Thai citizenship for foreigners married to Thai spouse

Thai law provides an expedited path to citizenship for those who have deep connections to the country through marriage. Put simply, you can apply for citizenship without first having to hold Thai Permanent Residency for five years.

Foreign men married to Thai citizens are biggest category of people who are potentially eligible for Thai citizenship, but often don’t know it, or they think that the requirements are higher than they actually are.

To be sure, this path doesn’t apply to everyone (even if you are married). However, if all of the following points apply, or will apply to you at some point, then you are at the starting point of a realistic and attainable path to Thai citizenship.

  • Lived in Thailand consecutively for three years on valid non-immigrant visa extensions;
  • Have had three years of consecutive work permits from a Thai based employer;
  • Have a minimum income of 40,000 baht per month and have paid tax for three years on that income; and
  • Are married to a Thai citizen.

If this isn’t you (i.e. not working in Thailand for a Thai employer, or on a retirement or education visa), then at present current legislation doesn’t provide any realistic paths to citizenship.

If you are working here and planning to stay long term, but not marred to a Thai national, then check out Thai permanent residency, 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.

If you are a foreign woman married to a Thai husband, then please read this article, as legislation applies differently for the wives of Thai husbands.

WHAT THE LEGISLATION SAYS

The Thai Nationality Act (2008) states:

Section 10:

An alien who possesses the following qualifications may apply for naturalization as a Thai:

(1)    becoming sui juris in accordance with Thai law and the law under which he has nationality;

(2)    having good behavior;

(3)    having regular occupation;

(4)    having a domicile in the Thai Kingdom for a consecutive period of not less than five years till the day of filing the application for naturalization;

(5)    having knowledge of Thai language as prescribed in the Regulations.

 Section 11:

The provisions of Section 10 (4) and (5) shall not apply if the applicant for naturalization as a Thai;

….

(4)   is a husband of a person with Thai nationality.

Interpreting the amendments

The changes made to the Thai Nationality Act in 2008 have opened an easier and expedited path to foreign men who are married to Thai citizens. The key ‘shortcuts’ are outlined in Sections 11 of the Act above and in plain english mean:

  • Having permanent residence in Thailand is no longer required – so you are eligible after 3 years living in Thailand
  • You are exempted from singing the Thai national anthem or the Royal anthem (Sansoen Phra Barami/สรรเสริญพระบารมี)

Although Section 11 refers to waving the Thai language requirement, in practice this has meant that the singing portion of the test isn’t applied to those married to Thai’s. Speaking Thai is certainly useful as far as the points test goes, and it be used to further boost your overall score which will determine your eligibility.

So this is me, what do I do next?

Married to a Thai citizen, three years work permits, tax returns and earning more than the 40,000 baht per month income – you are all of these. So what are the next steps?

Applications for Thai citizenship are made via the Royal Thai Police Special Branch rather than immigration. The full details of how you can do this all yourself are contained in this following article here.

 

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.

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130 Responses

  1. Alexey says:

    Hi Chris,

    This is a great information and everything seems to be clear on paper.
    However, does it actually work in reality? According to the anecdotal stories, eligible applicants wouldn’t get approved for years without little to no explanation. Thank you

    • Hi Alexey,

      The easy answer is ‘yes’. The average turn around for qualified applicants is about three years from application to Thai ID card. There have been times in the past, in the early 2000’s when applications did take longer, but for the past decade or so most applications have been processed fairly routinely. The only people who tell you these anecdotal stories – in my experience – are ones who have never even applied.

      Hope this helps.

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