Acquiring Thai Nationality
To acquire Thai nationality – Citizenship
Thailand’s 1965 Nationality Act defines who is Thai by birth and sets out procedures and qualifications for foreigners who wish to acquire Thai nationality.
Those who are Thai by birth are:
1) anyone born to a Thai father or mother anywhere in the world;
2) anyone born in the Kingdom of Thailand to foreign parents who were both permanent residents of Thailand at the time.
Foreigners may acquire Thai nationality under Section 10 of the Act through naturalization or, in the case of women married to Thai citizens, they may apply to adopt their husbands’ nationality under Section 9, if they have been legally married for 3 years (1 year if they have a child together).
The Act requires applicants for naturalization under Section 10 to have held permanent residence for 5 years, have an occupation in Thailand and have knowledge of the Thai language. Under a 2008 amendment, males married to Thai citizens are now exempted from the requirement to have permanent residence and knowledge of Thai but not from the requirement to have an occupation in Thailand. In order to qualify for the exemption, men with Thai wives must have been legally married for 3 years (1 year if they have a child together).
In addition to the qualifications specified in the Act, current ministerial guidelines require the following. You must show evidence that you have a job in Thailand paying a salary of at least 80,000 baht a month (40,000 if married to a Thai) along with tax receipts going back 3 complete calendar years. You need to present a valid work permit and originals or copies of expired work permits, if you have changed jobs within the period. You should be in a house registration book (blue TR14, if a permanent resident, otherwise a yellow TR13). Finally, you need to produce receipts from registered Thai charities to demonstrate your contribution to Thai society. This doesn’t have to be a huge amount but should be over a period of time, not just a single donation immediately prior to your application.
Applications for Thai nationality must be made in person to Special Branch at National Police HQ, Bangkok, for Bangkok residents, or at provincial Special Branch offices for those residing in the provinces.
For those applying under Section 10, Special Branch will allocate points based on: age and education: job security; Thai language ability; knowledge of Thailand; length of time with permanent residence or a house book; and personality.
In order to qualify, applicants must score at least 50 points out of 100. Males with Thai wives are not obliged to pass the Thai language test, due to their exemption, but may need these points to qualify overall. At any rate all interviews throughout the process are conducted solely in Thai and a basic knowledge of spoken Thai is thus obligatory for all applicants.
Minor children may apply for naturalization along with a parent and are exempted from all the qualifications, tests and interviews.
The process for women with Thai husbands applying under Section 9 is similar to the above but they are not tested or assessed for points, nor do they have to be in employment. Instead their husbands need to demonstrate that they have income of at least 15,000 baht a month.
Those applying under both Sections 9 and 10 who pass the Special Branch process will be finger printed, pay the application fee (currently 5,000 baht for naturalization) and will then be vetted by various other police departments. They also attend an interview with the National Intelligence Agency, usually at a downtown restaurant in Bangkok. This vetting process normally takes 2-3 months and applicants’ files are then forwarded to the Ministry of the Interior (MoI). The next stage is a panel interview at the MoI with senior officials from various government agencies. At the interview those without Thai spouses must sing the National and Royal Anthems from memory and unaccompanied into a microphone.
Following the MoI interview, applications need to be approved by the interior minister and finally countersigned by the King. Once the King has signed and applicants have taken an oath of allegiance, the new Thai citizens will be announced in the Royal Gazette. After paying a further 1,000 baht fee for their naturalization certificates, they can apply for Thai ID cards and passports. They may also assume a Thai name but this is no longer compulsory.
The granting of Thai nationality under the Act is up to the discretion of the interior minister. It is not subject to any judicial process or review and no time limit is set for approval. The entire process usually takes several years and requires much patience. On average about 160 people are granted Thai citizenship every year. Contrary to commonly held beliefs, it is not important to have a Thai spouse and/or children, as long as you are otherwise qualified. Many naturalized Thais have foreign spouses or are unmarried.
Thai children born or living overseas may apply for a Thai birth certificate and subsequently a Thai passport at a Thai embassy or consulate at any time in their lives. In order to obtain a Thai ID card, they must be entered in a house registration book and apply in person at a district office in Thailand. Being entered in a house registration book will result in males being called up for the military conscription ballot at the age of 20. However, they are exempted from military service on reaching the age of 30, if they have been residing abroad and have never been called up. In such cases it is advisable to defer being entered into a house registration book and applying for an ID card until after the age of 30. In the case of children who are born Thai with one foreign parent and also hold the nationality of the foreign parent, Section 14 of the Act gives them the right but not the obligation to renounce their Thai citizenship at the age of 20 with the minister’s approval.