Many people come to Thailand, often for a short stay, and before they know it, they’ve been here a decade or even more. Work, marriage, the weather, the beaches, whatever it is, leads many people to want to spend their lives here.
While Thailand has become their home, they are still officially considered non-residents and with all the administrative baggage and disadvantages that comes with this status. This can include:
- Annual visa and work permit renewals;
- 90-day reporting;
- Being at the whim of visa and immigration officials;
- Having your permission to stay cancelled if you lose your job, or due to administrative stuff up from HR;
- Unable to own major personal assets, like land (or that Thai beach house you always wanted!);
- Barred from being majority shareholder in your own business;
- Forced to rely on nominees to be the majority shareholders for your business; and
- Shut out from many banking products, such as mortgages or business loans.
In and of themselves, these things may not seem such big deals. But over time, the frustration of each one of these can and does accumulate.
What are the benefits of Thai citizenship?
The benefit of removing those frustrations outlined above is benefit in and of itself. However, as someone who holds a Thai ID card, the benefit is pretty straight forward: Simplicity and certainty.
As difficult as life is as a foreigner, holding a Thai ID card literally the opposite. It cuts through all the administrative complexity that one faces on a day-to-day basis making life extremely simple to deal with.
More importantly, your presence or ability to be in Thailand will never be questioned again.
Is getting Thai citizenship difficult?
No, it isn’t.
Unfortunately there is a lot of ‘barstool gossip’ which leads people to believe that getting citizenship is an impossible goal.
While Thai citizenship isn’t available just to anyone, the simple answer is that it isn’t as hard to get as you think.
Often, the perceived difficulty (as opposed to the reality) is generally the only thing holding people back from ever considering applying.
Time and again I hear expats and Thai people tell me that it is impossible for foreigners to get Thai citizenship. Common myths include:
- You have to be able to speak, read and write Thai fluently;
- You have to live in Thailand for two decades before you can apply;
- Only people who have ‘connections’ in high places get citizenship;
- They only want millionaires to apply; or
- You have to pay give lots of brown paper bags stuffed with cash to officials;
The reality is the complete opposite.
- Thai citizenship costs 5,000 baht to apply;
- If you are married to a Thai citizen and you are earning 40,000 baht per month from working in Thailand, then you are likely eligible; and
- The level of Thai needed is no more than conversational level Thai, and the requirement is totally waived for those married to Thai citizens.
The honest truth is so long as you are eligible or getting yourself to the point where you soon will be eligible, the paperwork and processes are no more cumbersome – and in many cases easier – than applying for citizenship in say Australia, Canada, the US or the UK.
Who qualifies for Thai citizenship?
There are a couple of main categories of people who would generally qualify:
- People living here on consecutive work permits and visas, paying income tax;
- Those married to Thai citizens; and
- Those born to a Thai parent or Permanent residents.
These are the main categories, and depending on which one you are, there will be specific paths to go down. People on work permits will need to go down the Thai Permanent Residence path before being eligible for applying, while those who are married to Thai citizens can skip this stage.
How do I go about it?
Citizenship applications are handled by Police Special Branch. In Bangkok they are located at National Police HQ on Rama 1 Road, just across from Central World. It is a small friendly office, unlike any immigration office in Thailand you have even seen! So you can start by asking there…AND…this is important, you can easily apply yourself.
The best internet resource around : www.thaicitizenship.com
There is a lot of confusing and contradictory information on the internet so a few years ago I set up a FREE website called www.thacitizenship.com which outlines all the routes to citizenship.
One the website you’ll find DETAILED articles on
- How to get Thai citizenship
- How to apply for permanent residency
- Thai military service for your Thai citizen children
- Other articles around health, finance and education which may be of interest to long term expats
The website is designed so you can apply for all of these things yourself. Once you read it, you’ll actually see how straight forward it is. So feel free to have a look at the website, and post any questions you have either on the website, or at our ‘Thai citizenship’ facebook group where lots of other people will be able to share their experiences.
And you’ll get to see that applying for Thai citizenship isn’t as hard as you think.
About the Author – Chris Larkin
I’m a long-time resident of Thailand and a dual Thai-Australian national. My day job is running my boutique consulting firm CLC Asia (www.clc-asia.com) where I assist foreign investors understanding the Thai economy, and from time to time, the Thai government and its policies.
I’m used to working with the most senior levels of government in Thailand, so hopefully my experience can help you to navigate the journey to Thai citizenship (as well as understand a few other things about Thailand!)
- www.thaicitizenship.com : The best website in English about Thai citizenship!