How do the different Southeast Asian countries compare in terms of ease of long-term staying and legally working?

Some background info, I've been in Indonesia for a while now on a cultural study program, but I now want to start to do remote work, however the visa system does not make this easy. You can walk the legal route which is hard and costly (the cost alone is a small local salary every month) or even if you'd be willing to do it illegally, it's costly since you can stay only 6 months at a time and the paperwork for that is time-consuming and/or fairly expensive too.

So I'm looking for alternatives in Southeast Asia. These are of course all unique countries, but I like the culture in general, the climate and that life is cheap on average. I'd prefer to work part-time and be able to sustain a pretty simple life, while not flying out often just to renew visas. How do these countries compare for that? Any that really stand out?

In order not to have this too opinion-based, I am looking for a comparison of at least several of the countries in the region.

  • Sorry, VTC as too broad.
    – mkennedy
    Apr 3, 2017 at 20:15
  • I also voted to close as too broad. If we limit 'South East Asia' to the ten ASEAN countries, that's still ten countries - nobody can have lived a meaningful length of time in all of them recently, in order to have usable data. And the laws change often, making out-of-date data useless.
    – Scott Earle
    Apr 4, 2017 at 8:14
  • I see your point and I also wasn't quite sure, but on the other hand a good answer would be a nice source for information, even if it doesn't include all of the countries. Whether the information will go out of date or not, well that might happen for many other questions too. Apr 4, 2017 at 13:35

1 Answer 1


I live in Thailand, and can only comment on my experience of living here for thirteen years. I have not lived in other countries in the region.

In Thailand, in order to work legally, you need a work permit. A work permit is only issued if you work for a Thai company in a specified location (the place you are allowed to work is written in your work permit) and are paying Thai taxes.

Doing any form of work (paid or unpaid) requires a work permit, and if you are found to be doing any form of work (be it 'remote working', volunteering, playing music in a bar, teaching English at a local school that told you that everything will be fine, etc.) without a work permit then deportation usually follows, along with a fine.

Without a work permit, staying long-term means getting married to a local and having some money in the bank, being over 50 and having even more money in the bank, or studying. But the ED visa for studying is becoming more difficult to get, as the system has been consistently abused over the years.

Otherwise you are looking at tourist visas, but those strictly prohibit working. Again - get found working on a TR visa and you are looking at a fine and deportation again.

Your best bet if you chose to work in Thailand would be to find a company that wants to employ you, and work for them, letting them sort out a work permit and doing the visa extensions for you.

Working 'under the radar' is something many people do for long periods, but if anyone finds out and reports you for doing it, then again with the fine and deportation.

I know that discussing illegal activity is frowned upon (and with good reason), but I would like to put a strong word against working in Thailand without a work permit. Don't do it, it's not worth the extreme possible consequences.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.