I’ll start with a bit of good news: Many travelers convinced they need a Thailand business visa to enter or transact in the Kingdom end up being mistaken.
Don’t get too excited, however. In other cases (such as working in Thailand full-time for an employer) you absolutely do need a business-specific Thailand visa, a work permit and potentially event a residence permit. Thailand’s immigration system has some broad demarcations, but is rather nebulous on the whole.
At any rate, I encourage you to continue reading. I anticipate I’ll answer all your Thailand business travel questions—and then some.
What Constitutes Doing Business in Thailand?
Before I talk about the various Thailand business visa options available, we need to discuss what qualifies as doing business in Thailand:
- Working full-time for a Thai or international company
- Teaching English in a private or public institution
- Starting a company in Thailand
- Doing journalism or expert work on a commissioned basis
Importantly, neither participating in meetings, incentives trips, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) nor working remotely requires a special visa, even if you consider it to fall under the umbrella of business travel in Thailand.
Visas for Business Travel in Thailand
Non-Immigrant B Visa
If you’re intent on finding a job in Thailand, whether at a company (Thai or foreign) or at an educational institute, or to start a business in Thailand, this is the visa you’ll need to get. Note that this is not the only document required to work in Thailand; you will also need to obtain a Work Permit. The difference is that you apply for your B visa before entering the Kingdom, while you can only get your Thai Work Permit after you’re inside.
Non-Immigrant IB Visa
Another type of Thailand business visa is the IB visa, which is designed for individuals who are in the Kingdom to pursue investment opportunities. Depending upon whether or not you are seeking full-time employment with companies operating in Thailand, you may or may not need to get a Work Permit. You should consult any companies you work with for more insight.
Non-Immigrant M Visa
If you want to work in Thailand as a journalist (at least as a traditional journalist—I’m not talking about work as a blogger or online content writer here), the M visa is what you’re going to need. The good news, unless you operate on a totally freelance basis with no support from major media outlets, is that the newspaper, magazine or website you work with will probably arrange most of your paperwork on your behalf.
Non-Immigrant EX Visa
Yet another type of Thailand business visa is the EX visa, which is (somewhat vaguely) for experts in certain fields. While this most commonly applies to research scientists, there are other types of expert professionals that may need to avail it. As is the case with the M visa, if you end up needing an EX visa, chances are high that your organization will be aware and can help you obtain it.
Tourist Visa or Visa-Exempt
Officially speaking, you cannot “work” on a Thailand visa exemption or tourist visa. With this being said, that assumes a very old-school definition of work. Digital nomads who are not completing work for Thai companies can come to Thailand without getting a business visa. In addition (and I’ll talk more about this in a second), you won’t need a business visa if you plan to come to Thailand to engage in MICE activities.
Do I Need a Work Permit?
In general, you will need a Thailand Work Permit (and a Stay Permit, which allows you to legally reside in the Kingdom for a number of months or years) if you plan to work full-time in Thailand. In principle, your visa is what permits you to enter Thailand for the purpose of finding employment; the work (and stay) permits allow you to accept employment and to remain in the Kingdom indefinitely.
Of course, situations exist where you need a Thailand business visa, but not a work permit, such as if you plan to come to Thailand for purposes of investment. On the other hand, while it might not make sense, it is likely that you will need a work permit if you plan to register a Thai company, even though you will essentially be self-employed, rather than working for a third party.
Plan Your Thailand MICE Trip
I have a particular affinity for MICE travel in Thailand—for many years, I did contract work with TCEB (the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau) and still remain cordial with a number of the organization’s leaders. I believe (in my heart, and not just because of my former affiliation with TCEB) that Thailand is one of the best places in the world for business meetings, and also for letting loose once your deals are closed.
Other FAQ About Thailand Business Visas
Can I get a 1 year visa for Thailand?
Although it’s possible to get a Thailand 1-year visa, both for business and tourism, the bureaucratic hoops you need to jump through to obtain one may be unattractive. I’d probably recommend entering Thailand on a tourist visa exemption, then contacting a visa agent in Bangkok or Pattaya to assist you with applying for a visa from within Thailand.
Can you get a 5 year visa for Thailand?
Thailand technically allows foreigners to obtain 5- and 10-year visas through the Thailand Elite program. In practice, however, this is an expensive and unreliable system—I don’t recommend it. If you want to stay in Thailand long-term, it’s best to either become comfortable with doing visa runs, marry a Thai national or get a job in Thailand.
How much bank balance is required for Thailand visa?
Most Thai visas require a minimum of 20,000 THB bank balance, although this can vary depending upon which visa you need and your nationality. For up to date requirements, I suggest contact your local Thai embassy or consulate, whose staff can put them in writing for you.
The Bottom Line
The good news? You might not even need a Thailand business visa. The better news? Even if you do, I’ve provided you clear information and instructions about how to proceed. (Well, at least before you get to the Embassy and Consulate and encounter Thailand’s famous bureaucracy—I can’t help you there.) In any case, I’d encourage you to smile through the pain—and red tape—of sorting out your business trip to Thailand. I promise it’ll be worth it—you’ll be on the ground in Thailand, reaping a return on your investment, before you know it!