Digital Nomads Working in Thailand

Last updated: 10 Mar 2023
Digital Nomads Working in Thailand

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the already well established trend of working remotely has been even further accelerated. Digital nomads are those who work from unfixed locations. A digital nomad, unlike a regular office worker, is not obligated to consistently and physically appear at a particular job. Digital nomads favor working outside of conventional offices. This not only provides them with flexibility, but also affords them the opportunity to work in a novel and stimulating atmosphere, depending on where they choose to work. All they generally require is a laptop and internet connectivity. Digital nomads include IT workers, website developers, translators, writers, and stock traders.

Thailand has long been a favorite destination for digital nomads due to its inexpensive cost of living and breathtaking natural beauty. However, foreign nationals who intend to work in Thailand must obtain a work permit, as is the case in many other nations. Working without one is punishable by a fine and imprisonment.

Digital nomads operate remotely and working as one in Thailand requires a work permit. This issue is primarily addressed by the Emergency Decree on Foreigners' Working Management (2018) ("the Emergency Decree"), which clearly stipulates that no foreign national may work without a work permit. The Emergency Decree defines "work" as any occupation, independent of the existence of an employer. As a result, selling stocks or writing blogs for a living is deemed work and requires a work permit under the law.

However, digital nomads who wish to comply with the law may encounter obstacles, as a primary condition of applying for a work visa is that the applicant be employed by a person or business. One of the benefits of being a remote worker is the fact that the majority of remote workers do not work for employers. Even while a work permit can be issued for an application without an employer, this is uncommon, and the applicant must demonstrate a necessity to work in Thailand. Another essential criterion is that the work for which a work permit is sought cannot be restricted, i.e., only Thai nationals are permitted to conduct the type of work described in the application. Specifically, it must not compromise national security or the employment prospects of Thai citizens. Restricted occupations are broad and include woodworking, textile work, Thai massage, and certain professional occupations.

In conclusion, if you work as a digital nomad in Thailand, you are required to obtain a work permit. This is why many foreign nationals prefer to hire themselves through a Thai-registered company. Because of their preference for mobility and simplicity in their work, digital nomads may not find this strategy ideal. In practice, Thai officials are aware of digital nomads who work without a permit, as well as the loophole, but it is nonetheless recommended that professional legal advice is taken in order to be in compliance with the law.

There are numerous types of visas in Thailand, and applying for each might present its own particular challenge in the context of remote work. Digital nomads who are qualified to apply for a work permit, i.e., those who are employed by a Thai business, should investigate the sorts of visas that permit employment available to them. Here are some:

a) The business visa (also known as Non-Immigrant B) – very commonly issued where employment is necessary. However, keep in mind that the application for this visa is one of the most demanding and requires a great deal of supporting documentation.

b) The marriage visa - to be qualified for this form of visa, you must have a Thai spouse.

c) The SMART visa – recently established and well-known as the visa that allows you to work without a work permit, it nevertheless requires the applicant to present an employment contract with a Thai firm or a work assignment in Thailand.

In addition to the aforementioned visas, the following visas may be of interest to digital nomads who do not have employment in Thailand but who wish to stay there:

d) The retirement visa, which is typically filed for by foreign nationals who are at least 50 years old. This visa requires 800,000 THB to be on deposit in a Thai bank account.

e) The Elite visa - the lowest charge for this visa is 600,000 THB. However, unlike the retirement visa, this charge is in the form of a fee (rather than being a condition of the visa) and is non-refundable. Also, the charge might be as high as 2,000,000 THB, depending on the type of application. There are however numerous advantages and privileges that accompany the payment of a hefty price.

Note that foreigners with visas type d) and e) are not permitted to apply for a work permit.

To the best of our current knowledge, there is presently no visa specifically designed for the needs of a broad range of independent digital nomads or remote employees. The Board of Investment of Thailand has just introduced a new visa called "Long-Term Resident" (LTR), which appears to be geared toward digital nomads. One of the programs under this new type of visa does not require applicants to be employed, but they must own at least $1,000,000 in assets. This may work for financially capable digital nomads. Another scheme permits visa holders to work for a reputable international company. The LTR visa was recently launched in September 2022.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss the particular circumstances of your case and determine the optimal visa and work permit options.

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