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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122 Responses

  1. Martin says:

    Hi Chris. Thanks for making this information more widely known. However, whilst I have been married to my Thai wife for 8 years I have also been retired for a couple of years now.. However, I did work for over 5 years at a Bangkok University with an annual update to my work permit and did easily meet, with including my monthly overtime, the requisite 40,000 baht figure. My query is whether the past overtime and work permits would qualify me for citizenship. Certainly, an average of all my yearly income including overtime would work out at 50,000 baht a year. This information could easily be verified by the university’s human relations and accounts departments. At present I still bring well over 40,000 baht from my private pension in the UK. Kind regards.

    • Hi Martin – thanks for your message.

      Unfortunately in your circumstance, you don’t qualify.

      One of the non negotiables with this process is that you need to be working at the time of application for the requisite three years leading up to that point.

      Stopping work automatically resets the clock and unfortunately again, pension income does not count. Income needs to be from a Thai registered employer.

  2. Mama says:

    Hi, just wondering if anything is possible through having a Thai national child. I’m not married to the father, however the child was born and raised in Thailand. It’s my country of residence for the past 13 years with the exception of a 2 years contract in Indonesia a few years back. I’m on a family non-O (mother of a Thai child) for the first time, had WP and Thai employers before that. French passport if that matters in any way.

    • Hi there,

      Unfortunately in your situation, there isn’t a direct path to citizenship given the legislation only provides an expedited path if married. Furthermore, Thailand doesn’t recognise civil partnership in a similar manner to the west so that option is out unfortunately.

      For you the next best option would be Permanent residency. If you haven’t already please check out our article on it HERE.

      Under the humanitarian category, you will need to be working here legally on three years of consecutive extensions of stay and have evidence of tax returns at the time of application. However the income threshold is lowered from 80,000 baht per month to 30,000 baht per month. Check out this link on the immigration website and note section 3.3.3 which would apply to you.

      Let me know if you have any more questions.
      Cheers
      Chris

  3. Derek McCormack says:

    Hi Chris, I am married to my Thai wife for 9 years, we have a 7 year old son, I have a yellow Tambien book for about 6/8 years and an Alien card for 5 years.I currently still work in the oil and gas industry and work away doing 2 three month trips a year.My wife has her own business in Thailand.Is there some way I can apply for Thai Citizenship without having a Thai work visa for 3 years? I usually enter on a Non O multi entry based on Marsalis.Thank you kindly for your help, Thanks & Regards Derek

    • Hi Derek,

      Thanks for your message.

      Unfortunately no, it needs to be with a Thai employer and you need the three years of work permits and Thai tax returns and continuous extensions of stay. Simply not way around these requirements I’m afraid.

      Regards
      Chris

      • Derek McCormack says:

        Thanks for the prompt reply and information Chris, I guess I will just have to wait until retirement and opening of a business.
        Have a great day,
        Thanks& Regards
        Derek

        • Hi Derek,

          Happy to help. Sorry I couldn’t be the bearer of better news. Just to be clear too, being on a retirement visa makes you ineligible as well…basically formally working in thailand is the only thing that makes you eligible.

  4. Krit says:

    Hi,

    Was wondering if you are married to a thai citizen but is unemployed, and living in thailand for 3 years will that be a problem applying for citizenship?

    • Hi there

      So just to be clear: foreign husband, Thai wife. The Thai wife is unemployed.

      If that is the case, then not a problem so long as the foreign husband himself meets the work and income thresholds.

  5. Andy says:

    Hi Chris,
    Appreciate all the great info. Do you need to be married to a Thai National for the full three years? Say I have over 3 years of required employment history however have only been married for 2 years, would I still qualify?
    Thanks, Andy

    • Hi Andy,

      If you don’t have kids, then 3 years of marriage is needed. If with kids, then only one year of marriage.

      The other stuff (3 years WP, tax returns etc) are all still the same and don’t get reduced.

      Hope this helps!

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