Thailand’s new work permit penalty regime

Foreigner law infringements by accident entail an increased penalty

Thailand’s economy widely bases on foreigners investing and working in the land of smile. However, foreign activities are restricted threefold: Foreign land ownership is restricted through Thailand’s Land Code, foreign business activities are restricted through Thailand’s Foreign Business Act. And Foreigners working in Thailand are limited by several provisions which require a work permit. 

All three no-go areas suffer from non-existing red lines. Vague gray zones require a precise legal knowledge to understand which investment structures, land acquisition schemes, and foreigner activities are allowed under the legal framework, which are just tolerated by the authorities until revoked at any time, and which acts qualify as a sustainable future-proofed behavior.

The risk to cross the red lines of leisure activities into the minefield of work is in many cases beyond the scope of any objective judgment. Hobby activities like photo shooting, music playing and repairing, as well as asset management could be easily misunderstood as illegal work. For a foreigner permanently living in Thailand it is essential to reliable manage such illegality risk. Otherwise, he is restricted in each and every activity. 

Thailand’s new work permit penalty regime

This is the background of the new tightened penal provisions. On 22 of June 2017, an Emergency Decree had been issued. Main topics are as follows:

  1. If an employer employs a foreigner to work at a foreigner forbidden position, such employer is fined with 400,000-800,000 Baht per employed foreigner.
  2. If an employer allows a foreigner to work in excess of the work stipulated into the work permit he is fined with not more than 400,000 Baht per 1 employed foreigner.
  3. If a foreigner works without having a work permit or work at a foreigner forbidden position, he/she is imprisoned not more than 5 years, fined with 2,000-100,000 Baht or both.
  4. If a foreigner works on an urgent and essential nature work without acknowledgment of the officer (form WP-10), he is fined with not more than 100,000 Baht.
  5. If a foreigner works in excess of the work as described in the work permit, he/she is imprisoned not more than 6 months, fined with not more than 100,000 Baht or both.
  6. If a person deceives that he/she can bring a foreigner to work with a domestic employer without a work permit, he/she is imprisoned 3-10 years, fined 600,000-1,000,000 Baht, or both.
  7. Any person operating as a foreigner job agency without a license, he/she is imprisoned for 1-3 years, fined 200,000-600,000 Baht, or both.

The tightening of the penalty provisions requires an advanced risk management of foreigner activities. Any traveling out of the province mentioned in the work permit is now an adventure. Each potential unsubstantiated statement that certain activities are allowed without a work permit is highly risky. The foreigner might feel observed too much and should ask for professional assistance even when planning his life away from the office.

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