The debate about whether or not Digital Nomads can work safely and legally in Thailand repeats itself regularly on social media such as Facebook and on certain websites. Often there is a lot of confusion about this topic and people comment randomly with inaccurate and second-hand information. To get things right, CM Locator did some first-hand research and went to the relevant departments of the Thai authorities to get this topic clarified.
The infamous raids of Punspace1 in Nimman by Immigration Police back in 2014 and the raid of an office for online teachers in Riverside Condo in 2015 much added to the confusion and fear amongst digital nomads in Thailand that there was something wrong or illegal with working online in Thailand. In the case of the Punspace raid, everyone was released without any charges, by the way.
Stated in general terms, in order to work in Thailand a foreigner needs to:
The type of visa required depends on the type of work: English teachers need a teacher visa, volunteers need a volunteer visa and others need a business visa. You are not allowed to work with a tourist visa or retirement visa, usually there is a clear stamp in the visa stating "employment prohibited".
To get a work permit, you have to be employed by a Thai company and that company needs to employ at least 4 Thai workers for every foreigner with a work permit.
And, if you stay in Thailand longer than 6 months, you have to pay taxes.
The main authorities you have to deal with are: the Immigration Department, the Labour Office and the Tax Department. This article is based on first-hand information from our interviews with the Labour Office and the Tax Department.
Following these criteria, most Digital Nomads do not need a work permit, they either work completely legal or they are in the GREY ZONE. Exceptions of activities for which a work permit is clearly required are: selling goods or services in Thailand, doing something that takes resources from Thailand, or working in a company style manner.
Taken to the letter of the law, even a travel blogger residing in Thailand and writing about the beauty of this country is carrying out work, and therefore in theory needs a work permit. This, of course, sounds utterly ridiculous and doesn't really make sense besides that it's not enforcable.
Acknowledging that, Thai authorities usually take a more pragmatic (and passive) approach towards the issue of foreigners working in Thailand. Factors such as volume or scale, seriousness of a work activity, existence and source of income in Thailand, enforcability and other circumstances are then taken into account.
Are Digital Nomads workin in a co-working space on the target list of Immigration?
A lot of Digital Nomads enjoy the atmosphere of working in a co-working space or coffeeshop more than staying at home all day. Is it safe? If you may believe some myths on forums you should shun these places, because Immigration is going to get you. Bullshit! If co-working spaces would really be on the target lists of Immigration, they would raid it all the time and no co-working space would still exist in Thailand.
Illegal / risky?
Just because you're behind a computer in a co-working space or coffeeshop you're not breaching Thai law!
You can safely work online in any co-working space, internet cafe or coffeeshop.
Immigration raided Punspace last year most likely because there was a rumour about illegal activities being conducted there. Immigration raided a so-called 'Erotic Garden' in Chiang Mai area a few months ago, because there was a rumour or someone reported that prostitution was being conducted there, only to find out that it was only a tea garden with sensual sculptures.
You sitting in a co-working space on a tourist visa trying to grow your online business are perfectly okay.
The criteria again, is in the first place about money income: are you getting your money in Thailand? Then you better get the right papers or keep a low profile.
This is another field of attention by foreigners recently: giving Skype lessons to Chinese students in China from Thailand.
Illegal / risky?
Are you sitting in the comfort of your own apartment and getting paid through Paypal? No big deal.
But are you paid by a company to do this and are you sitting in an office in Riverside Condo together with your 'colleagues'? Then you need a work permit and the company needs the proper papers to conduct this business.
Hopefully, this practical summary of cases demystified a lot of non-sense you can read in forums, and you have some idea about how you can work safely in Thailand.
Thailand is a laissez-faire society, so even if you err in some grey areas it's not immediately a problem.
Mind you, Thai regulations are changing all the time, so what was okay until now may suddenly become an area of attention by the Thai authorities.
By Steven G.
1. Google 'Punspace' and Google already suggests is 'Punspace raid' !
2. Examples of different interpretations between regions:
However, in order to get a work permit, you have to employ 4 local Thai for every foreign work permit (exception for BOI approved businesses), so that won't work for most foreigners who start to work online in Thailand.
Share your experience here as a comment.
|LivinLOS Posted on July 23, 2016 at 10:56:16|
An article justifying law breaking and tax avoiding in a poor country simply because its too poor and weak to fully enforce its laws. Theres a clear employment prohibited on the tourist visa, another declaration you must sign on the app not to work, and every labor dept official has been crystal clear. Its against the law unless you pay your taxes and have a work permit.
No one likes taxes, but making up lies to pretend its not clearly against the law, by miss quoting immigration who are not bothered or involved in labor law, or simply saying 'its ok we dont get caught' misses the big picture. Countries live, thrive, educate their young, and grow, based on taxes being remitted. Simply abusing the hospitality of poor countries because they are weak, is hardly a high moral ground.
|Arnold Posted on November 22, 2015 at 11:57:24|
Still, I would keep a low profile as maybe one day Immigration is targeting online workers
|Mark B Posted on September 04, 2015 at 06:46:21|
This is about the first overview I read about this topic that really gives me some answers. Thaivisa and some other sites are simply unreadable and give me more questions than answers
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