Deutschland den Rücken kehren, aber den Job mitnehmen – davon träumen viele. Doch rechtlich ist es kompliziert. Ein »Employer of Record« verspricht die Lösung.
(SPIEGEL ONLINE, Artikel 11/2022)
Mobiles Arbeiten aus dem Ausland
Frierst du noch – oder fliegst du schon?
Den Laptop mit Blick aufs Meer aufklappen und die Sonne genießen, während die Kolleginnen im deutschen Winter ausharren: Klingt verlockend? Was bei mobilem Arbeiten aus dem Ausland zu beachten ist.
So einen Dezember wollte Lukas von Zittwitz, 28, nicht noch einmal erleben. »Einsam« und »trist« sei der vergangene Winter gewesen, sagt der Teamleiter einer Kommunikationsagentur. Er führte sein siebenköpfiges Team remote aus den eigenen vier Wänden. Seine Freundin Amaya war wegen ihres Masterstudiums an der Copenhagen Business School nicht in der Stadt, und in Deutschland hatte im November 2020 der Lockdown Light begonnen, der erst im Mai dieses Jahres enden sollte. Kurz: von Zittwitz ging es schlecht. Und ihm war klar: Das will er nicht noch mal durchmachen.
Er und seine Partnerin stellten sich die Frage, der wohl fast jeder einmal nachhängt, der regelmäßig mobil arbeitet, ungebunden ist und die Möglichkeiten dazu hat: Wenn ich von überall aus meine Dinge erledigen kann, warum nicht einfach von dort, wo es ohnehin viel wärmer und schöner ist? Warum nicht aus Italien, Spanien, Dubai, Montenegro oder Südafrika?
In order to work in the Kingdom, a foreigner needs to:
A) be on an appropriate visa,
B) obtain a work permit and
C) pay taxes.
But, what is work? A digital nomad working on his laptop in a co-working space, is that considered work? A businessman sitting in his hotel room preparing for a seminar? When does the Work Permit office consider this to be work? This is a hard question to answer with a straightforward yes or no.
The most important criteria that the Work Permit Office considers when judging if a foreigner works or not, is: does the foreigner use energy, knowledge or effort to produce something? If the answer is yes, then this could mean work. However, the authorities may not pro-actively investigate or pursue every such case.
The Work Permit Office will mostly be concerned with an activity of foreigners when:
Thai security is affected in a wide sense
the activity of the foreigner takes work from local Thai people
Using these criteria, aren’t most Digital Nomads in Thailand effectively working here illegally?
Yes, in a strict sense. However, Thai law does not have specific sections that cater to relatively new developments such as foreign online workers.
This article talks about typical cases of foreigners “working” in Thailand to understand where the delicate grey line runs, which cases are clearly illegal or which would raise the concern of the authorities.
Typical Cases of Digital Nomads and Foreigners Working in Thailand
A digital nomad works on his online shop in a co-working space.
Answer: The digital nomad is allowed to manage his online shop during the duration of his stay in Thailand without a work permit. Even if some of his customers are in Thailand, he is just continuing to do something he was doing before he came to Thailand anyway. However, if his products or market are mainly from Thailand, then YES this is considered to be work and it is a concern.
A website designer offers his services to fellow Digital Nomads in Thailand.
Answer: YES, this clearly works and he should get a work permit for it. This job could have been done by a Thai website designer, the foreigner is competing with Thai workers and so he needs a work permit.
A foreigner sources handicraft products in Thailand and exports them overseas.
Answer: YES, this is work, because the products are taken from Thailand.
A foreigner sits in his apartment and teaches Chinese students online via Skype.
Answer: Officially, it is work, however, it is not the main concern right now, so the authorities allow the foreigner to do this without a work permit. In this case, it will be a matter of the scale of the work and the environment.
A travel blogger writes about Thailand.
Answer: YES, this is work and it could be a concern. This work could have been done by a Thai person. Also, in order to produce the blog, the blogger uses information, sources, material, and pictures from Thailand to sell it in the international market place. Finally, the content of the blog may affect the security and image of Thailand. The blogger definitely needs a work permit to do this.
When the blogger is an international travel blogger writing not only about Thailand but many more places and he stays in Thailand not too long but just as part of a longer trip to several countries, we allow this case without a work permit. But when the blogger is focused mainly on Thailand, he/she needs a work permit. Even if the blogger does not make any money with his blog, he is still using his knowledge and ability with content that is derived from Thailand, so he needs a work permit. However, bloggers may not be the main concern of the authorities, unless there are some problems.
A businessman travels to Thailand for a few weeks and conducts some business activities on behalf of his company.
Answer: No work permit is needed. The businessman is allowed to meet business partners, discuss business opportunities, source products, even present merchandise to potential buyers and sign contracts on behalf of his company, because the nature of this is just temporary activity in Thailand.
Also, Thailand has an agreement with the ILO (International Labour Organisation) that foreigners can work in Thailand in this way.
Other Related Cases
A foreigner owns a couple of condominiums and rents them out.
Answer: Officially, foreigners are prohibited to conduct any property related business. This is one of the so-called forbidden jobs for foreigners. Foreigners would have to register this business and they cannot own more than 49%. However, this is NOT considered work when it concerns just 1 or 2 condos but it is when there are 10 condos for rent and he’s specifically doing this as a business. If the foreigner bought the condos only as an investment and does no work at all to rent them out but has hired a local Thai to do this on his behalf, then the foreigner does NOT need a work permit.
A farang-Thai couple owns a restaurant and the foreigner is involved in the management of the restaurant
Answer: This is a common and delicate case. If the foreigner is only sitting in the restaurant but not serving customers, not training or managing staff, not cooking and not buying supplies, then he does NOT need a work permit for this. But if he is involved in any of these activities, officially he does need a work permit.
However, there is another section of Thai law that applies to this situation which is that when this is a small family business he is allowed to take care of his family. So in practice, normally no work permit is enforced.
A foreigner yoga teacher teaches periodically or permanently in a yoga studio.
Answer: YES, this clearly involves work and a work permit is needed.
A foreigner plays music in a bar or restaurant to entertain guests
Answer: YES, this is work and work permit is needed. This is a job that could have been done by a local Thai.
What about payment?
The main criteria that the Work Permit office uses to judge if a foreigner works or not are not about payment. Even if a foreigner does not receive payment in Thailand, he could still be considered to be working. But payment and the payment channel can be taken into account when judging a case.
Most cases of Digital Nomads who stay in Thailand for a long time (say several months instead of several weeks) with the purpose of “work” can officially be viewed as doing work by authorities. This means, they actually need a work permit and are acting illegally if they work without a work permit.
The reason why the authorities have so far allowed this is because there was no main concern. Thai jobs or Thai security were not threatened. There were no problems or nobody reported it. This position of tolerance may change in the future, if there are problems or if Thai law is adjusted.
If you think you fall in one of those mentioned above and that you need a work permit to continue working legally in Thailand, you can check this page: Thai Work Permit Application.
Thailand climbed two places to the top spot out of 176 countries in fixed broadband internet speed testing based on the Speedtest Global Index in December last year, driven by fierce local competition.
The Speedtest Global Index compares internet speed data from around the world on a monthly basis.
Data for the index comes from hundreds of millions of tests taken by real people using Speedtest tools every month.
Speedtest was developed by Ookla, a Seattle-headquartered pioneer in fixed broadband and mobile network testing applications, data and analysis.
Internet speed testing by Speedtest can be done through its website or application.
In December 2020, Thailand clocked an average fixed broadband speed of 308.35 megabits per second for downloads, replacing Singapore in the top spot of the index.
Thailand was third in November 2020.
Singapore slipped one position to second. Hong Kong ranks third.
The global average fixed broadband speed was 96.43Mbps for downloads and 52.31Mbps for uploads in December.
Responding to the rank, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta mentioned on his Facebook page the uptick could be attributed to the country’s speedy development of telecom infrastructure and competition by local operators.
Pisut Ngamvijitvong, senior director of the analysis department at Kasikorn Securities, said Thailand’s rise to the top spot reflects the dynamic competition in the segment.
After AIS Fibre, a home broadband unit of mobile operator Advanced Info Service, entered the market in 2015, this prompted bigger rivals to speed up installation of fibre optics for internet service, replacing the older technology of an ADSL network.
“Fixed broadband packages have higher speeds and lower prices every year,” said Mr Pisut.
However, some operators still provide fixed broadband service via ADSL networks in some areas, he said.
Triple T Broadband provides around 30-40% of its service on ADSL and True Internet has around 20%, said Mr Pisut.
Thailand’s fixed broadband service sector grows every year. In 2019, there were 10.1 million household subscribers to fixed broadband services.
That number was estimated to reach 11 million last year, according to Kitti Ngarmchatetanarom, head of fixed broadband at AIS.
In the mobile internet speed testing, which ranks 139 countries via the Speedtest Global Index, Thailand logged 33rd position in December with a speed of 51.75Mbps for download, up 11 spots from November.
Qatar climbed two spots and replaced the United Arab Emirates in pole position with 178.01Mbps for downloads.
UAE dropped one position to second and South Korea ranked third.
Kuwait rose five positions to sixth.
The global average for mobile internet speed was 47.2Mbps for downloads and 12.67Mbps for uploads.
Our study found that Thailand is the best country in the world for digital nomads. The southeast Asian island is now becoming known as a digital nomad’s paradise. Those working from Thailand would benefit from sprawling landscapes with many calming activities to enjoy such as mountain trekking, swimming, and observing exotic animals in their natural habitats.
Club Med also looked at the best places for digital nomads. Phuket came first and Krabi came third.
Koh Phangan, Thailand (CNN) — It’s approaching sundown on a full moon Saturday, but revelry is in short supply in Haad Rin, home of Koh Phangan’s legendary Full Moon Party.
The deserted streets of this small town are a study in neglect, an impression brought cruelly into focus by the ongoing global pandemic.
Shabby shops offering cheap Thai massages or advertising bamboo tattoos are shuttered, their doors fastened by heavy chains. The only things missing from the eerie scene are giant balls of tumbleweed: not a possibility in this verdant tropical paradise.
On a typical full moon night before the pandemic, the bars that line Haad Rin beach on this Thai island would already be packed with partygoers soaking up the sunset in anticipation of a long night of block-rocking beats and potent cocktails served in buckets.
But though quarantine restrictions are keeping most international travelers away from Thailand these days, there’s some life at Tommy Resort, a Haad Rin stalwart that has been hosting backpackers since 1980. At a large table in the main bar area, a group of local men are pouring whisky, clinking glasses in honor of global vaccination efforts and anticipating the imminent return of the Thai island’s main claim to fame.
“We are hopeful that the Full Moon Party can resume this summer,” says one.
The men — all owners of tourism-dependent businesses such as hotel, bars, restaurants and tour operators — have a strong vested interest in a successful resurrection of Thailand’s most famous shindig.
They are members of the Haad Rin Business Association, the current custodians of an event that has evolved from its roots in the 1980s as a humble hippy beach gathering to a phenomenon that, pre-pandemic, regularly drew crowds of up to 30,000 people to the powder-soft sands each month.
The growth of the Full Moon Party has not been without issues. Its core creed of harmless fun played out in tropical paradise surroundings remains intact.
Nevertheless, bad press has attached itself to the event. Critics have highlighted real and perceived dangers from drugs, alcohol abuse and opportunistic crime as well as bad behavior on the part of revelers.
Calls for a calmer, more sustainable Full Moon Party
With the pandemic sweeping the globe, local authorities in Surat Thani province, which governs the island, ordered the parties to stop in March 2020. The year-plus pause that has followed has prompted much in the way of soul-searching and speculation.
Some on the island are advocating for a more sustainable, better regulated and calmer event with the potential for less negative associations. Others are reported to be in favor of killing off the cash cow permanently and paving the way for other kinds of tourism in Haad Rin.
But judging by the attitude of the whisky-supping powerbrokers, it seems that rumors of the imminent death of the Full Moon Party are premature. The party attracts more than half of the more than one million visitors that come to Koh Phangan each year.
It supports thousands of jobs and small businesses. Given the economic boost such a reliable influx of visitors provides, it’s no wonder that many are desperate to see a return to business as usual.
“It (the pause) has been a terrible blow for many people on Koh Phangan,” says P Noi, the owner of Tommy Resort.
“The last event before the pandemic in February, we had 20,000 people at the party. The absence of customers has had a knock-on effect on everyone from business owners to food sellers, migrant workers and taxi drivers. We accept constructive criticism, but there’s no reason why the Full Moon Party cannot come back when tourism opens up again.”
The group mention several areas in which they would like to evolve. They accept the need for mask-wearing and social distancing: at least until the pandemic is firmly in the rear-view mirror. They also hope to attract a wider diversity of higher-quality businesses to Haad Rin to replace the massage and tattoo parlors and tacky souvenir shops, many of which are closed permanently.
Observers such as celebrated UK DJ Graham Gold — a long-term resident on Koh Phangan — would like to see a more drastic overhaul of the Full Moon Party itself. The Londoner, however, has the first-hand experience of a widely held reluctance to fix what many feel is unbroken.
“Some years ago, I worked with a guy called Aaron Fevah (another Koh Phangan-based UK DJ) for three months researching everything about the Full Moon Party,” says Gold.
“We looked at how it could be improved and made safer with proper security and production and sound systems equal to festivals around the world like Tomorrowland and Creamfields. We presented the Haad Rin Business Association with a 35-page document on how to turn it into a world-class event. But such a plan needs serious investment.
“The Full Moon Party grew pretty much organically from its origins as a hippy beach hoedown with guitars and a couple of bonfires and many locals got very rich without any real investment. So why start now? They believe — and probably rightly so — that people will always come to Koh Phangan for the party.”
“There’s far more to Koh Phangan than the party”
While a “same, same, but just slightly different” attitude appears to prevail (for now at least) in Haad Rin, Koh Phangan as a whole has witnessed a more nuanced evolution in recent times.
The party has, in the past, tended to define the entire island, with many regarding it as a feral wild child, especially in comparison with more polished Thai tourist destinations like Phuket or Koh Samui.
A blissed-out counter-culture-friendly vibe remains. But the island has broadened its appeal beyond backpackers to attract high net worth holidaymakers, families, yogis attracted by a vibrant wellness community centered on the village of Sri Thanu, digital entrepreneurs and Bangkokians seeking refuge from city life.
“The image of the island presented by the Full Moon Party is potent,” admits island-based author and writing coach Brian Gruber, one of the administrators of the Koh Phangan Conscious Community Facebook page, an online hub for island-relevant events, information and discussion with over 50,000 active members.
“But I think that the message that there’s far more to Koh Phangan than the party has been filtering through for a while.”
The economic pain caused by the pandemic has, of course, been acute for many people. But in some ways, Koh Phangan appears to be not just surviving but thriving.
Venues such as Sati Pot, a Persian restaurant, and co-working space Indigo are thronged with customers daily. Social highlights range from art openings to jazz poetry evenings and ecstatic dance sessions.
The island’s reputation for hosting a killer party, meanwhile, reaches far beyond Haad Rin. Popular draws such as Eden, Guy’s Bar and Lost Paradise keep revelers — a mix of domestic travelers and island residents — moving from dusk until far beyond dawn.
On the advocacy side of things, Forward Phangan — a collective of volunteers representing residents, local businesses and organizations — are working towards the common goal of improving the island for residents and visitors alike. Unsurprisingly, the Full Moon Party has been a major topic of conversation recently.
For Forward Phangan member Jakkra Brande, the key to a sustainable future for the Full Moon Party — and indeed for Koh Phangan — rests, not in wholesale changes and rebranding, but an appreciation of what makes the island special.
Brande, a Bangkokian who owns Nira’s Bakery in Thong Sala, the island’s main port, arrived on Koh Phangan as a 7-year-old in 1984. Even now, he recalls being overwhelmed by the island’s natural splendor and the warm welcome from the locals.
“Changing ourselves into something we are not is wrong,” he says.
“We need to improve what we already have here. Of course, Haad Rin can be made more appealing. What’s more important is learning to appreciate what we have — the pristine environment, the friendliness — and work on preserving these aspects before our charm disappears.”
Back in Haad Rin, the sun has drained from the day, but the gathering is still ongoing. The men raise their glasses in another toast: this one dedicated to absent friends that they hope to see again soon.
“People have tried to recreate the Full Moon Party elsewhere, but nobody can do it,” smiles P Noi. “So, we can’t wait to see people returning to the best beach party in the world.”