There's often some confusion regarding conducting business in Thailand versus working in Thailand.
What visa would you require if you were coming to Thailand to meet with export companies?
What if you were visiting a Bangkok-based branch of the company you work for?
Or what if you were coming to Thailand to start a job?
It's actually pretty simple…
Doing Business in Thailand
Although doing business and working in Thailand are two different things, they actually require the same visa route: the Non Immigrant B Visa.
Let's first look at doing business.
If you want to come to Thailand to do any of the following, you need a visa:
- Visit companies for business meetings
- Attend seminars or trade shows with a view to doing business
- Invest in or conduct business with a company
B Visa Categories
There are different categories under the B visa, a couple of which are quite similar.
- Intending to conduct business in Thailand “B”
- Intending to work in Thailand (you have a job offer and will secure a work permit once you arrive) “B”
- Intending to invest in or conduct business “B-A”
- Will work on investment projects under the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI). “IB”
- Teaching “B” (Teaching)
For now, let's concern ourselves with the first in the category list: those intending to conduct business in Thailand.
Your first question might be: how does this differ from the third type of B Visa on the list, which is to invest or conduct business.
Whether you are issued a standard B visa or the “B-A” (Business Approved Visa) will be determined by the embassy or Consulate you apply at.
The latter gives you 1-year stay in Thailand upon entry, whereas the former gives you either single entry, with a 90-day stay; or a multiple entry (leave every 90 days), with a 1-year validity.
B Visa Requirements
Along with the usual passport, photographs, and evidence of adequate finance (20,000 Baht per person), you'll need some documentation from the company you intend to do business with.
Of course, depending on your intention this could take on a number of formats. Here's the official list
- Documents showing correspondence with business partners in Thailand.
- Evidence of financial status in the case where the applicant is self-employed
- Letter of invitation from trading or associated partners/companies in Thailand.
- Corporate documents of associated partners/companies in Thailand such as:
1) business registration and business license
2) list of shareholders
3) company profile
4) details of business operation
5) map indicating location of the company
6) balance sheet, statement of Income Tax and Business Tax (Por Ngor Dor 50 and Por Ngor Dor 30) of the latest year
7) value-added tax registration (Por Por 20)
You won't need to provide all of these documents because the majority of them won't apply to every circumstance.
For example: if you have been invited to a trade show and you have a number of meetings set up with potential clients, you would probably just need a letter of invitation from the trade show or one of those clients, and perhaps a copy of the business registration and business licence documents of one of the clients you have a meeting set up with.
It's easy enough to provide details of the business operation, and a map indicating the location of the trade show.
If you are visiting a business in Thailand and you're worried about asking for a copy of their business registration and business licence; don't be: Thai companies are used to having to provide these documents for various accountability reasons.
How Easy Is It to Get a B Visa?
As you can imagine, there are people visiting Thailand every day on business trips, so it's pretty straight-forward to get a visa for this purpose.
To give you a real life example: A few years back, a friend of mine was doing some business with a tile-making company in Bangkok. He came to visit Thailand for a combined holiday and business trip.
While he was here he met up with the company director a number of times and schmoozed over drinks and a trip to the casinos in Cambodia.
To get the visa he gave relevant information on his own company and the company that he was visiting. It was issued with no drama.
Working in Thailand
Physically living in Thailand and working a job is a different thing to doing business in Thailand (meetings, sourcing, seminars and trade shows). If your intention is to come to Thailand to work, then you most likely have a job lined up already.
Perhaps you have agreed a job in principle with an employer and you are set to move to Thailand.
In this case, you would get a B Visa from your local embassy or consulate, and then when you get to Thailand your employer will help you get your work permit so that you can start work.
If you are already in Thailand and get offered a job, you will need to go to a neighbouring country to a get a B visa. Only then can you come back to Thailand and set about getting a work permit to start that job.
To get the B visa, you'll need a bunch of documents from your prospective employer, including a letter of approval from the Ministry of Labour. To obtain this letter, your prospective employer is required to submit Form WP3 at the Office of Foreign Workers Administration.
You can see a full list of the requirements here:
For the record: If you are coming to Thailand to do a job search, for example you want to come for two weeks and do some research on companies and potentially where you might be able to get a job, you probably don't need to apply for a B Visa. You can just come on a tourist visa or enter on an exemption stamp.
The reason for this is that there is no guarantee that you are actually going to sit down and have any meetings with any companies or that you will be doing any business at all. It may just be that you get off the plane and spend 13 days partying and one day popping into an agency to ask about jobs.
You wouldn't be able to provide any official information on who you were meeting, so you probably wouldn't be issued a visa just for a job search.
Note that you can't get a B Visa and start working in Thailand. You always need the work permit. The B Visa is a route to getting a work permit.
Neither can you set up your own business and start trading from Thailand.
For example, no visa will give you permission to start living in Thailand, sourcing products from Thai companies and shipping them abroad. This would be considered working in Thailand. This would technically require you to set up a company.
However, in the case that you have a company registered in your home country, and that is where you pay tax, you could argue that this is “conducting business in Thailand” and therefore carry this out under a B Visa. In this case, you would apply for a B visa using information from one of your intended suppliers.
That being said, there are lots of people who do this sort thing and don't have any sort of visa. Why? Because setting up a Thai company is quite difficult and the requirements do not really suit a foreign one-man band type of operation.
Indeed, a number of lawyers would probably tell you – off the record – that if you are freelancing in some way it is better just to be discreet about what you are doing and go about your business, particularly if your tax liability is held in your home country.
That being said, always seek proper legal advice on these matters.
How Much Does a Non-Immigrant B Visa Cost?
The cost of a single-entry visa is 2,000 Baht, three-month validity, and 5,000 Baht for multiple entries with a one-year validity.
That's all you need to know about B visas, except for teaching of course.
If you you want the full lowdown on teaching in Thailand and what that entails in terms of visa arrangements, you should read the following post.