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How to set up your own business in Thailand

Thailand is becoming an increasingly attractive place for foreigners to set up their own business. The combination of emerging opportunities, an affordable workforce, developing infrastructure, and a very attractive lifestyle is leading an increasing number of foreign nationals to decide to start their own business here. 

Whether you want to run a software company, a tourism-based business, or something in between, there are plenty of great opportunities for businesses in Thailand. However, once you’ve had that great idea for your own company, knowing how to get started and navigate the practicalities of establishing your own business in Thailand can be rather daunting.

Don’t worry – we’ve got your covered! Here’s what you need to know about setting up your very own venture in Thailand.

Legal Requirements

As with setting up a business anywhere in the world, there are certain legal loop-holes you’ll need to jump through and it is important to have these in order before you go any further. When establishing a company in a foreign country, these requirements can be more complex, or at least may seem this way because you are not familiar with how things work outside of your own backyard.

The legal requirements in Thailand are reasonably straight-forward compared to establishing a business in other places. However, it is important to be aware that foreign nationals are forbidden under Thai law to own 100% of the shares of any business, the one exception to this being US citizens. Therefore, generally foreign nationals will go into partnership with a local business partner, a Thai citizen, and register the company under that person’s name. 

From there, you (or your partner) will need to register the company name, register for VAT, secure the proper licenses (including tax license) and lodging a MoA (Memorandum of Association, official document which states the key information about the company including the names and contact details of all shareholders). You will generally need to open a business bank account at this stage and deposit paid-up capital. These processes may sound complicated, and they can be when you don’t know what you are doing. For this reason it is a good idea to contract a Thai lawyer or representative to help you to manage the paperwork and make sure everything goes smoothly.

Timelines and Costs

You will need to allow a little time for these matters to be processed, although the processes are not overly lengthy. For public companies, it will not take more than 30 days for your official company registration to be processed, as long as you have your paperwork in order. Private company registration usually only takes around seven days. The registration of the company name takes only two days or less.

The official fee for filing a Memorandum of Association is 6000 Baht (around 200 US Dollars). There is no fee for registering a company name. You will generally need to demonstrate that your company has 1 million Baht in paid up capital, which is the equivalent of 33,000 USD, and pay at least 25% of this into your official company bank account.

Visa Requirements

Aside from the standard business registrations, as a foreign national you will also need to make sure you have the appropriate permissions to live and work in the country. Under Thai law, all foreigners who are working in the country, even as part of their own, self-funded business, need to have a work visa. It is of the utmost important that you have this in order before starting your business, as the government will shut the company down permanently if you do not have your immigration paperwork in order. You can apply for a work visa through the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the visa will cost you 5000 Baht per month or more.

Develop Your Marketing Strategy

When establishing your new business in Thailand, developing a strong marketing strategy will be essential. Thailand is the second-biggest economy in South East Asia, which represents great opportunities for businesses. However, competition is also fierce so you will need to have a strong marketing strategy in order to stand out from the competition and build a solid customer base.

Create an engaging website which showcases your business’ products and services and encourages customers to place an order or get in touch. Make sure you have a strong presence on social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Trade shows are also a great way to promote your business and build your customer base. All you’ll need is a custom exhibition booth, and you’re ready to sign up for all the relevant local and regional trade shows to promote your products and services to a whole new group of customers.  

Once you have ticked all the boxes in terms of legal and immigration requirements, and have a strong strategy to promote your business, the sky will be the limit!

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