Traveling as a dual citizen

Traveling as a dual citizen and using two passports is one of the major benefits of having Thai dual citizenship.

While a Thai passport alone ranks in the middle of the field in terms travel freedom it provides (57 out of 96 according to the passport index website) when combined with having a western passport (which are generally ranked in the top 10), it is literally a ‘best of both worlds’ situation.

While western passports general provides visa free access to most western countries, the Thai passport is highly useful for traveling around the ASEAN bloc. Countries such as Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia normally require paid visas from western passport holders, but generally allow automatic 30-day entry for Thai nationals. Add to that some outliers – Russia for instance allows Thai’s to enter visa free, while charging Americans, Australians and British up to $140 per single entry visa – having a Thai-western dual citizenship combination is very handy from a travel perspective.

General rules

There are couple of guiding principals to using when traveling as a dual citizen which can minimize hassles.

Traveling

Always enter and exit a country on the same passport. This is particularly true around Asia, where immigration officials are particularly stamp happy and have strict immigration controls on arrivals and departure. If you enter Singapore on a certain passport, you need to depart on it, so immigration records are complete.

Always use a Thai passport to enter Thailand

Avoid using your non-Thai passport to enter the country, otherwise upon entry into Thailand you will be subject to immigration rules and limits on your stay. Thailand WILL treat you as a foreigner for immigration purposes if you enter on non-Thai passport, and you will need to apply for extensions of stay, 90 day reporting and overstay fines if your stay exceeds your granted time.

There is a misplaced concern, particularly among Thai passport holders, that traveling as a dual citizen is frowned upon or illegal in Thailand. Scared to use their Thai passport, they will instead enter Thailand on their foreign passport. Dual citizenship hasn’t been illegal since 1992 in Thailand and we discuss this this article (‘Thai dual citizenship – is it legal?’) the ins and outs of Thailand’s approach to dual citizenship.

How to travel with two passports

A good example on traveling as a dual citizen is outlined below. This is for a hypothetical trip between Bangkok and Sydney.

At check-in

Show both Thai and Australian passports to the airline check. The Australian passport let the airline know you have the right to enter Australian without a visa and will issue you with a boarding pass.

Photo credit: Richard Barrow

At Thai immigration

Pass through either the manual desks or e-gates, showing your boarding pass and Thai passport.

On arrival at destination

Upon arriving in Australia, you wont need your Thai passport for this portion of the journey. Simply pass through immigration using the Australian passport.

On the return journey, repeat the above process, exiting Australia using the Australian passport and re-entering on the Thai passport. Obviously, the process is similar for people traveling to the EU, UK, North America and other destinations where using a western passport is more advantageous that a Thai one.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: I was born outside of Thailand, what happens when I come to Thailand the first time?

A: Many Thai citizens are born outside of Thailand these days, so it is extremely common for people to be entering the first time on an unused Thai passport issued from an embassy overseas. You have two options generally: use the auto gates, where you can simply be scanned in automatically without an immigration officer, or if traveling with Thai citizen children, enter the Thai passports lane to be stamped in by an immigration officer.

Q: But don’t Thai immigration they look for exit stamps from the country I have just traveled from?

A: At major airports, when flying in, Thai immigration officials don’t look for stamps from where you have just traveled from. This is for a variety of reasons. Firstly, many countries, Australia, Singapore, HK, the UK and the US either don’t stamp passports when departing, or they don’t have formal immigration checks when you leave. So Thai immigration officers aren’t going to be looking out for stamps.

Q: I’ve heard horror stories however of people traveling to Thailand for the first time on a fresh Thai passport, and an immigration officer refuses to let them in on their Thai passport and make them use their foreign one.

A: Unfortunately, this has been known to happen, as some junior immigration officers simply don’t know their own rules. Traveling as a dual citizen isn’t illegal! Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence these days with the advent of the auto-gates for Thai passport holders which allow you to enter and exit without the need of even interacting with an immigration officer.

Nevertheless, if you do come across an immigration officer who is being difficult, ask to speak to a superior. They will certainly know the rules much better and normally this problem has always been solved by asking for assistance from a superior.

It is also worth understanding the Thai constitution on this matter, which clearly states:

Section 39    No person of Thai nationality shall be deported or prohibited from entering the Kingdom.  Revocation of Thai nationality acquired by birth of a person shall not be permitted.

มาตรา ๓๙ การเนรเทศบุคคลสัญชาติไทยออกนอกราชอาณาจักร หรือห้ามมิให้ผู้มีสัญชาติไทย เข้ามาในราชอาณาจักรจะกระทำมิได้ การถอนสัญชาติของบุคคลซึ่งมีสัญชาติไทยโดยการเกิด จะกระทำมิได้

Q: I entered Thailand on my non-Thai passport. What can I do to stay longer term?

A: It depends on your circumstances and intent. If you are here less for 30 days, then there is no issue. You’ll simply leave Thailand at the end of your stay, but obviously have to use the foreign passport line when you depart.

If you are planning to stay longer and want to avoid overstaying, you unfortunately can not ‘switch’ your entry stamp between your foreign and Thai passports at a local immigration office. Many have tried with no success. Given this you have two options:

  • Depart Thailand using your foreign passport and re-enter on your Thai passport. If you have any overstay penalties, you’ll need to clear those before you board your flight. For a quick turn-around, you can fly to a neighboring country, leaving Thailand on your foreign passport, and then on the way back, re-enter on your Thai one and there will be no restriction on your stay.
  • Extend your stay in Thailand using your foreign passport. Section 2.23 of police order 777/2551 (i.e. the immigration rules) states that: “In the case of a person who used to have Thai nationality or whose parent is or was of Thai nationality visiting relatives or returning to his or her original homeland: Each permission shall be granted for no more than one year”.

 

Again however, if you decide to remain in Thailand using this method, you’ll be subject to immigration rules for things like 90-day reporting, further extensions and overstay, and be necessitated to travel in person to immigration and pay the applicable fees. We’ve outlined this article: Thailand ancestry visas.

Q: If I do a passport swap – which is the best way, by air or land?

A: Swapping passports mid-air is the recommended. As explained earlier, immigration officials at airports don’t keep tabs on ‘stamp trails’ in passports.

It is a different story with crossing Thailand’s land borders unfortunately – where traveling as a dual citizen becomes very difficult. Officials at the border (whether it be Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia or Malaysia) will want to see stamps showing you left Thailand. And they will want to see it in the same passport. Malaysia, as an added bonus, doesn’t even recognize the concept of dual nationality, so they may even refuse you entry if you tried to swap passports at a land border.

Coming back into Thailand, officials at land borders are pretty strict at insisting on stamping you into Thailand on whatever passport you left the last country on. People have tried, and succeeded, but generally they get pretty sticky on the issue. If you rate your debating skills, by all means do so. But a safer bet is just to fly in and out of the country to do a passport swap. It is the path of least resistance and doing so on a Low-Cost Carrier such as Air Asia means it need not be an expensive exercise either.

Q: I’m traveling out of Thailand to a western country. I will use my western passport to enter that country. Will the fact I have no visa in my Thai passport be an issue for Thai immigration at the airport?

A: No, it won’t be an issue for immigration. It is the airline who need to see that you have the right to enter the destination country visa free. Without proof of this, they won’t issue a boarding pass.

For single passport holders, a visa for the destination country (or the right to enter visa free) is proof that you are entitled to travel.

When checking in, simply show BOTH passports to the airline check-in desk. They will know from your western passport that you can enter the destination country without a visa. They will then issue you with a boarding pass.

Proceed to immigration and use your Thai passport and your recently issued boarding pass to pass through immigration.

Q: My kids have Thai dual citizenship and are born in Thailand. Which passports should they use for travel?

A: Always use the Thai passport to depart and re-enter Thailand. Use the western passport for travel to places where Thai’s need visas to travel otherwise. However, the Thai passport does allow visa free travel around SE Asia, Japan, Korea, Russia, so it is fine to use the Thai passport to destinations such as those if you wish.

Q: I am still worried about using both passports when I travel. Is it okay if I only use my Thai one for travel?

A: Traveling only on your Thai passport is perfectly acceptable in most cases. The onus on you will be however to get the correct visa before you travel – if they are required for Thai passport holders. Often this is a costly exercise and requires a visit to the embassy of the destination country.

However, do note that some western countries, Australia and the US come to mind, won’t issue you with a visa if you are also a citizen of those countries. Australia and the US require their own citizens to enter their countries on their Australian and US passports, respectively.

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Julian Adair

Hi, my children were born in Thailand but have UK passports also, they are currently in Thailand staying with their grandparents and their mother (Thai) is in the UK. They entered Thailand using their Thai passports. My wife wishes to go and collect them next week and bring them back to the UK but we have discovered that their Thai passports have expired and we won’t have time to renew them. Will they be OK using their UK passports to leave Thailand ?
Many thanks for any help with this.

Aphilady

Hello, I would like to know more about how as dual citizen travel with two passport (I am Cambodian-Thai). Currently, I am holding Cambodian passport and I used it enter Thailand many times already. But recently I just got my Thai Passport with different surname from my Cambodian passport (My surname was change when I moved to stay in Cambodia with my mum and I did not have change name certificate). I have two questions to clarify and need some advice from you.
1. Is it possible to use two passports with different surname? 
2. If the question No. 1 is “possible”, so how can I use it? 

For example, I depart from Cambodia by using my Cambodian passport and then when I arrive Thailand I will use by Thai passport to enter Thailand. So it mean that my Thai passport will not have “OUT” data from Thailand (Note: My Thai passport was issued in Thailand). So will Thailand immigration system tracking all the data that every Thai Passport holder must have data “OUT” and then “IN”? I want to clarify that will it have any problem or not that my data was “IN” without data “OUT”? Thank you!!

Aphilady

Thank you so much for your useful information. Because now I already leave Thailand with my Cambodian passport and I will return to Thailand again next month. So it’s mean that, this time my air ticket from PNH-BKK must purchase under my surname on Cambodian passport and if I need return back to PNH, my air ticket must be under my Thai passport surname, right? Moreover, I have another question Is it possible to use auto-gate in/out for my new Thai passport and for the first-time using too? or I must go through Thai immigration officer to check? Because it will be my new experience with swapping two passports with different surname, and my mum also afraid of any problem happen during depart/enter Cambodia & Thailand. 

Liam O'Connor

Hi, don’t do what I did.
My adopted Thai son has now dual citizenship but when flying from Bangkok to Dublin he was not allowed to board his plane by Thai immigration as he didn’t have his Thai passport with him (had only applied for that the day before) and could not leave the country with his new Irish passport.
Now I just want to confirm something.
Next week he will fly again with his two new passports. I understand that he should use the Thai passport to go through Thai immigration and the Irish passport for Irish immigration but will he have any problems at either end of the trip with the fact that both passports are brand new I.e without any stamps?

David s

Hi, I have Thai and foreign passport when I have moved here to thailand I entered with the foreign passport. Two years later after I got a Thai passport official I been going to Thai immigrant to extend my stay for 1 year and report the 90 days for the last 10+ years . When I told my mother the my situation she was shocked, she told me why am I stilll using this method now that I have Thai passport. In my mind I’m thinking to myself you idiot you can’t just swap mid way and expect their computers don’t keep tabs. I want to confirm if I leave Thailand do I use the same passport that I came in with and re-enter the Thai passport? And also what if I swap mid way using the Thailand passport but if I decide to use USA passport to travel ( assume it hasn’t been check out) is there a consequence. Thank you

david

i have a new foreign passport ive renewed can i swap that in between now with the current one that i have while im in thailand and leave out of thailand with the thai passport and re-enter thailand using the new foreign passport? in other word, would their computer data show i haven’t checked out with the current passport (old one). This part is kinda of grey area so im confused about this. thank you.

david

“sorry this is confusing, you have a foreign passport and thai passport, but want to enter thailand on your foreign passport”. let me clarify it better i’ve entered thailand on 2013 and 2 year later i got a thai passport since then i been here and I’ve been renewing my visa at thai immigration each year and doing the 90 days report. My Foreign passport expire 2024 of september of this year and i received my new foreign passport of this month of March. SO…my question is what ever passport i entered originally do i have to exit out the same passport that i entered in and come enter back in with the thai passport to clear our my foreign passport entry?. Thank you hope that make sense.

Last edited 3 months ago by david
Craig

I think you will find the section quoted 39 quoted is actually article 34

Thai Citizenship
error: Unfortunately, due to unscrupulous scammers who try and copy this content and pass it off as their own, this is protected and not available for cut and paste.
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