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.

169 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    Hi Chris,

    My wife was born in Thailand as her family was fleeing Cambodia. She had Thai citizen status but when became a U.S. citizen she was not offered the chance to keep her Thai citizenship. She never officially relinquished her status formally, Can she get her Thai citizenship back?

    • Hi Mark

      In normal circumstances a person born with Thai citizenship never loses it unless they formally renounce it.

      The one exception – which mainly applies to the children of refugees – who by virtue of legislation in the early 1970s, essentially lost it if they happened to be born in Thailand before that date (see revolutionary act 337 HERE).

      You don’t say when your wife was born, but if was post 1971, I suspect she was never actually granted thai citizenship unless BOTH her parents were also legal residents in Thailand (essentially green card holders) at the time of her birth. I’m happy to be proven wrong on this and her Thai birth certificate will state clearly at the top her nationality (in thai of course..).

      If the latter is the case then she remains thai.

      If not, there is a process for those born in Thailand before 1992 to register as Thai nationals, but it also requires having been registered and living in Thailand and it’s not clear whether your wife meets that threshold.

  2. Chantal says:

    We have been living in Thailand for over 24 years. I am a Uk passport holder and husband is NZ citizen. We were married in Thailand. We adopted 2 Thai children 13 years ago. Are we eligible to apply for Thai citizenship without PR first ?

    • Hi Chantal,

      To my knowledge the only paths to citizenship which skip PR are those for married to a Thai citizen given the way the legislation is written, so based on what you have written PR would be a mandatory step.

  3. Christine says:

    Hi Chris,

    I’m a young adult (over 21 yrs). My father is a PR (in the process of obtaining Thai citizenship). Do I apply to become a Thai citizen immediately after he is naturalizer? Or do I have to apply for PR first before I can apply to be a Thai citizen.

    • Hi Christine.

      Given you are over 20 now and no longer considered a dependent under Thai law, unfortunately your parents status no longer have a bearing in supporting a path to PR or citizenship for you.

      As such the standard route applies for you – having at least three years of work permits at the required income before you are eligible for PR and then holding PR for 5 years and then applying for citizenship after that.

  4. Kaab says:

    Hi,

    I was born in Thailand in a refugee camp. I do have the birth certificate, but my parents are not Thai. I’m now a U.S citizen and lives here, would it be possible to get Thai citizenship?

  5. Nineveh says:

    Good day

    The following is my situation:
    1) Born to parents who have been naturalized into Thai citizens. They were holding Indian citizenship prior.
    2) Holding Permanent Residency for almost 35 years
    3) Married to Thai citizen (born in Thailand) for more than 10 years.
    4) Have one child who also was born in Thailand and has Thai citizenship.
    5) Working abroad but renewing my residency once a year.

    Problem is I have not been living here for 3 consecutive years and have not paid taxes here in Thailand, because I work abroad.

    Is there a path to getting my Thai citizenship in any other procedure?

    Thanks for your response.

    Nineveh

    • Hi Nineveh,

      Thanks for your question! Unfortunately the requirement of three years of work permits and tax returns in the lead up to application is a non-negotiable, so you are going to have to have those.

    • Moti says:

      Hi
      I am living in Thailand more than 10 years mist of the time I used to work with work permit
      I’m married to thai citizen since 2017 and have a child but since I got married I change my visa to marriage and didn’t make work permit anymore
      Can I apply to this or I need to go back to do WP

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