Are you a foreigner and want to become a permanent resident in Thailand? You are in luck! Because I recently completed the entire process, and kept notes for each and every step that needed to be taken. So now you can follow my journey.
1. PREPARATION OF DOCUMENTS
I knew a lot of documents would be needed. Throughout 2012, I slowly prepared my case by obtaining every document I could think of that might have my name attached to it. Drivers licence, university degrees and transcripts, criminal records, passports, work permits, marriage licence, and insurance policies. Anything and everything I could get my hands on.
2. APPLICATION IN DECEMBER 2012
Each year, at the end of December, foreigners can apply for permanent residency in The Kingdom of Thailand.
The government makes a kind of decree that they will now be accepting applications for permanent residency.
There are several criteria and normally only a few categories of people that can apply. The categories are: experts in their field, those working in a business and/or have some kind of investment. For many foreigners living in Thailand, those kinds of categories don’t really matter. The one category that applies to many foreigners is for those who are married to a Thai or have a Thai child.
I was told that since 2011, you can apply for residency at the local immigration office.
In 2011, in Nakhon Ratchasima province, only one person applied on the last day and some documents were missing. So in actuality, NOBODY applied.
I applied in December 2012, and I think I was the only person to apply in Nakhon Ratchasima province.
These are the Thai documents from 2012:
They explain dates and categories, but not the kinds of documents I would need to submit.
They were simply posted on the door of the Nakhon Ratchasima Immigration Office.
Of course there is a quota for residency. 100 foreigners per country can be accepted per year.
There are a LOT of documents to be submitted, many must be legalized. Documents are legalized at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, after they have been stamped by your embassy. Any document that originates outside of Thailand will needed to be stamped by your embassy before it can be legalized in Thailand.
More information about permanent residency can be found here: (I DID NOT UPDATE THAT INFO AND WILL DO SOON).
I was able to get all the official documents to apply for permanent residency written in both Thai and English. After all, we are a law firm and that helps with some logistics like that. But I am not sure hiring a lawyer will help your application. It is the same process for everyone. You really just need to know what is required.
The benefits are limited and the costs are not cheap. It cost 7,600 THB to apply.
They review the documents for 90 days according to immigration. Then, you have some tests in Thai to do.
After the application, everything is done in Bangkok. If you do get permanent residency, it normally takes about 6 months after you apply to have everything finalized. Once granted residency, you receive 2 books, which kind of look like passports or vehicle registration, and have to pay something like 100,000 THB if you are married to a Thai person and double if not.
(This is an approximation, the real amounts are something like 95,700 THB and 191,400 THB. For me, it took about 2 years and 4 months, so don’t get too caught up between theory and reality. As they say, “This is Thailand.”)
If you believe that you are able to meet all the criteria for permanent residency, you need all the documents well-prepared in advance. For example, they request that you have fingerprints from your country, even if you have never set foot inside of a police station. Not only that, but it must be translated and legalized. You must also be fingerprinted at a Thai police station, and then have that as part of the overall documentation.
For my application, I provided 168 pages. It is not a small task to do and it took us about 6 months to get all documents stamped, legalized, translated, etc. On Thaivisa, there are excellent stories about some people having done it and how it works.
3. Follow up in May 2013
After submitting the documents before the new year, Nakhon Ratchasima Immigration Office requested more documents that we provided in January and February.
Then, I had to go in Bangkok for fingerprints because the form had changed and it was not properly done. I guess the Chok Chai police station didn’t know how to take fingerprints for foreigners applying for permanent residency….
In May, a date was set for THE interview. Legal counsel cannot be present with during the actual interview, even if you are represented by one. For my case, my wife and I were interviewed in Thai and some kind of testimony was signed. All of the documents were written in Thai.
After the interview I was told there would be a “Thai Exam”.
Then after that the Immigration Office reviews each applicants case, and if the foreigner scored at least 50 points out of 100, the application is submitted to someone in the higher echelons (likely Cabinet members) of the Thai government for final approval. In other words, there is at the end of the process a political aspect that is taken into consideration. So be careful what you post on Facebook.
After a military take-over in 2006, the government of Thailand kind of stopped taking applications. However in 2011, according to what the Immigration Office in Bangkok had said, about 100 foreigners were granted permanent residency in Thailand. In 2012, around 260 foreigners in the WHOLE of Thailand applied and most of them were in Bangkok. There have been some disruptions and postponements regarding permanent residency as a result of the latest military coup in Thailand. When I was granted permanent residency in April 2015, I asked how many others also got it from 2012. I was told 35 but this cannot be confirm.
Immigration (in Bangkok) has received directives to complete the files for September and submit them to the cabinet.
I talked with some high-ranking people while working on being granted permanent residency and they did confirm the information above, but refused to give us with any documents, statements, etc. They consider each case individually and confidentially. Not to mention, they are kind of afraid to talk openly about the process, as any and all decisions come from higher up.
The Thai test counts for 10 points in the category for which I applied. The length of time you have spent living in Thailand, your salary, if you have a Thai child, your level of education, all that is taken into consideration and many officers must sign the documents.
4. Thai test
The test is in Thai, it takes about 10-15 minutes. All applicants receive a letter telling them the time and date. Each applicant goes one after the other. There are 5 or 6 high-ranking immigration officers and they all ask questions. Hard questions, not something easy like, “What’s your name?” Hard questions.
The applicant is alone and filmed for 10-15 minutes. I was unable to understand about 4 questions. Some applicants were really good in Thai, and others not so good. I saw some people were come out of the room after 5 minutes (some even 2 minutes) while in my case, it was more than 10 minutes.
I thought I hadn’t done very well on the test, but was able to see my score when I got the residency. A respectable 7.5 out of 10.
Immigration would review my file until September. Another 5 signatures of approval were before being submitted to the cabinet for approval. This is what I was told.
At the time, I figured my chances were 50/50. In part because of my salary (the higher the better), the score for Thai test was just OK, and my wife and I do not have children. I lost something like 10 points because of that.
Also, the more you pay in taxes, or apply under the investment category, it is easier. Our company pays a lot of taxes, but not me individually.
5. It continues, July 2013
Bangkok Immigration Office contacted us about 2 weeks ago to give some more documents, and asked if the Nakhon Ratchasima Immigration had met me.
They told us it would be done, but no date.
The additional documents were a new statutory declaration (a kind of affidavit) and also documents about income.
Yesterday, without any notice, immigration came to my house. Two officers. A lady (Dan Kwian) and another person. They interviewed 2 of my neighbours, asked for their Thai ID, Ta bian ban, and how long they knew me. It took about 1 hour.
Next, they told us that Bangkok Immigration would come without telling me and verify the information of these 2 neighbours.
On top of that, now, they said there would be a second Thai test, a written Thai test (That is according to Dan Kwian). All of this, before September (according to Bangkok). The Nakhon Ratchasima Immigration were helpful but it was their first case so they did not know everything and some documents were requested and not necessary. Either way, always better to give more than less!
I can tell you that there was not a second test for me, nothing written. I was also lucky, one of my witnesses, my neighbour is the wife of a very high-ranked military officer. Remember that this is BEFORE the Coup in May 2014 and we didn’t know or anticipate that. My second neighbour was a Thai engineer.
6. End of July 2013
This week, Bangkok immigration asked for more documents.
They asked for 2 years of salaries, but we already gave those.
They asked for 3 more pictures. But they already had more than 18 pictures according to the regulation of December 2008.
They also asked for other documents related to previous extensions. But remember that in December 2012, we got a stamp that we provided all documents and it was under study…..
On top of that, they took pictures for the Thai test (that was filmed). They also took OTHER pictures when they came to our house.
Just to give you an idea, the picture below is the file of an applicant from Poland. He passed. He got 52 points on 100. I believe this picture is small enough that you can not see his name or anything because this is confidential.
Now, I am almost an expert and I can even tell you what the yellow means on the picture. But I won’t… 🙂
At the bottom of the file, there are 5 lines and one has a signature. Each file needs 5 signatures before they are finally approved. This is how long and difficult it is… Look how THICK the file is. Remember that we provide 168 pages, that we were requested at least 3 or 4 times to give more documents, that 3 times the applicant had to go in Bangkok, and it looks like another time is necessary for a written test.
We won’t have results before September and even then, the Cabinet decides….
7. End of August 2013
About a week ago, Bangkok immigration required new pictures in front of the residence, because the previous ones were not with a long-sleeved shirt. I don’t think that is in any of the regulations, especially since we provided more than 18 pictures required from the beginning.
They requested a document from the Labour Department in Bangkok to acknowledge the work permit. We replied that Nakhon Ratchasima could probably provide that document. Then, the Nakhon Ratchasima Labour Department asked a new Work permit because the old ones (two) had several job descriptions and were old.
It was like an endless story that started in December, a full 168-page story, and now new documents requested in February, March, April, June, July, and August. But we did as they asked.
8. October 2013
A week ago, Bangkok immigration, 3 officers came without notice to verify the witnesses of the applicant. They interviewed neighbours and left after checking if the applicant was really married, really living with his wife, really working, etc.
So it is a pretty serious process and long. Normally, now, all documents and everything is completed.
In December, it starts again. Last 2 weeks of December, new applicants can ask for it. So we guess that we will have an answer before that. We were told the Cabinet must approve applicants.
9. February 2014
We were informed that our application was accepted. But we are still waiting. That was a phone call that we did. Later, in April 2015, I was able to consult my file and saw that I had about 53 points. I was lucky…
10. October 2014
I was starting to get upset because it was taking too long. We wrote them a letter and they replied that I was accepted. Just waiting for signatures. That was good enough for me. We wrote to them to ask WHEN the signatures will happen. They called us instead of replying by writing. They said they didn’t know. There was a new policy and more signatures were required.
11. November 2014
Someone I know works at the Administrative Court in Bangkok. I was given information that the Administrative Court has power over the government to look into what the government is doing. We found a similar case where they were forced to study the case of citizenship of a Filipino woman.
We use that to fill a case at the administrative Court in Nakhon Ratchasima that accepted the case on 29 December 2014.
12. Finally, got it in April 2015.
After the petition was modified at the administrative Court, everything went very quickly. We modified it in February 2014 following the administrative Court instructions. On 30th of March, immigration in Bangkok told us it was ready. We would receive a letter and there are more documents to give, and this is it.
There was 6 things to provide including 12 pictures and 95,700 because I am married to a Thai. On 10 April 2015, I finally got it.
Immigration asked me to desist my complaint at the administrative Court and obviously, I agreed. I went to Court to accelerate things and it worked. I knew I was already approved, and signatures do not take 1 year. But the problem was in the current state of the government.
So you got the blue book and you think it is finished? No. You must go to your local police station, give other documents in maximum 7 days and you get a RED BOOK. You will have to show up every 5 years to the police station.
Then, you must register yourself in a blue ta bian ban before 15 days following your blue book. And yes, they will ask you other documents…
If you go abroad, there are rules to follow not to lose your permanent residency.
What are the benefits of permanent residency?
This picture is not clear but it show 8 benefits according to Thai immigration.
I don’t have to do visas anymore, nor 90 days. But I am not a Thai citizen.