American Retiree Applying for Thai passport

The following question was submitted to Thailand-USA admin:

I am a US citizen living in Phuket, Thailand on a retirement visa for 3 1/2
years. Can I apply for a Thai Passport?
If so, where and what are the required documents?

Thanks for any information you can provide.


Thailand-USA ANSWER:

Thanks for writing, Robert. While I’m not a certified lawyer, I’ll try to do my best to guide you in the right direction based on my knowledge and resources. To apply for a Thai passport, you would have to had become a Thai citizen, which first requires your name to be entered into a House Registration Form (in Thai, “Ta-bien Baan” ทะเบียนบ้าน”) which is a precursor to being issued a Thai ID card (In Thai, Butt Pra-cha-chon “บัตรปราชาชน”). Once you have taken these two preliminary steps, then and only then can you apply for a Thai passport (in Thai, “Samut Dern Taang” สมุดเดินทาง).

As a US citizen presumably with no claim to Thai citizenship by way of birth or descent, you would have to become a Thai citizen via naturalization. To naturalize as a Thai (in Thai, “Bplang Sun-chaat bpen Thai” แปลงสัญญาติเป็นไทย), the residency requirements published on the internet vary:

This link, citing the Nationality Act of 1965, says you would have to have lived here five continuous years,

While this law firm website, which even offers a money back guarantee assuming you meet all the other requirements, publishes that you have to had lived in Thailand for only three consecutive years.

Unfortunately, residency is not the sole requirement. All sources I read state that before applying, you also have had to be working in Thailand (holding a work permit) and paying income taxes to the Thai government during that time.  Having a Thai family — wife and child/children seems appears to be another requirement.

Aside from residency, family, and income tax record, it is also required that you are able to read, write, and speak the Thai language in addition to being able to sing the Thai National Anthem — “Pleng Chaat Thai” เพลงสัญชาติไทย

Holding a retirement visa, it is assumed you are not employed on a work permit and thus not paying Income Tax (on the basis of being employed in Thailand) to the Thai government.  However, I advise you to consult with a specialist lawyer like the one linked above, or else the many others available who deal with such cases and questions regularly.

If your sole aim of acquiring Permanent Residency, Thai citizenship and a Thai passport  is to be able to own land without having to jump through all the other loop holes required of non-Thai citizens who own property in Thailand, I think you will find your quest for Thai nationality difficult, but not impossible, as nothing is impossible, especially true in Thailand.

Good luck.

P.S. Don’t be discouraged from the hurdles and barriers. Read this article for proof and references that there are many foreign born persons, e.g. farang who naturalized as Thai citizens, some taking decades.

Also, Be sure to check some of the resourceful links below:

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