With its fascinating culture and attractive climate, Thailand is an appealing destination for expats seeking employment. However, finding a work permit involves a high level of bureaucratic complexity. Also, there are some jobs that overseas nationals are not allowed to do – much of this, though not all, relates to traditional Thai crafts. The Thai government, like that of many other nations, is seeking to attract highly skilled, highly qualified employees. Read on to learn more about your employment options.
You will first need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. Then, provided you are successful, you can apply for a work permit. Your employer will need to undertake some of this process.
If your employer wants to apply for a work permit for you, they will need to be properly registered with the Thai authorities, and they will need 2 million baht (US$6600) in capital (unless you are married to a Thai national, in which case this figure is halved). If they are not registered, they will need 3 million baht (US$9900).
In order to prioritise Thai workers, Thailand operates on a quota system. Therefore, your employer will need to cap its overseas personnel at 10 work permits, and they must have at least four Thai employees to every foreign worker. You are also only permitted to have one job, e.g. you cannot work multiple part-time jobs.
There are a number of types of working visas, as follows:
• Non-immigrant Visa B: this is the most common general work permit
• Non-immigrant Visa IB: for business investment
• Non-immigrant Visa B-A: for business investment or partnership with a Thai company
• Non-immigrant Visa M: mainly for journalists
In order to apply, you/your employer must submit:
• a Company Registration Department Certificate
• a list of the company’s shareholders, certified by the Commercial Registration Department
• a Factory License (if applicable), certified by the Factory Department of the Ministry of Industry
• VAT certificate Phor Phor 20
• VAT filings Phor Phor 30
• Withholding Tax form Phor Ngor Dor 1
• Social Security payment filings
• an employment contract stating your position, job requirements, salary, and contract duration
These documents all need to bear the company’s seal, and in addition they must be signed by the managing board/director of the company.
You will also need to submit:
• a passport with signed copies of every page
• a copy of your non-immigrant visa departure card (TM.6)
• a copy of your qualifications
• any certificates or licenses
• your CV/resume
• 3 x 5 x 6 cm photos, taken in the last six months
• marriage certificate, if applicable
• medical certificate issued in the last 30 days
You will need to pay fees, including a 100 baht (US$3) application fee and between 750 baht (US$25) and 3000 baht (US$98) for the actual permit.
You will be able to extend your visa, but if your employment terminates, then your residency in Thailand will officially be at an end and you will be obliged to leave the country.
You can apply separately for a work visa if you are self-employed, by applying to the Work Permit Division at the Thai Labor Department.
If you are a specialist in STEM subjects or have extensive business experience, you should find some good opportunities in the Thai job market.
As mentioned above, employment is restricted in some areas. For example, you will not be able to work as a doctor or a lawyer if you have foreign qualifications.
If you are working for a multinational company, you will not need more than basic Thai, but if you are working for a Thai business, you will need to be bilingual.
Thailand works a 40-hour week, spread across five days. Therefore, typically you will be working eight hours per day. Opening hours for government offices run from 8/8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Businesses tend to close a little later, around 5/5.30 p.m. Retail companies stay open until much later; for example, they may not close until around 8 p.m.
Under the Labor Protection Act (LPA), if you have worked continuously for a year, you will be entitled to annual leave of not less than six working days. There are also 19 public holidays.
If you become pregnant, you will be entitled to 90 days of maternity leave, including any holidays in that period, at full pay: 45 days from your employer and 45 days from the Social Welfare Fund.
The non-immigrant “O” visa for dependents does not allow your spouse to legally work in Thailand. Your spouse will need to obtain the appropriate non-immigrant “B” visa and work permit through their own employer. Note that there are restrictions, as above, on the number of jobs you can take up.
Speculative applications to companies are common and you may wish to secure an employment offer before you relocate.
There are a number of recruitment agencies covering Thailand, and you may also wish to explore some of the online job boards.
A standard CV/resume is acceptable. Whether you should choose to have your information translated or not depends on whether you are applying to a company that primarily speaks Thai.
The Thai Constitution restricts discrimination based on nationality, age, gender, language, physical or social status, religion, education and political affiliation. The Labour Protection Act (LPA) further prohibits discrimination in employment based on gender.
You may not need to have your qualifications translated, but you may need to have them apostilled, due to the Thai government’s emphasis on hiring skilled workers. Also, be aware that Thai immigration may require translations.
Thailand draws a number of visitors every year, with its impressive food, rich culture and beautiful nature. Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to travel there. This article will walk you through the types of visa available, as well as the processes for applying for a work permit or residency.
Tourists from many countries can enter Thailand without applying for a visa ahead of time, and can stay for 15 or 30 days, depending on their nationality.
For example, passport holders from China, India, Mexico, and Taiwan can stay in Thailand for 15 days after receiving a visa upon arrival. Visitors from Australia, Canada, most European countries, New Zealand, and the US can stay for up to 30 days without any visa at all. And still other countries, including Argentina, Colombia, Israel, and the Philippines, can stay for up to 90 days with no visa. A full list of visa exceptions can be found here.
Visitors from exempt countries, who will be engaging only in tourism, just need a valid passport, proof of onward travel and sufficient funds (10,000 THB, or $320, per person) to enter Thailand. Depending on whether they enter by land or air, they may be charged a visa fee of 2,000 THB upon entry, payable only in cash.
Other visitors will need to apply for one of the following visas from the Thai embassy or consulate office in their home country.
Tourist visa (TR)
This visa applies to visitors engaging only in tourism. It allows for a stay of up to 60 days, which can be extended by 30 days at a Thai immigration office. You’ll need your passport, a visa application form, a recent passport photo, proof of your travel plans (e.g. your air ticket) and of financial means (20,000 THB per person and 40,000 THB per family). These visas are valid for up to six months after they have been issued. The visa application fee is $30.
Education visa (ED)
Visitors with this visa are allowed to study, including at a university, on a Thai language course, and as a Buddhist monk. It also allows for specific training and seminars, including Muay Thai boxing. It grants up to 90 days in Thailand, and can be extended.
To apply, which costs $80, you will need:
• Your passport
• A visa application form
• A recent passport photo
• A recommendation letter
• A letter of acceptance from the institution or university
• A copy of your academic record
• Additional documents, as required
Business visa (B)
If you plan to work in Thailand, you will first need your prospective employer to apply for work approval for you in their respective province.Once they have that, you’ll need the following documents to get your business visa:
• Your passport
• A visa application form
• A recent passport photo
• Proof of financial means (at least 20,000 TBH per person)
• A letter of approval from the Ministry of Labour
These visas are valid for 90 days, and can be extended. They require you to apply for a work permit at the Office of Foreign Workers Administration and register to pay taxes upon arrival.
Volunteer visa (O)
This visa is issued to people who want to volunteer in Thailand. It gives you 90 days in the country, with the option to extend this once. To apply, you will need your passport, a visa application form, a recent passport photo, a recommendation letter, and information about the foundation or organisation you’ll be working with.
To get a retirement visa, you will first need a non-immigrant visa, such as one of the above. Then, once you are in Thailand, you can apply for this visa at the Immigration Police. It will allow you to stay in Thailand for one year. You must report to Immigration every 90 days to confirm your address and that you are not working.
To get a retirement visa, you must be 50 years of age or older. You will need:
• Your passport
• Three passport photos
• Your non-immigrant visa
• A departure card
• Proof of financial means – i.e. a bank account with at least 800,000 THB ($25,661) and a monthly income of 65,000 THB ($2,085) – as well as your Thai bank information
If you hold a B or O visa and work permit, or if you have a retirement visa, and your dependents are under 50, they can apply for this visa to join you in Thailand for up to 90 days, which can be extended for one year at a time.
They will need:
• Their passport
• A completed application form
• A passport photo
• An original marriage or birth certificate and a copy
• A copy of your Thai work permit and visas
• A copy of your passport
They will also need to pay a fee of $80 for a single-entry visa or $200 for a multiple-entry visa.
Working in Thailand is possible only on a business, volunteer, or dependent visa. You can apply for a work permit under your visa, which will be extended to match the length of your employment contract.
Work permits are issued by the Ministry of Labour to Thai employers. They are valid for one year, with an option to extend.
Some of the most common work permits are given to English teachers or digital freelancers, who find their clients under the umbrella of a Thai company, which takes care of their visa requirements for an agreed cut of the work.
Thai permanent residency is available to 100 people per country, per year. To apply, you must hold a non-immigrant visa and work permit for three years. If approved, you’ll get a residence blue book, which you can then use to apply for a red book, or a national ID card, at your local police station, where you will need to re-register on an annual basis. After holding permanent residency for 10 consecutive years, you can apply to be a naturalised Thai citizen.
There are a number of general requirements applicable. For example, you must be able to pass a Thai language test and an interview at the Immigration office. You must also provide all the documents you needed for your original visa, as well as additional fees and passport photos.
There are a number of categories of permanent residency, including the below.
To qualify for this form of permanent residency, you must have at least 3-10 million TBH invested in Thailand.
This residency is valid for those who have long-term work or their own business in Thailand.
For this residency, you must be married to a Thai citizen, or be the guardian of a Thai child under 20.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Finding rentals in Thailand is relatively easy, especially in popular expat cities, such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Tao and Hua Hin. The standard lease length is twelve months, though some landlords will offer a six-month lease, or perhaps something even shorter, depending on the type of rental.
Condominiums are the most popular and highly recommended rental option for expats. However, service apartments, though more expensive, are also an option for those looking for a shorter lease and a fully furnished home. If you rent a service apartment, you don’t have to worry about setting up utilities, whereas you would have to in the majority of rentals in Thailand.
Most rental properties in Thailand are unfurnished, save for basics, such as washing machines and dishwashers. Many landlords offer furniture for rental in a separate lease, but most expats choose fully furnished accommodations instead.
Typically, in Thailand, tenants are expected to pay a deposit that is equivalent to two months’ rent, in addition to the first month’s rent. Rental agreements tend to be informal, but it is in your best interests to hire an estate agent, who can schedule viewings and draw up a contract for both you and your landlord to sign. However, you will only be able to hire a real estate agent if you plan to rent for at least six months.
Guarantors are not typically used in Thailand, though some landlords may require one. Tenants are not typically expected to undergo a background check or provide references, though some landlords may ask for documentation. If they do, then you may need to present the following documents:
• A copy of your work permit (if applicable), your certificate of residence (issued by Thai Immigration), or your letter of residence from your embassy (certified and translated into Thai)
• Your passport
• Proof of income
Popular sources for expat rentals include Sense Property, a property group that specialises in finding places for foreigners; DD Property and Thailand-Property. These provide an extensive collection of condominiums, apartments, and houses for rent in Thailand.
Rental prices will vary depending on proximity to city centres. In Bangkok, expats can find one-bedroom rentals for around $80 to $120 per month. These apartments will always be furnished, but will have a Thai-style bathroom, meaning that the shower will not be separate from the toilet or sink.
You can also find four-room townhouses in the same price range, in what Thais call “Moo Baans,” but only if you are willing to live much further from downtown Bangkok, and to buy your own furniture. For $170 to $400 per month, you can find rentals, with one or two bedrooms, that include kitchens and Western-style bathrooms. The closer the apartment is to downtown Bangkok, and the more amenities (like swimming pools and gyms) it has, the more expensive it will be.
In Chiang Mai, tenants can find a centrally located, one-bedroom apartment for around $380 per month, and one with two bedrooms for about $760 per month. These apartments typically have a full Western-style kitchen and bathroom. The less expensive apartments will typically have a Thai-style shower and fewer amenities. Almost all apartments in Chiang Mai are fully furnished.
When considering renting property in Thailand, you should pay close attention to the price of electricity, and ideally find a place that charges five baht per unit or less, instead of eight baht per unit, which is the rate found in some service apartments. You should research the rates in the area you wish to move to, or hire a lawyer to ensure your landlord isn’t overcharging you.
Also, it is worth keeping an eye out for construction, as this can go on seven days a week, often until late at night. Similarly, local bars and restaurants can be quite noisy until late at night, so be aware of any that are in close proximity to your potential property.
By law, foreigners cannot own land in Thailand. There are, however, a few ways that you can get partial ownership of property.
The easiest way for a foreign buyer to own property, and to have their name registered on the title deed, is to buy a condo. There are additional laws requiring the majority of the property to be owned by Thai nationals, meaning a maximum of 49% can be owned by a foreigner.
You could also buy land on a leasehold basis. You will need to have a lawyer to discuss lease lengths, and a translator if you do not speak Thai. Leases of more than three years can be registered at the Land Office. The maximum lease is 30 years, but this can be renewed twice, making a total 90-year lease. Though this option doesn’t include ownership, it does give the leaseholder exclusive rights to the property. You could build and own a house on the land, so long as the lease permits. Leases are still valid if the land is sold, or even upon the death of the lessor.
Another option is to set up a Thai company to purchase property. In order for a company to be classified as a “Thai Entity,” Thai nationals must own 51% or more of the shares. This type of ownership is most common among investors buying large properties, and is not typically done for residential purposes.
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: Thailand health insurance
As an expat, you will not be able to join the state health insurance system although you should be able to access public healthcare if you are prepared to make out of pocket payments at a clinic or hospital.
You will need to take out private health insurance.
Thailand has many national and international banks including Bangkok Bank, Citibank, and Deutsche Bank. Most of these banks have English language websites. The Thai currency is called the Baht. One Baht is equivalent to 3 U.S. cents. A Baht is subdivided into 100 Satang. Baht notes have different sizes and colors.
There are many different national and international banks in Thailand. Citibank, Deutsche Bank and HSBC are the most common banks for foreigners. HBSC is quite popular with expats because it does not require an annual minimum salary. Big Thai banks such as the Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial bank and Krung Thai bank dominate the banking sector. A minimum salary of between 50000 and 150000 Baht per year is required before opening an account.
Banks are open from 8:30 to 15:30 from Monday to Friday except on public holidays. Some branches open on weekends too.
How to open a bank account
It is very simple to open an account in Thailand. Although a work permit is required, it is possible to open an account with just a passport. You will also be required to pay a non-refundable fee of around 500 baht. Once you open a bank account, you will be provided with a debit card allowing you to withdraw money at ATMs and other cash machines. The initial ATM fee is 300 baht. A monthly charge of 50 baht is paid if you do not make transactions for a while and your account balance is below the minimum. You will have to consult your bank for statements because they are not usually mailed out to clients. It is not easy to get an overdraft facility in Thailand.
This is not a very common service in Thailand even though most banks offer it. Internet banking services are very limited compared to those of developed countries. An ID and password is required when accessing an account online. TAN numbers are rarely available.
Rules on the withdrawal amount using an ATM card vary depending on the banks. An extra fee is charged during withdrawals using ATMs that are not in one’s province or when using a different bank. Over the counter cash withdrawals inside the bank require a passport.
Checks, credit cards, and debit cards
In Thailand, most credit cards are accepted including Visa and MasterCard. You can also apply for a credit card in Thailand though the conditions vary and the incentives for having one may be less attractive. Many stores, restaurants, and hotels accept credit cards at a charge of about 3 to 5%.
Using a credit card is beneficial to many expats because it does not require them to pay the foreign exchange fee normal for foreign credit cards. Getting a credit card from a Thai bank is difficult, especially for foreigners.
You will be required to provide your work permit, proper visa documentation, and history and proof of income when applying for a credit card from a bank in Thailand. Foreigners with retirement and spouse visas may not be able to apply. Regulations for applying for credit cards differ between banks and branches.
A minimum monthly income of between 50000 and 150000 baht per month is required by the big banks before they issue credit cards. The withdrawal limit of most banks is around 2000 to 4000 baht per day. Monthly limit and interest rates exist and vary depending on the bank.
These are received after opening an account. They allow the holder to deposit and withdraw funds from their account at ATMs and cash machines.
Most Thai hotels, shops, and restaurants accept traveler’s checks. You can convert your traveler’s checks to Baht at banks or other foreign exchange facilities. Be sure to carry your passport.
Differences between Thailand’s banking and other countries
Bank policies are branch specific. While this may be good in terms of leniency it is bad because bank managers and employees follow rules strictly. In addition, some banking services can only be carried out at the branch one opened their account from.
Guidelines on documents required for specific procedures may be published or offered via phone calls. Consider these as the minimum requirements and bring all your documents.
Choosing a bank
Traditionally, many foreigners choose Bangkok bank or Kasikorn bank. They are reputed for being easy to work with and are more lenient. However, it is important to choose to bank with an institution that will cater to your specific needs.
This is the largest and most foreigner-friendly bank. The main office is located on Silom Road. It is also known to have good exchange rates when it comes to international wire transfers.
The main office on the corner of Sukhurmvit and Asoke road is one of the most popular branches of this bank. It is a worthwhile option for cross border banking.
Many expats open bank accounts with this bank because of their favorable credit card policies. However, it may be a bit difficult to cash foreign currency checks with this bank
Siam commercial bank
This bank is popular because of its internet banking services.
Account types and opening procedures
This is the easiest type of account to open because it does not require a work permit. You can even open an account as a tourist with some banks. You may be required to provide your address in Thailand and passport when opening a savings account. The following documents are also acceptable:
• A driving license
• House registration
• A reference letter from a reputable Thai person
• A message from one’s home bank to the Thai bank
You may also be required to provide passport size photos and other documents, especially if you intend to stay in Thailand for a prolonged period. The process for opening a savings account in Thailand varies from one bank to another.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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If you are coming to Thailand to live or work, you might be wondering how easy it will be for you to communicate in English. Will you have to learn the local language? We will look at some of your options below.
The official language of Thailand is Thai, which belongs to the Tai-Kadai language family and derives from Sanskrit, Old Khmer, and Pali. Around 30% of the Thai population speak the language but it is in turn divided into many separate tongues, including Phu Thai, Shan, Song, Isan, Southern Thai, Nyaw, Northern Thai, Phuan, and Lu.
The linguistic situation here is given further complexity by the number of minority languages spoken in the country, including Yawi, Teochew, and Lao: the latter is a dialect of Isan. Yawi is spoken by the Malay Muslim community and is a form of Malay, but has been separated from Malaysian Malay for many generations. Teochew is a dialect of Chinese Minnan. You will also hear Hmong, spoken by over three million people in Thailand and other countries, and in addition other minority languages. Khmer is also widely spoken.
Thus it can be seen that Thailand has a very rich and diverse linguistic heritage. Around 27% of Thais speak English but to various degrees of fluency. The language is taught in schools but despite a relatively large English speaking expat community in some areas, many Thais do not have the opportunity to practice the language and you will find that it is not widely spoken.
It is therefore advisable to learn at least the basics of Thai if you are going to be working in the country. If you are working for a multinational, you will not need more than basic Thai, but if you are working for a Thai business, you will obviously need to be bilingual. You will find that English is more widely spoken in the cities, and among younger people, but even in tourist areas such as Phuket, proficiency is often low. Most Thais who work in the hospitality industry, such as hotels, will have at least basic English.
Remember that you will need to master a different alphabet: technically, this is known as an ‘abugida’ script with consonant and vowel symbols rather than letters. It is not easy to master and Thai is not an easy language for Westerners to learn. In addition, Thai is a tonal language: the meaning of a word will depend on how it is spoken. Some understanding of another tonal language, such as Chinese, will assist you in learning Thai. You may therefore want to sign up for language classes, particularly if you are intending to spend a long period of time in the country.
You will find extensive language provision in Thai with a large number of online resources. You may wish to begin familiarising yourself with the language before you arrive and you may also want to take classes in your own country (SOAS in London runs Thai classes, for instance).
Most language schools are found in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Pattaya, and focus on small group learning, but one-to-one tuition is also possible. You may also be able to find a ‘language buddy’ who wants to learn English and who can exchange skills. You can sign up with Thai at providers such as the Walen Language School (Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya), the Union Thai Language School (Bangkok) or the AAA Thai Language School (Bangkok).
You may be travelling to Thailand with the aim of teaching English. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), but there is a market for English in this country and it is a popular job option, particularly among digital nomads. The market is fast growing as Thailand wakes up to the role of English as a lingua franca of international commerce.
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA.
You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools. You are most likely to find work in a private language school teaching children or young adults, but there may be opportunities to teach business English, for example, to professionals in the cities. Most work will be in the cities such as Bangkok or Pattaya.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools prefer this, although it is often not a requirement in Thai language schools: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Salaries are in the region of US$950 per month but the cost of living in the country is relatively low and you will be able to earn more if you are, for instance, teaching in the corporate sector and have experience. Many teachers sign up for shared accommodation with one another.
If you are seeking work in translation or interpreting, you will obviously need to be highly proficient in Thai, and will also need the relevant qualifications.
Education in Thailand is free and compulsory. It is organised into stages.
There are nine years of basic education:
• six years of elementary school: from the age of 6, Prathom 1 to Prathom 6
• three years of lower secondary school: from the age of 12, Mattayom 1 to Mattayom 3
In addition there are three years of free pre-school and three years of free upper-secondary education which are not compulsory. Compulsory education ends with Mattayom three (grade 9).
Public education in the country has been subject to recent reform, but the pace of this has been badly disrupted by military coups and political instability. The OECD and UNESCO reported in 2016 that Thailand’s recent investments in education were not resulting in the expected outcomes and the country’s pupils were scoring beneath international averages. Of the 72 countries covered by the OECD’s PISA ranking in 2015, Thailand came 54th in science and 57th in mathematics. Results from the 2016 national tests in nine core subjects for Grade 12 students showed that students in Thailand failed eight out of nine subjects on average.
Moreover, there is a substantial inequality of educational provision between rural and urban regions of the country. UNICEF reports that about 14% of secondary-school age children are not in school.
In addition to formal education, the country also has a system of non-formal and informal education: continuous learning programmes which include literacy programs and secondary and post-secondary education that are delivered through modes such as distance learning. These also often have more flexible admission requirements. The National Statistics Office of Thailand reported that in the region of 3.4 million Thai students undertook this kind of education in 2016 at both elementary and secondary levels. A number of these non-formal education programs permit credit transfer across to formal education should the student want to change.
The language of instruction in public sector education is Thai. Expat parents may wish to enrol their children in the private sector, perhaps for linguistic reasons. If you are spending a short time in the country and your child is not bilingual in Thai, there may be a language barrier in public schools.
You will find a range of international schools in the country, teaching a variety of curricula from the British national curriculum, to the International Baccalaureate and American syllabi, among others. Some schools are faith-based and you will come across both Buddhist and Islamic schools here in addition to Christian schools. Alternative educational methods are also available: for instance, Montessori education. A number of educational establishments are linked with Western educational organisations.
For example, Brighton College Bangkok, a branch of the south coast British school, opened in 2016, and caters to children aged between 2 and 18. It follows the UK curriculum to IGSCE and A Level. Fees range from US$15K – 27K annually.
St Andrews International School Bangkok also follows a British curriculum leading to IGCSE examinations and the International Baccalaureate Diploma. Fees per year are from between US$10K – 22K.
The Singapore International School of Bangkok offers a British and Singaporean curriculum for children from the ages of 2 – 18, with instruction in English. Annual fees are between US$10K – 19K.
Raffles American School has an American curriculum and serves students Pre-K through 12th grade. Fees are in the region of US$9K – 21K.
The Didyasarin International Preparatory School Bangkok is a Nursery-Grade 12, IB system international school in Bangkok that follows an international curriculum. DIPS is a multilingual school with the primary language of instruction being in English followed by Thai and Chinese. Fees are US$12K – 21K per year.
The Australian International School Bangkok teaches ages from 2-16, based on the Australian national curriculum. Many of its teachers are from Australia. You will need to apply to the school directly for its fees.
Shrewsbury International School Bangkok City Campus is a new, purpose-built international day school for boys and girls aged 3-11 years. It is based on the British curriculum and is therefore English-speaking. Fees are annually from US$19K – 34K.
The Pan-Asia International School operates on an American curriculum, based upon the benchmarks provided by the Common Core Curriculum of the USA. For subjects where the Common Core Curriculum is not available, PAIS follows the standards provided by the State of Massachusetts, USA. In addition students in Grades 11 and 12 have the option of studying the IB Diploma. Again, you will need to apply to the school directly for its fee schedule.
You may find that you need to make one-off or regular payments such as capitalisation fees or enrolment fees: these can vary so do check with the school and make sure that you are aware of what you are paying. You may be able to pay in termly instalments. Check if there are any sibling reductions.
Enrolment policies will vary from school to school, but your child may be asked to take a proficiency test (for example in English or maths). Some schools do not impose entry tests. You can also check the accreditation of your selected school: for instance, with organisations such as COBIS (the Council of British International Schools).
Homeschooling is legal in Thailand, which recognizes alternative education and considers the family to be an educational institution. However, you will need to submit an application to homeschool and your child will be assessed annually.