Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Left your trip to the Land of Smiles wishing you could stay there fulltime? Excited by the multitude of condominium offerings along Sukhumvit but then disappointed when their allotments for foreigners were sold out?
Even though I’ve made it clear that I’m not a fan of Thailand for many reasons, not the least of which is the government bureaucracy and political instability in the country, Thailand is incredibly popular with expats and we’re often asked about the residency and citizenship possibilities in the country.
There are several reasons that a Thai passport would (and wouldn’t) make sense for you.
What you need to understand first:
Becoming a citizen of Thailand is a lengthy and difficult process.
Before even applying for citizenship, you need to be a permanent resident of Thailand for 5 years living there continuously, (which includes 3 years of owning a business in Thailand or working for a Thai company).
Secondly, you need to be fluent in Thai and be able to prove it by passing a series of oral and written examinations.
Finally, before going to this effort, you should examine the reasons why you might want Thai citizenship to begin with.
Foreigners in Thailand are allowed to invest in real estate and can own condominium units on a freehold basis, in their own name.
While being a citizen will afford you more opportunities, from buying land to not being limited in the types of property you can buy, it is still very possible to invest in real estate here.
Foreigners are also able to start businesses in Thailand. You can start a business in Thailand as a foreigner, but the business has to be 51% Thai owned and at least 75% of its employees need to be Thai. Even though these requirements are in place, there are ways to structure your company so that you don’t lose profits or control of your company.
With these opportunities available along with the relatively low value and hassle of attaining a Thai passport, we reached out to our confidant, Reid Kirchenbauer, CEO of InvestAsian, who is on the ground in Thailand, for his opinions on why someone would be interested in attaining one.
Why you might be interested in a Thai passport:
Now there are a few specific reasons for you to pursue a Thai passport.
If you’ve decided that Thailand is the place that you want to live out your years, dual citizenship with your home country is possible and Thailand won’t ask you to give up your previous citizenship.
Secondly, A Thai passport is relatively useful as it does allow visa-free access to all of Southeast Asia (including Vietnam and Myanmar), and developed countries such as Japan and South Korea. As of yet, Thai passports do not allow visa-free access to EU countries, but Reid believes that this will be coming soon.
Perhaps most importantly for some, Thai citizenship allows you to own land in Thailand – which is incredibly cheap in some areas, even for beachfront property.
Finally, while up till now many expats living in Thailand have survived on visa runs or other workarounds to stay in the country long term, there’s a good chance that such ease of skirting the law could change with increasing political unrest causing tightened controls.
What about a permanent residency?
Along with the right to live in Thailand, a permanent residency lets you buy a condominium in Thailand without bringing in money from overseas, which effectively lets you mortgage.
To even get a permanent residency in Thailand, you need to either invest a substantial sum (3-10 million Baht) or prove that you need to be in the country for business or employment reasons.
Why it might be better to look at other options:
Even if you absolutely love Thailand, investing five years of your life into an opportunity that is not a sure thing is a risk that I would not be willing to take.
For one thing, there are actually hassles that having a Thai passport could cause you. Women holding Thai passports are routinely detained at international airports, and similar to Cambodian passports, which we’ve previously written about, so too will be anyone who doesn’t have obvious Thai heritage.
The tax benefits that are associated with opening a business or banking in second countries are not as attractive in Thailand, with the country’s 20% corporate tax rate, although Thailand does not tax you on what you earn offshore.
While Asia is a land of opportunity in many ways, when it comes to second passports I generally avoid the continent altogether when there are much better options available in Europe and Latin America.
Thailand only allows visa-free travel to 63 countries, while the typical European or South American country will allow for 100-165 or more.
Many of the countries that we recommend do not require you to live and be employed by a company within their borders.
Almost all of them offer a cheaper, quicker, and much more powerful passport than Thailand does.
And at the end of the day, you can still enjoy most of what Thailand has to offer without a passport.
If you’re a person who is interested in being freed from the borders of one country, diversifying your investments and protecting for your family’s future, there are many options to choose from in selecting the right passport for you. When making a decision for these reasons, Thailand sadly is not a country that I would consider.
If you need help obtaining second citizenship quickly and want to get the process started, you can learn more – as well as apply for my team to help you – on our second passport page.