Thai citizenship application process

This article provides a comprehensive outline of the Thai citizenship application process. We take potential applicants through the steps involved in detail, including the points system and how your application is assessed.

The process outlined here applies to two categories of people:

  1. Those who hold Thai permanent residency; or
  2. Foreign males married to Thai citizen wives who are allowed to skip Thai PR.

In all cases, when applying you’ll need at minimum the following thresholds as well:

  1. Three years of uninterrupted extensions of stay (if applying based on marriage);
  2. Permanent residents who apply need to have held PR for 5 years;
  3. Three years of unbroken work permits from a Thai employer;
  4. A minimum income of 80,000 baht per month (not married a Thai national) or 40,000 baht per month (if married to a Thai national).

If you are a foreign woman married to a Thai husband, then please read this article, as the process is slightly different for the wives of Thai husbands.

If you are single or not married to a Thai national, you need to obtain Thai permanent residency first, which you can apply for after a full three years of uninterrupted work permits. After holding PR for 5 years, you will then be eligible to apply for Thai citizenship.

NAVIGATING THE POINTS SYSTEM

Determining if you qualify for Thai citizenship is based on a simple scoring criteria. We’ve outlined in detail the points system in an article here.

It is worth familiarising yourself with the different sections, but the broad-brush strokes are that you’ll need to score 50 out of 100 points to be able to apply for citizenship based the following criteria.

  1. Qualifications of the applicant (maximum 25 points)

1.1 Age (10 points)

1.2 Education (15 points)

  1. Security of profession (25 points)
  2. Length of civil registration – i.e. the length of time on a tabien baan (20 points)
  3. Thai language ability (15 points)
  4. General knowledge about Thailand (10 points)
  5. Personality, appearance and expression (5 points)

Reading how the points system is structured, it becomes pretty apparent that the system is designed to facilitate citizenship for those who are in full time work in Thailand, earning a reasonable salary and who have some level of post secondary education.

The system also rewards you for the time spent in Thailand, as well as your ability to speak, read and write Thai. As such, different applicants who are weaker in some categories can potentially make up points in other areas.

Laying the ground work so you qualify for Thai citizenship

Simply working here legally for three years, holding PR or being married, and earning the minimum salary – whilst necessary for applying for Thai nationality – it is not sufficient.

As such, people reading this far might not yet be in the position to apply, but there are a number of basic things you can do to put yourself in good stead for an eventual application sooner rather than later.

Much of the documentation required (passports, photos, marriage certificates etc.) is rather straight forward. A detailed list documents which are required for your application are outlined at a separate page, here.

For those who are strategic about their approach to their application however, there are a few useful tips and tricks to maximise your points to qualify for Thai citizenship.

While at first glance they might appear daunting, most of these steps should come pretty much organically for those who are looking to put down roots here and who interact with Thai friends and colleagues on regular basis.

Setting place the suggestions below could potentially add 28 to 36 points to your total score:

  • Yellow tabien baan (ทะเบียนบ้าน): Quite simply, get yourself registered on one. The earlier the better. The scoring criteria offers points for people who have “evidence of civil registration showing domicile in Thailand for at least 5 years”. In plain English, this means being registered on the yellow tabien baan (see this article on getting yourself registered on one). If you are just exploring the possibility and are still a few years off applying, then this is an easy 5 points towards your 50. It is also worth noting that there have been some anecdotal reports of people getting the 5 points even though not having held it for the entire five-year period.

 

  • Learning basic Thai civics: Part of being a future citizen is knowing some things about how the country works and some of its symbolism. Applicants are offered a maximum of 10 points for answering multiple choice questions in Thai on a range of questions from how many provinces there are to what the Thai flag represents – so brushing up on these things can help your points tally immensely. We’ve taken the liberty to outline some of the common questions you may get in this article here.

 

  • Learning conversational Thai: If your points from education and salary levels are dragging you down, then having a decent level of comprehension and ability to speak will add an extra 8 points to your total. From what we have heard and seen, this by no stretch means fluency – but neither does it mean ‘taxi Thai’. It does imply however that you can have a relaxed conversation with the special branch police and be able to talk about yourself with confidence, your history and why you want to apply for Thai citizenship.

 

  • Learning some Thai mannerisms: This is a harder one to quantify, and the granting of these points by Special Branch is quite subjective, but “personality, physical appearance and bearing, speech, Thai manners, attitude towards Thailand, Thai culture and ceremonies” will net you a further 5 points. In other words, a combination of dressing well for your interviews, learning to ‘wai’ properly, proper greetings and the more ‘formal’ words in your discussion, appropriate use of polite articles such as ‘krup’ (ครับ) and coming across as being respectful and courteous will go a long way to getting you these points.

 

  • Applying at the right age: You’ll also score points for your age. Younger applicants score less than those in middle age. Those older than 60 are awarded less points. As such, the optimal age to apply is between 40 and 50 and will automatically get you 10 points for doing so.

Of course, everyone’s circumstances will be different, which will mean you can take or leave some of the above-mentioned tips and strategies. Still, focusing on these are usually gets peoples applications ‘over the line’ to reach the magic score of 50 out of 100 points.    

In addition to maximising your point score, there are a few tips which will mean that your application is accepted at the first try:

  • Charitable donations: Special Branch are going to want to see that you have a verified history of charitable donations. Five Thousand Baht a year of donations is the magic number, so make sure you dig up your receipts from past donations (or start making some well in advance of applying – one off donations of 5000 baht are fine too, so long as it done in advance). What Special Branch won’t like however is if you have just made the donation so as to apply for citizenship, so any evidence that donations were made ‘recently’ will not go down well with them

 

  • Bank letter addressed to Special Branch: Your application will require a verified 80,000 baht deposited in a Thai bank account at the time of applying, verified by your bank. Most banks are used to writing verification letters to immigration in support of marriage or retirement visas, and probably will have a pro-forma letter template for this verification. Ensure that they don’t use this one and address the bank letter to police Special Branch instead.

 

  • Choosing a Thai name: As part of the process, you’ll need to formally choose a Thai name which is unique. You can use this link to check if your name doesn’t clash with any existing names.

 

  • Two Thai witnesses: An easy one, but you’ll need two Thai citizens who know you to come to Special Branch and vouch for your background. This will need to be done before the application package can be finalised by them and then sent off to the Ministry of Interior.

 

WHERE TO APPLY FOR THAI CITIZENSHIP?

Special Branch, National Police HQ, Bangkok

Source: Royal Thai Police

Like all others who apply for Thai citizenship, the reality is that Bangkok is the best, and often the only place to apply for citizenship.

If you normally reside in Bangkok and have your registration there, and your wife has her house registration (if married) – the ‘tabien baan’ (ทะเบียนบ้าน) – and ID card (บัตรประชาชน) at the same address in Bangkok, then all applications must be made at police Special Branch, who’s location is at the National Police Headquarters on Rama 1 Road. For those who know Bangkok well, it is across the road from Central World. Details can be found here.

Important note: If you are based outside of Bangkok and registered in another province, applications need to be made at the local division of Special Branch in that province. Except for possibly Chiang Mai and Phuket, applying via local Special Branch offices are a non-starter. Local officers aren’t trained or equipped to handle applications and if they do somehow do take your application, there are stories where peoples applications remain there gathering dust.

The long and the short of it is that the most efficient strategy is to bite bullet and find a friend who will allow for your names to be put on their Bangkok based house registration. The Special Branch people in Bangkok know the challenges of applying elsewhere, so they won’t mind at all that you have moved your registration to Bangkok simply for the purpose of the application.

Initial meetings with Thai Special Branch…

Your initial meetings with Special Branch be unofficial. It is normally okay to drop into their offices and ask for the required documentation list. They officers will ask you about the basis of your application and highlight which documents on the list they will need. Two or three visits back will likely be needed until the officers are sure that you have all the documents and they are in order (properly translated etc). Once this is done an official appointment will be made.

The formal meetings

The officer in charge of your case will set an appointed time, and you (and your spouse if applying based on marriage) should attend. The meeting will usually consist of an initial interview with your case officer, followed by a meeting with a senior officer who will formally ask about your intentions and give you the multiple-choice questions.

The process usually begins about asking standard questions about yourself, background, current employment, and your relationship (if married). They will formally check your documentation, and for the non-discretionary points (age, education etc.) allocations will be made. There will be lots of document checking, asking you to sign on verified copies of the documents and the officials formal application – which they will type for you.

Depending on the applicant, the initial case officer also may take the opportunity to give you a ‘mock’ interview – many of the questions what will be asked not only by his senior officer, but also down the track when you meet the NIA – National Intelligence Agency  (สำนักข่าวกรองแห่งชาติ) and the Ministry of Interior.

You’ll then be asked to go upstairs at Special Branch to meet the senior officer.

Similar questions will then be asked about your history, background and current status, both personally and professionally. The multiple-choice civics quiz will then be given and an assessment of your Thai language ability (speaking, reading and writing) and general appearance and personality will be made.

Finger prints will also be taken, and you’ll be asked to pay the application fee of 5000 baht at this point.

For the most part, these interviews are very friendly and the officers are generally encouraging for people to succeed. If you’ve gotten this far, the officers generally will be confident that your application will make its way seamlessly through the rest of the process at other agencies. For those whose Thai language ability isn’t as strong, they’ll generally ask that you continue practicing so to be able to better interact with officials later in the process.

At the end of the meeting, you’ll be told to expect a call within the space of 3 to 4 weeks for a meeting with the NIA.

Thai government agency verification

You’ll also be given envelopes from Special Branch which need to be taken by you to different agencies around Bangkok to verify certain things. This may include letters to:

  • Immigration requesting verification of your Permanent Residency Status (if applicable)
  • Your local district office verifying your marriage (if applicable) and name change (to for your Thai name)
  • Your embassy to verify your passport details, as well as a letter of your ‘intention’ to renounce your existing nationality upon acquiring Thai nationality (Please click this link to read up about this topic)

These agencies will then be asked to either post the responses back to special branch, or in some cases, they will ask them for you to return them yourself.

Special Branch will then also liaise with other agencies (tax, visa, work permit) to verify these documents. The timeline is approximately 60 days, and after verification your application and associated documentation will handed off to the Department of Provincial Administration (DoPA) at the Ministry of Interior ‘กรมการปกครอง กระทรวงมหาดไทย’ which processes the application.

EXTERNAL INTERVIEWS

National Intelligence Agency

Within 3 to 4 weeks of your initial meeting with Special Branch, another interview will be organized with the National Intelligence Agency (สำนักข่าวกรองแห่งชาติ).

Up to about 10 years ago, the NIA would ask to meet applicants in a mall somewhere near downtown Bangkok. Favourite venues included KFC’s or McDonald’s and would be surprisingly informal – and bizarre – experience based on the venue.

These days you will be invited to their offices of the National Intelligence Agency or if not, then they will also arrange meetings in some non-descript government offices near the Ari BTS station.

Again, you will be asked to bring along all of the documents used in the initial application most of the same questions will be asked again.

For most applicants, it is a relatively short ‘chat’, going over your background again. The officials will also weave in why you want Thai citizenship. Fluffy and overly obsequious reasons don’t go down well – according to the NIA people themselves. ‘Practical’ reasons are best. These include:

  • Not needing to have work permits;
  • To have rights with regards to things like land ownership; and
  • Doing away with the need for visas.

The NIA officials also ask about salary and assets.  It is probably best to be honest here as ultimately the officials want that the applicant will not ultimately be a burden on the state.

Local police interview

Within this first 90-day period, you’ll also be required to schedule an appointment at your local police station in the district you are registered. Here the police will again interview you, asking basic questions about your relationship status and family situation (if married), which they will type up in a report and send back to Special Branch HQ to form part of your application.

MINISTRY OF INTERIOR (AKA the ‘black hole’)

Following your meeting with the NIA, your application is forwarded to Department of Provincial Administration (DOPA) at the Ministry of Interior (กรมการปกครอง กระทรวงมหาดไทย).

At this stage documents will be checked again and crossed checked that the application complies with the Nationality Act itself, and whatever ministerial regulations and interpretation are applicable.

None of this you will see or know about, unless, as does sometimes happen, DOPA finds a slight discrepancy or issue with the application, which will result in either DOPA or Special Branch calling you for supplementary paperwork.

For most applicants however, when the application hits DOPA, all they hear about their application is complete silence.

Working while your application is processed

One thing that can potentially trip applicants up is the issue of work permit continuity.

Applicants who are looking to apply for Thai citizenship know that they must be in Thailand on 3 years worth of consecutive work permits and extensions of stay before they are eligible to apply (though a few days between an old work permit expiring and the new one beginning seems to be fine, though admittedly a grey area and open to interpretation).

However, once you have applied and your application has been accepted by Special Branch, it is important to know that you should continue to remain qualified during the processing period and up to your citizenship is formally announced in the Royal Gazette.

In other words, maintaining your work permit, minimum income levels, tax payments and of course, being married if you are applying on that basis.

This is because during interview process, your marriage certificates, visa and work permits can be requested by officials. Secondly, in rare cases, DOPA and the Ministry of Interior may find a slight discrepancy in the application submitted by Special Branch – in which case the application technically has to be resubmitted – requiring you to be fully eligible at that point too.

The final BORA/DOPA/Ministry of Interior interview

Depending on a range of factors, the government of the day, the level attention that the Minister in charge places on citizenship applications, applicants will receive notification from Bureau of Registration Administration (สำนักบริหารการทะเบียน) or ‘BORA’, via Special Branch, that you will be required to attend a final interview with the large committee which formally considers all applications and then recommends to the Minister to approve them.

The standard wait time for getting to this stage is often 1 to 3 years, with little explanation as to why people experience different wait times.

What is ‘normal’ about this stage of the process is that you’ll typically only be given 10 to 14 days notice of this meeting, often less. So it is often a case of dropping everything to make sure you can attend. The notification from DOPA will come with a list of documents you need to bring for the interview, which is basically every piece of identification, passports, visa and registration you have in Thailand.

What happens at the meeting?

The Thai citizenship interview itself is formally hosted by the Minorities and Nationality Section which is a part of the BORA which sits under DOPA, which is a part of the MOI.

source: DOPA

All applicants for Thai citizenship are interview in a conference room by a committee. This can consist of 20 to 40 officials from different agencies (as required to be present under the Thai Nationality Act) sitting around a horseshoe shaped conference table, with you and your spouse at the front of the room sitting at a table facing everyone.

The conference room is typical of what you’ll find in every government office across Thailand with microphones on each desk. The atmosphere is formal, but everyone is friendly and polite.

By this point, you will be well versed and practiced in many of the questions that will be asked – information about yourself, your background, and your relationship. You may be asked why you want to get Thai citizenship and about your employment. Some applicants have mixed English into their Thai answers, and this appears to have been fine so long as your overall passing score doesn’t rely on Thai language abilities. But if you are relying on some points for Thai language skills, then obviously prepare a good 5 minute spiel about yourself, your background, work in Thailand and your family.

If the application is based on marriage to a Thai spouse, applicants are waived from having to sing the Thai national anthem and the Royal Anthem (Sansoen Phra Barami/สรรเสริญพระบารมี) however those with PR and applying on that basis will need to sing the anthems.

Uncontroversial applications are often very quick, lasting only a few minutes. If there were questions or concerns, the committee often takes longer.

GETTING THE THAI ID CARD

Following the BORA interview, there can be another long gap of a few months to a year or more.

The BORA committee will make a formal submission to the Minister of Interior to approve the application, which then must also be countersigned by HM the King, before it can be published in the Royal Gazette.

Following this, applicants will also need to undergo a formal citizenship swearing in ceremony at Special Branch headquarters. A few months later, you will also receive a naturalisation certificate along with certified copies of the announcement in the Royal Gazette.

With all of this in hand, you can then go to the district office. It will likely the the case that you will need to scheduling a meeting with the appropriate person there, where they will again check all the required documents from you, and where they can move your yellow tabien baan registration to the blue tabien baan if you are not already registered on the blue one. Following this, you will be able to move over to the Thai ID counter to have your new Thai ID issued.

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.

49 Responses

  1. Jaxon says:

    Hi Chris,
    Some questions about one of the items on the document checklist page: p) Evidence of education for the applicant and for any children.
    For children at a Thai school, would this be the certificate they get at the end of P6 and M6? What about if they haven’t finished P6 yet? Would the most recent grade report card suffice?
    How about international schools in Thailand that issue their grade reports in English? Do they need to be translated into Thai?
    Thanks

    • Hi Jaxon.

      Good question! To be honest I think just in the first instance your kids birth certificates and other ID will be all that is required. I *think* this might actually refer to children who are also applying for citizenship. As always, have a chat with the special branch people to clarify what they will need in your particular circumstances. Good luck with the application!

  2. Richard says:

    Dear Chris,
    Great website. Went to get the list of documents from Special Branch. The officer was nice but stressed I would have to give up British nationality by handing back the passport. I didn’t comment but it has me confused. Please tell me it ain’t true!
    Also, I have no receipts for donations (never worried about receipts before wanting to apply).
    I pay money to support my wife’s family every month (declared in my tax form) and to her nephew at university. I have written a book about Rama IX (official) and two about Queen Sirikit. Does this not mean anything?
    I actually have until the end of 2022 then retirement. The officer said I should continue working until after the nationality change is approved, which is going to be very difficult. However, I am in a company with its own foundation and I work to help kids and underprivileged people.
    Could you give your opinions?

    • Hi Richard

      Thanks for your message – a very interesting background you have! I’d be fascinated to know about your books

      With regards to the renunciation issue – please take a look at my article on the issue HERE.

      So he is talking about that and it’s part of the process. The other thing to ask how many people have had their Thai citizenship revoked after naturalisation? Exactly zero. The main circumstance where you can technically lose your Thai citizenship is when a naturalised Thai subsequently used their foreign passport to enter thailand (see this article HERE. Also it might be worth looking up a recent interview I did for the Bangkok Podcast guys where I talk about this in a bit of detail.

      In terms of the donations – they need to be to a registered charity, so if you’ve done so in the past it might be worth asking them to get a receipt reissued.

      In terms of the official points allocation your books won’t count for anything per se, but in your interview with special branch, NIA etc I’m sure it won’t hurt to show them a a copy when you are asked about your work and profession. Having said that, once you get 51 points the rest is pretty automatic in terms of process.

      With respect to the work permit, understand the dilemma. It’s the official advice. For the most past people aren’t asked for them again after the NIA interviews, but on occasion people are asked to have their documents rechecked. Being asked for documents doesn’t happen post MOI final interview (again they normally don’t ask for documents, but this is just anecdotal) but as much as possible try and stay employed, even if it means moving over to your foundation for the entire period (if possible) or even somewhere else as a consultant till you’ve done your oath.

      Hopefully this answers most of your questions but hopefully if you apply soon you’d be well down the track come the end of 2022 given the normal 3 year turn around under this government.

  3. Eliot Cline says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for putting together such a comprehensive resource. I have thought about applying for citizenship and have never got around to it. My Thai wife and I have been married for 32 years, I am fluent in spoken and written Thai, have worked the same job for the last 10 years making a lot more than the minimum salary. I even have a Ph.D. from a Thai univeristy. I am sure that I would score well in the points area.

    My biggest issue is that I turn 60 in another year and I really don’t want to work more than another year or two, max. Have you ever heard of someone being granted citizenship who retired during the consideration period? Maybe it would make more sense just to apply for PR?

    Thanks,

    EC

    • Hi Eliot.

      Thanks for finding the website and glad you’re getting use out of it.

      So to answer your question, I haven’t heard any one retiring half way through the process, but I have heard plenty of people never needing to show any documents again after their NIA meetings. I’ve heard one or two needing to show some documents when things got to the MOI, but they were rare.

      So if you ask me if you could get away with it, my answer would be ‘probably’, but I’d also say don’t retire if you don’t have to and only closer to the end of the process.

      On the PR vs Citizenship. Obviously citizenship as a final result is preferable to my mind and a tad easier to do given your don’t have to do your own police check and doesn’t require you to do DNA tests if you have kids (which PR does).

      The other advantage is timing. Citizenship applications are all year around so you could get the ball rolling on that now as opposed to waiting for the PR window to open in the last few months of the year. So at the end of the day the overall time frame from today wouldn’t be too much different.

      So just my random thoughts on the matter but hopefully gives a bit more perspective.

  4. Ian says:

    Hi Chris,

    I have a couple of questions regarding the Document Checklist for Thai citizenship application which hopefully you can assist me with if you don’t mind.

    Item D, Is the House Registration that you refer to meaning copies of the Yellow/Blue Tabien Baan? I have clicked on the “House Registration” link on your document checklist page but it states page does not exist or has been removed.

    Item E, Is it necessary to get a certified copy of my Passport from my Embassy and get it translated into Thai and get it legalized at the MOFA or is copies all that is required?

    Item Q & Item S, could you provide more information regarding these 2 items. Can the 2 Thai citizens be the same people of each of these 2 items?

    Item R, Could you provide me with more information on this item on how to obtain a Certificate of legal age according to the laws in the applicants country of origin? I have checked on the British Embassy website and cannot see anything related to this all I have found is information relating to (Item T) the Letter showing intention to renounce your foreign citizenship upon successfully acquiring Thai nationality.

    Thanks Ian

    • Hi Ian,

      Thanks for the message and the questions

      – have fixed the link to the article on the tabieen baan. Give it a try now. In your case it means the yellow tabieen baan, and if you don’t have one, it’s an article on how to get registered

      – From memory I don’t think you need to get it translated. The original list in Thai doesn’t state it. I suspect that because you generally need a formally translated copy to get on the yellow tabieen baan, and that you will have other offical documents (work permits etc) its probably excess to requirements here. But I must admit I’m only 98% sure on this.

      – Q and S I think I’ve just typed twice. Will delete one of them.

      – For the certificate of legal age, I think in this case the passport is sufficient, they just need to see you are over 20. I’m not sure why they include it here, but I have just reproduced it for completeness.

      I highly recommend you head down to special branch for an intial chat. The reason is in many cases they will strike off one or two things which aren’t needed, and I have seen this for things like the certificate of legal age.

      Hope this has been of help.

      Cheers
      Chris

  5. jerry says:

    hey chris
    i hope you have a few min for me to answer mt questions
    as im planing to apply this year.
    is it a must that you need to change your name to a Thai name, if so will it have a problem when you travel outside of thailand with your foreign passport and name, and is it possible to change it back to your original name after you get the thai Id.
    my point is just about 50 and the HQ officer tell me that i need some help from the big boss upstairs to push me through but i heard many people have hard time with him and even if they pass they will get stuck in the next interview with NIA
    thank u so much in advance

    • Hi Jerry,

      Thanks for your message. So on the Thai name, you have to choose one, but there is no compulsion to use it. As such, you can keep both Thai and foreign passports in the same name if that is a concern for you.

      In terms of your points score. I’m obviously not privvy to the breakdown, but given its so close to the ‘pass mark’, reading between the lines, they are probably worried that if the application gets pushed along, the borderline nature of it may mean that it doesn’t go far.

      The thing to understand about the process is that police special branch are only generally comfortable in sending along applications to the Ministry of Interior that are water tight and clearly pass muster. They will get into too much trouble of they send too many application on which then get sent back.

      It’s only my guess here, but it might be a good strategy to see where you can boost your points score so its clearly in the high 50’s range, so there is no doubt you qualify. Whether this is strengthening your Thai language skills, income or educational background, I’m not sure, but for me, its probably whats going to be needed in one form or another.

      Regards
      Chris

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