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Do you want a work permit for Thailand? First you need to obtain a non immigrant visa. After that, you can score your work permit. Working in Thailand is a real possibility, mates, besides teaching English, but prepared for a low average salary. Thailand's GDP per capita isn't high, and unless you're brought over to Thailand on an expat package, be prepared to make diddly shiite.


Working In Thailand
You didn't think you'd show up here and sit on your derriere forever?


"My grandfather gave me a wise piece of advice when I was a young kid:  'Win the lottery.'  Had I been shrewd enough to follow that advice, I would now be eating exotic fruits on a beach off Thailand's Andaman Coast pampered by concubines rather than advising fellow lottery losers about working in Thailand."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic
GDP

The children of the rich and famous can lounge on deckchairs and sip Siam Sunrays in Thailand.  If you can count yourself among them, e-mail us.  We'd love to sponge off your wealth. 

Most of us have to work though, and if we choose to make Thailand our home, then we have to work in Thailand.  Would've sure helped to win that lottery, wouldn't it?

working in Thailandworking in Thailand

When you're desperate for work in Thailand, you're bound to try anything

To begin with, you cannot legally work in Thailand unless you have a proper work permit.  And before you can bother applying for a work permit, you must have a non immigrant visa in your passport, and these aren't handed out like bite-sized Snicker bars on Halloween.  To obtain such a visa, you must have already been offered a job.  The company offering you the position would state this offer on their company letterhead and request that you be given such a visa so that they, the company, can apply for a work permit on your behalf.  Since many nations can fly to Thailand without a visa and stay for a month, a prospective "immigrant" could come to Thailand first as a tourist to explore the job market, then subsequently exit Thailand to a neighboring country with the job offer in hand, visit a Thai Embassy or Consulate, and apply for the non immigration visa.

working in Thailand
Getting A Job In Thailand (Well Paid)

This is the difficult part.  You ever heard that if it were so easy to be a millionaire, everyone would be one already?  You could say the same thing about getting a well-paid job in Thailand.  If well-paid jobs, by Western standards, grew on trees ripe for the picking, no males would be left in Western nations.  They'd have all immigrated to Thailand by now to enjoy the women, tropical fruits, wonderful beaches, and lower cost of living. 

teaching English
For most foreigners, teaching the A-B-C's is the best it gets

"Well paid" is a relative term.   So that we're not discussing vague generalities here, we'll define well-paid very simply:  the average wage of what the average worker would make back in your own country.  That, too, leaves too much room for interpretation, so we'll define the average worker wage as a nation's gross domestic product (GDP) divided by its total population, known as the GDP per capita.   This is not a true measure of an individual citizen's wealth, as we mention here when we discuss how Australia has a higher standard of living than the USA despite the USA enjoying a higher GDP per capita.   GDP per capita should suffice for this discussion.   The U.S. dollar to Thai baht exchange rate used was the average rate for all of 2009.

Country GDP (PPP) per capita in USD, per month -- IMF figures for 2009 In Thai Baht (2009)
USA 3,865 133,615
Holland 3,328 115,050
Ireland 3,289 113,700
Australia 3,243 112,100
Canada 3,168 109,520
Sweden 2,997 103,610
UK 2,885 99,735
Germany 2,851 98,560
Japan 2,717 93,940
Italy 2,426 83,860
South Korea 2,332 80,600
New Zealand 2,226 76,940
Thailand 672 23,220

The countries selected for the table reflect many of the popular nationalities that decide to move to Thailand to make a new life there.   The monthly 'salary' figures for each country are adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), the equivalent amount of money in U.S. dollars necessary in one country to buy the same basket in another.   If one country's citizens take home twice the salary as another, but the cost of all essential goods and services is also twice the cost, both countries, adjusted for purchasing power parity, would be equal.  

None of the figures above, for any country, reflect the wage of a star earner.   An American earning $3,865/month iswestern wages not going to have everyone wanting to be his friend and get a piece of him.  In Thailand, the average salary figure is actually inflated.  Like the USA, a concentration of extremely wealthy people, earning monumental salaries, inflate the averages.  As wealth redistribution in both Thailand and the USA is minimal, their higher average salary figures tend to be misleading.  In Thailand, a typical manufacturing job pays 6,500B monthly.  A full-time nanny or driver earns 8,000-10,000B.  The average salary listed in the table, 23,220B, corresponds to what a researcher, sales/marketing staff, or starting level engineer earns.  Higher level positions in Thailand, like a plant manager (75,000B) or human resource director (72,000B) still pay less than what the average worker takes home in New Zealand, the country ranked lowest on the list.    

The point we're making is that even more educated Thais don't take home salaries that surpass what Joe Average earns in a more developed nation.  A webmaster makes 45,000-60,000B monthly.   A LAN manager, 60,000-80,000B.   There are only a few jobs, like that of an IT manager (100,000B+) that equal or surpass what Joe Average back home is earning.   Coming to Thailand for work, therefore, means a step down in wages -- if you're able to snag a job.

A monthly wage in Thailand of over 100,000B, equivalent to Joe Average abroad, would allow a family to live an upper middle-class existence, as long as the children didn't attend pricey foreign international schools which could be equal in cost to what you'd pay for private schooling in the UK.  The average salary of Joe Average in his home country, earned in Thailand instead, is how we'll define "well paid."  It removes the subjectivity.  Only thing is, most jobs aren't paying that. 

You do encounter the occasional expat on a enviable package who earns 200,000-300,000B per month and more.  These people are rare, and they were relocated to Thailand by their home companies.  If you relocate yourself, no foreign company would have any reason to offer you a high wage.  They already know you want to be here, so a premium is not necessary because you're not being inconvenienced.   I met a Dutch poultry farmer who'd been relocated to Thailand by his company for 2 years and was then being paid a Dutch salary.   He said that if he decided to stay beyond those 2 years, he would subsequently be offered a local-only package. 

Many a foreigner wishing to relocate to Thailand is stopped because he'll watch his wages shrink.  The higher paying jobs, even if you got the skills, aren't even a slam dunk if you don't speak fluent Thai.  As long as a Thai can do the job for a lot less money, there's no reason to offer you a "well paid" salary.   This is simple economics and why so many jobs are outsourced to China and India.  teaching English

Getting A Job In Thailand (Not Well Paid)

English teacherIf you do a search on the internet right now for "jobs in Thailand," nearly all the links that pop up deal with teaching English.  This should be of no surprise.  English-teaching is one job foreigners are perceived to be better at than Thais.  Wages are not high in the absolute sense, perhaps 400B/hour.  With a 40-hour work week, this would come to less than 70,000B/month.  On an hourly wage though, you'd never acquire 40-hour weeks, week after week, let alone in a single week.   Cancellation of lessons is rampant, and when they do occur, you don't get paid for that hour.

Note that the 400B/hour wage is considered relatively high in a country where the minimum wage isn't even 200B per day.  A foreigner earning 35,000-45,000B/month as an English teacher is earning as much as a system analyst.  The English teacher needn't even be that educated or speak flawless English.  At better institutions, a university degree is required, but plenty of schools won't care.  A degree-less English-speaking Cockney can still take home as much as a web designer. 

Teaching English is generally mocked as a low-paying dead-end job, not by Thais, but by fellow Westernerss sitting back in the home countries observing their brethren slum it in Thailand to stay here.  I had a Canadian friend teaching English for 2 years in a Thai beachside resort area after spending 3 years doing it in Korea.  On a great month, he might earn 40,000B. Most of the time he earned only 25,000B.  He was actually good at his job.  Had he not been, he still would've earned the same money. 

While English-teaching is generally regarded as a ticket to nowhere, teaching at an English-language school could prove relatively lucrative.  Those earning the highest salaries (100,000B+) are people with education degrees who've been recruited from abroad to come teach in Thailand at international schools in Bangkok frequented by expat children and elite Thais.  (General rule:  you'll always earn more if you're brought to Thailand rather than bring yourself).  These teachers teach in English; they don't teach English.     A step down from that on the wage scale is a position at an English-language school frequented by upper middle-class Thais.  The Canadian friend who'd spent 2 years teaching English for 25,000-40,000B was sick of his pittance wages and relocated to Bangkok to teach science at such a school, earning 65,000B his first year and 75,000B his second.

Schools would prefer to hire people from countries where English is the national tongue, places like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.  Having a white face helps a lot.  A Maori New Zealander or black South African isn't going to be handed out the most lucrative jobs, if a job at all.  This is the same reason you rarely see English-teaching positions advertised to Indian and Singaporean nationals.  India and Singapore are not white countries.  Don't argue that these practices aren't fair.  One could argue that it's unfair to have to look at plump, matronly, or male steward(esses) on Western airlines while Asian airlines employ young shapely female vixens with great legs.  Leave your Western ideas of fairness and equality in your garbage disposal or don't bother coming over in the first place.  average salary

Working From Thailand

In the 1970 book Future Shock,  sociologist Alvin Toffler predicted the wave of individuals who would be able to telecommute.  I have met foreigners in Thailand whose jobs involved beta testing computer code, verifying the strength of computer security systems, or buying and selling things online.  These jobs could be done from anywhere.  Even if these people earned the average salary for their own country, over in Thailand they live a much higher standard of life.   In Thailand, they're considered well paid.

Here's the clinker: most don't have or can't do these kinds of jobs.  Are you a landscape gardener, a plasterer, an envelope stuffer, a surgeon, or a mechanic?  You can't telecommute, my friend.  Nor can you come to Thailand to practice your skills and earn a decent wage by your home standards. 

As with everything, the rarer your skills, the more likely people back home will bend over backwards to let youtelecommute telecommute.  Danes who were neighbors of mine for a very short time were able to telecommute.  The husband did some sort of software code for Danish banks.  I don't believe this was a very difficult job, and he didn't seem to be putting in much work, but the home firm needed someone who could program in this particular rare computer language and who spoke Danish fluently.  The wife was a teacher and taught Danish to Arab migrants to Denmark.  Her minimal knowledge of Arabic and the fact so few people worldwide speak Danish prevented her job, like her husband's, from being completely outsourced.  If these two were Americans and wanted to relocate to Thailand for a year, they would've been fired.   Even more likely, they would've had their jobs outsourced to India long before they concocted the idea to spend a year in Thailand.  

Those who can work from Thailand already know who they are.  If you're unsure if you can work from Thailand, then you can't.
non immigrant visa

Creating Your Own Work In Thailand

After teaching English, creating one's own job is the next most popular option for foreigners relocating to the Kingdom.

When you think about it logically, it's sensible foreigners would do this.  They have to.  Most don't speak Thai.  No Thai company would hire them, and even if they would, the wages would give the foreigner indigestion.   Foreigners coming to Thailand to start a new life are, in some respects, like pioneer immigrants flooding into the USA two centuries ago.  They weren't migrating to get a job as a librarian.  They were doing so to exploit opportunities the Old World didn't allow them to.

bar in ThailandThe types of businesses the majority of farangs (the Thai word for foreigner) are setting up are not nanofabrication plants, semiconductor factories, or computer generated imaging studios.  They're restaurants, bars, or Thai massage parlors -- what I call lifestyle businesses.  Legally, 51% of the shares of any Thai-run business must be in Thai hands.  Foreign men, married to Thai women, put the lion's share of the operation into the spouse's name.  It is possible to get around this 51% Thai-ownership rule if you're investing huge amounts of capital, creating reams of jobs for Thais, and doing a fair share of exporting.    You can also get around the legal figment of Thai 51% ownership by recruiting a Thai-based law firm accustomed to setting up foreign-owned companies. 

If you're bring over USD 100 million to invest in a fruit juice bottling company, the Thai government may consider making you an honorary king.   But if you're just investing a fraction of that in setting up a go kart race track, don't expect anyone to care.  The reality is that the Thai government's attitude towards migrants appears to be 180 degrees to that of a Western government's.  Foreign retirees and workers from Thailand's neighbors (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) are excluded from this discussion.   If a Thai wanted to migrate to the USA, for example, he could use existent family there, special skills, and an adequate current bank balance to strengthen his application.  If the Thai were an expert in a hard-to-find skill, many developed nations might compete to have him relocate to their countries. 

Most foreigners coming to Thailand to create their own jobs set up businesses the Thais wouldn't -- or if the Thais would, they'd only do so much later as a copycat business after the foreigner had already proven the model.  When Doug first came to Thailand in 1994, he went diving on the then undeveloped island of Koh Tau.  At that time, there were several dive shops on the island, all established by foreigners who provided the seed capital to set them up and import foreign quality dive gear for clients.  Few Thais would have bothered to set up such a shop in the mid 90's.  With the model now proven, they might today.  Foreigners were initially behind the establishment of all adventure sports shops in Thailand. The mecca of cuisines that have spread throughout the Kingdom is the result of foreigners relocating here. Only much later, after Thais had been exposed to the model, did some of them venture out to start their own sushi and Italian restaurants. 

The fact of the matter is that none of the foreigners we are talking about here ever steal jobs from a Thai.  In fact, indiving in Phuket order to procure the necessary work permits for himself, the foreigner is required to hire so many Thais first, usually at a ratio of 4 Thais to one foreigner.   Foreigners, by law, have to create jobs for Thais.  A Thai setting up a business in the USA, on the other hand, would not be required to hire a single American citizen as long as all those he did hire had valid American green cards.  Even when the foreigner sets up a lifestyle business like a bar, he is not stealing the livelihood off Thais and must legally have so many Thai hires on the books. 

That logic in mind, the Thai government still does not care that you're coming here to bring some capital and possibly skills to their economy.  They will not do much to get you here or keep you here.   Expect lots of paperwork and needless expenses.

To be fair to Thailand, this attitude is prevalent throughout Asia.  For most of recent history, Asian nations have been lands which exported labor, not imported it.  To make up for a decline in birth rates, the richer Asian nations of South Korea and Japan have been importing labor to fill low wage factory and maid positions, but this is done so reluctantly.  Few are actively encouraging foreigners to develop small-scale businesses in their homelands.  All, including Thailand, seem to welcome the multinational expanding its business into Thailand. 

Thailand presents itself as an unusual case in Asia.  It is estimated that 100,000 foreigners live in the Kingdom.  How many of these are legal migrants from the Middle East and neighboring countries and how many are officially tourists but living her perpetually is unclear.   But on top of those resident here, you have another 14m foreign visits annually, a huge amount of tourist visits per capita, and more so than any other nation if you exclude city-states (Singapore and Hong Kong) from the tally.  It, therefore, becomes feasible for a foreigner to set up a business and make a living with a business that caters strictly to his fellow nationals and not to Thais at all.



work permit

 

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Computer Comprehensive Companion

 Everyone wants to be an expat in Thailand and get paid a princely average salary. The procedure is straightforward. You first obtain a non immigrant visa. With that in hand, you'll get your work permit. To truly get an average salary, maybe you'd consider teaching English in the Kingdom. Thailand's GDP per capita is low. Teaching English may earn you three or four times Thailand's GDP per capita.