If you’re looking for a beautiful, peaceful, and captivating country to relocate to, Thailand ticks all the boxes. Not only is it a stunning place to live, with the lush and biodiverse rainforests of Khao Sok National Park to the otherworldly beaches of Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi, but on a social level, it’s also an incredibly friendly and welcoming country. The Thai people are some of the most hospitable in the world, and you’re sure to feel right at home in no time.
Many expats have chosen to make Thailand their home over the last few decades, and Thai citizenship is the ultimate gift for long-term Thai residents. But the country is not without fault, particularly concerning legal matters like immigration. Navigating the complexities of Thai citizenship and overcoming the bureaucracy involved in acquiring it can take some time and effort.
This article will guide you through the Thai rules for naturalization, including the required documents and what to expect during the application process, as well as the law for citizenship by marriage and the right of a child to birthright citizenship. Don’t let bureaucracy hinder your dreams of calling Thailand home–read on for everything you need to know about Thai citizenship.
The Benefits of Thai Citizenship
Many of the benefits of living in Thailand as legal residents may already be apparent to expats living there for a while. Further integration into Thai society can provide additional benefits that may be advantageous to anyone looking to live out their lives in the Kingdom.
A Thai passport
Thailand isn’t home to one of the world’s strongest passports, but with a Thai passport, Thai nationals have much easier access to countries in the Southeast Asian bloc than Western passport holders. A tier-one passport, like a US or Danish passport, requires e-visas to visit countries in Southeast Asia, such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam; Thai citizens enjoy visa-free travel to these countries. There is also the benefit of entering Thailand with a Thai passport, which allows much faster entry.
No restrictions on business ownership
Most notably, foreign nationals cannot own the majority share of a Thai company. Regardless of the ownership structure, whether it’s two owners or six, the maximum allowed ownership is 49 percent for foreigners.
Access to more business opportunities
The Thailand Foreign Business Act prohibits foreign nationals from incorporating businesses related to several industries, from legal and architectural services to fisheries and silk yarn production.
More real estate ownership rights
At present, foreign nationals are prohibited from owning land and certain types of property in Thailand; They can own a house built on the land, but not the land itself. Furthermore, multi-unit condominiums follow the same rule as business ownership, with a limit of 49 percent for foreign ownership.
Acquiring citizenship makes Thailand one of the best countries to retire to as you gain unrestricted access to Thailand’s cheap and vast real estate market.
Access to financial services
Acquiring Thai citizenship provides access to financial services, such as mortgages and business loans, which are not available to a foreigner with permanent residency, regardless of the type of bank account they have.
Freedom to work
While non-citizens may face restrictions regarding employment opportunities, becoming a Thai citizen opens up more job prospects for individuals looking for work in Thailand. The Ministry of Interior enforces an employment quota system requiring four Thai nationals to be employed for every foreign work permit issued.
No requirement for a Re-entry Permit
Thailand permanent residents or any other person with a long-term visa must obtain a Re-entry Permit before leaving Thailand in order to maintain their residence visa.
What are the rules for Thai citizenship by naturalization?
Acquiring Thailand citizenship by naturalization may seem straightforward at first glance, but it can be a tiring process, particularly concerning the language. Here are the following requirements for a foreign person to receive Thai citizenship:
- The person is at least 18 years old.
- The person has lived in Thailand with permanent resident status for a minimum of five years before submitting a citizenship application.
- The non-immigrant visa held for permanent residency has been the same for the entire five years before submitting a citizenship application.
- The person has a clean criminal record.
- The person is employed and has three consecutive years of work permits in Thailand.
- The person can write, speak, and understand the Thai language.
- The person can sing the Thai National Anthem (Phleng chāt Thai) and the Royal Anthem of Thailand (Sanserm Phra Baramee).
- The person acquires at least 50 points out of 100 on the points-based system for obtaining Thai citizenship.
The scoring system for Thai citizenship
The Thai Immigration Bureau uses a points system to determine whether applicants are fit to become Thai citizens. The minimum score for naturalization is 50 out of 100 maximum points:
- The qualifications of the applicant (up to 25 points)
- Age (up to 10 points)
- Education (up to 15 points)
- Monthly income (up to 25 points)
- Length of residence in Thailand (up to 20 points)
- Thai language ability (up to 15 points)
- General knowledge about Thailand (up to 10 points)
- Personality, appearance, and general attitude toward Thai culture and values (up to 5 points)
There is no defined rule for having to score points in every measured category, but the granting of citizenship is discretionary, and applicants will provide a stronger case for naturalization and citizenship if they score points in every category of the points system.
Here are some examples of how points are scored when foreigners apply for Thai citizenship.
30 to 40
40 to 50
50 to 60
Higher education diploma
THB 80,000 to 90,000 ($2,335 to ($2,624)
THB 90,000 to 100,000 ($2,915)
THB 100,000 plus
Length of residence in Thailand
Thai language ability
Capacity to speak and understand spoken Thai
Capacity to speak, understand, and sing the National and Royal Anthem
Capacity to speak, understand, read and write, and sing the National and Royal Anthem
General knowledge about Thailand
One to five correct answers
Six to eight correct answers
Nine to ten correct answers
This is not an exhaustive list of the Thai naturalization point scoring system, and circumstances and identity also come into play when determining scores.
Thai Citizenship by Marriage
Marriage to a Thai national simplifies and expedites naturalization and acquisition of Thai citizenship considerably. The main difference is that you are not required to obtain a permanent residence permit and hold it for at least five years needed for a Thai citizenship application. The standard requirements to apply for Thai citizenship by marriage are:
- Marriage to a Thai citizen
- The spouse has lived in Thailand for at least three consecutive years with a valid non-immigration residence visa
- The spouse has three consecutive years of work permits while working for a Thailand-based company
- The spouse has had a minimum income of THB 40,000 ($1,165) for three consecutive years before applying
- A clean criminal record
Marriage to a Thai husband
There are general rules for citizenship by marriage to a Thai spouse, but there is a significant distinction in Thai law between a foreigner with a Thai wife and a foreigner with a Thai husband. While an applicant with a Thai wife is subject to the Thai citizenship point system, the point system is not part of the citizenship process for an applicant with a Thai husband. Some may attribute this to the disproportionate amount of applications from foreigners with Thai wives; In any case, obtaining Thai citizenship is a much easier process through marriage.
Thailand Birthright Citizenship
The law jus sanguinis (right of blood) is the primary mode of acquiring Thai citizenship for children. Children born with a Thai mother or Thai father can receive Thai citizenship by descent. There is no difference in the law whether the child is born in Thailand or overseas or if the Thai parent/s live outside the country.
Concerning jus soli (right of soil) for children born in the country without Thai parents, there is some ambiguity in the legislation that complicates the process of a child obtaining Thai citizenship by birth. Generally, children born in Thailand can apply for Thai citizenship if both parents are married and have held a permanent residence permit for more than five years.
In the case of Thai law for citizenship by descent or birth via the paternal line, the Thai government may request DNA evidence in addition to identity documents to prove the blood relationship between the child and the father.
The Application Process for Thai Citizenship
Applying for Thai citizenship by birth, naturalization, or other citizenship routes will each have its own application process, which may involve more steps than others.
Required documents for a Thai citizenship application
For citizenship by naturalization, you can expect the following documents to be requested:
- A notarized copy of your passport
- A copy of your Alien Registration Book (Thai national ID card)
- A copy of your Residence Certificate (proof of Thai residency)
- A copy of the House Registration Book [(Tabien Baan) proof of address in Thailand]
- A copy of your work permits
- Passport photographs
- Proof that you pay Personal Income Tax
- Proof of employment with a Thai-based company, along with company documents
- A notarized marriage certificate if you are married
- Notarized birth certificates if you have children
- A copy of the identity documents of two Thai citizens who can vouch for you
Please note that Thai immigration officers may request you to submit additional documents as they see fit, even after submitting those required.
Submitting an application for Thai citizenship
Applications for citizenship in Thailand must be submitted at a Special Branch of the Police Headquarters where you live. The time frame and ease of applying can be determined by which Special Branch you submit your application. Bangkok is generally considered the most efficient Special Division for Thai nationality applications.
- It would be best to visit the Special Branch after deciding to apply for Thai citizenship in order to receive the list of documents required.
- Submit the required documents
- If all is in order, your Thai citizenship application will be filed; You will then pay the processing fee and give your biometrics.
- You’ll be requested to visit the Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Thailand and conduct an interview in the Thai language as well as sing the Thai Royal and National Anthem.
- During this stage of the application process, Thai immigration officers will visit your home to verify your submitted details.
- If your Thai citizenship application is successful, you’ll be asked to attend a ceremony at the Police Headquarters and take a Citizenship Oath.
It’s also advisable to go to the Bangkok Special Division when applying for visa extensions and any other visa application, such as a work permit or a Non-immigrant O Visa for a foreign spouse.
Application fees for Thai citizenship
The application costs for Thai nationality are listed in Thai Baht and are as follows:
- THB 10,000 ($290) for the main application
- THB 5,000 ($145) for children of applicants
- THB 1,000 ($29) for the Certificate of Naturalization
- THB 2,000 ($58) for the recovery of Thai nationality
Thai Citizenship by Investment
There is no direct route for a person to acquire Thai citizenship by investment; However, the Thailand Elite Residence program provides a way to live in Thailand until eligible for permanent residency, after which a person can apply for Thai citizenship.
The Thai Elite Visa – also known as the Privilege Entry Visa – is a long-term visa that comes under the banner of a Tourist Visa.
Expats must first apply for a Thai Elite Privilege membership, and then they can apply for an Elite Visa. There are several variations of the visa, which all have different prices, depending on how many persons the visa is extended to and the length of stay. A Thai Elite Visa can be quite expensive in Thai Baht but is much cheaper than Golden Visas in Europe. Here are three variations of the Thai Elite Visa:
Elite Easy Access
- Validity: Five years
- Cost: THB 600,000 ($17,500)
Elite Family Excursion (2 persons)
- Validity: Five years
- Cost: THB 800,000 ($23,500) [THB 300,000 ($8,750) for each additional family member]
Elite Superiority Extension
- Validity: 20 years (four sets of five)
- Cost: THB 1 million ($29,200)
Elite Visas don’t come with a work permit so applicants should ensure they earn an annual income high enough to support themselves while living in Thailand for the validity of the visa.
The Law for Dual Citizenship in Thailand
Second citizenship in Thailand is often the cause of confusion with various contradictory answers as the law is a gray area left up to interpretation. The simple answer is that holding dual citizenship in Thailand with your home country has not been illegal since the amendment of the Thai Nationality Act in 1992.
The amendment removed the automatic loss of Thai citizenship for not making a choice between Thai citizenship and a second citizenship. This is particularly relevant for those who gained Thai nationality through naturalization, marriage, or a Thai parent.
The only case where the Thai government may prohibit Thai dual citizenship and remove Thai national status is for a child born to foreign parents living in Thailand with permanent resident status. In all other cases, whether you hold Thai dual citizenship with the USA or any other country, no legislation states you must renounce your citizenship when you become a Thai citizen.
How Global Citizen Solutions Can Help
Expats and foreign investors can encounter many difficulties when applying for second citizenship and a second passport, which is why it is worthwhile to have an expert on hand to provide personalized Thai naturalization assistance throughout the application process.
Our specialists can help you with the following:
- Minimize the visits you have to make to the designated country
- Have someone who works solely on your behalf
- Reduce the hassle associated with putting your application together
- Acquire insider knowledge from someone with years of experience in the market
Let’s get you moving forward in your quest to obtain citizenship in Thailand and a Thai passport. Get in touch with us to book a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions about Thai Citizenship
Can a foreigner become a citizen of Thailand?
Any foreigner can acquire Thai citizenship, provided that they adhere to the following criteria for naturalization, which include:
- Being at least 18 years old.
- Living in Thailand with permanent residence status for at least five years
- Holding the same non-immigrant visa used to acquire permanent residence
- Having a clean criminal background
- Being employed and having three consecutive years of work permits in Thailand
- Proof of paying personal income tax
- The ability to write, speak, and understand the Thai language
- The ability to sing the Thai National Anthem (Phleng chāt Thai) and the Royal Anthem of Thailand (Sanserm Phra Baramee).
- Acquiring at least 50 points out of 100 on the points-based system for obtaining Thai nationality.
Can you marry a Thai for citizenship?
Marriage to a Thai citizen reduces the required period for living in Thailand from five years with a permanent residence permit to three years in order to acquire Thai citizenship. You’re also less likely to be requested to submit mountains of additional documents to support your application.
A foreign spouse can also receive a Non-immigrant O Visa through their Thai wife or husband, which is an extended travel visa for family members of a Thai citizen. The visa allows holders to enter Thailand and stay for up to 90 days instead of the maximum number of 60 days on a standard Tourist Visa.
What is the easiest way to obtain citizenship from the Thai government?
The Thailand Elite Residence program is one of Thailand’s most accessible routes to citizenship. Thai naturalization requires a minimum residence period of eight years (three consecutive years years with a non-immigrant visa and five years with permanent residence status). Securing an Elite Access Visa allows you to live legally in Thailand for three years before acquiring permanent residence.
An application for Thai citizenship can be filed to become a Thai naturalized citizen after holding permanent resident status in Thailand for five consecutive years. Thailand does not officially recognize dual citizenship, but applicants are not required to renounce their citizenship to receive Thai citizenship.
Can foreigners buy property in Thailand?
Foreigners can legally buy property in Thailand, such as a condo or apartment; However, there are restrictions for the types of properties a foreigner can own: Foreigners are prohibited from owning land in Thailand and can only own up to 49 percent of the total saleable area of a multi-unit residential property. In order to avoid restrictions of property purchases, foreigners would need to acquire Thai citizenship
Can you buy citizenship in Thailand?
It’s not possible to become a Thai citizen through investment, but you can gain Thai residency by investment through the Thai Elite Residence program. With a Thai Elite Visa, foreigners can gain residency for five to 20 years, depending on which version of the visa they invest in.
The cheapest visa – the Elite Access Visa – costs THB 600,000 ($17,500) and offers a five-year residence permit. After three consecutive years of holding the visa, investors can apply for permanent residency and Thai citizenship once they’ve lived in Thailand for a total of eight years.