Almost every month, hundreds of Filipino teachers and non-teachers flocked in Thailand to look for any teaching job. Thanks to some airlines that offer a very affordable airfare, there was a big ‘explosion’ of the number of Filipino hopefuls who wish to try their luck in the Land of Smiles since 2006. While they are on ‘tour’ most of them try to fish out some work opportunities. Others go back home unfortunate while some remain hopeful. All these persistent Filipinos need to do is to do a quick VISA RUN (30-day stamp) in the border and then they’re up and running to hunt for a job for another 30 days. And this cycle continues even when they found a job. Why is that so?

The next problem deals on whether or not schools will provide the needed documents and shoulder the fees in applying for work permits. There are schools who are patient enough to be very obedient of the governments’ “confusing” requirements, process them, and luckily pay for them. However, oftentimes in Thailand from schools that employ one or two foreign teachers, either you process your own work permit and pay the fees from your own pocket or you won’t be getting any. But of course some employers still allow you to ‘teach’ without a work permit but it would be at your own cost of money and time doing all the VISA RUN every month. Is teaching with a ‘tourist’ visa legal? Frankly, no but it depends. But is this tolerated by some schools? Honestly, yes.

Acquiring a work permit depends on cases. For instance, a teacher resigned and will work in a new school. Usually, the teacher has no choice but to start all over again from being a "tourist." You need to apply for a new Non-B VISA in order to work as a teacher in Thailand. In Bangkok, before the Immigration office grants you a NON-B VISA, you need to have a 21-day remaining ‘tourist visa’ (usually the 30-day stamp you get from the border). This 30-day stamp is easily granted especially when you’re flying from the Philippines. But if you’re already in Thailand and wish to work as a teacher then first you have to do the VISA RUN in any border and then apply for a NON-B VISA at the Bangkok Immigration.

Others simply go to Thai embassies outside Thailand especially in Vientiane, Laos to get the NON-B VISA. Of course, documents are needed in order to be granted with this visa. And completing all the required documents takes time. Depending on your nationality and how fast the school helps its teachers to complete the documents (or how fast you complete the documents yourself), it usually takes a month or two.

Take my case for example. I’ve been working in Thailand for almost nine years. For the past eight years and a half, processing my work permit and extending my VISA at the immigration is the least of my worries. The schools where I worked for did all these jobs for me.

It was when I moved to Bangkok when I realized how difficult it is to acquire a NON-B VISA and a work permit. The immigration, labor and Ministry of education offices in Bangkok are very strict to private schools, meaning they require more documents especially to Asian passport holders. I volunteered in processing these things because the school already took more than a month without accomplishing anything. You might be wondering if I worked in the school with a 30-day stamp taken from the border: yes, I did. And this is very normal and is tolerated in Thailand as long as you intend to process your work permit as soon as possible. I had my passport stamped three times at three different borders: Cambodia (Banglem and Aranyaprathet) and Laos (Vientianne). There is a need to do this because as I have said processing NON-B VISA and work permit as a teacher takes time and patience!

For instance, acquiring a registration letter from the Ministry of education takes two weeks and before getting that letter, an Asian passport holder needs to achieve a desirable TOEIC or TOEFL score of which will take almost another a week. Added to that is the costly translation of every English document you have in Thai and then have it authenticated at the Philippine Embassy. And the registration letter from the Ministry of Education is just ONE document needed by the immigration officer. It is a lot easier to acquire a work permit when one is working at a public school or in the colleges or universities.

After three months of VISA RUNS at the border, I was able to secure a NON-B VISA at the Bangkok Immigration bureau. I feel sorry for those Filipino teachers whose ‘life’ in Thailand depends on their VISA RUN exits. Sitting almost a day is bearable but paying almost 1,500 Baht every border run, that is if you avail for tour agencies’ services, is already costly to a Filipino teacher.

Now, the processing of a work permit for your 3-month NON-B VISA usually takes a month in Bangkok. Common papers are required like your employment contract, school’s license and registration, etc. Added to this is the teacher’s license (depending on your educational status) which takes in a form of a letter. Applying at the Teachers’ Council of Thailand for a license isn’t that difficult but one should know the kind of letter given to you by the licensing officer. It could be any of the following ( based on the list of the Ministry of Labour) : guarantee letter; permission letter for teaching without a license; receipt letter which shows the license is under process and that the applicant can teach without a license; and a ‘paper of defining exemption of license.’ Getting this “license” from the Teachers Council of Thailand might take you a day to a week depending on the documents you have submitted.

Once you have submitted all the necessary documents for your work permit at the Ministry of Labour, then wait after seven days before you could get your work permit booklet.

And that’s the story of “Mr. NON-B VISA and Mrs. Work Permit.” The next chapter of the story focuses on extending your VISA and work permit. And believe me, when you understand the plot and characters behind the first story, everything will be much easier to take in the pressure and stress you’ll get on your next ‘journey.’

The other story I want to re-emphasize next is the difficulty of not only acquiring VISAS and work permits in Thailand but GETTING A FAIRLY COMPENSATED JOB now that many Filipino teachers are overflowing in the city of Bangkok. Questions like: What future does a Filipino Teacher in Thailand have? How did the big number of Filipino teacher applicants play a big role in the employment arena? What attitudes do Filipino teachers have towards accepting a job in Thailand? How do other foreign teachers view a Filipino teacher nowadays? Find out the answers! Keep on visiting this blog.