There are a number of licenses available to the new business owner in Thailand but they all depend on what kind of business is being done.
Restaurants will need to be licensed, and if you want to sell alcohol that is another, so are cigarettes. Importers and exporters will need an import/export card, if you are involved in food or cosmetics you will need an FDA license. Other specific categories that require licenses are education and childcare, tourism, medical, and food and beverage businesses.
The licenses can only be applied for after the company has been registered with the Ministry of Commerce and depending on the license, may need to be renewed annually. Sunbelt Asia’s team of lawyers in Bangkok can assist you in managing all your licensing requirements, below are some of the main ones that most people find they need
Restaurant or bar
For those who are starting a restaurant business or a bar selling food, a food license must be applied for from the nearest district office. You need to make sure you have the location in place before applying as they will inspect the premises before approving the license.
If you wish to serve liquor, then a liquor license will also need to be applied for at the local Excise Office. There are restrictions on what time you will be able to sell alcohol, from 10am to 2pm and from 5pm to midnight.
Similar documents are required for a business wishing to sell alcohol but it is important to note it cannot be near a school or temple.
Each of these licenses must be renewed annually.
If you are involved in a Tourism business and wish to obtain a Tourism Authority of Thailand license (TAT), then it is important to note that there are restrictions on ownership of the company. Tourism businesses are regulated under the Tourist Business and Guide Act and are a restricted activity so you need to register a Thai Limited Company that must be at least 51 percent owned by Thai citizens, and at least half of the directors must be Thai citizens and all unlimited liabilities must be of Thai nationality.
A tourism business is specifically listed as organizing or operating tours, sight-seeing, and guide services but does not include transportation of passengers, or hotel booking. It is important to note that the tourism business operator cannot act as an agent, but must sell its services directly to the tourists.
The TAT license is valid for two years but reapplication must be made 120 days before expiry and if the company is dissolved the license must be returned to the TAT.
There has been a great number of new accommodation businesses started that did not apply for a hotel license and have subsequently found themselves shut down until the license is obtained, so it is always a good idea of purchasing a hotel business to check that it is fully licensed, or if you are starting a hotel, apply for the license immediately. Sunbelt Asia’s lawyers can make sure you stay on top of this important legal requirement as those found to be operating a hotel without a license face a jail sentence up to one year and a fine up to THB 20,000 baht. The authorities may also fine the business 10,000 baht each day if they continue to operate the business illegally.
Large hotels can be promoted by the BOI and must be more than 100 rooms, with a minimum investment of 500 million baht not including the cost of land and working capital.
For everyone else the best route is a Thai Limited Company but be aware that the shareholders must be majority Thai and a signing director must be Thai in order to apply for the license. One exception to this rule is for an Amity company which may allow an American to hold the hotel license but cannot own the land the hotel is on.
Some hotels may be exempt from the license; under the Ministerial Regulation of 2008 a hotel license is not needed if there are no more than 4 rooms in total, cannot serve more than 20 guests, and qualifies as a small business, that provides additional income for the owner. This kind of hotel must still report its daily rental to the government. Any hotel with more than 4 rooms needs a license.
The application can take six months before approval and the license is valid for five years and must be renewed before the expiry date.
A school license needs to be applied for before opening any kind of school in Thailand. The majority of the shareholders must be Thai, the director and principal must be a Thai national, at least 20 years of age, hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and should not be working in another school or teaching institute at the same time as making the application.
Setting up an International School is still regulated by the Ministry of Education which defines an International School as “an educational institution providing an international curriculum or international curriculum which its subject’s detail has been adjusted or a self-organized curriculum, which is not the Ministry of Education’s. A foreign language is used as the medium of teaching and learning and students are enrolled without restriction or limitation on nationality or religion or government regime, and are not against the morality or stability of Thailand.”
To set up an international school the Ministry of Education has the following requirements;
There are also requirements as to building size, layout, location and ownership.
Setting up a language school has similar requirements as to the license holder’s nationality and educational qualifications, there are requirements as to building set up including number of restrooms, and a reception and waiting area.
It is important to note that you do need to create a company to apply for the license, once you meet all requirements the application can take 90 days. Sunbelt Asia’s team of lawyers and legal advisors can assist you in handling all details of the application.
Import / Export license
The recent improvements and changes in the Thai import / export system now means you can have a paperless license, track all imports and exports electronically, and even pay customs duty online.
First, you need a Thai registered company to apply for a license and must be registered for VAT.
The company must have a corporate bank account and to apply must show
It is key that a company that only exports can be 100 percent foreign owned but there are restrictions on imports that may require additional licenses, for example food, drugs, beauty products will require an FDA license while unfinished clothing parts, used cars and motorcycles and printing machines require a license from the Department of Foreign Trade.
As the Thai government has really improved on this system to ramp up exports, the license generally only takes a day to receive.
Thailand has one of the fastest growing e-commerce industries in South East Asia and in 2001 the Thai government implemented the Electronic Transaction Act to cover all electronic transactions. The BOI currently has promotions available for e-commerce businesses.
A business operating in Thailand with one or more websites selling products or services needs to be registered as a Thai Limited Company and apply for an e-commerce license. The application needs to be submitted within 30 days after the website becomes active and needs to include
The Thai Food & Drug Administration requires licensing for many items in Thailand including food, drugs, cosmetics, hazardous substances, narcotics, and medical equipment. The FDA ensures the protection of consumers in Thailand by ensuring the quality of all products. If you plan on manufacturing or importing any of these items, then an FDA license will be needed.
The FDA’s approval is based on five criteria
It can take from a week to several months to obtain FDA certificates, generally cosmetics take about a week while general medical devices can take up to four months. Food and pharmaceuticals can take several months. It is important to add that you need a license for each item.
Medical & Drugs
The FDA categorizes drugs into four categories each of which have separate registration requirements; modern, general medicines, traditional medicines, and veterinary medicines.
Medical devices are regulated by a special division in the FDA and can require licensing or registration.
Cosmetics will need to be licensed, and each type will require a separate license but if the ingredients are already controlled under Thai law then the issuance of the license can be speedy. If the ingredients are specially controlled this requires registration which may take longer.
All labels on food imported in to Thailand must be fully translated into the Thai language. The food must be analyzed, including the details of processing and ingredients to ensure meeting Thai FDA standards and a separate manufacturing license must also be approved. Import licenses must be renewed every 3 years.
Obtaining a license to import or manufacture food or drugs in Thailand requires a large amount of documentation and having registration certificates and documentation from the country of origin will be very helpful in supporting the application. It is important to have a lawyer review all documents and the application thoroughly before filing with the FDA. Fees will vary depending on the item being registered or licensed.
Navigating the rules and regulations of licensing in Thailand can be difficult and confusing, add in the language barrier and many new business owners find themselves in violation of the laws. Sunbelt Asia’s team of lawyers are experts in finding their ways through the murky waters of Thai law and will make sure that your business is fully compliant with all licensing requirements.
Foreign Business License
US Treaty Of Amity
Thailand Work Permit
Closing a Thai Company