Thailand ancestry visas
It is estimated there are nearly 3 million people of Thai ancestry living outside of Thailand. This includes both Thai passport holders but also people with Thai ancestry but holding another passport.
For these latter group of people, there is a little-known visa class which allows people with Thai heritage to effectively spend an unlimited time in Thailand – all with extraordinarily little effort. So, if you have some Thai background, please read on.
Visas vs extensions of stay
Lets get the technical speak out of the way first. Officially, once you land in Thailand, the word ‘visa’ isn’t applicable. A ‘visa’ is something the sticker in the passport from a Thai embassy before you arrive. For Thailand, the longest visa’s normally allow you to stay for is 90 days after arrival. If you want to stay longer than the date stamped in your passport when you first arrive, you are going to need what in Thailand is known as an ‘extension of stay’ from a local immigration office.
You need to have a reason to be granted an extension of stay. Most extensions of stay are granted based on things like work, education, marriage, retirement or having a Thai citizen child. But all require a lot of proof and some come with hefty strings attached, like needing 800,000 baht (US$25,000) in the bank. Other long-term permissions to stay in Thailand, such as Thailand’s ‘Elite’ Visa start at 500,000 baht (US$15,000) for 5 years.
Extensions of stay – having a Thai parent
Amid all the potential reasons for extending your stay, exists a specific clause designed for people with Thai ancestry. Immigration Order No. 327/2557 allows for the following:
2.23 In the case of a person who used to have Thai nationality or whose parent is or was of Thai nationality visiting relatives or returning to his or her original homeland:
Unlike other ‘extensions of stay’ categories, the evidence needed here is very simple. The applicant:
1) Must have evidence that the applicant used to have Thai nationality or that his her parent is or was of Thai nationality.
In essence, providing evidence of your one of your parents Thai nationality will be enough to grant you a year’s extension of stay in Thailand.
How does this work?
Unlike other ‘extension of stay’ categories, there is no need to get any special visas before you enter Thailand. If you are from a country which is granted visa-free entry into Thailand (usually for 30 days) you can simply fly into Thailand and be stamped in, initially for 30 days.
Once in the country, you can head to the immigration department in your closest province and request an extension of stay.
- A completed TM.7 form (available here);
- Copy of the applicant’s passport; and
- Copy of documents showing that the one of the applicants parents either have, or, used to have Thai nationality.
For (3), this usually involves certified copies of the Thai parents ID. This could include their citizen identification card, their passports or Thai birth certificates. Also needed is your birth certificate showing your Thai parents name on it.
It is important that when showing evidence of Thai nationality, the spelling of all names should align, and if they don’t, then a certificate from a Thai embassy or consulate or evidence confirming that they are the same person should be provided. The regulations also say that declarations from Thai citizens are also acceptable.
The exact Thai immigration link is here at point 23 on the list (Thai only).
But…with a Thai ancestry, doesn’t that make me a Thai citizen?
Yes, it does. A child of a Thai parent is automatically a Thai citizen by the Thai government regardless of the place of birth and no generational limits. As such, you have the right to a Thai birth certificate, and passport, which is outlined in our article “Thai citizenship when born overseas”.
Usually, it is mostly the case that it is easy enough (and recommended) for those with Thai ancestry to go down this route and enter Thailand on a Thai passport if you intend to stay for an extended period of time. However, a person with a Thai parent who wishes to live in Thailand might not always be able to use that option – an issue we discuss in further detail below.
Pros and cons of this the ancestry clause
This type of extension of stay holds a few decent upsides, but also a couple of significant downsides.
The main ‘upside’ is that people effectively have access to an unlimited stay in Thailand – subject to annual renewal with minimal requirements proving your parent is Thai.
The main downsides come with the fact that on this visa, you are still considered a foreigner for immigration purposes. As such you:
- Are subject to TM30 registration, 90-day reporting an having to extend the visa ever year;
- Have no automatic work rights in Thailand, and still require a work permit if you are going to work; and
- No rights to own land.
So who is this visa really going to benefit?
We can think of a few different types of situations where this visa is going to be useful. This includes:
- Those from countries where dual citizenship is prohibited;
- People who have been born to a parent from Thailand, but where that parent was forced to renounce Thai citizenship to take up a new citizenship (e.g. Austria, Singapore). As such, unless you were born before that parent renounced their citizenship, you don’t have access to Thai citizenship.
- Those looking to spend an extended period of time in Thailand in excess of the usual 60-day tourist visas;
- ‘Digital Nomads’ who aren’t working for a Thai employer but wish to base themselves in Thailand;
- Males under 30 born overseas to a Thai parent, not yet registered on a house registration in Thailand and who do not wish to expose themselves to military conscription by entering Thailand on a Thai passport; and
- People struggling to put together the paperwork to get a Thai passport.
So I’m a Thai citizen, but I’m not?
Yes – and no. As stated earlier, if you have a Thai parent you are automatically Thai according to Thai law. So it is strange that this extension of stay exists in some ways.
But at the end of the day, until you have the paperwork in order, you can’t get a Thai passport. And while it is mostly straight forward to do so, there are some instances where it isn’t.
Based a variety of questions we’ve received on this website, the divorce or death of a Thai parent is a main why people aren’t immediately able to get a Thai passport. So, while alternatives such as DNA testing or going to the parents home district to reestablish the paper trail can eventually get you a Thai passport, these things take time and this visa would also be useful to give you time to do these things.
At the end of the day however, coming to Thailand and entering as a Thai citizen is the simplest and optimal way for most, but this visa is a good substitute for those with Thai ancestry who can’t.