Foreign Business License

Before starting their company operation in Thailand, foreign enterprises that desire to engage in activities governed by the Foreign company Act must apply for a foreign business license.

What is a Foreign Business Act?

Certain rights are set aside in Thai law for Thai citizens only when conducting business there. Thai government created a Thai Foreign Business Act of 1999 that limits the activities that “foreign” enterprises may engage in in order to protect their interests.

Definition of a “Foreigner”

The Foreign Business Act defines the term “foreigner” as:
  • a natural person who is not a citizen of Thailand
  • a legal individual who is not registered in Thailand
  • a Thai citizen who is a juristic person with the qualifications listed below:
    Those listed in
  •  (1) or (2) make or own half or more of the capital investment.

  • Individuals under (1) serving as the managing partner or manager in partnerships

  • A Thai juristic person whose shares are owned by (1), (2), or (3) and whose capital investment comprises 50% or more of the whole

Restricted Activities

The activities that are banned and controlled for foreigners are clearly defined by the Foreign Business Act. While some activities are totally forbidden, others can be carried out with prior consent from a designated government agency, and still others don’t need any kind of special permission at all. The following purposes are served by the three lists that are appended to the Foreign Business Act:

Types of Foreign Business Which May Apply for a Foreign Business License in Thailand

Representative Office

a foreign business that wants to establish a presence in Thailand without making money or paying taxes there in order to market its business or products there, get market research, or introduce new items from the international head office. Foreign Business License Thailand

Branch Office

If the business activities are not prohibited by the Foreign Business Act and the nature of the business permits the foreign entity to register its branch in Thailand in accordance with the regulations of the Thai Ministry of Commerce, a foreign head office that intends to open a branch office in Thailand can do so by applying for the license and bringing in technology transfer. Foreign Business License Thailand

Newly Incorporated Company With Majority or Complete Foreign Ownership

A company that is registered in Thailand with majority or complete foreign ownership, whereby the business activities are not prohibited to foreigners under the Foreign Business Act, and the company’s business activities involve bringing in technology transfer and helping with the development of Thailand.

There are two notable business structures that favour majority foreign ownership and also allow for easier obtaining of the Foreign Business License. Those are:

BOI-Promoted Company

A company that is registered in Thailand with a majority or total foreign ownership, whose business operations are not restricted to foreigners by the Foreign Business Act, and which engage in technology transfer and support for Thailand's development.

American-Owned company

According to the Treaty of Amity between Thailand and the US (see Treaty of Amity for more details), a company registered in either Thailand or the US that has a majority of US citizens among its shareholders and directors may apply for a foreign business license and certification in order to conduct business in Thailand.

Application Process

A foreign business must submit an application for a foreign business license to the foreign business committee in the following two steps if it has a representative office, branch office, or company registered in Thailand with a majority foreign capital investment and shareholding.


A decision by the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) to accept the application. The registrar must assess a completed license application form that has been submitted to the MoC with all necessary supporting documentation. The registrar may ask for additional proof or information to back up the application for a business license.


Review of the Foreign Business License application by the Foreign Business Committee

Following the MoC’s acceptance of the application, the registrar at the Foreign Business Committee will examine it within a sixty-day review period, taking into account the business’s benefits and drawbacks for the country’s safety and security, 

economic and social development, public order, morals, and art, culture, and traditions; natural resources, conservation, energy, and the environment; consumer protection; the size of the enterprises; and the environment. Foreign Business License Thailand

If a license application is denied, the MoC will notify the applicant in writing within 15 days of the ruling and include a clear justification for the denial. Within 30 days of the date they received the notice that their application for a business license had been rejected, applicants may appeal the decision, after which the Minister’s decision shall be final.

Capital Requirements

In addition to meeting other requirements, such as those pertaining to the schedule for the minimum capital to be brought or remitted into Thailand, 

the ratio of capital and loans to be used in the permitted business, the number of foreign directors or representatives who may have domicile in Thailand, and others, foreign companies operating in business activities under Lists 2 and 3 of the Foreign Business Act and holding a license must have registered capital of at least 3 million THB.

If you’d like to investigate the possibility of submitting an application for a foreign business license for your company in Thailand, 

we can expertly help you with the preparation of the required government forms, including the Thai translation of your company’s documents, the submission process, and the collection of the foreign business license certificate on your behalf after receiving approval from the Thai Ministry of Commerce.

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