Licenses and registrations

Even though a general field of business may be allowed in Thailand, you may still need special licenses or registrations to conduct your business.

For example, pharmaceuticals, alcoholic beverages and some agricultural products require permits for importing or producing inside Thailand, to name just a few.

The permits must be acquired from the relevant ministry.

Most businesses, products and services do not require any special license. However, there is a long list of those which do.

In general, most businesses with foreign managing directors are majority Thai owned, 51% or more, according to the monetary value of the shares. To discuss companies most generally, we talk about majority Thai owned companies. You can set up your company bylaws, shareholder types (e.g., preference shares) and bank signatory authority so that a foreigner has control, and there are various methods of assuring that the investor has control.

It is legally possible for foreigners to own a majority of a business in terms of the value of the shares, too, and many businesses in Thailand are majority foreign owned. However, to become majority foreign owned (up to 100%), majority non-American (see below), non-Thai companies must apply and be approved for a Foreign Business License (FBL). Whether or not an FBL is granted is up to the judgement of Thai officials, and they are generally given out only to companies which employ large numbers of Thais and/or are a major exporter and/or transfer new technology to Thailand. (It is no longer true that only Americans can have a majority foreign owned business.)

Traditionally, American have often registered an "American Treaty Company", a special privilege of Americans due to the Treaty of Amity and Economic Commerce which has been renewed for decades. However, this privilege is planned to come to an end, whereby the Foreign Business License would be the option for all foreigners.

As of the time of this writing (early 2004), all companies registered in Thailand must be majority Thai owned, except that an American Treaty Company can be majority American owned, and other companies can be majority foreign owned if they are approved for a Foreign Business License. Filing for status of an Treaty of Amity company is in addition to the normal company formation and registration process. In other words, you must first set up a majority Thai owned company, and can then convert it to a majority American owned company. There are more options as regards a Foreign Business License.

If you have any questions about your business, the best thing to do is to contact us

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