What's the legal situation for remote workers in Thailand?

#1

Hey everyone!

I’ve seen a lot of nomads here who are based out of Chiang Mai. Given the changes in visa rules lately with Thailand making it harder to do visa runs, etc. I have a few burning questions that I would love to get some insight on:

  1. Taxes - Does Thailand still not tax internationally earned income? As in, if it’s earned outside Thailand, and stays outside Thailand, it’s not taxed? (I read somewhere that this was the case but just need some solid answers…)

  2. Visas - How do you now manage to stay in Thailand for more than 60 days? Or do you just get a double entry 60 day visa back home from the consulates and then stay 120 days (with a short trip outside), or do something else? It seems like having to move around every few months can be quite a hassle, especially without a guarantee of getting in again. To frame this differently, what is the easiest way to get a longer term residency in Thailand? What is everyone doing these days now that the duration of the visa exemption on arrival at land borders has been shortened?

  3. Do any of you bank locally or is everything in offshore accounts or incorporated elsewhere?

  4. Is it possible to avoid farang rates after you stay for a while and most importantly, is it possible to integrate at all with the local populace given the language/cultural barrier? To put it differently, did you manage to make any/many Thai friends or do you mostly hangout with expats?

Just a few questions I had because Chiang Mai looks like a lovely place to settle down for 6 months to a year but especially on the visa front there seem to be some administrative hurdles.

Thanks in advance for any info :smile:

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#2

I was wondering the same and will be following this thread. So I don’t start another thread, I’d like to piggyback this one and also ask if you guys can give details about the internet there. Upload speeds? Download speeds? Reliability? Thanks!!!

#3

I concur with the above. :stuck_out_tongue:

All you folks based in Thailand, share with us your wisdom!

#4

I’ll try to answer some of your questions:
2 double entry tourist visas will give you (60days*30day extension) * 2. There are also education visas, but you don’t want to go that route… Thai government made view changes that make them totally not worth it (only if you don’t mind learning massage, muay-thai, thai cooking or thai language).
3. Basically i have multiple bank accounts in different countries. It’s probably not a good idea, but i don’t like to put all eggs in to one basket. And yes I have bank account in Thai bank, now it’s a little bit troublesome to get one… but there is a workaround with a little overhead on top (5000 baht).
4. Yes, i have some Thai friends, it’s pretty strange to live in Thailand and don’t have them here. There are a lot of interesting expats population here (from all over the world), that help me get away from my IT bubble and see life in different colors. The only type of people i try to avoid are expats with drinking problems and drug addicted. To avoid farang rates you have to speak decent Thai at least, but in some cases it will not help… Thais believe that people who have more, should share/pay more. So it depends on how you position yourself (how you dress, that car/motorbike you drive, do you have/not have gold on you and etc).

#5

@skat, related question, since you mention it above: If I’m actually interested in learning MT, is an educational visa worth it? Most of the trainees I know who’ve been to Thailand seem to go on tourist visas anyway. Any benefit to the education visa vs. entering as a tourist? Thanks!

#6

@Dave_Chakrabarti it’s really hard to find gym that is accredited to provide you with education visa, i would say that 95% of gyms don’t bother with it. I’ve only heard of couple gyms in BKK that can provide education visas, never heard about these kind of gyms outside BKK (but i was not looking hard too).

#7

@flyonthewall

If you’re British, you can get a tourist visa with 3x 60 day entries. Each of those entries can be extended by 30 days, giving you total 9 months in Thailand. If you’re not British, you’ll have to make do with a double entry (and 6 months in Thailand) on one visa.

If you have a visa with available entries, you’ll be able to use them to re-enter the country no problem.

When your Visa expires, you can travel to neighbouring countries such as Laos and Malaysia to get a new Visa. Malaysia recently became pissy about giving out Double entries and will only give single entry.

Thai consulates are also beginning to reject people who have back to back visas in their passports, so after a year or so, go do some travelling.

I have an education visa, learning Thai language. It’s great fun, though not easy. I go to school and have to check in with immigration every quarter. If you want to stay in Thailand for a while joining a Thai school is great option. Can’t remember how much I paid, maybe $1,000 or something for the year.

It’s easy to get a Thai bank account. I opened my bank with Bangkok Bank when I had a tourist visa. Now I’m a student it would likely be even easier. Many of the banks won’t let you open an account without a residency letter (from immigration), however Bangkok bank were fine with me.

I have Thai friends and a Thai girlfriend, though I tend to hang around with other expats. I talk with Thai friends daily, but my Thai is not good enough to hang out with non-English speakers.

Avoid farrang rates? Mmm, what do you mean by that? The only people who’re gunna take advantage of you are Taxi & Tuk Tuk drivers. Prices are stated on food stalls, restaurants and super markets.

#8

I had to pay the farang rate at a local amusement park in Bangkok. They wouldn’t allow me to use the coupon my Thai girlfriend had because I was a foreigner. Ridiculous! $30 instead of $5.

#9

Yeah it’s weird but I thought about it longer and think of it as that the avg income of a foreigner is usually $2000+/m, avg income of a Thai is $500/m.

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#10

The problem isn’t the money, really. It’s that I’m always an “other.” The average income of locals doesn’t really excuse institutionalized racism.

#11

Price discrimination sucks. It happens all over the world, and is more dependent upon someone’s ability to pay than their race.

I see it happening all the time in Ubud, Bali when expats are offering services to other expats. For example, yoga classes are often free for the locals and normal western prices for the expats. There’s laws against this in the US, but it hasn’t stopped places like Amazon from charging different prices for different locales.

#12

Since it was my first time out of the US, I was a little taken aback. Not too butthurt over it anymore, though :smile:

#13

I got a double entry tourist visa (60-days) for my 6-month stay in Chiang Mai and extended it twice for the extra 30-days. A few years ago I did this back-to-back for 18 months and didn’t have any issues. Now that they are cracking down I just take 10-14 days to go somewhere else in between visas for a nice little vacation.

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#14

Internet in Chiang Mai varies. A lot. When it works, it works great. When it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Here’s a few links that might help.

Kevin and Richard have taken speedtests at various cafes around town: http://www.nichesitenomads.com/category/cafe-report/

Here’s a test from my office this morning: http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/4098257795

#15

I’ve lived in Thailand since 2009, two years in Bangkok, the rest in Chiang Mai. Most of that time I was a student; I now have a job at a local company. I’m sure there are others, but what follows is my experience.

The only time I’ve experienced “farang rates” is at large tourist places like Flight of the Gibbon or something similar. There are two rates at most national parks, but when I flash my student ID or work permit I get the local rate. As Adam already mentioned, all other things are usually a listed price.

Making local friends is very easy and very hard. People are people and if you talk to them they’ll usually talk back. It has only happened a few times in life that I spoke to someone who promptly ran away. Joking aside, the hard part is finding enough in common with someone from a different culture to continue hanging out.

As for banking, it’s pretty easy. Officially you should be a university student or have a work permit to open an account, but in practice this is never a problem. Many of my friends have opened accounts on tourist VISAs. You might have to try a few branches before someone will open one for you, but you’ll get it. This article from Tony will probably help.

Taxes can be hard to talk about. Not only is it a touchy subject with the digital nomad crowd, but also I’m not sure where you’re from or how you’re working. If you’re only here for a few months and don’t intend to setup a local company, you won’t have to worry about paying taxes to Thailand. It’s important to know that while the immigration office doesn’t seem to care if you work on your laptop, the revenue department does. Officially you need a work permit to do anything here, but the chances of running afoul of the revenue department are infinitesimally small. Here’s the personal income tax section from the revenue department website if you’re interested to read more.

As was mentioned earlier, most people get tourist VISAs and run to Laos or Malaysia when they expire. Every so often the government will change the policy to make it more difficult to continue this practice, but it does seem to be the preferred way as tourist VISAs are easy to get. Education VISAs are probably the second most common. If you would like to learn something, most commonly Thai language, but also massage, or something else, you could easily go this route, but know that there are attendance requirements. Another interesting option for Australian and New Zealand citizens who are college degree holders and under 30 years old is the Working Holiday VISA which will give you one year in country, no VISA runs required. I know almost nothing about this option, but have met a few guys doing it. I’m sure Google will get you all the info you need.

There is one more option for those wanting to stay long term. While I work for the company I’m about to discuss, it’s not my reason for talking about them. This option will be good for some, and not good for others. Iglu is a Thai company with Board of Investment approval. If you do something related to software development, design, sales or marketing, they may be a good option. The basic system works like this: you continue working for your clients and customers as you do now, but instead of billing them yourself Iglu does the billing for you. On paper you will look like an employee of Iglu. They will get your VISA and work permit sorted, provide you office space and pay your local taxes. Once you establish tax residency in Thailand most people are no longer required to pay taxes to their home country. So far so good right? But I hear you ask, “how much will this cost me?” And that’s why it won’t be a good fit for everyone. Iglu keeps 30% of the money they invoice for you. This 30% is it though, no more taxes or anything else. If you’re interested, do a search for “Iglu in Thailand,” they’ll be the first result.

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#17

Great post! Lots to think about there. Iglu sounds interesting, but I think it would cause some ethical issues for me as an attorney :smile:

#18

Hi guys,

A bit late but just joined up! Another foreigner spending time in Thailand. Spent 4-6 months a year based out of Phuket, for the past 5 years or so. Now doing the same from Bangkok. Hope some of my experiences will help you.

  1. If you spend more than 180 days in Thailand in a year, you can be taxed on all monies transferred into Thailand in that year.

  2. If you possess a passport that allows you a fly-in “visa exemption” with 30 day stay, you can extend for an additional 30 days (prior to September 2014 it was 7 days) for 1,900 thb. You can only have 6 visa exemption entries in a year (they have started enforcing it quite strictly). It is irrelevant how long each of these trips are - I got caught out once even though 2 of my entries were single day visa exempt entries. My visits are normally spaced by a month or two. If you have the money and expect to be based in Thailand for 5 years, the Thailand Privilege visa (pay to stay) at 15,000 USD does make it easier, though that’s a lot to pony up, upfront. It does, however, kind of defeat the whole “nomad” ideal of this site.

  3. I bank locally. Send USD to the Thai bank, and get really, really good exchange rates. Opened it on a “visa exempt” entry, same as my car, licence, and multiple motorbikes.

  4. No. You will always pay farang rates. If you get a Thai drivers’ licence, you can get Thai prices at Aquariums, Theme Parks, National Parks, etc etc, but there are a lot of things that you will never see a printed price on, and there will be two prices. Not on food, but second hand vehicles, barter-able clothing shops, etc etc.

As for Chris’ Q’s regarding Internet.
Internet:
I spend ~700 THB for TRUE ADSL in Bangkok and see download speeds of 11.2 megabits per second (1.4 MB/s) however they HEAVILY shape torrent traffic from lunchtime til midnight-ish. You might as well say it’s completely blocked for the PM hours. Any file with .torrent extension is actually blocked during this time. Only just got the service, and then left BKK for a month, so haven’t set up a VPN to circumvent.
I spent about the same with 3BB in Phuket and got exactly the same download speed. They shape torrent traffic from 6 PM until midnight exactly, though nowhere near as hard (maximum of 600 kilobytes per second).
Surge protect everything in Thailand. Seriously.

Mobile Internet:
Country wide 3G coverage with DTAC/AIS/TRUE (yes, this is worth mentioning, it wasn’t that long ago that 3G wasn’t around in the Land of Smiles).

DTAC are advertising 4G coverage around Phuket on signs written in Thai (or so my GF translated for me).
AIS’s website shows a very limited coverage of 4G in Bangkok only around the Siam area and one University.
TRUE have a very manipulative advertisement claiming countrywide 4G&3G access. At first glance (and to non native English speakers) it would appear they have 4G everywhere. I take it to mean they have 3G everywhere, and basically assume they have one 4G base tower somewhere.

HTH

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