Your Guide to Working in Bangkok as an Expat
The allure of working in Bangkok has long enthralled expatriates for its progressive economy, a modern yet affordable cost of living and the chance to enjoy a more laidback lifestyle. The Thai capital is one of the most popular expat destinations as well as a top tourist draw, and it's no wonder that even with recent political developments, the chance to move to Bangkok can prove to be attractive to many professionals.
Driving Thailand's Economy
Bangkok, Thailand is the most visited city in the world by tourists, who are charmed by the majestic temples that sit side by side with skyscrapers, savor the wonderful flavors of Thai food, and enjoy the city's reputation as a major retail mecca in Southeast Asia with its numerous shopping malls.
Bangkok earned its reputation as a great expat destination over the decades as the prime business hub in the Southeast Asian region. As the economic center of the country, a great number of multinational companies maintain their regional headquarters in the city, and many Thai companies are also based in the capital, including PTT, which is listed as a Fortune Global 500 company. Indeed, Bangkok's GDP is nearly three times that of Thailand, driven primarily by the wholesale and retail, and manufacturing industries, as well as real estate, transport, finance, and tourism.
In the Global Cities' 2018 report by management consultancy firm A.T. Kearney, which analyzes what factors drive a city's competitiveness in attracting talent and investment, the city of Bangkok came in 44th place. The criteria was based on business activity such as capital flow, market dynamics and the presence of major companies; human capital in terms of the population's education levels; information exchange which measures access to information via the Internet and media; culture; and lastly, political engagement via political events, think tanks and embassies.
Living and Working in Bangkok as an Expat
Many expatriates who moved to Thailand and choose to live in Bangkok are there as part of a work transfer from their parent company to a regional one, or in a position with the Thailand branch of the many multinational companies that are based in the country. Bangkok also has a thriving financial sector, and as such, it also attracts a high number of foreign talents.
Going to Thailand for a vacation is vastly different from moving to Bangkok to find a job. While many foreigners or farangs continue to try their luck at finding work in the capital, it's highly recommended to secure a job in Bangkok first before packing your bags and jumping onto the first flight to Thailand.
The most popular type of employment that many foreigners come across is that of teaching English as a foreign language in one of the city's many international schools, primary schools or high schools that offer English as a subject.
Should you be interested and have received a proper job offer to teach, you're required to secure a Non-Immigrant Visa Category "B" (Teaching) from the Royal Thai Embassies or Royal Thai Consulates-General in your home country. This visa is specifically intended for foreigners who are taking up employment as school teachers "at the levels below university level in Thailand." For details of the requirements, look up Section 2.4 in the Consular Services section on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand.
Getting a Visa for Work or Business
The government of Thailand has several types of visas available for those who wish to work or do business in Thailand such as investment activities, just as it has a specific visa for teachers. However, a work visa is not the same as a work permit – you need to get both.
Foreigners relocating to Thailand to do business with a Thai company in partnership, or for investment-related purposes must secure either a Non-Immigrant B-A visa or a Non-Immigrant IB visa.
For expats moving to Bangkok as part of a job transfer or those who secured a job offer, they must apply for a Non-Immigrant B visa. According to the rules of Thailand's Immigration Bureau, an applicant must be in possession of a valid Non-Immigrant B visa or whatever is the required visa or residence permit. The work visas must be obtained at the Royal Thai Embassy or Royal Thai Consulates-General of your home country. The work permits are issued by Thailand's Ministry of Labour.
Dependents - such as your spouse, parents or any unmarried children under 20 years old – who are relocating with you to Bangkok are eligible to apply for a Non-Immigrant "O" visa. This visa allows them to stay for a period of 90 days up to a maximum of one year.
Please note that foreigners in Thailand who hold either a Non-Immigrant O-X or O-A long-stay visa are required by the Immigration Bureau to report their current address every 90 days. The notification can be done online at http://www.immigration.go.th/ or via Bangkok.immigration.go.th. Failure to do so can incur a fine of THB 2,000 up to THB 5,000 if you get arrested. An additional fine of THB 200 is imposed for each day that passes until you comply with the law. For more information about the 90-Day Report, please visit the Immigration Bureau of Thailand.
Obtaining a Work Permit
The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs stipulates that you must apply for a work permit as soon as you arrive in Thailand. A work permit is typically valid for two years. This can be done at the Office of the Foreign Workers Administration at the Ministry of Labour's Department of Employment. If your company is located in a different Thai province, you must apply to the respective Employment Office of that province.
However, recent changes were made to the Royal Ordinance on the Management of Foreign Workers Employment, which was published last March 27, 2018, in the Royal Gazette and are now in effect. It's known as the Royal Decree on Managing the Work of Foreigners (No. 2) B.E. 2561. In a nutshell, the amendments now allow foreigners with work permits to legally work in any field, anywhere in Thailand, for any employer as long as the work is not among the occupations prohibited to foreigners.
The list of occupations originally contained 39 since the law was introduced in 1979 but was cut down to 28 in June 2018. The changes, however, are still not reflected on the website of Thailand's Ministry of Labour.
Since July 1st, foreigners can now engage in work such as unskilled labor, Thai handicraft production and some forms of manual labor. In the professional categories, they may also be employed in such fields like engineering, architecture, and accounting as long as they possess proper accreditation from the relevant Thai industry authority or trade association.
Foreigners are still banned from selling products in a shop, working as a tour guide or secretary, providing legal counsel, selling via auctions, and working as a trade and investment representative or broker, unless they are hired by an international organization. For more details, please visit Thailand's Ministry of Labour and the Department of Employment.
Cost of Living in Bangkok: More Affordable in Bangkok?
The most recent findings from the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual Worldwide Cost of Living report for 2019 showed three cities, namely Singapore, Hong Kong, and Paris, sharing the top spot for the first time. Singapore previously placed first for five consecutive years. Other cities in Southeast Asia such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Manila, Hanoi, and Phnom Penh increased their standing by six to 10 places owing to improved economic growth in 2018.
In the previous year, the Thai capital took 53rd place overall, which some experts attributed to the undercurrent of political unrest that occasionally troubled the city. Despite this, life in Bangkok continues for both the Thai people and expats living in the city.
In a report made by international real estate consulting firm CBRE Thailand in January 2019, it states that most expatriates in Bangkok prefer to live in a "limited number of locations," between Asoke and Thonglor on Sukhumvit Road being popular, as well as Lumpini and certain areas of Sathorn. Similar to other popular expatriate destinations, most expats in Bangkok prefer to rent apartments, houses or condominiums instead of buying real estate.
The Sukhumvit area in Bangkok is home to a good number of expatriate communities, including Western, Japanese, and Indians, and is easily accessible on the Skytrain Sukhumvit line of the city's Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) system, as well as via taxis and tuk-tuks, the popular auto rickshaw. In addition, a good number of international schools in Bangkok are also located in the Sukhumvit area, making it convenient for expat families with school-aged children.