How do I acquire Thai citizenship?
For many, 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;
- 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. 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.