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) is 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.

Thai citizenship

Long time resident of Bangkok. Married, three daughters. Managing director of CLC Asia ( Lots of interesting knowledge and experience built up over time which I hope can be of use to people.

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14 Responses

  1. Theresa says:

    Im inquiring on behalf of my friend from Myanmar who asked me to help her to apply for Thai citizenship. She is 76 years old and holding a permanent visa for more than 10 years. She is not on work or job she is totally retired. Can she apply for Thai citizenship at her current status?

    • Hi Theresa

      Unfortunately, no, as she isn’t working, she won’t under standard procedures (see our article on this

      I do want to ask however, when it comes to Myanmar – things get a little complex. If she was a full Myanmar citizen, living here (as many foreigners do) on a normal passport etc, then no she won’t be eligible unless working – but PR is for life and very hard to take away, so it is a great status to have.

      However, if she is a hill tribe person for from one of the groupings identified in legislation as being a minority hill tribe then she stands a much better chance of being granted Thai citizenship via mechanisms in legislation passed over the past 15 years to combat statelessness for these groups of people. I’m not an expert on this area unfortunately but there are a number of NGO’s who do assist in this area and would be much better at assisting you and her – if indeed she is from one of these groupings.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  2. Martin says:

    Hi there. Thank you for all the information on this site, it’s very helpful.
    I have a quick question if I may? With regard to employment, you mention HR departments and are, understandably critical of them 🙂
    If employed by a small company, presumably the necessary documentation; evidence of tax payments, work permit etc, would be easier to obtain? I mean, my work permit is mine so I have it already, I can get receipts from the tax office myself so, what else would be required from my employer?

  3. Jona says:

    Hello, I am trying to become a Thai citizen. My mother is Thai, and my Dad is American. I was born in Thailand in 1979. Because my birth certificate was stamped with “the revolutionary decree” which was repealed in 1992 I am having troubles.

    I found the following.
    You are a Thai national, following a change in the law that happened in 1992. See “Revolutionary Council Decree … shall be repealed” under the revisions to the Thai Nationality Act (No 2) (1992) in The Thai Nationality Act basically recognised jus sanguinis, but the Revolutionary Council passed a decree denying Thai citizenship to those born of Thai mothers and foreign fathers (Thai fathers and foreign mothers still had citizenship).

    I have applied to get on my mom’s Tambien Baan . She resides in rural North East Thailand. All the necessary documents were translated and stamped with official seals. The district office interviewed me, and received approval from the Phuyai Baan, along with signatures from the village heads. I took two official passport sized photos before leaving, and the office in Bangkok asked the district office to send the papers over. 2 years later I am still not on the Tambien Bann, and Bangkok has not received the papers for processing my I.D. I am wondering if you recommend that I get a lawyer? My mother is back in Thailand now, with limited knowledge and is still getting the run around. Any advice or guidance would be much appreciated.

    • Hi Jona,

      So I’ve seen two messages from you here but I’ll just answer on this one.

      It is unusual – all this can be done in the space of a couple of days. What reasons have they given your mother about the delay?

      The only real reason I can think of is that you aren’t there. Most of this requires your presence. Its not something you can normally assign for others to do (I mean a lawyer can be there, but that doesn’t necessarily negate the need for you to be there too). Things like electronic fingerprints, photos for the ID card, people to be there to vouch for you.

      The other bit I don’t understand is why ‘Bangkok’ needs to be involved. Normally you get on the tabieen baan in a particular district and then you get the ID card issued in that district. So all this just should be taking place in the district where you mum lives.

      The final thing – lawyers. This isn’t really an area where lawyers are needed. The system is normally designed so that people just do this stuff themselves. Having said that, there is obviously a blockage of some sort. I’m assuming you don’t speak Thai. What you are probably more likely going to need is someone who speaks English clearly enough to help you understand what the issues are. But my gut feeling is simply you just need to be there to complete the process.

      At the end of it all, your Thai birth certificate with some wording on the back stating your nationality has been updated according to the 1992 revisions to the nationality act with some similar wording to this:

      Wording on Thai BC negating revolutionary decree

      • jona says:

        I appreciate your reply. I was there when all the paperwork was being filed, and was told I was good to go. The district employee never completed the process. Once I was back in the U.S. I was told they wanted some type records from Bangkok Patana School that I had attended back in 1985. The only thing I could provide was a class photo. Everyone I have spoken with, told me this is not necessary. I do speak Thai, but not enough to communicate the Thai law. I can not read or write Thai. At this point I am wondering if the employee does not understand the law, or possibly intentionally causing the delay.

        Who would I need to contact to add this wording to my Thai birth certificate? A district office in Bangkok where I was born?

        Thanks again.

        • Ah, okay. So that solves a riddle. I’m taking an educated guess here, but this is what I think.

          The revolutionary decree threw up a couple of problems.

          – Not giving citizenship to people like you who had a Thai parent
          – Not giving, or stripping, citizenship from people who were born on Thai soil but who did not have Thai parents. Prior to the decree, like the US, simply being born on Thai soil gave you Thai citizenship.

          For the latter group, changes in the law in 2009 meant that those born in Thailand before Feb 1992, without Thai parents, could get Thai citizenship re-instated at the district office, so long as they could prove they had an ongoing link to Thailand and lived there from birth. To me, it sounds like the district office you are dealing with are pushing you down that path (hence the school records from Bangkok Pattana). IT is also a path well known for bureaucratic foot dragging.

          Your case is different given you have the Thai parent. The 1992 legislative changes mean you are automatically Thai – but obviously you need the paperwork to reflect that. In your case, yes, the only place (as far as I know) is to go to the district office which issued you the Thai BC and get it amended there. In person for you definitely, and with your mother and all hers and your fathers available paperwork would be ideal. They will then put that annotation on the birth certificate and change your status on the central database.

          Whatever the case, a trip to Thailand for you is probably needed, and will at the end of the day be cheaper than a lawyer.

          A useful resource is this following government slide deck on how the nationality act works. Slides 23 and 25 apply to you.

          So that’s my best educated guess.
          Hope this helps.

          • jona says:

            I really appreciate you getting me this information! It is super helpful. I will follow up with the end result 🙂

          • Yes please do. As said, it’s an educated guess, but based on what you told me I’m 95% sure I’m right.

            Good luck with it all.

  4. Sabina says:

    I am german and female and was living in thailand on a marrige visa for 25 years .since 2 years I am a widow and on a family visa due to my thai son.
    my question is,can I apply for thaicitizenship like a married woman?

    • Hi Sabina

      Sorry to hear about the death of your husband. Unfortunately in your case you are no longer eligible to apply based on marriage. Your best chance – assuming you are still working – is to apply for PR based on having links to Thailand through family. The income threshold is lowered to 40,000 baht per month and the application fee is halved to 90,000 baht. Still not the cheapest but provides certainty that you can stay in Thailand forever.

      • Martin says:

        Kindly, to Sabina’s case: it should be possible to apply for Thai citizenship based on staying in Thailand for more than 5 years, right?

        • Hi Martin, simply being in Thailand 5 years doesn’t make you eligible for citizenship. There are a number of qualifications involved which involve working and earning money in Thailand, as well as paying income tax. Please check out our home page to see your options.

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