Working in Thailand without a Work Visa
You know someone who does it or either your thinking about doing it yourself. Working in Thailand without a work visa sounds really scary and illegal. But for many people who live in Thailand it's a necessity or they will be on the next plane back home.
There are so many different jobs you can do in Thailand that you could work illegally most being in either teaching or in music but really any sort of job you could do in Thailand without a visa providing you find someone willing to take you on as an employee. The biggest motivation is really down to money. Working without a visa means you get paid cash you don't pay taxes and don't have to pay for the work permit.
What happens if you work in Thailand without a work permit?
I get asked this question a lot and honestly every case is different however it's extremely rare that you'll ever get deported or thrown in jail. What happens if you get caught working without a permit is typically a slap on the write and a hefty fine. The fine can vary greatly depending on what the police officer asks for but in recent cases I've seen is about a 20,000 baht fine. That is a lot considering most illegal workers (Farang) get paid less than 30,000 baht a month. It's always a good idea to have this money in your bank ready to take out at a moments notice in the event that you do get caught.
Getting caught working illegal in Thailand is not inevitable but it can happen. If you work as a musician you are more likely to get caught than any other profession. The authorities don't like people working as a musician because it's taking jobs away from Thai people. Things like Teaching is actually a good service so it's less likely you'll get into trouble.
A recent case I heard about was a guy who worked in the Night Bazaar here in Chiang Mai. He and his wife own a store that sells amulets and small buddhas, well the police came around one day and told him he had to pay a fine because he was working. He was only just sitting there and not doing anything at all. But see how he got done was through his own admission, when asked if he did anything here he said "No i don't work, but if someone asks me a question I'll answer them with the required information" That's it your working and a 20,000 baht fine ensued.
You might thing much of Thai police but they are not stupid and police in any country know exactly how to get you to confess. They have methods that you are not aware of that trip you up and admit guilt, they are trained to do so. So if you decide to work illegally in Thailand you should train yourself in exactly what to say in the event they come knocking.
If your a musician your stuffed because you're carrying your guitar and sitting on stage singing etc there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Your F'd. Pay the find and be as polite as possible. However say you own a bar, you help run the staff poor drinks talk to customers etc. When the police come by admit nothing. It is scary when they start asking questions but you keep your cool and repeat over and over again "I don't work, I drink". Any question they ask repeat the same answer, don't smirk or look cocky, look really concerned and surprised and keep saying "I don't work, I drink".
Police: What's your name?
Police: This bar is called Pete?
Police: You own this bar?
Police: How long have you been running this bar?
Pete: 3 years.
Police: So you've been running this bar for 3 years show me your work permit!
What Pete should have said is I don't own the bar my wife does, I don't run the bar my wife does. Typically they will ask you a bunch of questions where you only have to say yes to until they are ready to ask you a trick question which you answer yes to that will trip you up and admit your guilt. Don't answer any question quickly and make no admission to anything you don't work and you don't know. Better off answering questions by refering to your wife/gf. Admit nothing.
Final thought here for you is the biggest reason people get caught working illegally in Thailand without a permit is someone dobbing them in. For those who don't know what dobbing is to turn someone in, in the case to turn someone in for working illegally. It is quintessentially un-Australian to be a dobber or dob someone in yet Thai people have no such qualms. In fact it is a known trait of Thai people to turn people in, especially if you are doing better than they are. So make sure your friends with the people you work around at all times, don't ruffle any feathers and give them a home made pie now and then to make sure they don't dob you in.