As a former teacher in Bangkok, Thailand, I often get asked questions about work permits by western English teachers who are new in town. Work permits in Thailand, and the regulations for getting them. can be confusing as well as completely different than in many other Asian countries.
One question that I get asked all the time, however, is this one – Can a work permit be used for any teaching job in Thailand, or is it job-specific?
Thai work permits are job-specific – Unlike Japan, where once a work permit is issued to a teacher it can be used to teach at just about any school in Japan, a work permit in Thailand is job-specific. What that means is you are not legally allowed to work anywhere else but at the school that is tied to the work permit.
So, if you resign from one job and accept another, you and your new school have to go through the whole application for a work permit again. It makes no sense, but this is Thailand.
Can you teach a second job using the same work permit? – While the vast majority of western English teachers in Thailand teach at a second job other than their primary one, what they are doing is technically illegal.
That means, whether they work a couple of evenings a week teaching business English to Thai corporations, or teach children on the weekends at a local language school, because their Thai work permit does not cover these jobs, they are teaching illegally.
That having been said, however, I have never heard of a single teacher ever getting into trouble for doing so, as long as they already have a work permit for their main job.
In fact, Thai authorities seem to turn a blind eye to most of this type of teaching as, if they didn’t, the country simply would not have enough native English speaking teachers to teach the students wanting to be taught, and 90 percent of the English teachers here would be in jail.
Do be aware, however, Thai immigration have really started to clampdown on visa and work permit violations over the last couple of years, and are constantly introducing changes to visas and various other permissions to stay. So this could easily change. And fast.
What happens to your work permit when you quit a job and what must you do? – As if quitting a teaching job and finding another one isn’t stressful enough, Thai authorities like to add just a little more stress to your life.
They do this by requiring you to hand in your work permit within 10 days of having resigned from your job, and then mandating that you must leave the country as well, usually within another 7 days.
Leaving the country, of course, means traveling to a local border with a neighboring country, crossing it, turning around and coming right back into Thailand. It costs you at least 2,200 baht ($71), but it makes Thai immigration happy and you have no choice but to do it.
Either that or fly out of the country to a neighboring country with a Thai embassy and apply for a tourist visa. That will allow you to come back into Thailand to look for another job.
Your visa is also tied to your work permit – Remember too, when your work permit becomes null and void so does the visa you have attached to it. That means a trip to a neighboring country with your non-immigrant B visa and an application for a tourist visa.
Unless, that is, you have already accepted another teaching job and the school has been able to complete your visa application paperwork in time. Then you can apply for a second non-immigrant B visa, which will be attached to a new work permit once you are back in Thailand, and the process begins all over again.
Yes, work permits for teachers in Thailand are job-specific and yes, it is a pain in the you-know-what.Thailand is, however, still a third world country in all but name so don’t expect this fact to change anytime soon.
You can find out more about the legal aspects of work permits in Thailand at Siam Legal, a well-known Bangkok law firm.