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Archive for the ‘Legal News’ Category

8th October 2020

There have been some recent developments with respect to Thai immigration in recent weeks. Notably, the Thai visa amnesty was retroactively extended after ostensibly ending. Concurrently, it now appears that those who hold a Thai retirement visa (specifically an O-A or O-X visa as opposed to an O visa) will now be able to seek a Certificate of Entry to Thailand. There has also been discussion in recent weeks about the notion of decreasing the amount of quarantine that one must undergo when traveling into Thailand. Furthermore, Thai immigration officials have discussed easing travel restrictions for those traveling to Thailand on business as APEC card holders can now seek a COE while there has also been discussion about allowing certain businesspeople into Thailand without the requirement that they hold work permit status. However, implementation on rules regarding this issue remain to be seen. Finally, officials are attempting to bring the new Special Tourist Visa online as fast as they can, but actual practical developments remain to be seen. In short, there seems to be something akin to a “slow thaw” taking place with respect to Thai immigration rules and while things appear to be trending toward further opening of the country there is still a long way to go before normality returns.

Meanwhile, with respect to American immigration there have been some notable developments as the US Embassy in Bangkok has begun processing interviews again for those whose prior interview was cancelled due to the shutdown. It should be noted that interviews are merely being re-scheduled as cases that had not received an interview date prior the shutdown have yet to be scheduled, but the trend seems to be pointing to further interviews occurring in the future. Concurrently, news from inside the United States is not as positive as layoffs related to USCIS funding shortfalls may result in delayed processing times for immigration petitions. It appears likely that certain aspects of the American immigration process are poised to take longer compared to times past, while perhaps other segments of the process may be unaffected or, in limited circumstances, more expedited compared to more routine circumstances.

Amidst all of the turmoil in the immigration world, we are bringing online the Immigator App. Admittedly, the timing is not optimal for an app which assists people in keeping their visas, passport, and immigration documentation organized. However, in many ways it is more important than ever for people to keep careful track of their lawful immigration status and the documentation associated therewith. Therefore, we hope that this free app will assist both clients of our firm and the public at large in navigating the Thai, American, and international immigration systems.

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22nd April 2020

An Executive Order has been issued by the Trump administration regarding suspension of immigration to the United States for the forthcoming 60 days. However, the order does not appear to apply to those seeking a K-1 visa to bring a foreign fiance to the USA. Concurrently, it also does not appear to apply to American visas for the spouses and children of U.S. Citizens. To quote directly from the relevant sections of the order as posted on the White House website:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f) and 1185(a), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, hereby find that the entry into the United States of persons described in section 1 of this proclamation would, except as provided for in section 2 of this proclamation, be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and that their entry should be subject to certain restrictions, limitations, and exceptions.  I therefore hereby proclaim the following:

Section 1.  Suspension and Limitation on Entry.  The entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.

Sec2.  Scope of Suspension and Limitation on Entry.  (a)  The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall apply only to aliens who:

(i)    are outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;

(ii)   do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and

(iii)  do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

(b)  The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:

(i)     any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

(ii)    any alien seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees;  and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such alien who are accompanying or following to join the alien;

(iii)   any alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;

(iv)    any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen;

(v)     any alien who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;

(vi)    any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;

(vii)   any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;

(viii)  any alien seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or

(ix)    any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

Sec3.  Implementation and Enforcement.  (a)  The consular officer shall determine, in his or her discretion, whether an immigrant has established his or her eligibility for an exception in section 2(b) of this proclamation.  The Secretary of State shall implement this proclamation as it applies to visas pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may establish in the Secretary of State’s discretion.  The Secretary of Homeland Security shall implement this proclamation as it applies to the entry of aliens pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may establish in the Secretary of Homeland Security’s discretion.

(b)  An alien who circumvents the application of this proclamation through fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or illegal entry shall be a priority for removal by the Department of Homeland Security.

(c)  Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to limit the ability of an individual to seek asylum, refugee status, withholding of removal, or protection under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, consistent with the laws of the United States.

Sec4.  Termination.  This proclamation shall expire 60 days from its effective date and may be continued as necessary.  Whenever appropriate, but no later than 50 days from the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend whether I should continue or modify this proclamation.

Sec5.  Effective Date.  This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.

Sec6.  Additional Measures.  Within 30 days of the effective date of this proclamation, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall review nonimmigrant programs and shall recommend to me other measures appropriate to stimulate the United States economy and ensure the prioritization, hiring, and employment of United States workers.

Sec7.  Severability.  It is the policy of the United States to enforce this proclamation to the maximum extent possible to advance the interests of the United States.  Accordingly:

(a)  if any provision of this proclamation, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this proclamation and the application of its provisions to any other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby; and

(b)  if any provision of this proclamation, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid because of the lack of certain procedural requirements, the relevant executive branch officials shall implement those procedural requirements to conform with existing law and with any applicable court orders.

Sec8.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or,

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This proclamation shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This proclamation is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twenty-second day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

 

Clearly, there are many who might see their cases negatively impacted by this order. To preface any further analysis, it should be noted that visa processing has been suspended at the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand as well as the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos and the US Embassy in Phnom Phen, Cambodia due to the COVID-19 outbreak. So regardless of this order, it is not currently possible to obtain a visa from these posts as interviews have been suspended. Bearing the above in mind, the following analysis will demonstrate that this order will NOT have an impact on fiance visa and marriage visa cases for the fiances and/or spouses of American citizens:

The executive order states: “The entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.” The K-1 visa is designed for the fiance of an American citizen to to travel to the United States with the intention of marriage. It grants the bearer 90 days of lawful status in the USA in which to marry their American fiance and file for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence (aka Green Card status). It is important to note: the K-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa, albeit a dual intent visa. For purposes of processing it is treated as an immigrant visa (for example K-1 cases process through the Immigrant Visa Unit of the American Embassy in Thailand), but pursuant to United States law it is in fact a non-immigrant visa. The above cited executive order only pertains to immigrant visas. Therefore, this order does not have any bearing upon the processing of a K-1 fiance visa case.

What about cases involving the spouse of an American citizen where the spouse would enter the USA and be granted an I-551 stamp thereby granting permanent residence to the foreign spouse upon entry? The above executive order speaks directly to such a situation: “The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:…(iv) any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen“[Emphasis Added]. Clearly the suspension ordered in Trump’s executive order will exempt spouses of Americans. Therefore, those foreign spouses of American citizens seeking a K-3 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa will not be adversely impacted by the provisions of this executive order.

Finally, the following should be noted: “This proclamation shall expire 60 days from its effective date…This proclamation is effective at 11:59 p.m. eastern daylight time on April 23, 2020.” Thus, unless this order is extended it will expire 60 days from now. We will keep readers updated on this blog as the situation progresses.

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1st January 2020

By any estimate, 2019 was not a great year for those dealing with either the American or Thai Immigration systems. In 2019, those seeking to live in Thailand under an O retirement or marriage visa saw many of the rules regarding that visa category changed. For example, it is now no longer possible for many expats in Thailand to use income affidavits issued from the Embassies or Consulates of their home country in order to prove their financial ability to remain in the Kingdom. Concurrently, the regulations regarding the income or bank balance requirements associated with the marriage and retirement visas are now more strictly enforced and may require a more prolonged maintenance of a bank balance compared with times past. Meanwhile, with respect to Thai retirement visas specifically, the rules regarding retirement visa issuance and extension underwent another adjustment with the introduction of the rule that retirement visa holders in Thailand must obtain health insurance coverage in order to cover medical expenses while maintaining their retiree status in Thailand. Although there were no specific changes with regard to the rules pertaining to Thai business visas, 2019 saw a level of scrutiny with respect to adjudication which is rather unprecedented.

Meanwhile, in the USA the Immigration apparatus has seen a great deal of administrative transformation. Some Immigration practitioners in the USA are calling this the “Invisible Wall” in reference to the current President’s promise to build a wall to deter illegal immigration. With respect to US visas from Thailand specifically, it should be noted that 2019 saw the closing of the USCIS office in Bangkok. Moving forward through 2020 and beyond it appears that those who could once file for Immigration benefits through that office, including applications for IR-1 and CR-1 visas from Thailand, must now file their cases through the relevant USCIS office in the USA. Furthermore, it appears that the number of requests for evidence in cases involving American family based cases is on the rise while it remains to be seen exactly what the National Vetting Center is doing as cases processing through the National Visa Center seem to be processed in increasingly slowly. In cases involving K-1 visas from Thailand the overall process has seen little fundamental change, but the as with other American immigration petitions there seems to be a rise in the number of RFEs issued especially in the wake of changes to the relevant forms associated with such matters.

What can be expected moving forward? With respect to Thai Immigration it seems unlikely that fundamental changes to the retirement visa category (such as the medical insurance requirement) are in the offing. In fact, it seems that the current regulatory framework has been set in place as a rather permanently. However, there is speculation that insurance requirements may be imposed for other categories such as marriage visas and perhaps even business visas, but this remains pure speculation. Further, in light of recent down turns in certain parts of the Thai tourism sector and the increasing strength of the baht it seems Immigration officials are signaling a more moderating tone in order to forestall damage to the tourism sector. With regard to American immigration it seems logical to surmise that the trends of 2019 will continue into 2020 with everyone focusing upon the forthcoming election in November as a possible indicator of where immigration policy will be heading in the forthcoming decade.

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20th June 2019

In the past 18 months it appears that there has been a major shift in the institutional paradigm of both the American and Thai immigration systems. For example, notwithstanding the fact that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has recently announced that more petition categories will be processed digitally moving forward, it appears that the increasingly complex nature of immigration forms and procedures is actually slowing down the overall US visa process. This news comes closely on the heels of the announcement that all International USCIS offices will be closed. In recent announcements, March 2020 is the deadline at which all international operations of USCIS shall cease. For readers in Thailand it should be noted that this announcement will also impact the USCIS Bangkok Field Office, although the exact date of closure remains to be seen. In anticipation of the upcoming office closures USCIS recently made the following announcement (quoting directly from the official USCIS website):

Beginning July 1, USCIS will no longer accept Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status at international field offices by mail or in person.

Seemingly in anticipation of questions raised by relevant parties living abroad, the announcement went on to note:

In very rare circumstances, a U.S. embassy, U.S. consulate, or USCIS international field office may accept a Form I-407 in person if an individual needs immediate proof that they have abandoned LPR status.

It is worth noting that the announcement makes special mention that I-407 surrenders at Embassies and Consulates will only be accepted under “rare” circumstances, it seems logical to presume that as a practical matter it will not be possible to file an I-407 form abroad after July 1, 2019. As can be seen from the information above, undertaking matters which pertain to American immigration is becoming increasingly arduous. It does not appear that the US immigration process is going to become less difficult to navigate any time in the near future.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, authorities are rolling out changes to rules regarding certain long-stay visa categories. Most notably, Ministry of Public Health officials have announced that an insurance regime will be brought into effect which will require foreign retirees in Thailand to obtain insurance as part of the application process for a Thai retirement visa. There is still some confusion regarding whether these new insurance regulations will pertain only to those who file a retirement visa application abroad or whether these new regulations will also apply to those seeking an extension of stay in retiree status in the Kingdom. Presently, all commentary on that topic is speculation as the new regulations have yet to be fully finalized.

Meanwhile, those seeking Thai visas from Laos have seen the Thai Embassy in Vientiane begin processing visa application appointments online. This has resulted in the number of applications processed diminishing as the appointment system effectively “caps” the number of applications which can be lodged in a given day. The upshot of this is that the Thai Consulate in Savannakhet has seen an increase in their case load. Laos is a popular destination for those in Thailand wishing to undertake a “visa run” or “border run” in order to prolong their lawful status in the Kingdom. The fact that the number of applications processed in Vientiane has diminished has resulted in the number of applications processed in Savannakhet rise.

After being granted lawful status in Thailand, the authorities appear increasingly concerned that foreign nationals are reporting their whereabouts in Thailand. A harder line regarding filing of the TM30 notice of residence has resulted in the number of fines being levied for failure to file being increased. Meanwhile, the added complexity of TM30 compliance has added a new layer of difficulty to the overall immigration process. In short, immigration matters in both Thailand and the United States are arguably becoming more byzantine. For this reason, it may be prudent for those wishing to navigate the immigration system to retain the services of a legal professional in order to achieve success in obtaining and maintaining lawful status in either jurisdiction.

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29th January 2017

For those who have been following the news in recent days it is not new information that President Donald Trump has signed new executive orders with respect to US immigration and travelers from various countries. Effectively, these orders ban certain foreign nationals from obtaining a visa to the USA or entering the USA for at least 90-120 days. Although at present it appears that these orders will only directly impact nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen there are certain aspects of the order which may impact the US immigration process in a broad sense. For example so-called “extreme vetting” protocols which these orders call for may conceivably be implemented by State Department personnel worldwide in connection with the US visa process. Furthermore, it now appears that those who already hold green cards, but are outside of the USA may be turned away by United States Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) or be required to undergo further screening which was not required for reentry to the USA in the past.

Many following this story may be asking themselves: by what authority is the President able to impose these recent restrictions? Pursuant to 8 U.S. Code § 1182:

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

It should further be noted that the same statute goes on to mention that the Attorney General has specific powers with regard to the aforementioned issue:

Whenever the Attorney General finds that a commercial airline has failed to comply with regulations of the Attorney General relating to requirements of airlines for the detection of fraudulent documents used by passengers traveling to the United States (including the training of personnel in such detection), the Attorney General may suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States by such airline.

Clearly, the President has statutory authority to impose restrictions like those recently created by Trump. The section regarding the power of the Attorney General in this regard is mentioned because in many cases individuals affected by these new rules will be denied the ability to board an airline bound for the USA as airlines and airline personnel do not wish to be the subject of fines and sanctions associated with transporting someone to the USA who has a strong chance of being refused entry.

As of the time of this writing, it remains to be fully seen exactly how these recent executive orders will play out. This is especially true in light of the fact that certain legal actions have resulted in court orders against implementation of these initiatives. Notwithstanding these developments it is very likely that many of the recently enacted restrictions will remain, at least for practical purposes, in place in the foreseeable future.

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17th January 2017

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that law enforcement authorities are set to shortly begin implementation of electronic monitoring of suspected criminals who have been released on bail. In a recent article in The Nation it was noted that the initiative has begun in an effort to create a more equitable system for accused defendants who seem to fall in a sort of middle category between those accused of minor offenses and those accused of more serious violations of the law. Those who are unable to make bail and looking at trial for offenses carrying less than a 5 year sentence are eligible to be released provided that such defendants are tracked using an ankle monitoring device similar to those used in the USA, UK, and other western countries.

Thailand has had issues with prison overcrowding in recent years and this initiative seems to be aimed at reducing prison populations while also providing a degree of leniency for those who cannot afford to pay bail. It should be noted that the use of these devices in limited release scenarios is entirely at the discretion of the judiciary. In most cases involving foreign nationals facing trial in Thailand it appears that bail may be the best option of ensuring release as it seems this particular initiative is intended to provide assistance to indigent Thais accused of relatively minor offenses. For more information on criminal law pertaining to foreign nationals in Thailand please see: Thailand Criminal Lawyer.

Meanwhile, in other news it appears the Thai passport has declined somewhat in the global ranking of passports based upon visa-free and visa-on-arrival numbers. Thailand fell behind some other countries as the Thai passport’s relative options for visa free travel to other countries decreased. However, Thailand’s passport remains one of the most flexible travel documents among the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries. It should be noted that as of the time of this writing Thailand is not on the list of countries that the United States of America allows to utilize the visa waiver program. As a result, all Thai nationals wishing to travel to the USA must obtain a US visa before traveling. For some, this requirement can be rather cumbersome especially in light of the more stringent application of section 214(b) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. This section in conjunction with doctrines such as the doctrine of Consular Absolutism makes getting into the USA on a non-immigrant visa very difficult for some Thai passport holders.

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27th December 2016

In an interesting recent turn of events, it appears that a court in the USA has recognized a Thai judgment pertaining to child support obligations of a man who apparently fathered triplets in the Kingdom of Thailand. To provide further insight it is necessary to quote directly from the website of the Chicago Law Bulletin:

A man who fathered triplets through assisted conception methods in Thailand must financially support them from the U.S. after a Cook County judge properly recognized the foreign court’s parentage judgment, a state appeals panel ruled…The father — identified as [NAME REDACTED]. in the panel’s unpublished order — argued the absence of a legal marriage between him and the children’s mother — identified as [NAME REDACTED]. — makes him nothing more than a sperm donor who is entitled to protection from such judgments through the state’s Parentage Act. But the 1st District Appellate Court affirmed Cook County Circuit Judge Jeanne R. Cleveland Bernstein’s order to enroll the foreign judgment, finding it is not contrary to Illinois public policy and he had a full opportunity to defend his case in Thailand.

Readers of this blog are strongly encouraged to click on the link above to read the article in full as this is something of an anomaly in Thai-American legal discourse. As Thailand and the USA are not bound legally by more than the US-Thai Treaty of Amity there is not a framework for any sort of automatic reciprocal recognition of court judgments in either country. Therefore, a judgment made in one country with respect to parentage, custody, or support of a child (or virtually any matter) will not necessarily be deemed enforceable by courts in the other country. What makes this case notable (and there are many aspects of this case which are very interesting hence the reason the reader is encouraged to read the full article) is due to the fact that the trial court in the USA found the Thai judgment to be reasonable and therefore recognized said judgment by determining it had comity and thereafter enrolling the terms of the judgment as a judgment of the Illinois Court. Moreover, the appellate court seems to have agreed with the determination of the trial court and found that the extension of comity and the enrolling of the foreign judgment as a judgment of the Illinois Courts was proper and upheld the lower court’s decision.

It was noteworthy that the court cited the fact that the American in question had an opportunity to defend his case in the Thai system and that such opportunity (along with other factors) resulted in the court finding that the foreign judgment was not contrary to State policy.

Even within the USA, interstate family law matters can be complex, but in an international context such matters can be vexing to a degree that borders upon indiscernible. Therefore, the aforementioned case should be analyzed especially in our increasingly interconnected world as this case may be a sign of things to come.

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4th June 2016

In recent weeks the Bangkok Post has reported on a great many changes that are currently being undertaken by officials in the Thai government. In fact, it appears that the judicial system in Thailand has been the subject of rather drastic reform in recent years. To quote directly from an article posted on the Bangkok Post official website on May 18th:

Up to 35 laws concerning judicial affairs have been amended over the past two years…Of the 35 laws amended in the past two years, 11 have come into effect, he said. They are the land transport act; the bankruptcy act, the act on prevention and suppression of terrorism financing; the the anti-money laundering act; the justice fund act; the ministerial, departmental, and divisional improvement act; the act on amendments of the Civil Procedure Code. Also on the list are the act on the procedure of suspect detentions under the 1963 and the 2016 versions of the Criminal Code…

The reforms noted above have only been implemented relatively recently so it may take some time before the effects of these measures can be readily ascertained. At the same time, measures have been put in place in an attempt to thwart transnational criminals in the form of protocol changes regarding the sharing of information regarding criminal matters arising in Thailand. It also appears that new measures have been promulgated in an effort to curb corruption. Apparently, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission is poised to begin more assiduous corruption suppression initiatives.

The judiciary is not the only sector seeing reform initiatives recently. The tax authorities appear to be taking measures to make the Thai tax system more equitable, especially for those employed by Thai companies operating outside of Thailand. To quote from an article from the aforementioned website from May 23rd:

The Finance Ministry is poised to adjust the personal income tax system for Thais working abroad and foreigners who work here to create fairness and attract foreign direct investment…According to the Revenue Code, employees working for companies incorporated in Thailand are subject to personal income tax regardless of where they work…The way Thailand charges personal income tax is based on where employers have been set up rather than the source of income as in other countries…Thailand’s taxation of personal income is not fair and needs to be adjusted…

It appears that the Permanent Secretary plans to propose an amendment to the Revenue code to address the currently perceived unfairness in the Revenue Code. How such a proposed amendment will ultimately fare remains to be seen, but should the amendment be adopted it would be beneficial for some employees of corporations incorporated in Thailand.

In light of these stories it is interesting that the Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand has noted Thailand’s readiness to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (also known as the TPP). For those unaware, the TPP is a trade agreement composed of 12 countries (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam). Other nations have expressed interest in joining the TPP in recent years. To quote the Bangkok Post article on this issue from June 1st:

Mr Somkid said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has confirmed the country’s readiness to join the TPP, and a committee chaired by Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn has been set up to prepare for the move…”Thailand cannot afford to be complacent. We can take lessons from other member countries. At this point, we are ready to join the TPP. It depends on when they will accept us…”

Clearly, officials in the Thai government seem enthusiastic about the prospect of joining the TPP. However, the article goes on to note that measures are being taken to assess the ramifications of Thailand becoming a TPP member. It was also noted that Thailand would monitor the effect the TPP has had on other countries prior to making firm commitments to join the TPP. It seems likely that analysis of the experiences of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore within the TPP framework will be utilized in order to better determine Thailand’s official petition to join the trade bloc and the timing thereof.

Thailand is clearly taking steps on many fronts to bring governance and regulations into line with global standards. When and how these efforts will bear fruit remains to be seen, but it is definitely an interesting time for students of Thai legal and regulatory matters.

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5th December 2015

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal a new bill proposed by the United States Congress was discussed:

Under a new law expected to take effect in January, the State Department will block Americans with “seriously delinquent” tax debt from receiving new passports and will be allowed to rescind existing passports of people who fall into that category. The list of affected taxpayers will be compiled by the Internal Revenue Service using a threshold of $50,000 of unpaid federal taxes, including penalties and interest, which would be adjusted for inflation.

Clearly this proposed legislation could have significant ramifications for Americans living abroad. Presently, Americans abroad could only see their passports rescinded or applications for renewals denied where said applicants have outstanding criminal warrants in the United States of America or are delinquent on their child support. The proposed legislation comes after the relatively recent  implementation of FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) which requires foreign banking institutions to report the financial activities of American citizens making financial transactions abroad. There have been some who disapprove of FATCA and there have been moves made in the US Federal Court to challenge the law’s constitutionality. However, at present the law remains part of the current American legal framework with respect to overseas bank accounts. As a possible consequence, in recent years there have been a growing number of individuals who have opted to renounce their United States Citizenship. It is clear that more and more people are opting to renounce their United States Citizenship. Each individual’s renunciation is likely based upon a different calculus, but it seems clear that recent changes to American tax policy have had a significant impact upon Americans living abroad.

The recent announcement that passports could be revoked as a consequence of tax delinquency seems likely to cause the number of Citizenship renunciations to increase. Although, it remains to be seen if this new policy will have a significant impact upon renunciations. Regardless of the fact that 50,000 USD seems like a substantial amount of money it will be interesting to see if the proposed legislation will allow for a form of COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) style system whereby the amount of money in tax delinquency which would trigger a passport renunciation would increase year by year in order to track inflation. It is unlikely that such a scheme would be implemented because Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR) requirements have not changed since the late 70′s. Therefore it stands to reason that the passport issuance requirements will stay frozen. Therefore, this legislation, although unlikely to have a significant impact upon Americans abroad anytime soon could have serious ramifications for Americans in 15-20 years time when 50,000 USD is not the representation of wealth that it is today.

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20th September 2015

In a recent article in the Bangkok Post it was reported that the current government in Thailand is taking measures to foster growth for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand. It would appear that the present government is eager to provide encouragement for small and medium sized businesses in Thailand. Furthermore it seems as though Thai officials are attempting to position the country as a location of choice for small business start-ups within the greater framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). However, of particular interest to this blogger was the mention of possible rule changes with regard to Thai corporate regulations pertaining to Thai Company registration and the shareholdings thereof. To quote the aforementioned article directly:

Mr Pongpun said the authorities were improving regulations on the incorporation of private companies to allow the incorporation of a juristic person registered by only one person.

At present, corporations (also referred to as juristic persons) in Thailand must have a minimum of three (3) shareholders in order to incorporate under Thai law. It should be noted that prior to an amendment to Thai corporate law at approximately the turn of the century it was required that all companies registered in Thailand have a minimum of 7 shareholders in order to incorporate pursuant to Thai law. Many at the time felt that the 7 shareholders requirement was too cumbersome and for that reason the statutorily required number of shareholders was reduced to 3. Since then, there have been those who have noted their belief that allowing Thai corporate structures with only one shareholder would bring Thai corporate law more in line with similar bodies of law globally. For example, in many American jurisdictions Limited Liability Companies or LLCs are only required to have one member/shareholder, while similar Limited Company (Ltd.) structures are allowed in Britain and the Commonwealth nations and many European jurisdictions allow for similar corporate structures as well.

It remains to be seen whether Thai corporate law will be amended to allow for single shareholder corporations in Thailand. It is a good sign that such structures are being considered by Thai officials especially since such structures would be especially beneficial to small business owners in Thailand. Of special note to American readers, pursuant to the provisions of the US-Thai Treaty of Amity it is possible for American Citizens to own 100% of an Amity company registered in Thailand. Should the aforementioned changes take place it could result in Americans being able to own their small business singularly without any Thai shareholders.

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