4 Ways You Can Start a New Life in Thailand

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Many people dream of one day cashing in their life in their native country for the adventure and excitement that comes with immigrating to a foreign country. In recent years, people have changed in more traditional choices of country, such as the USA and Canada, for more obscure and differently cultured locations across the world. One such location that has received recent popularity is Thailand, mostly due to its legendary status as a fantastic holiday destination. However, the situation in Thailand for non-native long term residents is far from straightforward and can be very confusing for the uninitiated, so it is best to do a substantial amount of planning before making the leap to your new life in Thailand.

Living in Thailand, Thai flag

Living in Thailand

However, for those that have their hearts set on Thailand as a destination to make a new life, you need to be aware that many jobs in Thailand remain reserved exclusively for Thai nationals and are completely inaccessible for foreigners. Meaning your options are rather limited in terms of employment and you may have to consider an industry or profession change, and if this is something you are prepared to consider then read on to see a few suggestions of how you could do this.

1.     Teaching

Now it really wouldn’t be an article about relocating to Thailand if we didn’t at least mention teaching English as a potential career choice. Certainly, this is the stereotypical job that foreigners in Thailand work and most Thai people will assume you are an English teacher once they find out you live here, regardless of your actual job. This is because most long-term backpackers living in the country will usually fund their travels by teaching on the side. However, this option has become less accessible in recent years due to some quite sweeping changes made to the education system in Thailand.

Whilst there are some exceptions to the rule, pretty much every teaching job in Thailand now requires their foreign teachers be educated to a university level, with most jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree (usually in any subject) in order to be eligible for the working Non-B Visa and Work Permit required to live and work in Thailand. Unless you have these qualifications then it is better to consider another approach if you are serious about starting a new life in Thailand.

2.     Starting your own business

Now Thailand is known for many things, stunning mountainous regions, beautiful beaches, and more recently, big business. This is due to Thailand having the strongest economy in South East Asia, and it has in recent years become a business hub for the entire region, with corporations and international; businesses flocking to Thailand to take advantage of the comparatively low employment and startup costs of establishing a business. If you have a strong idea for a business and a little cash in reserve to get you going, this route could be good for you.

Westerners in Thailand (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

Westerners in Thailand (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

With the economy in Thailand being so strong, the potential scope for new businesses is very broad, but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Import/Export
  • Bars and Restaurants
  • Digital Marketing Agency
  • Website and App Development
  • Graphic Design
  • Coffee and Beverage

However, as with any of these suggestions, there are some drawbacks. Thailand has a reputation for bureaucracy, particularly when dealing with business and immigration procedures. As such, you can expect to require the services of an experienced lawyer to set everything up and deal with the legal side of things.

3.     Diving

As a location world renowned for its beautiful and crystal clear waters and remarkable coastline, Thailand services around 32 million tourists a year. The majority of those will be attracted to one of Thailand’s many seaside locales in order to soak up the sun, go on boating trips and, on a more relevant note, diving, and snorkeling excursions. Anybody that has qualifications in SCUBA diving can consider making a relatively easy living for themselves doing something they love. Koh Tao, an island just off the coast of Thailand, has become something of a centralized diving hub and is a great place to start when prospecting for potential work.

Beach and boats on Koh Phayam*

Beach and boats on Koh Phayam

Most dive centers require you to be qualified up to a certain level, usually Divemaster, to be able to work for them. Some centers even offer what are known as “diving apprenticeships” which allow you to work, earn money and learn the skills necessary to progress to the level of Dive Instructor, which is an avenue to getting even better work within the industry.

4.     Freelancing

While this can be a slightly legally grey area, Thailand has always been known as a freelancer’s paradise, allowing those who choose this route cheap living expenses and a large market for which to advertise your skills. However, do be aware of the potential legal pitfalls of this option, make sure that you properly consult with a legal expert in order to ascertain what is and is not illegal to do whilst in Thailand. Generally speaking, the problem starts to arise once you begin receiving money and performing the work in Thailand. As far as immigration is concerned, any foreigner working in Thailand, for payment in Thailand needs to hold a valid work permit.

Ensuring that everything you do in Thailand is legal and above board in all respects is crucial. The rules in Thailand regarding immigration requirements are notorious for changing rapidly, suddenly and without warning. Naturally, working as a freelancer usually for your own clients will pose some tricky legal challenges for you to overcome. But this has become such a popular route that companies have even set themselves up as freelance collaboration companies in which they set you up with everything you need to work, like a work permit and visa, in exchange for a portion of your earnings.

Moving to Thailand can be an exciting, refreshing and fun change of pace from your old life in your home country, however, as with any big move, it requires the proper amount of research and forethought to execute properly.

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