How to Get Thai Citizenship

How to Get Thai Citizenship

You will fall in love with Thailand at first sight: magnificent nature, a pleasant climate and a variety of landscapes dovetail with numerous historical and cultural monuments. Rich and curious traditions go side by side with the exceptional friendliness of the locals, while low Asian prices offer a perfect fit with western understanding about a comfortable life. It is not surprising that many foreigners are thinking about staying here forever or at least for a long period. 

How to Stay in Thailand for a Long Time

It used to be fairly easy even for tourists. You just had to travel to a neighbouring country for a so-called “visa run” to reset the period of your visa-free entry or tourist visa stay and come back immediately. You could do these visa runs an unlimited number of times. Today, however, “eternal tourists” are no longer welcome in Thailand. The authorities believe that such settlers infringe on the rights of local residents - in particular, they take away their jobs and business opportunities. So now, after two or a maximum three entries in a row, they stop letting people into the country. 

Student, work, retirement, and business visas offer more opportunities. They are more difficult to get than tourist ones: you have to comply with certain requirements and submit a set of documents and spend a lot of money. Even if you are lucky to get a visa, it does not guarantee you a carefree life in Thailand forever. You will have to report to the authorities regularly, renew your visas by re-submitting all documents, and incur expenses. Most importantly, most visas cannot be renewed endlessly.

All these difficulties make Thai citizenship more attractive. 

Bangkok. Photo: Kittitep Khotchalee (Unsplash)

Thai Citizenship: Pros and Cons 

It goes without saying that the main and indisputable advantage of Thai citizenship is the ability to freely enter the country and stay for as long as you like without any restrictions. 

Another important benefit of a Thai passport is the right to acquire full ownership of a property. There are two types of property ownership options for foreigners in Thailand: 

  • Freehold - virtually unlimited ownership.
  • Leasehold - long-term lease: usually, for 30 years, renewable twice, up to 90 years. 

If you are not a Thai citizen, you can only buy title to flats in residential complexes as an individual. Moreover, the developer may not sell more than 49% of the floor area of the building on a freehold basis to foreigners. The remaining 51% of the building must be owned by Thai nationals or non-residents on a leasehold basis. 

If you are buying a villa or townhouse, freehold is only possible in the case of the building. A foreigner can only acquire leasehold rights to the land plot under the property. While full title to the land can be issued to a legal entity, here too it will not be fully owned by a non-resident: 51% of the legal entity’s shares must be owned by Thai citizens.

If you have a Thai passport, you will be able to buy any property without restrictions and dispose of the property in any way you want. Citizenship also opens up more prospects for doing business: you can become the full owner of a company. As a foreigner you can only own 49%. Thai citizens can open bank accounts without restrictions, take out loans, and enjoy some tax and social benefits. At the same time, Thai citizens cannot expect a pension: the state does not pay pensions to native Thais or newcomers.

To get citizenship, you will need at the very least a basic understanding of the Thai language. It is worth noting here that Thai is considered one of the most difficult languages in the world. In some cases you will have to renounce your original citizenship.  Furthermore, it can prove difficult to assimilate in a society with peculiar traditions and mentality.

That said, the Thai passport is not “strong”: it only enables the holder to travel to 42 countries without a visa. In 52 countries, you will get a visa on arrival. For the rest, you will need to meet all visa requirements. Nevertheless, Thai citizens can freely travel to all countries in Southeast Asia. including Japan and South Korea. 

Ways to Get Thai Citizenship 

By birth or descent. Under Thai law, it doesn't matter where the child was born. What matters is who their parents are. If at least one of them is a Thai citizen, the child is eligible for a Thai passport. A child born in the kingdom to two foreign parents cannot apply for citizenship. If a child was born in a marriage that was not registered officially, they can only get a passport if their mother is a Thai citizen.

By marriage. Spouses of Thai citizens can apply for citizenship under the simplified procedure. However, they have to meet certain requirements (we will take a look at them in detail subsequently). It may come as a surprise for many foreigners that Thai law is different for men and women who are married to the kingdom’s citizens.

Through naturalisation. Foreigners who have lived legally in the kingdom for at least five years, have a legal job and meet a number of requirements can apply for Thai citizenship. 

How to Get Thai Citizenship by Marriage

A foreigner married to a Thai woman can apply for citizenship three years after marriage. During these three years he must: 

  • live legally in Thailand,
  • have a work permit for this entire period and work for a Thai company,
  • have a monthly income of at least THB 40,000 (USD 1,200) and pay taxes on that amount for three years, and
  • have knowledge of the Thai language.

Phuket. Photo: The DK Photography (Unsplash)

The requirements on women who marry Thai men are a lot milder. There is no minimum period of residence in Thailand, no requirements on mandatory employment, qualifications and income. Even the level of Thai language knowledge can be far lower. At the same time, however, not everything is that simple: the Thai husband of the applicant must have a job and a certain income.  

We present below the general requirements on a foreign woman applying for Thai citizenship by marriage:

  • She has been legally married to the Thai citizen for three years (if there are children, the period is one year).
  • She lives legally in Thailand.
  • Her husband earns at least THB 20,000 (USD 600) per month. If the husband is a civil servant, he can earn THB 15,000 (USD 430) per month. Taxes must be paid on this income.

How to Get Thai Citizenship through Naturalisation 

If you have legally lived in Thailand for at least five years, you can apply for citizenship through naturalisation. You have to meet the following requirements:

  • be legally competent under Thai law and the law of your native country;
  • comply with the laws and standards of public morality;
  • work in a highly sought profession, have a continuous work permit, work for a Thai employer, and earn THB 80,000 (USD 2,400) per month;
  • be resident in Thailand for five consecutive years before applying for citizenship through naturalisation;
  • have knowledge of the Thai language.

The last two items are optional if citizenship is given:

  • to a foreigner for special services to the Kingdom of Thailand;
  • to the child, wife or husband of a Thai citizen who has been naturalised or had their citizenship citizenship;
  • to an individual who previously had Thai citizenship;
  • to the husband of a woman who is a Thai citizen.

All foreigners who meet the above requirements can apply for naturalisation as a Thai citizen. At the same time, you can apply for the naturalisation of your minor children if they also live in Thailand. Children do not have to meet any of the above requirements except for decent behaviour. 

However, you should remember that far from every type of legal stay in the kingdom grants you the right to apply for Thai citizenship through naturalisation. You can live in the country for a long time on a student or retirement visa, but this does not confer citizenship. The key requirement for potential Thai subjects is that they must have a legal job and income. 

Points System Used to Assess Applicants

A points system is used to assess applicants for Thai citizenship. You have to score 50 points out of 100. The points are assigned by the following categories:

  • Age. The maximum of 10 points in this category apply to applicants from the age of 40 to 49. If you are aged from 50 to 60, you will get eight points. You will get five points if you are aged over 60 or between 30 and 39. A minimum of two points is assigned to people from the age of 20 to 29.
  • Education. Doctorate level will bring you the maximum of 15 points; the master’s degree or its equivalent follows with 10 points; eight points for a  bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, five points for a diploma, and three points for vocational training.
  • The security of the profession is evaluated by level of income. The assessment can be based on confirmed income in the year of the application for citizenship or tax payments for the year preceding the filing of the application. Foreigners who have no ties to Thailand other than work and permanent residence must confirm that over the past year they earned over THB 100,001 (USD 2,900) per month to obtain the maximum 25 points. Income from THB 90,001 (USD 2,600) to THB 100,000 will give the applicant 20 points. Any applicant earning from THB 80,000 (USD 2,300) to 90,000 baht will get 15 points.

The requirements on the level of income of applicants who are married to a Thai national, or have Thai children, or graduated from secondary educational institution in Thailand are lower:  25 points for income over THB 60,000 (USD 1,730) per month, 20 points for income from THB 50,000 baht (USD 1,440) to THB 60,000 and 15 points for income from THB 40,000 (USD 1,150) to THB 50,000.

The income of the applicant cannot be lower than this amount. In real life however, we  recommend not indicating amounts which are close to minimum values: Thai officials tend to reject applicants who cannot boast income with a safety margin.

  • Duration of registered residence in Thailand. Here it is important to provide documents on permanent residence in Thailand and their timeframes. A maximum of 20 points is assigned to applicants who have a Certificate of Residence or an Alien Registration Certificate (these documents are similar to a permanent residence permit) for 10 years. Meanwhile 15 points are assigned to applicants who have held one of the aforementioned documents for at least seven years. If the period of permanent residence does not exceed five years, you can expect to receive 10 points. If you do not have a certificate of residence or an alien registration certificate, but only a civil registration certificate showing that you have been living in Thailand for at least five years, you will get five points.
  • Knowledge of the Thai language. . A maximum of 15 points is assigned to applicants who can speak, read, and write in Thai and sing the National and Royal Anthems. If you can do all of the above other than writing, you will get 13 points. You have to be able to speak and understand spoken Thai and sing the National and Royal Anthems to get 10 points. To get 8 points, all you have to do is to be able to speak and understand spoken Thai.
  • General knowledge of Thailand. You will have to pass a special test to prove your knowledge. You will get a maximum of 10 points for nine to 10 correct answers, eight points for six to eight correct answers, and five points if you have less than six correct answers.
  • Personality and physical appearance. After meeting an applicant, a Thai official can assign up to five points based on appearance, speech, and knowledge of Thai manners.

Koh Yao Yai. Photo: Alin Meceanu (Unsplash)

Filing of an Application for Thai Citizenship

An application for Thai citizenship is submitted to a special department of the Thai police. As a rule, the applicant initially meets with the police officers responsible for the procedure. Together they check the list of necessary documents. Then the applicant comes back again with the required documents that they have collected and, where necessary, translated, so that the police officers can check if everything is correct.

Then an officer is assigned who is responsible for your case and the time of the official meeting is set. During this meeting they will check your documents that you sign; you will have an interview and a partial assessment according to the points system (age, education, etc.)  

This is followed by an interview with a senior officer, as well as tests on the general knowledge of the country and on the level of language proficiency. On successful completion, you pay a fee of THB 5,000 (USD 140). 

Various institutions will check your documents (registration, income, taxes, etc.) over two months. Then you will be interviewed by a representative of the National Intelligence Agency of Thailand. Subsequently the documents will be sent to the Ministry of Interior Affairs for review. Finally, the applicant is invited to attend another interview with a large commission of the Ministry of Interior Affairs which issues recommendations to the minister on the granting of citizenship to the applicant. The decision is sealed by the signature of the king and published in the official press, and the applicant is invited to take the oath. In the end the applicant gets a certificate of naturalisation.

List of Documents for Filing the Application for Thai Citizenship

  • Five copies of your Alien Book which is the equivalent of the Thai national ID card and is issued to foreigners with permanent residence status in Thailand. This is required by any applicant for citizenship based on this status.
  • Five copies of your Certificate of Residence. You only provide this document if you have a permanent residence permit.
  • Five copies of your work permit.
  • Five copies of the registration of the whole family at the place of residence: applicant, spouse and their children.
  • Five copies of your passport.
  • Five copies of your marriage certificate. If the original was issued abroad, it has to be translated into Thai. 
  • 12 photos of the applicant and six photos of the spouse. In the photo, men should be in a suit with a tie, and women in formal wear. The size of the photos should be 2 х 2.5 inches (5.08 х 6.35 cm).
  • A certificate from a Thai bank which proves that you have a deposit of at least THB 80,000 (USD 2,300).
  • Proof of charity donations for at least THB 5,000 (USD145). It is important that you donate regularly for a long period of time, and do not pay the entire amount shortly before the submission of the application.
  • Proof of the filing of tax returns for three previous years. This has to be certified by the Revenue Department.
  • A copy of the registration certificate of the company where the applicant works.
  • A letter of employment indicating the position and the salary of the applicant as well as the taxes paid by the company in the year of the application. 
  • Education Certificate. 
  • Supporting letters from two Thai citizens with copies of their IDs and House Registrations.
  • Certificate of Legal Age.
  • A letter stating the intention to renounce your foreign citizenship after getting Thai citizenship.
  • Application fee of THB 5,000 baht (USD 145).

In addition to the above documents, you will often need to provide some more, which will be determined individually for each specific case.

In a Nutshell

You can get Thai citizenship by birth, marriage or through naturalisation. In the latter case, you must live in the country for at least five years, have a work permit, a certain level of income, and knowledge of the Thai language.

Cover photo: Bangkok. Dynamic Wang (Unsplash)

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