Is It Legal to Work as a Digital Freelancer in Thailand?
In the last decade, Thailand has turned into one of the global hotspots for a new generation of digital freelancers who decided to quit their 9-to-5s in order to live and work abroad on their own terms. It is easy to see why. There are numerous benefits to living and working in Thailand as a freelancer—the famous low cost of living, balmy climate, ease of assimilation and integration, myriad recreational activities and opportunities for local travel, and a plethora of cafes and co-working spaces to make connections and get to work.
The one huge drawback? If you are staying on a tourist visa, without a work permit, it is technically illegal to work in the Kingdom of Thailand. Even if you work as a volunteer and don’t earn a salary, you are still required to get a work permit in order to perform voluntary work while in Thailand. And in order to be issued a Thai work permit, you will need to be sponsored by a local company who can help prepare the paperwork.
But what about freelancers, who technically work for no one? Is it possible for the digitally self-employed to work legally in the eyes of the law?
Do Your Work Through Shelter
The short answer is yes. There is a type of company in Thailand that is certified to hire you as an employee so you can carry out your freelance work, called an “Employer of Record” (EOR). Shelter is one example. Unlike most Thai limited companies, which are drastically limited by the number of foreign nationals they can employ (1 foreigner: 4 Thais), Shelter is unique in that it has been granted special exemptions by the Board of Investment in Thailand (BOI) as one of a small number of companies in the technology sector working to move Thailand forward into the digital age. As a result, we are allowed to employ a higher ratio of foreign per Thai nationals, as long as they meet the experience and education requirements.
As a Shelter partner you can invoice your clients as usual, and then we invoice your company, make tax, social security, health care and administrative deductions, and pay your salary in Thai Baht. Rather than charging an expensive percentage-based fee, we will work with you to find an appropriate flat fee that will cover everything needed to get you on the right side of Thai law. This arrangement gives you more take-home pay after tax—especially after factoring in currency difference and low cost of living—than you would otherwise earn working in your home country. The relief that comes from the certainty of your long-term legal status in Thailand is another huge benefit. While freelancers are technically considered employees of Shelter, they are able to carry out their work for clients as before through our EOR (Employer of Record) service.
The Benefits of Working through Shelter
The primary advantage to working with Shelter is that we take care of everything for you—from immigration and work permit to invoicing and payroll—so you can stay legally in Thailand, focus on your work, and enjoy the amazing Thai lifestyle.
To start with, you get complete healthcare coverage. Enrollment in the social welfare program allows you to visit the local hospital of your choice and receive treatment and medication without having to pay anything out of your own pocket. The average American pays around 25% in taxes and has to pay for ridiculously expensive healthcare on top of this. Most Europeans are paying a minimum of 35% in taxes back home—and some much more. It’s easy to see why freelancing in Thailand will save you money at the end of each month.
What’s more, Thailand has a relaxed taxation posture on money earned outside the country. As an employee of Shelter, you would have a reliable tax home established in Thailand. This could exempt you from owing income tax in your home country. These two factors can be quite a big additional money saver for those with an online income if structured properly.
Working with Shelter you will get a Thai work permit and 1-year visa to stay in Thailand. This visa can be renewed annually without having to leave the country. Being fully legal makes it much easier to do things like buy a vehicle or condo, acquire a Thai driving license, open local bank accounts, and apply for Thai credit cards. By comparison, the digital professionals who constantly hop from country to country typically stay in Thailand on tourist or education visas and endure endless uncertainty and hassles in order to stay here.
If you would like to work with Shelter as a Freelance Partner, you will need to meet several requirements:
- Are at least 22 years old
- Have either one of the following:
- An IT-related university degree, plus at least 2 years of relevant work experience
- Any type of university/college/school diploma or certificate, plus at least 5 years of relevant work experience
- Work in software development, blockchain, design, marketing, or other online, tech/digital-related activity
- Have an existing business or client base
- Bill a minimum of $2,500 USD per month
- Commit to a one-year contract
How to Get Started
To get started, simply fill out a Shelter application form. Tell us a bit about yourself, and we’ll be in touch to discuss how we can work together.