Setting Up a Business in Thailand: What you Need to Know

If you have been smitten by the mysterious and colourful Thai culture and you would like to set up a business in the Land of Smiles, this article was written with you in mind. Much like all nations, there are complex laws that come into play when a foreigner wishes to start a business and with that in mind, here are a few important aspects to consider when registering a business in Thailand.

  • Majority Thai Shareholders – If a foreigner wishes to set up a company in Thailand, they can have no more than 49% ownership, with the other 51% owned by a Thai or Thais. This means you will need a Thai partner, which could be your Thai wife, for example, or failing that, it is possible to find a reliable proxy to be the majority Thai shareholder.
  • Living in Bangkok – Assuming that your business will be based in the capital city, you will need to spend some time looking at different districts to choose the best place for your office. It is easy enough to find an international primary school in Bangkok, so your children can continue with their studies as they would at home, and the school uses the UK National Curriculum. You could lease your business premises, or the newly-formed company could purchase real estate (land cannot be purchased by a foreigner). Bangkok is a great city and the low cost of living and wide range of accommodation is ideal for family life and you will meet many other expat families who are living and working in Bangkok.
  • Seek Legal Counsel – There are certain industries that foreigners cannot enter and the best advice is to seek out a specialist law firm that handles foreign business investment, who can advise you on the best way to create your business. Of course, there are risks involved when setting up a business, which you should minimise by taking suitable measures.
  • Understanding Thai Culture – If you are planning to set up a business in Thailand, you should already have spent a few years living in the country, as this will help you to better understand Thai people and their culture. If, for example, you employ the direct, western way of doing business, this might not be the best approach, as Thais prefer to avoid conflict and if you have just arrived in Thailand, you are advised to take a course on Thai culture, with a view to doing business.
  • Visas – If you are using the Thailand Board of Investment, you should be able to secure a long-term visa that allows you to apply for a work permit, or if you are married to a Thai national, you can renew your visa every year, based on marriage. If you are aged 50 or over, you can apply for a retirement visa, although this does not allow you to do work of any kind. If you consult with your Thai lawyer, he or she can advise you regarding visas.

The global Covid-19 pandemic will affect travel and you are advised to contact the Thai Embassy in your home country regarding travel requirements, which might involve a period of quarantine arranged by the Thai government.