Thailand’s allure has captivated many, leading to the desire to marry a Thai spouse. While getting married in Thailand is a relatively straightforward process, it’s crucial to understand the cultural context, legal procedures, obligations, and applicable laws.
In Thailand, there are two distinct forms of marriage: the traditional Thai wedding, also known as a “Buddhist marriage,” and the official registered marriage. Some couples choose to have only a Buddhist marriage, while others opt for only the official registration. There are also those who choose to do both. The order in which these two types of marriages are performed is not a matter of concern. However, it’s essential to recognize the stark differences between them.
This section focuses solely on the LEGAL MARRIAGE, excluding the Buddhist marriage.
How to get married in Thailand
e will focus solely on the legal procedure for marriage registration and its associated implications, excluding the cultural aspects of marriage preparation and the dowry (Sinsod).
The marriage registration process in Thailand is identical for both Thai citizens and foreigners. The ceremony takes place at the local registration office, known as Amphur (outside Bangkok) or Khet (in Bangkok). The legal benefits and effects of marriage are the same for all couples, regardless of nationality. Interestingly, Thailand permits same-sex couples to register for marriage, a progressive step that may lead to the legalization of same-sex marriages in 2024.
However, there are few differences. Here are some:
- Foreigners need more documents to get married in Thailand
- Foreigners need a visa or permanent residency to live in Thailand
- Foreigners normally need a work permit to work
- Foreigners can be prohibited to work in certain fields
- Foreigners normally can’t do business as Thai citizen and might need special licenses and permits or if some special treaties apply (
- Foreigners are normally not allowed to own land in Thailand
But the matrimonial regime applicable in Thailand, for Thais or foreigners is the same.
How does a foreigner get married in Thailand?
Quick video explaining how foreigners can get married in Thailand
There are 4 steps:
- A foreigner must go to his local embassy and get an affirmation of freedom to get married (document#1, example from the USA embassy). It’s a document attesting that you are single and that you can legally get married. All embassies have different requirements and you must contact them to know what documents are needed. For example, at the Canadian embassy, you just need your passport and you swear in front of an officer that you are eligible to get married. But in some others, they will require your original divorce certificate or judgment if you were previously married, or death certificate of your ex-spouse. Some embassies will require a proof of your marital status.
- Once you get the document #1, you must translate it in Thai. (Document#2) That should cost you about 300 baht. There are people doing translation and waiting at the doors of the ministry of foreign affairs (See next step) so you can combine step 2) and step 3) in ONE trip. Or you can use any authorized translation service.
- You must take the document #1 (affirmation of freedom to get married) and document #2 (translation in Thai) and LEGALIZED them at the Ministry of foreign affairs in Bangkok. You can go yourself, or someone or an agency can do it for you if you sign them a power of attorney. Both documents (#1 and #2) will be legalized. They changed the rules in 2016 and it normally takes more than 1 day to get the document legalized..
- Once you have document #1 and the translation in Thai #2 LEGALIZED, you can get married at any amphur or Khet. You will also need your passport. The cost should be less than 100 baht including some photocopies. And both spouse will received a certificate of marriage like this one below. Be aware that if the lady change name or title (like MRS) that must be done in her local amphur. Only her local amphur can change her Thai ID and her Ta bian ban.
Do note that more and more amphur require foreigners to translate their passport before getting married, and often, required a legalized translation done by the ministry of foreign affairs. We also have seen some amphur requiring that the people get married in the same amphur where the Thai lady is registered. That is rare, but we have seen it.
This is an example of marriage certificate in Thailand.
IF YOU HAVE A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT, THIS CONTRACT MUST BE REGISTERED AT THE SAME MOMENT. If you do not register your prenuptial agreement when you get married in Thailand, your contract will be void under Thai Law.
The address for step 3 is:
Legalization Division of Consular Affairs Department
123 Chaengwattana Road, Laksi,
Bangkok 10210 Tel: (66-2) 575-1056-60 Fax: 575-1054
For women that are widow or divorced, the dissolution of the previous marriage must be at least 310 days before a new marriage unless: (That is clause 1453 of the Thai Commercial and Civil Code)
a) A child has been born during such period or;
b) The divorced couple (same people) remarry or;
c) There is a certificate issued by a qualified doctor who is a lawful physical practitioner in medecine showing that the woman is not pregnant or;
c) There is an order of the Court allowing the woman to marry.
You really don’t need a lawyer or an agency to get married in Thailand, but if you wish, many can help you out. However, you will still have to go in person to your embassy for step 1, and you also need to be physically present to get married at step 4. But you will surely need a reputation law firm in you want to protect your asset and make a prenuptial agreement. You can even make a prenuptial online for low fees.
Some benefits from a marriage
Let’s just give you some examples and each country is different:
- Easier to get a visa for a foreigner in Thailand
- Entitled to common property (sin somros or marital asssets) with the spouse
- Might get some benefits for inheritance if the spouse doesn’t have a Last Will. Marriage modifies normally the rank of heirs in most jurisdictions.
- Easier for Thai spouse to get a visa to go abroad
- You might get some legalized rights on your Thai child. (See custody section)
- You might get a pension from your spouse at his/her death
- You can get some “domestic protections”
Some responsibilities related to a marriage
- You must support financially your spouse and your legal children, like alimony, that might even continue after a future separation or divorce.
- Some of your properties might become common property depending where you live, if you have a prenuptial agreement or not, and how you manage your money and assets.
- You might have some taxes to pay, depending on the country, the situation, the children, etc. Taxes are very complex and as you can imagine, people paying the more taxes are often the middle class.
- In rare cases, you will be ineligible to various survivor benefits upon remarriage.
- You will be responsible for common debt of the couple and in some jurisdictions, might even be responsible (engage your liability) for personal debts of your spouse.
So, you must evaluate your personal situation, many factors and the obligations that a marriage can create for you in Thailand or elsewhere. For some, a marriage is a proof of love, a religious union, a moment of happiness to share. But it also creates legal binding effects and once the marriage is registered and these can rarely be canceled (void) by Law once they are created.
Other Special Rules
We recommend to call the “amphur” where you want to get married as many of them can have special rules. In the past, we have seen clients:
- Requested to bring a translation of their passport
- Required to bring two witnesses as the amphur staff was not signing for witnesses
- Asked an interpreter to be sure that the groom understand
These are not official rules but the translation of the passport is not required in 50% of cases (info from 2023).