If you ever tried to get a work permit in Thailand, you will know how complicated it is. Not that it is difficult to get, but the sheer complication of the work permit procedure make it excessively frustrated and stressful. Let me give you a brief overview of Thai work permit procedure.
To get a work permit, you must have a non-immigrant visa. Any non-immigrant visa type is OK, but usually, this will be type B non-immigrant visa. You have to get this non-immigrant visa before entering Thailand. If you enter with tourist visa, you cannot change to non-immigrant visa (except under some certain circumstances). To get a non-immigrant visa, you need some documents from your employer. The required documents include letter from your organization stating your appointment, your job contract together with your job description, and the letter from Thai authority (this usually is approval letter from Thai Ministry of Labour, or if your are working for NGO, a letter from Ministry of Interior). Don’t worry, these will be handled by your employer. However, here lies some complications, depending on where you apply for your visa, and your country of origin. Some embassies ask for the air ticket itinery, to show that you are going out of Thailand before the expiry date of your visa. Believe me, this is rediculous but it happened to many people. Not all embassies though ask for this, but it is wise to prepare this document to avoide inconvenience. Some embassies will give you only type “O” (dependent) visa if you don’t have a work permit. (Well, you are applying for a work permit!) Don’t argue, there is no difference, Whether you get type O or type B.
Now you come to Thailand, and apply for work permit. You might also start working even before you get the work permit. There is no problem, as long as you apply for it. The labour office will not object to it. They might even come and see you working at your office before they approve your work permit to make sure you are actually working with the organization. (This is rediculous! According to Thai law, you cannot work without work permit). Now, you got your work permit. You think everything is fine now. However, complications start only now.
If you look carefully at your work permit, you will see that it is valid only until the expiry date of the visa, not the end of your contract. Now, the next task is to extend your visa before its expiry date, which might take more than one trip. The immigration will extend your visa for, not one year, but only one month! They will say they need to investigate. (They never do it). Now, go back to your work permit office again, extend another one month. At the appointed date, go back to immigration to get your visa extension. They will give you another 2 or 3 months! Now go back to work permit officem extend again, go back to immigration, extend again …… Phew!
It is not difficult, but complicated. You found yourself running between immigration office and the work permit office. One of my colleague got only one week extension once, and on another occassion, another co-worker did not get visa extension, because his work permit extension was pending. He was not kick out of the country, the immigration told him to wait. Thus he was legally working and staying in Thailand without work permit or visa! This is quite stressful. You cannot concentrate on your work properly. Anyway, you will learn in a few months’ time and will get used to it.