Thursday, 27 March 2014

Thailand: Work Permit & Visa Application Process

This is a two part post which demonstrates the typical process of applying for and renewing a work permit and visa as a teacher in Thailand.

Those who live in and work in the kingdom of Thailand know that whether they like it or not, once a year they will be required to renew their documentation to remain in the country for another year. This has always been a contentious issue for a large number of long term expats who feel aggrieved that they have to effectively ask permission to remain in the country each year with no consideration or reward given for their investment in the country.

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Part one (Applying for a Visa & Work Permit) 

There are a number of different visas that foreigners can obtain to remain in Thailand. The vast majority of the foreigners you will see here will be in possession of tourist visas or visa exemption stamps, these give them permission to remain for a limited time for the sole purposes of travel. It is however not uncommon for teachers to work on these tourist visas, particularly if they perhaps don't have the required qualifications to obtain a work permit. 

Long term residents of Thailand normally have possession of a 'non immigrant visa'. These are split into a number of categories but the most common are 'non o' (marriage) and 'non b' (working). I myself am not married and work in a local government school on a non immigrant b visa.


(first non immigrant b visa stamp)

When you first sign your contract with the school you will be issued with the documentation to obtain a non immigrant b visa. In order to get this stamped into your passport you will need to apply at either an embassy or a consulate outside of the country. The vast majority of people in the south of Thailand choose to do this at the consulate in Penang, Malaysia and the whole process can be completed in a just a few days. I actually had my documentation sent to my home in England before I came to Thailand and I received my visa from the Thai consulate in Hull. 

Upon your entry to the country you will be given permission to remain for three months. It is your responsibility to obtain a work permit during this period so that the visa can be extended for a full calendar year or until the end of the term of employment (whichever comes first). 

Teachers who are teaching in OBEC Schools (basically every school with the exception of universities and private language companies) will be required to obtain the required documentation from the TCT (Thailand Teaching Council). This takes the form of either a teachers licence or a waiver to teach without a licence. A full teachers licence can be obtained by having a degree in education e.g. PGCE and having taken part in the 'thai culture course'. Most people however will have be applying for a waiver to teach without a licence. This waiver gives the holder permission to teach at the school for a period of two years.

Applicant who wish to apply for a waiver to teach without a license must have a degree from a recognised university, TEFL certificate and a recent criminal records check. The degree can be in any field and does not have to have any relation to teaching whatsoever. It is worth noting that those applying to the TCT from countries considered not to be 'native english speaking' (all countries except AUS, CAN, NZ, IRE, UK, USA) will be required to sit a TOEIC examination prior to application. 

(Thai Work Permit Book)

Once the process has been completed you will be the proud owner of a blue work permit (cost 3,100 baht) and an extension of your visa until the end of the contract (cost 1,900 baht). The whole process will normally take the better half of the three months on your initial visa but it has been known for the process to take longer, resulting in applicants having to do another visa run and start the application process again from scratch (not fun!!!) 

If you thought that the reward for that long winded process was to be required to have nothing to do with immigration for twelve months, i'm afraid you were wrong. You are required to report to immigration every three months to 'confirm' your current address. It's actually more of a minor inconvenience then a problem because the whole process is completed in a couple of minutes (providing you don't live in an area with many foreigners) and is free. The date is confirmed by a slip being stapled into your passport and you are free to attend 7 days before, if this is more convenient for you to do so.

(date to attend immigration for '90 day reporting' attached to your passport)


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