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On this edition of Ask the American, I'll answer questions from Steve. He would like to know exactly what is the truth about Thai work permits. When do you need one? Who needs one? Do you need one if you're volunteering or operating an online website? Is it expensive to get a work permit?
Getting a work permit is relatively straightforward and easy. You need to have a company sponsoring you to work in Thailand. You need to have a visa that allows you to work. You can't work on an education visa or a retirement visa but getting the visa is also a very simple process. Then a legitimate, tax-paying company in Thailand that has hired you will provide you with the necessary paperwork to go to the immigration department. Once there, you fill in the application for a work permit, and pay the necessary funds.
If I remember correctly, you pay 2000 baht for the initial three-month period on your visa. Then you pay another 5000 baht for a multiple-entry visa. This extends your initial three-month visa and gives you 15 months in total. Once you have the visa, you put in the application for the work permit, pay 3800 baht, and you then have a work permit.
Your work permit is only good for the occupation stated and with the company shown inside the blue book that is your permit. Volunteers work, thus a work permit is technically required. In my case, I have always worked as a correspondent. A U.S. company provides a letter of sponsorship and I may or may not be the only correspondent they have in Thailand. As long as the company is a legitimate media source, this is acceptable. If you're working for a school or a large company, in most cases there will be someone assigned to walk you through getting your work permit.
Several people have asked how to work as photographer. The majority of photographers are freelancers, and this does not exempt them from having a work permit. But since anyone can own a camera, it is virtually impossible for the Thai government to determine who is a paid photographer and who is not. Do not even think about opening a commercial studio. A Thai photographer is capable of doing this job, thus a foreign photographer is unnecessary. It sounds much more complex than it really is. Once you've received your first work permit, it gets easier.
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