Thai Citizenship Step-By-Step Guide: Foreigners with a Thai Spouse
Immigration law in Thailand provides an expedited path to citizenship for those who have deep connections to the country through marriage, which means you can now apply for Thai citizenship without the need to Thai Permanent Residency for five years.
Foreigner men married to Thai citizens are the biggest category of people who are potentially eligible for Thai citizenship, but often they are unaware that the requirements are less than they would assume them to be.
This path does not apply to everyone (even if you are married). However, if all of the following points apply to you, even at some point throughout the process, then you are at the starting point of an attainable path to Thai citizenship.
- You have lived in Thailand consecutively for three years on valid non-immigrant visa extensions;
- You have had three years of consecutive work permits from a Thai based employer;
- You have a minimum income of 40,000 baht per month and have paid tax for three years on that
- You are married to a Thai citizen.
NB: If none of the above applies to you then this article does not apply to you. Current legislation does not provide any realistic paths to Thai citizenship for those who are not currently working in Thailand.
STEP ONE: WHAT THE LEGISLATION SAYS
The Thai Nationality Act (2008) states:
An alien who possesses the following qualifications may apply for naturalisation as a Thai:
- becoming sui juris by Thai law and the law under which he has a nationality;
- having good behaviour;
- having regular occupation;
- having a domicile in the Thai Kingdom for a consecutive period of not less than five years till the day of applying for naturalisation;
- knowing the Thai language as prescribed in the Regulations.
The provisions of Section 10 (4) and (5) shall not apply if the applicant for naturalisation as a Thai;
(4) is the husband of a person with Thai nationality.
Understanding the Amendments
The key thing to understand is that changes made to the Thai Nationality Act in 2008 have opened an easier and expedited path to foreign men who are married to Thai citizens. The key shortcuts are outlined in section 11 of the Act above and in plain language means:
- Having a permanent residence in Thailand is no longer required – so you are eligible after three years living in Thailand.
- You are exempted from singing the Thai national anthem or the Royal anthem (Sansoen Phra Barami/สรรเสริญพระบารมี).
Although Section 11 refers to waving the Thai language requirement, in practice, this means only that the singing portion of the test is not applied to those married to Thai’s. Speaking Thai is undoubtedly useful as far as the points test goes, and it is used to boost further your overall score, which will determine your eligibility.
STEP TWO: THE POINTS SYSTEM & DOCUMENTATION
- Qualifications of the applicant (maximum 25 points)
◦ Age (10 points)
◦ Education (15 points)
◦ Security of a profession (25 points)
- Length of Civil Registration – i.e. the length of time on a Tabien Baan (20 points)
- Thai language ability (15 points)
- General knowledge about Thailand (10 points)
- Personality, Appearance and Demeanor (5 points)
The Tabien Baan (in English, the House Registration book, or Family Register) is a book containing details of everyone living at a particular address in Thailand. It is an essential document for Thai people, used for voter registration, military draft for men of military age etc.
Reading how the points system is structured, it becomes apparent that the system is designed to facilitate citizenship for those who are in full-time work in Thailand, earning a reasonable salary and who have some level of post-secondary education.
The system also rewards you for the time spent in Thailand, as well as your ability to speak, read and write Thai.
Directly working here legally for three years, being married, and earning the minimum salary, while necessary for applying for Thai nationality, it is not sufficient enough.
As such, people reading this might not yet be in a position to apply, but there are several essential things you can do to put yourself in good stead for a future application, sooner rather than later.
Much of the documentation required (passports, photos, marriage certificates, etc.) are rather straightforward. Full list documents which are necessary for your application are outlined below:
The following is a detailed list of documents required when applying for Thai citizenship, which you will need when referring to the naturalisation unit of the Police Special Branch
- Five (5) copies of the Alien Book* (‘ใบสำคัญประจำตัวคนต่างด้าว’) with every page that has information recorded;
- Five (5) copies of the Certificate of Residence with every page that has information registered;
- Five (5) copies of the Work Permit (every page that has information logged);
- Five (5) copies of the House Registration for the whole family (applicant, partner and any children);
- Five (5) copies of the applicant’s Passport, including old Passports (every page that has information recorded);
- Twelve (12) photographs (2 x 2.5 inches) showing the applicant dressed politely (Males dressed in a suit with necktie and Females dressed appropriately);
- Five (5) copies of the Marriage Registration (Translated into Thai in case of a foreign language);
- Proof of Money Deposit in the bank with a certificate from the bank that money has been deposited (Should not be less than 80,000 Baht);
- Proof of Charity Donation (Not less than 5,000 Baht and the funds should be donation long time ago and not just in time to support the citizenship application);
- Proof of filing Personal Income Tax (PND 91) for the applicant during the three previous years. This has to be certified and stamped by the Revenue Department. Please note that if a citizenship application is filed at the beginning of the year, then you must have the PND 91 for the previous year just ended;
- One (1) copy of Proof of Company Registration for the commercial establishment where the applicant working, such as Affidavit Licenses Certificate of Company Registration, List of Shareholders, Value-Added Tax Registration Certificate (PP20) and other related documents;
- Copy of Corporate Tax (PND50) for the previous three years in the case the applicant has shares in a Limited liability company or partnership. Please note that if the application is a file at the beginning of the year, then you have to wait until around March to get the PND 50 for the previous year;
- Letter of Employment that state position of the applicant by the work permit and monthly salary by filed taxes for the year the application is submitted, from the company the applicant, working. The Letter must be signed by an authorised person in the Company;
- Two (2) copies of the Personal ID Card or Alien book of the married partner;
- One (1) copy of Children’s birth certificates. If the applicant has changed names or surnames, then document relating to these must be provided;
- Evidence of education for each child;
- One (1) copy of the ID Card and House Registration from Two (2) Thai citizens who can vouch for the applicant’s behaviour and assets (these people must not be relatives of the applicant);
- Certificate of Legal Age according to the laws in the applicants’ country of origin (Certified by your embassy or consulate). Translated into Thai.
NB: This is only applicable to those who already hold permanent residency and are applying via that route.
For those who are strategic about their approach to their application; however, there are a few useful tips and tricks to maximise your points to qualify for Thai citizenship.
See the suggestions below, obtaining these in good time could potentially add 28 to 36 points to your total score:
Yellow Tabien Baan (ทะเบียนบ้าน)
Get yourself registered on one. The earlier, the better. The scoring criteria offer points for people who have “evidence of civil registration showing domicile in Thailand for at least five years”. In plain English, this means being registered on the yellow Tabien Baan. If you are exploring the possibility and are still a few years off applying, then this is an easy 5 points towards your 50.
Learning basic Thai Civics
Part of being a future citizen is knowing some things about how the country works and some of its symbolism. Applicants are offered a maximum of 10 points for answering multiple-choice questions in Thai on a range of issues from how many provinces there are to what the Thai flag represents – so researching and having key knowledge on these aspects of Thai life and culture is imperative.
Learning Conversational Thai
If your points from education and salary levels are dragging you down, then having a decent level of comprehension and an ability to speak will add an extra 8 points to your total. Being able to talk and comprehend the Thai language implies that you can have a relaxed conversation with the particular branch of police, immigrations officials or other Thai government officials at the subsequent interviews that will be required to take place (see Step Three). Being able to talk about yourself with confidence, about your history and why you want to apply for Thai citizenship is essential to a smooth experience in your application process.
Learning Thai Mannerisms
This is a harder one to quantify, and the granting of these points by Special Branch is entirely subjective, but “personality, physical appearance and bearing, speech, Thai manners, attitude towards Thailand, Thai culture and ceremonies” will get you a further 5 points.
Applying at the right age
Younger applicants score less than those in middle age. Those older than 60 are awarded fewer points. As such, the optimal age to apply is between 40 and 50 and will automatically get you 10 points for doing so.
Of course, everyone’s circumstances will be different, but focusing on these points above can get your application to a points tally that will be sufficient for acceptance and awarding of Thai Citizenship.
In addition to maximising your point score, we are providing a few tips below which will mean that your application is accepted at the first attempt:
Special Branch is going to want to see that you have a verified history of philanthropic contributions. Five Thousand Baht a year of gifts is the magic number, so make sure you dig up your receipts from past donations (or start making some well in advance of applying – one-off donations of 5000 baht are fine too, so long as it did in advance). What Special Branch will not like however is if you have just made the donation to apply for citizenship, so any evidence that donations were made ‘recently’ will not go down well with them.
Bank letter addressed to Special Branch
Your application will require a verified 80,000 baht deposited in a Thai bank account at the time of applying, verified by your bank. Most banks are used to writing verification letters to immigration in support of marriage or retirement visas, and probably will have a pro forma letter template for this verification.
NB: make sure your Bank does not use this pro forma template and address the bank letter to the Police Special Branch instead.
Choosing a Thai name
As part of the process, you will need to choose a Thai name which is unique.
Two Thai witnesses
An easy one, but you will need two Thai citizens who know you to come to Special Branch and vouch for your background. This will need to be done before the application package can be finalised by them and then sent off to the Ministry of Interior.
STEP THREE: APPLYING FOR YOUR THAI CITIZENSHIP
Special Branch, National Police HQ, Bangkok
Like all others who apply for Thai citizenship, the reality is that Bangkok is the best, and often the only place to apply for citizenship.
If you usually reside in Bangkok and have your registration there, and your wife has her house registration – the ‘Tabien Baan’ (ทะเบียนบ้าน) – and ID card (บัตรประชาชน) at the same address in Bangkok, then all applications must be made at police Special Branch, whose location is at the National Police Headquarters on Rama 1 Road.
NB: If you are based outside of Bangkok and registered in another province, applications need to be made at the local division of Special Branch in that province. Except for possibly Chiang Mai and Phuket, applying via regional Special Branch offices are a non-starter. Local officers are not trained or equipped to handle applications.
The most efficient strategy is to find a friend who will allow for your names to be put on their Bangkok based house registration. The Special Branch in Bangkok know the challenges of applying elsewhere, so they will not mind that you have moved your registration to Bangkok, only for the application.
First Meeting with Thai Special Branch
The officer in charge of your case will set an appointed time, and you and your spouse should meet together. The meeting will usually consist of an initial interview with your case officer, followed by a meeting with a senior officer who will formally ask about your intentions and give you the multiple-choice questions.
The process usually begins about asking standard questions about yourself, background, current employment, and your relationship. They will formally check your documentation, and for the non-discretionary points (age, education, etc.) allocations will be made. There will be lots of document checking, asking you to sign on verified copies of the documents and the official’s formal application – which they will type for you.
Depending on the applicant, the initial case officer may also take the opportunity to give you a ‘mock’ interview – many of the questions that will be asked not only by his senior officer, but also down the track when you meet the NIA – National Intelligence Agency (สํานักข่าวกรองแห่งชาติ) and the Ministry of Interior.
You will then be asked to go upstairs at Special Branch to meet the senior officer.
Similar questions will then be asked about your history, background and current status, both personally and professionally. The multiple-choice civics quiz will then be given, and an assessment of your Thai language ability (speaking, reading and writing) and general appearance and personality will be made.
Fingerprints will also be taken, and you will be asked to pay the application fee of 5000 baht at this point.
For the most part, these interviews are very friendly, and the officers are generally encouraging people to succeed. If you have gotten this far, the officers generally will be confident that your application will make it is way seamlessly through the rest of the process at other agencies.
NB: For those applicants where their Thai language ability is not as strong, they will generally ask that you continue practising so to be able to better interact with officials later in the process.
At the end of the meeting, you will be told to expect a call within the space of 3 to 4 weeks for a meeting with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
Thai Government Agency Verification
You will be given envelopes from Special Branch which need to be taken by you to different agencies around Bangkok to verify certain things. This may include letters to:
- Immigration requesting verification of your Permanent Residency Status (if applicable)
- Your local district office confirming your marriage, a name change (to for your Thai name)
- Your embassy will be required to verify your passport details, as well as a letter of your ‘intention’ to renounce your existing nationality upon acquiring Thai citizenship.
These agencies will then be asked to post the responses back to the special branch, or in some cases, they will ask that you return them yourself.
Special Branch will then also liaise with other agencies (tax, visa, work permit) to verify these documents. The timeline is approximately 60 days, and after verification, your application and associated documentation will be handed off to the Department of Provincial Administration (DoPA) at the Ministry of Interior ‘กรมการปกครอง กระทรวงมหาดไทย’ who will continue the processing of your application.
National Intelligence Agency (NIA)
Within 3 to 4 weeks of your initial meeting with Special Branch, another interview will be organised with the National Intelligence Agency (สำนักข่าวกรองแห่งชาติ).
The usual meeting place will be a mall somewhere near downtown Bangkok. Again, you will be asked to bring along all of the documents used in the initial application, and most of the same questions will be asked.
For most applicants, it will come across as a slightly odd experience, which officials like to keep ‘formal, yet informal’. It is a relatively short chat, going over your background again. The officials will also weave in why you want Thai citizenship. Practical reasons are best. These include:
- Not needing to have work permits;
- To have rights with regards to things like land ownership; and
- Doing away with the need for visas.
The NIA officials will also ask about salary and assets. It is probably best, to be honest here, as ultimately the officials want the applicant never to be a burden on the state.
Local Police Interview
Within this first 90-day period, you will be required to schedule an appointment at your local police station in the district you are registered. Here the police will again interview you, asking fundamental questions about your relationship status and family situation, which they will type up a report and send back to Special Branch HQ to form part of your application.
STEP FOUR: DEALING WITH THE MINISTRY OF INTERIOR
Following your meeting with the National Intelligence Agency, your application is forwarded to the Department of Provincial Administration (DoPA) at the Ministry of Interior (กรมการปกครอง กระทรวงมหาดไทย).
At this stage, documents will be rechecked and crossed checked that the application complies with the Nationality Act itself, and whatever ministerial regulations and interpretations are applicable.
None of this process will be communicated with you, unless as sometimes can happen, DoPA finds a slight discrepancy or issue with the application, which will result in either DoPA or Special Branch calling you for extra paperwork.
Working While Your Application Is Processed
One thing that can potentially trip up applicants up is the issue of work permit continuity.
Applicants who are looking to apply for Thai citizenship know that they must be in Thailand on three years’ worth of consecutive work permits and extensions of stay before they are eligible to apply.
However, once you have applied and your application has been accepted by Special Branch, it is essential to know that you should continue to remain qualified during the processing period and up to your citizenship is formally announced in the Royal Gazette.
This is because, during the interview process, your marriage certificates, visas and work permits can be requested by officials and in rare cases, DOPA and the Ministry of Interior may find a slight discrepancy in the application submitted by Special Branch, in which case the form technically has to be resubmitted, requiring you to be fully eligible at the time of resubmitting of your application.
The Final BORA/DOPA/Ministry of Interior Interview
Depending on a range of factors, including the government of the day, applicants will receive notification from the Bureau of Registration Administration (สํานักบริหารการทะเบียน) or ‘BoRA’, via Special Branch, that you will be required to attend a final interview with the committee of officials which formally considers all applications and then recommends to the Minister to approve them.
The standard wait time for getting to this stage is often 1 to 3 years, with little explanation as to why people experience different wait times.
The notification from DoPA will come with a list of documents you need to bring for the interview, which is every piece of identification, passports, visa and registration you have in Thailand.
All applicants for Thai citizenship will be interviewed in a conference room by a committee. This can consist of 20 to 40 officials from different agencies (as required to be present under the Thai Nationality Act). The atmosphere is formal, but everyone is friendly and polite.
By this point, you should be well versed in many of the questions that will be asked including information about yourself, your background, and your relationship. You may again be asked why you want to get Thai citizenship and about your employment.
Given this application is based on marriage to a Thai spouse, applicants are waived from having to sing the Thai national anthem and the Royal Anthem (Sansoen Phra Barami/สรรเสริญพระบารมี)
FINAL STEP: OBTAINING YOUR NEW THAI ID CARD
Following the BoRA interview, there can be another long gap of a few months to a year or more.
The BoRA committee will make a formal submission to the Minister of Interior to approve the application, which then must also be countersigned by HM the King before it can be published in the Royal Gazette.
Following this, applicants will also need to undergo a formal citizenship swearing-in ceremony at Special Branch headquarters. At this point, you will need a naturalisation certificate along with certified copies of the announcement in the Royal Gazette.
With all of this in hand, you can then go to the district office. It will be likely the case that you will need to schedule a meeting with the appropriate person there, where they will again check all the required documents from you, and where they can move your yellow Tabien Baan registration to the blue Tabien Baan. Following this, you will be able to move over to the Thai ID counter to have your new Thai ID issued.
We hope this information guide was informative for you. If you have any more specific concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact our consultants at ETA for free advice.