New regulations issued regarding work permits

The Thai government announced several major changes in how it views work and deal with work permits for foreigners in its second Emergency Decree on Foreign Employment Management BE2561 (ED2) issued on March 28, 2018. Sunbelt Asia founder and owner Greg Lange points out that there are some very important changes in the new decree that will make it easier for foreigners coming to Thailand to work for a short period of time, as well as reduce fines and penalties for some violations.

The new ED2 has redefined work to "performing any profession, whether or not there is an employer, excluding business operations of a foreign business license's holder under the Foreign Business Act" which is more focused and relevant compared to the previous definition of "exerting one's physical energy or employing one's knowledge to perform a profession or perform work, whether or not for wages or other benefits". The new decree also allows for application for a work permit to be submitted electronically from within Thailand or outside the country.

The ED2 has removed the requirements for a work permit for those entering the country occasionally to “organize or attend meetings, conferences, seminars, art exhibitions, or other activities to be prescribed by the Cabinet” as well as those entering the country for 15 days for urgent and necessary work. Those entering for that purpose do need to inform the Department of Employment upon arrival and may extend it a further 15 days if necessary.

Additionally, representative management of a company holding a foreign business license under the foreign business license law of Thailand no longer need work permits. The new SMART visa requirements were added to the Emergency Decree, notably that investors and foreign experts who have applied for the SMART visa do not need work permits.

A new requirement for both employer and employee is that both must notify the department of the new employer/employee, place of work, and nature of work within 15 days of the employment date and notify the department every time the employer is changed. The fine for employer and employee failing to notify the department is up 20,000 baht. Those companies who have already employed foreigners with a valid work permit before the implementation date of March 28 should have notified the department within 60 days.

A foreigner who enters to work on an urgent and necessary basis without notifying the department faces a fine up to 50,000 baht while the penalty for working without a work permit or working outside the scope of the work permit has been reduced to between 5,000 to 50,000 baht; after the fine is paid the foreigner will be repatriated. Previously, the foreigner faced fines up to 100,000 baht and 5 years in prison. The penalty for the employer however, is from 10,000 baht to 100,000 baht per foreigner and should the employer repeat the offense can be fined from 50,000 to 200,000 baht, as well as face 1 year in prison, and be prohibited from employing foreigners for a period of 3 years from the date of the final court judgement.

The government has issued a grace period until August 31, 2018 on penalties for those working without a work permit or outside the scope of their work permit, for employers who have employed a foreigner without a work permit or working outside the scope of their permit, and for those who have entered the country for urgent and necessary work but not yet informed the Department of Employment.

Work Permit

Any foreigner working in Thailand must obtain a Work Permit before beginning work. While a prospective employer may file an application on the foreigner’s behalf in advance of his starting work, the actual Work Permit will not be issued until the foreigner has entered Thailand in accordance with the immigration laws and has presented himself to receive his Work Permit.

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