the country. He said he had never had any problems.


What are the dangers?


  • It is illegal to leaving the country is the method prescribed by the Immigration authorities for obtaining new visas


  • A passport has to be entrusted to strangers


  • The exit and re-entry stamps and/or the visa may be counterfeit


  • If for any reason the passport holder must visit Immigration, then anomalies may be noticed. This is certain to happen if the visa is not genuine. The consequences are not pleasant


  • The process relies upon connivance by officials at the border and in visa sections abroad - if anything goes wrong then the passport may be withheld whilst overseas


The Thai Immigration authorities understandably want to keep tabs on unwelcome visitors to the country. There is no doubt that making monthly exits and re-entries is a method used by foreign criminals using Thailand as their base.


But for the majority of law-abiding foreigners wishing to stay for prolonged periods in Thailand, leaving the country several times a year is an expensive inconvenience. Financially it is a disadvantage to both the foreigner and to Thailand for the money he spends abroad whilst obtaining a visa would be better spent in this country.


To deter criminals, the Thai authorities, mindful of the value of the one-month tourist visa to the wrongdoer, have recently limited to six the number of consecutive tourist visas which can be applied for. After the sixth month, the passport-holder must leave the country for six months before reapplying. This is a great inconvenience to anybody conducting criminal activities in the country but is unfair to bona fide foreigners wanting to spend longer in Thailand.


The situation is unlikely to improve until a better visa issuing system is worked out where bona fide foreigners can renew or obtain visas within this country. At present, a foreign passport-holder in need of a visa can either go on a time-consuming and expensive visa run or risk using the services of an agency to procure a visa for him without his having to leave Thailand. The chances are he will have no trouble with the latter as the method is well established and many people clearly do this with no problems.


But there is always a danger of a crackdown by the authorities or of documents coming back without a bona fide visa if the agency folds or other unfortunate circumstances arise.



Source: Skonchai & Oliver Law Consultancy Co., Ltd. For more details, visit or email Supat Skonchai at



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