Thailand has attracted foreigners to its shores for decades. They come as tourists, businessmen, students, convention attendees, retirees, or for any number of reasons. Many will look beyond a short stay, and seek out longer-term options. In this article, I want to review those options relating to business stays.
- Investors wishing to set up a business in Thailand will generally spend some time conducting research before forging ahead with their investment. This effort may take place over a number of visits to Thailand, lasting a couple of weeks each, so the matter of a longer-stay visa does not enter the picture at this preliminary stage.
- If an investor wants to conduct all of his research in a short period of time, he can do so with a tourist visa, applied for at a Thai Embassy in his home country, and which can be extended within Thailand for an additional period.
- A slightly longer period of time can be arranged by applying for a single-entry business visa (90 days); or a multiple-entry business visa (valid for one year); the latter will likely involve a “sponsorship” letter issued by a Thai company. This gives the investor an extended period to evaluate the market, make business contacts, evaluate potential options, seek out suppliers, etc.
- Generally-speaking, when the decision is made to proceed with the new business, the investor should obtain legal advice, set up his company, and proceed with application of his work permit, without which he cannot legally work in Thailand. “Working” in Thailand is defined as serving as an employee of a company (earning a wage or not); or managing one’s own company, i.e. serving as its Managing Director.
- Major investors, prepared to commit over US$ 1.3 Million or more, can apply for a special “Investor Visa”, details of which can be obtained from a visa advisor.
I frequently encounter clients wanting to set themselves up as self-employed “consultants” but with the least amount of overhead possible, consistent with Thai law and current regulations. In some cases, they are looking to operate out of their apartments, hire one or two Thai staff if any, and conduct most of the work themselves. This option is difficult to implement, because of the complex rules that govern work permits for foreigners. However, there are ways to “choreograph” the process to achieve the desired goal: you will need to work with an experienced legal advisor to be successful.