Doing Business in Thailand: Licenses Required

Much has been written about foreign business licenses and certificates that are required to conduct business in Thailand as a majority foreign held limited partnership or company. That aside, once you have established your business, whether as a Thai or foreign entity, there is a chance that you will be required to obtain additional business licenses to legally operate in Thailand.

The list of licenses is long, but not endless

As with many countries, certain industries, products, and services are regulated – some more heavily than others. Thailand is no exception.  Once you register your business with the Ministry of Commerce, you may have to apply for additional licenses:

(Please note that this discussion focusses on licenses required for Thai businesses. Thai law restricts or forbids foreign entities from certain business activities, which is a topic for another article.)

  • Selling food? You need a food license from the nearest district office (after passing a government inspection).
  • Serving alcoholic beverages? That requires an alcohol license from the local excise office. There are two different types, one more restrictive than the other (which is why some outlets sell alcohol from 10am to 2pm and from 5pm to midnight, while others don’t).
  • Running an e-commerce business? You need to have an e-commerce license within 30 days of your website becoming operational.
  • Do you have outdoor signage? Not only do you have to register it with the local district office, but there is a tax, based on size and content.
  • Playing recorded music in a commercial establishment? You will most likely need a music license from one of the licensing companies registered with the Department of Intellectual Property.
  • Offering financial services, including e-payment for your website? You need to get permission from the Bank of Thailand, as well as the Ministry of Finance.
  • Dealing with cosmetics or medicines? The Food and Drug Administration will need to be notified; this includes importing, manufacturing, or selling nutritional supplements.
  • Getting in on the telecom industry? You should be contacting the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.
  • Starting a school or training centre? Depending on the type of institution, you’ll need permission from either the Ministry of Education or Department of Social Welfare.

Getting the proper license isn’t arduous

The above list is by no means exhaustive. It is merely an illustration of how starting a business in Thailand may require a few more steps than you originally thought.

Furthermore, the recent License Facilitation Act was passed to streamline the process of obtaining a license. And although there is still quite a bureaucracy in place at some regulatory bodies, the Thai government is aware that reforming and expediting the licensing process will encourage more foreign investment into Thailand. GPS Legal is here to help you determine what licenses you need, if any, in your business pursuits in Thailand.