Integrity Legal

Archive for July, 2009

31st July 2009

This blog is dedicated to all aspects of life in Thailand (although it may seem as though we primarily write about Thai legal issues). Bill Reyland is an author and student of religion in Thailand. The following is a brief essay about just one of his many experiences in the Kingdom:

Sticky rice, glutinous heat, spicy food and hot women, this is Thailand to the many who journey here in search of eastern sensuality. There is however one more very distinct and crucial element to this unique society, which makes this very Buddhist Kingdom truly extraordinary.

I first came to Thailand in 2003. I didn’t come here for any of the aforementioned possibilities. I came here to be monk. I did see the women on the way in though and yes, it gave me pause, sort of like being trapped between two magnets, a battle between the fluctuating pulse of morality and the more immediate electricity of pure sex. It was sobering.

Once in the temple, I quickly forgot all that and tried instead to get a more immediate grip on what century I was living in and what exactly was the proper way to sit, talk, walk, eat and go to the bathroom without offending anyone. In time, most of the cultural mysteries were either solved or the case closed for the benefit of all, but I did manage to find my place in a rural Isan Buddhist temple very far from my home and any conceivable experience I could have ever imagined.

What I experienced, was a culture that is firmly rooted in both tradition and religious ritual, but somehow manages in the midst of what some might even say is a primitive view of the world, to have such complete tolerance of other religions. Unlike any other country, including the conflict in the southern provinces, which is primarily politically and ethnically motivated, Thailand is one of the few places with true religious tolerance.

Categorically, most of us fall into three distinct areas of religious tolerance. The ex-clusivist has no patience for you or your heathen ways. YOU CAN BE SAVED, but only through their faith. The inclusivist recognizes your faith as a possible vehicle for everlasting salvation, but at the end of the day still thinks your ignorant, still he’s not going to burn a cross in your yard, or tell your kids their going to hell. The best of these three and this is Thailand, is the pluralist view. In this view, everybody can worship whomever or whatever they choose. You can dress how ever you like, bow to whatever you like and even eat non Thai food and it’s perfectly alright with them. Ask the lady-boy the next time you get your haircut.

At my University, a Catholic University, the head of our religious department is a Muslim, the dean of students is a Thai Christian and at least one of my professors is openly Atheist. In class, I have a Burmese nun on my right, a Buddhist nun on my left and all around me are Thai Buddhists, Taiwanese Christians and people of all denominations and nationalities. On the campus during any Buddhist holiday, there are just as many garlands around Mother Mary as Siddhartha. I once caught Sister Emily, a classmate of mine, bowing down to my Buddhist professor. This can only happen here.

When people here ask me why I decided to come to Thailand to study Religion, I just smile and point in every direction, because religion is everywhere here and to the Thais it’s all the same, same, same. Isn’t that beautiful?

Bill Reyland

WC 6007

willmrey@yahoo.com

The Author

Bill Reyland currently attends Assumption University’s School of Religious Philosophy

and is the author of Sons of Isan a memoir chronicling his insanely fantastic year in a rural Thai temple, as a laymen and temporarily ordained monk.

A book site with excerpts and other short stories please see: Bill Reyland

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30th July 2009

The Tabien Baan, or document proving House Registration, is distributed by a village, city, or other  municipal authority. The Tabien Baan (sometimes spelled Tambien Baan) reflects the residents who live at a specific property (this document is not used as proof of Real Estate ownership, for that one must have a Thai Chanote or Title Deed). The Tabien Baan (House Registration) is issued to Thai Citizens and is used as a permanent address for service of process and other official mailings.

A Tabien Baan is an extremely important document for Thai nationals because it acts as proof of a Thai person’s residence. Therefore, it is used to determine a Thai person’s voting district and in the case of Thai men of military age, the Tabien Baan is used to ascertain what district the Thai man will be placed in when drawing for the military draft. This can be critical because if one district reaches a certain level of volunteers then it is not necessary to further draft any inhabitants of that district. As a result, a Thai man’s House Registration (Tabien Baan) can have a massive impact upon their life and career depending upon the district in which they live.

Can a Foreigner (Farang) Get a Thai Tabien Baan?

For a foreigner (farang in Thai) it may be possible to be registered on a Tabien Baan in Thailand if:

  1. the foreigner has acquired a Thai lease that has been legally registered at the Thai land Department
  2. the foreigner has used a Thai company to buy land in Thailand (This is becoming less common as the Thai Land Department officials are more heavily scrutinizing cases involving a Thai Company to own land.)
  3. the foreigner has bought a Thai Condo as a freehold Title owner pursuant to the Thai Condominium Act

A Tabien Baan issued to a foreigner residing in Thailand is generally referred to as a “Yellow Tabien Baan” because the booklet is the color yellow. Yellow Tabien Baan’s are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain because the local Amphur office (or Khet office in the Bangkok Metropolis) is reluctant to issue Tabien Baan’s to foreign nationals.

There are some benefits to having a Tabien Baan in Thailand. Most notable is the fact that a foreigner can obtain a building permit based upon a Tabien Baan and as a result could more easily obtain a superficies for structures built upon a piece of Thai property. Thai banks are also more cooperative about granting Thai mortgages to foreigners who are noted on a Tabien Baan.

Those with Permanent Residence in Thailand can be placed upon a blue Tabien Baan in the same way as a Thai National. However, this does not denote Citizenship nor voting rights, it is simply an administrative change based upon the foreigner’s residential status.

The Tabien Baan may become an important aspect of the USA visa process as well. For those Thai nationals applying for a K1 visa or a K3 visa, the Tabien Baan may be requested in order to prove the Thai’s residence in Thailand.

(Please be aware that this information is imparted for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No Lawyer/Client fiduciary relationship is created by reading this posting.)

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29th July 2009

The Nation and Thai Visa are reporting some interesting developments with regard to Thailand’s Legal environment. First off, the all-but-abandoned Thailand Elite Card program is apparently still alive, but on life support. To quote the Nation via ThaiVisa:

“In November 2003, Mr Thaksin proudly presented 80 gold Thailand Elite cards to international VIPs and eminent people, including Japanese trade chiefs and US banking and financial supremos. The cards promised fast-tracked immigration, discounts at luxury resorts and golf courses, and many other perks. The optimistic estimates to attract the world’s wealthy were mind-boggling; a million subscribers to generate a trillion baht in revenue. But early signs were not encouraging. After four months, a meagre 400 memberships had been sold, barely a dent in the 100,000 target for the first year of operation. Panicky officials talked of targeting China’s nouveau riche, and predicted they would attract 30,000 Chinese within 12 months. But six years later, the total number of members is a risible 2,570, and the Thailand Privilege Card Company (TPC), set up by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), to run the scheme has a crippling net loss of 1.4 billion baht.”

As stated previously on this blog, the current government of Thailand has opted not to continue the Thai Immigration benefits accorded to Elite Card holders. As a result, the central pillar of the scheme has been toppled resulting in nearly no demand for the card. It will be interesting to see what the ultimate fate of the Elite Card will be, but at this time it appears that card holders are attempting to get as many benefits out of the card as possible in order to offset the cost of acquiring it.

In further reports from the Nation and ThaiVisa, it would appear that the Thai government is looking to crack down on Karaoke bars in Thailand, “The [Thai] Cabinet has approved new regulations that prohibit karaoke parlours from providing drinking or singing partners to customers, with their business licences being revoked if they do.” It will be interesting to see if these provisions will be stringently enforced and, if so, what effect this legislation will have upon the already crippled Thai tourism industry.

The government also is proposing regulations to limit the amount of time that Thai children can utilize computer gaming facilities. This seems like an attempt to reign in children who play computer games virtually non-stop. Finally, a proposed film rating system. The system would impose rating categories upon Thai films. The categories would span the spectrum from films which would be “encouraged” to those which would be “banned.”

(This post is merely opinion, no attorney-client relationship is created from reading this piece.)

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28th July 2009

A little known fact: Thailand is one of the few countries not colonized by the British that gave serious thought to adopting the common law. Had Thailand opted to become a common law nation the legal system would probably look very different today. Thailand is a “Civil Law” country and as a result, Thailand Real Estate law and Thai Property regulations are promulgated through the Thai Civil and Commercial Code.

There are two property rights which are relatively uncommon in English speaking countries: the usufruct and superficies. These two legal mechanisms can provide a wide range of property rights to the person who employs them. The following is an explanation of these two legal concepts for those wishing to enjoy property rights in the Kingdom of Thailand.

A usufruct grants the person holding the usufruct with the right to enjoy the use of the land in Thailand. A usufruct can be extremely beneficial because it can be written in such a way that a foreigner can be granted lifetime enjoyment of property. That being said, should the foreigner decide to place structures upon his usufruct, then those structures may need to be abandoned if and when the usufruct comes to an end.

This is where a right of superficies comes into play. The Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand makes provisions regarding superficies, the law states:

When the right of superficies is extinguished, the superficiary may take away his buildings, structures or plantations, provided he restores the land to its former condition.

Therefore, a usufruct is a very useful legal instrument because it could allow a foreigner to have lifetime enjoyment of property, but the foreigner may lose his rights to his or her structures should the usufruct expire (either during his lifetime or upon his death). By utilizing a superficies a foreigner could better protect his or her interests with regard to a Thai usufruct.

It should be noted that the holder of both a usufruct and superficies can assign his or her rights in the provisions of an instrument like a Thai lease or rental agreement. Generally, a lease such as this would expire upon the death of the usufruct holder, but Thai courts have held that leases written upon usufructs shall remain binding past the date of the usufruct holders death. The leasee in that situation would be required to continue paying the originally agreed upon payments, but the payments would be made to the underlying land owner after the usufruct holder’s death. Keep in mind that this rule was made pursuant to a Thai Supreme Court decision. Since precedent is not binding in Thailand, this may not be a hard and fast rule.

For more information regarding this subject please see: Thailand Real Estate FAQ or Thai Condo law

(Please be advised: This is not legal advice it is a personal opinion. No attorney-client relationship should be inferred to exist between the writer and any reader of this post.)

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27th July 2009

US Immigration and Nationality is an interesting and complex area of American jurisprudence. As a statutorily driven field of law, it can be one of the more rules driven areas of Federal regulation. Many Americans born in the United States acquire their citizenship through a combination of jus sanguinis (Latin meaning “right of blood”) and/or jus soli (Latin meaning “right of the soil” or “right of the territory”). For those born outside of the United States, or its possessions, how can United States Citizenship be proven? This is why the United States government has promulgated the US Certificate of Citizenship.

The Certificate of United States Citizenship is a legal document distributed by the government authorities of the United States of America and used in order to provide proof of the bearer’s United States Citizenship. Those who are qualified to submit an application for a United States Certificate of Citizenship include those who acquired United States of America citizenship while living in the United States or those Americans who were born outside of the United States, or any possession or territory of the USA, to United States citizens. Specifically eligible to submit an application for a US Certificate of Citizenship are:

  • those born abroad who have parents with United States citizenship, or
  • those with at least one naturalized parent who naturalized when the citizen was  under 18 years of age and met special criteria of United States Immigration and Nationality law.

It should be noted that the US certificate of citizenship is a substantially different document from the United States naturalization certificate. Naturalization occurs when a foreign national acquires United States Citizenship. The certificate of naturalization is conferred in order to prove acquisition of US Citizenship. The certificate of citizenship is generally granted to those who were born as United States Citizens.  Therefore, the documents, although similar, denote two different types of US Citizenship.  Generally, one must submit an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in order to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship. USCIS is an agency under the Department of Homeland Security which is tasked with maintaining Immigration, naturalization, and Citizenship records for those persons in the USA.

United States Citizenship is important from a US Immigration perspective because only a US Citizen can petition for a K1 visa (fiance visa) or a K-3 visa (expedited marriage visa) on behalf of a foreign national. Therefore, proving one’s United States Citizenship could be critical in obtaining a USA Visa for a foreign loved one.

(This content is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute advice regarding the law. No Lawyer-Client Relationship exists between author and reader.)

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26th July 2009

This blog has been keeping track of the US Immigration implications of recognition of Same Sex Marriage under United States Federal law. Currently, a US law known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), precludes the United States Federal government from recognizing same sex marriage (even when the marriage was validly executed in one of the fifty US States). Also, DOMA provides American states with the option of not recognizing same-sex unions in other states (although this provision has been question on Full Faith and Credit grounds).  Since the United States government does not recognize same sex marriage, same sex bi-national couples cannot obtain US Immigration benefits based upon a marital relationship.

There are currently movements to provide immigration benefits for same-sex couples. One pending bill is known as the Uniting American Families Act which has apparently been reborn under a new moniker: the Re-Uniting American Families Act. There is also a movement gaining a great deal of steam that seeks a full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. It is this author’s opinion, that eventually the Defense of Marriage Act will be repealed. The upshot of DOMA’s repeal will be an increase in family immigration benefits for same sex couples.

This pending legislation and political movement has been the focal point of many posts previously written on this blog, but since this blog is also concerned with Thai law, it begs the question: does Thailand recognize same sex marriage? The short answer: No. It should be noted that Thailand is one of the most tolerant cultures in the world, particularly regarding gay rights. That being said, there is no process under Thai law for legalizing a relationship of two people who are of the same sex. In many countries, a legal partnership known as a “civil union” is used to legitimize a relationship between two people of the same sex.  In Thailand, there is no “civil union” mechanism for providing legal protection for a same sex couple. That being said, Thailand marriage registration is often not a method employed by a couple who wishes to have an ongoing relationship. It is quite common in Thailand for a couple to have a marriage ceremony (customary or religious), but never actually register a marriage in Thailand with the local Amphur office (District Office). Therefore, as a practical matter Thai same sex couples can maintain a domestic relationship in a manner similar to different sex couples who choose not to legalize their union.

At the present time there does not appear to be any political movement to legalize same sex marriage in Thailand. For those who wish to protect their same sex loved one, legal mechanisms such as a Thai will can assist in providing legal benefits usually accorded to those in a different sex relationship.

For more information please see: Bangkok Lawyer, or Visa Lawyer Thailand.

(Please note that the information contained herein is intended for educational purposes only. No lawyer-client relationship is created by reading this piece.)

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25th July 2009

Many Expatriates resident in the Kingdom of Thailand eventually come to the point where they wish to purchase property. In many cases, particularly in Bangkok, a Thai Condo will suit their needs perfectly. However, there are many people who do not wish to live in a Thai Condominium. These people often opt to purchase some form of Thai Real Estate.

One of the major problems that comes with purchasing Real Estate in Thailand is the de facto prohibition on foreign ownership of land in Thailand. Some people decide to use a Thai company to own land. This is possible although one needs to carefully construct the corporation so as not to violate the relevant laws regarding Thai “nominee shareholders.” Other less advisable methods are employed by foreigners to enjoy the benefits of property in Thailand. In some cases, a Thai spouse will put her name on the “Chanote” (Title Deed) while the foreign spouse actually pays for the property. This can be very disadvantageous because in transactions such as this the Thai Land Department will often require that the foreign spouse sign an affidavit explaining that the Thai property in question was not purchased with money provided by the foreign spouse and as a result the foreign spouse shall have no claim to the Thai property.

These type of disadvantageous scenarios create a situation where the foreigner’s interests must be protected while also remaining legal pursuant to the provisions of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code. In cases such as this, some foreign nationals opt to record a Thai lease. This instrument would provide property enjoyment rights for a maximum of 30 years. Another method that could be employed by a foreigner is the recording of a Thai Mortgage. This method would have the benefit of securing the foreigner’s monetary interest in the property. However, in many cases, the foreigner simply wants to have his interests in his home protected.  If this is the case then it may be best to bifurcate (split) the Title of the Real Estate.

Under Thailand Property Law there are ways of splitting the Thai Title Deed of a residential property. Basically, the foreign national could be designated as the Title holder of the physical residence (house) while the Title to the land remains in the name of a Thai national. By bifurcating the Title in such a way, the foreigner’s interests are better protected. That being said, it would probably be wise to contact a Thailand property lawyer to assist with creating the proper legal instruments as bifurcating Thai Title can be quite complicated and requires dealing with the Land Department of Thailand.

For more information please see property lawyer thailand or bangkok lawyer

(Please be aware: this piece is not legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is formed by reading this blog post.)

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24th July 2009

The K-1 visa is a very popular visa for Thai nationals who have a US Citizen loved one. The US Embassy in Bangkok processes a large number of fiance visa cases each year. Many of those who apply for a United States K-1 visa have questions about their status once they reach the USA. In most cases, the answers are cut and dried, but there are some questions that have more nuanced answers.

Many people who travel to the United States on a K1 visa seem to immediately ask the question: Can I work now that I’m here? The answer to that question would be a qualified “yes.” Under the relevant provisions of 8 CFR 274a.12(a)(6), a K-1 visa holder may be entitled to apply for what is known as work authorization. Work authorization is sometimes referred to as a “work permit.” Similar to a work permit in Thailand, the work authorization document in the United States must be obtained by petitioning the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

The work permit’s technical name is: Employment Authorization Document (EAD). There are those who are under the mistaken impression that work authorization is a right. In fact, under current United States Immigration laws the K-1 visa holder is not entitled to work authorization as a matter of right, but is simply entitled to submit an application for said status.

A downside of obtaining an Employment Authorization Document while in K-1 status is the fact that the Employment Authorization only lasts as long as the applicant is in K1 status. So it is subject to expiration as soon as the K-1 visa holder’s status changes. This results in employment authorization that lasts for a negligible duration. In most cases, obtaining Work Authorization is often not a net benefit to the prospective applicant except in certain rare circumstances.

That being said, there are other methods of gaining work authorization. A possibly more beneficial option for the prospective work authorization applicant would be to submit an EAD petition in conjunction with an I-485 petition for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence (green card). This method is advantageous because the fee for the Employment Authorization Document is included in the adjustment fee and the result is a net reduction in expenses. Also, the Employment Authorization Document will be valid for one year.

Further, A Thai spouse of a US Citizen present in the United States on a non-immigrant K-3 visa is eligible for work authorization. In the case of the J-1 visa and F-1 visa, the visa holder may be able to obtain a work permit depending upon the situation. Although, particularly in the case of the US Student Visa, work authorization will be severely restricted.

All of this being said, it should be noted that once the K-1 visa holder successfully adjusts status to permanent residence they will have a green card and be legally allowed to work in the United States of America.

(This post is meant for educational purposes only. No Attorney-Client relationship is formed by reading this content.)

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23rd July 2009

The government of the Kingdom of Thailand has erected many protectionist economic measures. One of the most prevalent legal restrictions imposed upon foreigners in Thailand is the de facto prohibition on land ownership under Thailand Real Estate Law. There is a common misconception that foreigners are not allowed to own land. Technically, this is not the case. In reality, the law states that a foreigner may purchase Thai Real Estate if he or she obtains approval from the Minister of the Interior of Thailand. As a practical matter, obtaining this approval is extremely difficult, if not impossible. The upshot of these restrictions is a virtual bar on foreign ownership of Thai Real Estate.

In Thailand, a freehold Title deed is known as a “Chanote.” Due to the aforementioned legal restrictions it is a virtual impossibility for a foreign national to obtain a Chanote for Thai property. That being said, some years ago the Thai government carved out a legal niche whereby a foreigner could obtain a Freehold Title to a Condominium in Thailand. This exemption is subject to certain conditions. First, the Condo must meet the definition of “Condominium” under the act which means that the paperwork for the building must be completely in order. Another very important aspect of this legislation is the fact that a foreign quota is imposed upon a condominium complex. The law states that foreign ownership may only account for 49% of a condominium’s total number of units. The other 51% must be set aside for those of Thai nationality.

This foreign quota provision can lead to a problem because Condos that are highly desired or in desirable areas are not available for foreign purchase. Further, it can be a great disadvantage to Condominium developers in Thailand because there is generally an income discrepancy between foreign and Thai property buyers. As a result, legal devices are sometimes utilized to circumvent the foreign freehold quota on a Thai condo.

For many years, the classic method of providing foreign control of Thai real property was through the use of a Thai Company to own land. In the recent past, the Thai parliament passed legislation which outlawed the use of “nominee shareholders” in ostensibly Thai companies to own real estate. This mechanism has been employed by Condominium developers to get around the freehold quota. Basically, the developer sets up a Thai company, sell the condo to the company, and then sells the company, that now owns an otherwise quota restricted condo, to a foreigner. As a result, the foreigner owns a company which owns a condo in freehold that could not be legally purchased outright. As with any corporate structure involving “nominees,” the use of nominees is prohibited, but the definition of “nominee” is left somewhat vague under Thai law. Specialized legal advice should be sought where corporate structures are utilized for property ownership.

For more on Special Exemptions under Thai law for foreigners please see Amity Company Thailand

(This article is not legal advice. For such advice contact a licensed lawyer. No Lawyer-Client relationship is formed by reading this piece.)

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22nd July 2009

Tuesday July 22, 2009 the website Thaivisa.com is reporting that the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang has apparently made a rule restricting issuance of multiple Thai tourist visas. As can be imagined, this is causing something of a stir among expats and long term vacationers in Thailand because the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang has long been a traditionally convenient post for those wishing to extend their stay in Thailand.

In recent years, the Royal Thai Consulate in Penang has tightened their regulations with regard to issuance of the Thai business visa. In many cases, applicants were continuously traveling to Penang, Malaysia in order to obtain visas for extended stays in the Kingdom with the bonus of having the right to petition for a Thailand work permit should it be deemed necessary at a later date.

The Thai Tourist visa is, by definition, not a visa intended for those wishing to engage in employment activities within the Kingdom of Thailand. Instead, it is a visa designed to allow foreign  nationals entry into Thailand for recreational purposes.  There have been cases where the Thai tourist visa was used to remain in Thailand and work illegally. A similar situation occurs in the United States when foreign nationals enter America using a US Tourist Visa and subsequently obtain employment. As the holder of a US Tourist visa does not have work authorization in the United States, this method of immigration is illegal. In both cases, the respective governments feel the need to crackdown on such activity in order to keep up enforcement of administrative and labor regulations.

That being said, in the case of restriction of Thai Tourist Visas one has to wonder if now was the appropriate time to make the rules more stringent. Currently Thai tourism is at one of its lowest ebbs in years. A combination of domestic turbulence, airport closures, and the world economic crisis has left much of the tourist sector in dire financial straits. Although, this author agrees that the Thailand immigration rules must be enforced, it seems an inopportune moment to begin such enforcement.

It should also be noted that this may not be a rule initiated by the Immigration authorities in Thailand. Consulates and Embassies abroad are governed under the jurisdiction of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That being said, Consulates and Embassies are allowed to set their own rules with regard to who they will issue visas to and under what conditions. It would seem that the Consulate in Penang has exercised their discretion in order to clamp down on those abusing the Thai Tourist Visa.

(This is not legal advice, nor should it be used as such. A lawyer-client relationship is not created by reading this posting.)

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