Foreigners can live and make money in Thailand by establishing their own company in this country. While almost all possibilities (businesses) are open to the company itself, the work for the foreigner himself remains limited. At least you can act as a “Managing Director” in your own company and receive a work permit for this position.
It is also no problem to get a work permit for a specialized job in your own company, if you have such a qualification. So here are some ideas and examples of what foreigners are doing as self-employed in Thailand.
- Owner of a travel agency / travel office: Often used by tour guides who have been to Thailand and would like to stay in the country. It’s good if you have connections to large tour operators, with whom you can conclude agency contracts and then look after their guests on site. But: Foreigners are not allowed to work as “tour guides” in Thailand.
- Production of foreign food specialties: It almost always works when German, Austrian, American or Swiss bakers, butchers or cooks set up food shops or food companies in Thailand. It is easy to get a permit to “make or cook foreign food”.
- Diving school: Today it’s not a difficult business anymore. Since diving is almost always in some national park, special permits are required from the national park administration. Since diving school operates in the tourist industry, membership in the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) is also required, which means that there are further requirements for the quality and size of the diving center and a lot of paperwork.
It is practically no longer possible to get in small. You have to put a larger sum on the table in order to set up an appropriate dive shop, or to buy an existing one that meets all requirements.
Of course, diving centers should be near the water. Note that, on the beach, the rental prices for shops have skyrocketed.
- Bar owner: Since it is not worth setting up a company with all the effort and costs for a bar, most foreign bar owners operate illegally and, at best, let the business run with a Thai partner. For the corresponding alcohol license you needed a Thai anyway.
Without a company, and also no work permit, so most foreign bar owners always have one leg in their bar and the other in jail.
Due to the lack of a legal basis, bar owners often do not know how and where to get a new visa from. This then always gives rise to the horror reports about visa refusal, expulsion, etc.
- Restaurant owner: Brings almost similar problems as a bar. However, if you have a reliable Thai woman and run the restaurant seriously, you can set up a partnership LTD with the woman, and thus have a legal business basis for visas and work permits. In some regions, it is also possible to get a work permit through your Thai spouse (without establishing a company).
- Import / Export: You can either export goods produced in Thailand abroad, or import very special goods from abroad and sell them in Thailand. In Phuket years ago, someone started their own business with importing sockets, switches and many other electrical goods from Germany and selling them to foreigners who were building or renovating a house. It worked, even if electrical goods are otherwise much cheaper in Thailand, but are usually of poorer and cheaper quality.
- Hotel / Resort / Guesthouse Owner: A good deal if you got there early enough and could buy the land cheaply. If you come here too late, you usually end up far from the beach or tourist center, and can only survive if you do good marketing on the Internet or with travel agencies at home and abroad. Due to the often numerous Thai employees, the owners here also have a lot to struggle with personnel problems.
- Web and graphic design: This business has slowed down a bit since almost everyone has their own computer today, but things are still going on: creating websites, menus for restaurants and hotels, templates for business cards, etc.
- Real estate & consulting offices: The matter with real estate has become a little more difficult, since land can no longer be registered for companies with foreign jurisdiction. But you can still earn enough just by brokering land and real estate. Advisory offices for different areas also work well.