How can I get Thai citizenship?

For those who have moved to Thailand, acquiring Thai citizenship at first glance seems like an impossible dream.

The story is one you hear often. Arrive in 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. And you have to admit, it isn’t a bad place to live.

Is becoming a Thai citizen difficult?

No, it isn’t. Don’t believe the bar-stool gossip or web theorists who have heard ‘stuff’

While Thai citizenship isn’t available just to anyone, the simple answer is that it isn’t as hard to get as you think, and on par with the process required to get a western nationality.

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;
  • Only 100 people per year are granted Thai citizenship
  • 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.

For many, having a solid working history here will be the starting point. For others, it will be a combination of family relationships (spouses, parents) which determines how you go about applying.

As 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.

So how do I acquire 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;
  • Permanent residents;
  • Those married to Thai citizens; and
  • Those born to a Thai parent

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.

For those who are born to Thai parents, or have kids for whom one of the parents is Thai, we also have some useful advice on issues such as getting your Thai birth certificate, dual citizenship, and military service obligations.

What are the benefits?

Non-citizens face ongoing administrative baggage just to maintain their stay in Thailand. 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.

The benefit of removing those frustrations 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 BS 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.

Chris Larkin

Long time resident of Bangkok. Married, three daughters. Managing director of CLC Asia (www.clc-asia.com). Lots of interesting knowledge and experience built up over time which I hope can be of use to people.

167 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for the insightful and inspiring articles!

    Question from a foreign man married to Thai woman: How about teaching jobs that pay a working salary of 42,000 baht/month and a retainer salary of 10,000 baht/month when school is on break 3-4 months out of the year? Guessing it wouldn’t qualify even after paying taxes for 3 years, but thought I should ask a pro before giving up on the job. Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Tom,

      Glad you’ve found the site useful. The long and short of it is you need to have – on an average basis – 40k per month.

      With the arrangement you speak of it may mean that you come in just under that average for that one job unless you aren’t including annual bonuses.

      When school breaks – supplementing that income would put you over the top. Easier said than done but if you can find a company willing to do that (maybe even your own?) then that would mean your income hits the threshold you need.

  2. Jeff says:

    Hi Chris,

    Very interesting and informative podcast on Bangkok Podcast! I’m married to a Thai person, living in Thailand since 2010, with all the necessary requirements except continuity with work permits. Unfortunately when I changed jobs, the Ministry of Labor didn’t allow me to continue my work permit under the new company as I was transfering from a BOI company, to non-BOI company. Rather, they issued me a new work permit. There wasn’t any gap in time between jobs, but as such my current work permit doesn’t have 3 years or more. I have also all my tax returns for each year. Do you think there’s anyway they would allow this given the technicality non-transferable BOI work permits?

    • Hi Jeff,

      It isn’t necessary for you to be in your current job (and associated WP) for three years before you apply.

      All that is required is that you have three consecutive years of work permits, and if there is a change between jobs, there is no gap between work permits. As such, most people who are aiming for citizenship and change jobs work to ensure that their old and new work permits change over on the same day to ensure there is no ‘gap’. It isn’t clear what special branch consider a ‘gap’ but I think anything more than a few days between work permits may risk re-setting the three year clock.

      As always, for specific questions as to your own circumstances, do go down and chat with special branch and they will give you some additional clarity on it.

      • Jeff says:

        Thanks very much for your thoughts on this, Chris. I suspect I’ll be in grey area. My hope is that the intention of the requirement can be applied in my case. I will indeed go down to the special branch. I’ve spoken with friends and colleagues that have gone through the process and they reaffirm that this department is actually quite helpful. Thanks again!

        • Not a problem at all. Yep, the SB people are generally helpful so I’d take the old and new work permits down and ask to see if they have any issues with it.

          • Jeff says:

            Hi Chris, just an update for the thread. The SB people were very nice and helpful. The feedback was that there isn’t a concern about gaps between work permits provided the change in jobs was seamless and the visa’s reflect that. Moreover, they were mostly interested in seeing the annual taxes. My only problem is that I’ve only been married for 2 years, so I’ll need to wait an additional year to apply.
            Thanks again!

          • Hi Jeff,

            Well that is excellent news. So another year should fly by – hopefully SB gave you the list of documents they need so you can start collecting them. Great to hear they were nice and helpful as well. If find that people tend to not apply for citizenship as they’d rather not deal with the police. In this case it’s always a pleasant surprise.

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