Thai citizenship lawyer recommendations?

The question I get asked often, ‘are there any Thai lawyer recommendations to help with my Permanent Residency or Thai citizenship application‘?

The answer I always give is a big fat “NO – THERE IS NOT”!

Now before my lawyer friends get annoyed with me, this is not to say that there aren’t good lawyers out there. Nor is there to say that there aren’t lawyers who can help put your application together. But there are a number of key reasons why they are simply not needed for applying for Thai citizenship or PR.

Reason 1: They don’t add any value

First and foremost, from a legal perspective, Thai PR and Citizenship applications are at best a niche specialty. As such, most Thai lawyers don’t have a clue about the process (feel free to google the internet and see if there is a website as detailed as ours about the process).

Once you look into the requirements set out for qualification, you’ll notice that literally nearly all the documentation needed to apply for PR or Citizenship are already in your possession, or can only be obtained by you. These include things like – YOUR Work Permit, YOUR Tax returns, YOUR Educational qualifications. You are still required to front for the application process, not the lawyer who can’t help you there.

The application process for both PR and Citizenship is very much a ‘check box’ exercise. You either have all of the documentation and personal qualifications that are required…or you don’t.

A lawyer is not going to be able to conjure up mandatory requirements out of thin air for you.

Finally, for what you get from them, they are expensive. People I have spoken to who have inquired about retaining lawyers for PR or Citizenship applications have been quoted between 50,000 to 150,000 baht by law firms, and in once case I have heard about (admittedly through a second hand source), 500,000 baht. And that’s just the lawyer fees.

While I’d happily hire a lawyer and pay good money to structure contracts or provide legal counsel on commercial dealings, there is no way you’d want to pay someone that money to essentially compile your application into a pretty folder for you when you hand it over to the officials for consideration.

Reason 2: They don’t speed things up

Lawyers know all of what I’ve said above – and knowing this, they may dangle the classic line ‘we can help speed things up for you because they have a good relationship with the right people’. Given this is Thailand, it may sound feasible (and tempting), but when it comes to the process of applying for PR or Citizenship, it holds no weight.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • There are way too many ministries and government departments that deal with your application. This includes Immigration (for PR) Police Special Branch (for Citizenship), National Intelligence Agency , Ministry of Interior (including the Minister themselves) and for most citizenship applications, Royal Assent is also required. Anyone who tells you that they can shepherd an application through all those agencies faster than the normal three year turn around (for a fee of course) either lying, or is someone too important to actually be a lawyer.

  • You either qualify or you don’t. The Thai civil service takes the granting of PR and Citizenship seriously and the requirements are pretty black and white. Applications which do not meet the threshold or are line ball are generally not accepted, as what happens is the next agency which vets and considers an application will simply send the application back down the line, and the civil servant responsible for doing will generally lose a bit of face as a result. Applications which don’t stand an excellent chance of being approved won’t be accepted in the first place, and no lawyer, no matter how good their connections, is going to change that.

Reason 3: Costs strangely go up

Now I’m going to be a bit cryptic here for obvious reasons. But if someone decides to apply for Thai citizenship themselves, they only end up paying the 5,000 baht application fee. Same with PR, only the official application fee is paid.

But for some reason if an agent or lawyer becomes involved in the PR or Citizenship application process, well, for some reason its never that cheap….so I’ll just leave it at that.

So the advice here, is apply yourself. Plus, its good to get to know the officials, and get them to know and understand you and your personal background a bit better.

So who do I need to hire?

Hint…not a lawyer.

At the very most, if you’ve got a good executive assistant or someone who you might need to make a few phone calls, then by all means farm some of the grunt work to them.

Things like outsourcing the translation and certification of documents, then any half decent translation company can handle that for a fraction of the cost. But that should be about all you need.

And if your Thai language skills are a bit weak, then maybe hire a Thai language tutor to help you brush up on your Thai conversational skills (ie talking about yourself and background) some of the questions asked in the citizenship or PR interviews.

Any other tips?

Though I’ve always had a personal pet hate for them, there is one person (or persons) who you are going to need to be your best buddy for either a PR or a Citizenship application.

Yes, that’s right, your company’s HR or Personnel section.

They may normally be a waste of space, but you are going to need them to get your your historical tax documents, company records (eg shareholding structure), work permits and other employment related documentation required for your application. So for the purposes of this, make them your best friend (and try not to let your contempt for them show).

We’ve heard from some readers that its actually the HR division who’s the most reluctant to help with PR or Citizenship applications, given some of the documents can be seen as commercially sensitive by some of them – even through they really aren’t. It also involves HR doing work above and beyond their normal JD, which depending on company, can be a big deal.

This reluctance/recalcitrance by HR departments has stopped some peoples PR and citizenship applications dead in their tracks.

As such, it’s important to have the buy in of your boss or someone more senior than the HR manager to get them to release these documents and for them to be as co-operative as possible. Its also important for HR to know that these documents aren’t being used for private purposes per. se., but being submitted to the government, something they should be fine with given all of these documents required for a PR or Citizenship application are registered with government anyway.

 

 

 

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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