Foreign Business Act of Thailand: What You Need to Know

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The Foreign Business Act of Thailand is an important piece of legislation that regulates the operations and investments of foreign businesses within the Kingdom. Understanding the nuances of this law is essential for any foreign entrepreneur looking to establish a presence in this burgeoning Southeast Asian economy. In this post, we’ll take a detailed look at the key aspects of the Foreign Business Act, and how it could impact your plans for setting up a business in Thailand.

Overview of the Foreign Business Act

The Foreign Business Act (FBA) was enacted in 1999 and represents an important legal framework that governs the operations and investments of foreign companies in Thailand. The main objective of the FBA is to regulate and supervise foreign businesses in order to ensure that they do not engage in activities that could adversely impact the country’s economic stability and national security.

The FBA classifies businesses into three main categories:

  1. List 1: Businesses Not Allowed for Foreigners List 2: Businesses Partially Allowed for Foreigners List 3: Businesses Needing a Foreign Business License

Let’s take a closer look at these categories and their implications.

List 1: Businesses Not Allowed for Foreigners

Under the FBA, certain business activities are strictly prohibited for foreign individuals and companies. Examples of these activities include:

  • Newspaper publication, radio broadcasting, and television station operations
  • Land trading
  • Mining, except for the mining of minerals allowed under international agreements

These businesses are restricted due to concerns about national security, cultural preservation, or general public interest.

List 2: Businesses Partially Allowed for Foreigners

This category includes business sectors that the Thai government has deemed sensitive to national security, economic stability, or public order. Foreign companies wishing to operate in these sectors must obtain a foreign business license and can only own up to 40% of the shares. List 2 businesses include:

  • Production and distribution of firearms, ammunition, and military equipment
  • Domestic air transportation
  • Production of sugar, salt, or alcoholic beverages

List 3: Businesses Needing a Foreign Business License

These businesses require a foreign business license, but there are no restrictions on the shareholding structure. Examples of List 3 businesses are:

  • Real estate brokerage
  • Construction, except for construction projects that do not involve technical or specialized knowledge
  • Advertising

Additionally, a foreign individual holding a valid work permit in Thailand is not required to obtain a foreign business license for List 3 businesses.

Key Points to Consider

When setting up a business as a foreigner in Thailand, it is crucial to consider the following:

  • Determine whether your intended business activity falls within one of the three FBA lists, and whether you need a foreign business license
  • Ensure that you comply with any restrictions on foreign shareholding or the requirement to engage Thai nationals as partners
  • Seek professional advice on the best legal structure for your business, such as establishing a Thai Limited Company, Representative Office, or Joint Venture


The Foreign Business Act of Thailand can appear complex, but understanding its requirements is essential for starting a successful business venture in the Kingdom. By familiarizing yourself with the FBA and seeking professional advice, you can navigate these regulations and enter the Thai market with confidence.

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