Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Thailand Marriage Registration’

10th April 2016

In previous postings on this blog the recent policies of the Royal Thai Immigration Police regarding visa overstayers in Thailand have been noted. In follow up to those articles, it should be noted that Thai immigration officials have recorded a sharp decline in the number of people physically present in Thailand beyond the expiration date of their visa. In a recent Bangkok Post article, the drop in overstay was noted:

The more than 39% decline, from 810,522 in October last year to 486,947 in March, shows “our new measure is effective”, Immigration Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said on Friday.

While immigration officers chalk up a victory in the campaign to thwart overstaying foreigners it appears that a new issue has come to the forefront. In another article in a more recent edition of the Bangkok Post suspicious trends in Thai Marriage registration numbers were reported:

Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said several foreign nationals are believed to have resorted to sham marriages as a loophole to stay in the country…The [Royal Thai Immigration Police] received a tip-off from the Public Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) that at least 150 Thai women in one district of a northeastern province had married foreigners in the past few months.

Clearly, the recent spike in marriages and the recent change in immigration overstay policy cannot be assumed to be coincidental. However, the upshot of these developments is the very strong probability that all upcoming Thai marriage visa applications (otherwise referred to as O visa applications) will be more heavily scrutinized when compared to similar applications lodged in the past. This blogger can personally attest to the fact that since policy changes at Thai immigration in late 2015 the process of obtaining or renewing a Thai business visa has been a more intensive endeavor as Immigration officials scrutinize all business visa applications and supporting documentation extremely thoroughly. Therefore, this recent news regarding marriage scrutiny could easily lead one to infer that future marriage visa extension applications and renewal applications could require more documentation and the backlog for issuing such documents could become exacerbated as a result of the increased scrutiny and documentation requirements.

As a general rule, this blogger has advised those interested in remaining in Thailand to understand that the process of obtaining a long term Thai visa and/or a Thai work permit is becoming increasingly complex. As a result of this increased complexity, the notion that the Thai immigration process is something that is quick and easy is simply a fallacy. Thai immigration matters are arguably as complicated and time consuming as immigration issues arising in countries such as the USA or the UK. Those undertaking Thai immigration matters for the first time are strongly encouraged to retain the assistance of a competent professional.

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20th July 2010

A Thai prenuptial agreement (also referred to as a Thai prenup) can provide a great deal of protection for individuals should a marital union be dissolved. A premarital agreement can also be very beneficial because it can provide certainty and transparency for the parties to a marriage. That said, a prenuptial agreement (Thai or otherwise) should be drafted in such a way that it provides protection for one’s property or real estate holdings as well as corporate assets and financial instruments. In Thailand, ensuring that a prenuptial agreement comports with all applicable formalities can be difficult which is why it is always prudent to consult with a Thai lawyer regarding such matters. For those foreign nationals with assets outside of the Kingdom of Thailand it may also be wise to consult with an attorney in the jurisdiction where one resides or maintains property in order to take all reasonable measures to ensure the integrity of one’s estate.

In Thailand, a prenuptial agreement must be registered at the time of the marriage in order for it to be enforceable by Thai courts. In a way, it may be better to think of prenuptial agreements as simply “nuptial  agreements” as the agreement does not exist until the simultaneous registration of that document and the marriage. Many Americans in Thailand opt to register a prenuptial agreement prior to the marriage that will act as a basis for a US Marriage Visa.

Corporate Assets

For those with corporate assets in the form of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or options it is always prudent to seek information regarding a prenuptial agreement as such an agreement could protect one’s corporate assets in the event of a marital dissolution. In Thailand, those who have an ownership interest in a Thai company are wise to research prenuptial agreements prior to marriage in order try to maintain one’s holding in the event of a divorce.

Thai Property

Although foreign nationals cannot own land in Thailand, there are other property interests that one may have pursuant to Thai law, these include, but are not limited to: Thai Condo ownership, Thai usufructs, Thai 30 year leases, etc. Those with Thai real estate should consider a Thai prenup prior to marriage registration.

Marriage is a major event in one’s life. It can also have a significant impact upon the legal posture of one’s assets and interests. Therefore, those with an eye towards marriage should consult with a family lawyer within one’s local jurisdiction prior to marriage registration in order to help ensure that one’s assets are properly protected.

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14th March 2010

An often asked question among foreign nationals in Thailand is: Can we get married in Thailand? More often, the question is posed with some variation. For example: Can two Americans get married in Thailand? Or, can two Canadians get married in Thailand? Finally, a common question: my fiancee is British (or any other nationality) and I’m an American, can we get married in Thailand? All of these questions can be answered relatively quickly: Yes, provided all parties meet the legal requirements.

Thailand marriage registration can be very quick when compared to certain common law jurisdictions. In many States in the USA, there is a statutorily prescribed waiting period between marriage license obtainment and marriage solemnization. In Thailand, there is no such delay. In many ways, the Thai civil administration system is much more streamlined when compared to the common law system, particularly that of the United States. In the US, the separation of powers and federalism create a system in which different sovereigns have different methods of registering a marriage. In Thailand, the system is uniform and marriage records are kept at the local Amphur Office (or Civil Registrar’s Office). The Amphur keeps copies of Marriage Registration information as well as household registration information known as a Tabien Baan.

Obtaining a household registration for a foreigner (known as a Foreign Tabien Baan or a Yellow Tabien Baan) can be difficult, but marriage registration for foreign nationals really depends upon the country of nationality. Thai officials require that foreigners prove their marital status by obtaining documentation from their Embassy or Consulate that is accredited to Thailand. For those from common law jurisdictions it can be relatively easy to obtain such documentation, but other civil law jurisdictions can cause difficulties. It may be best for those interested in registering a marriage in Thailand to check with their Embassy or Consulate to ascertain how long it would take to obtain certain necessary documentation (Most notably, an affidavit of an ability to marry).

Although it is not something that some people wish to discuss at the time of marriage, the issue of divorce in Thailand is important. Thai Courts may or may not take jurisdiction over a divorce involving two foreign individuals married in Thailand and therefore jurisdiction for a later divorce proceeding may depend upon other factors. Finally, in any conversation about marriage registration it should be noted that a Thai Prenuptial Agreement will only be enforceable if it is registered at the same time as the marriage.

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3rd December 2009

Prenuptial Agreements are important instruments both for asset protection and for litigation avoidance. For those who wish to execute a prenuptial agreement in Thailand, the advice of a competent licensed attorney is highly recommended.

Many who are in the process of getting married do not wish to discuss the prospect of a possible marital dissolution. This attitude is similar to those who do not wish to discuss estate planning or Wills because they do not wish to think of their own death. Although an understandable feeling, often dealing with such issues in an open and reasonable manner can put all parties at ease. With regard to prenuptial agreements, there are some formalities which must be dealt with after the marriage has been registered.

For those with a retirement or pension plan, the effects of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) can have a major impact upon the Thai Prenuptial Agreement process. As mentioned previously on this blog, and elsewhere, prenuptial agreements need to be properly drafted by a competent attorney. Also, the Thai fiancee signing the agreement should be provided with independent counsel in order to ask questions about the agreement and have all rights, obligations, waivers, and entitlements explained in layman’s terms. Further, if the Thai fiancee is not a native English speaker, then it may be advisable to have a Thai interpreter assist in advising her as to her rights.

That being said, ERISA requires that a further waiver be signed after the marriage is registered or executed. This is due to the fact that only a spouse is entitled to waive rights delegated under ERISA. As ERISA is Federal law it trumps state law pursuant to, among other things, the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. Those with a pension or retirement plan covered under ERISA, should seek experienced legal counsel to explain how their interests can be protected in a prenuptial agreement. Fortunately, their are ERISA waivers which allow the parties to make individualized provisions as to the distribution of pension funds in the event of marital dissolution. That being said, attorney consultation is highly recommended as ERISA can be a very complicated area of law.

As with any premarital agreement, a Thai prenuptial agreement should be signed prior to the marriage. However, Thai prenuptial agreements are registered at the same time as the Thai marriage registration. Therefore, it may be possible to execute an ERISA waiver soon after marriage registration in Thailand.

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27th November 2009

In the United States of America it is often necessary to obtain a marriage license before getting married. For those living in Thailand marriage can be a major issue and a commonly asked question is: do I need a marriage license before my Thai fiancee and I can execute a legal marriage in the Kingdom. Strictly speaking, a marriage license is not necessary, but there are certain formalities that must be met before a couple can be legally wed in Thailand.

In cases where a Thai wishes to marry a Thai, the process is relatively simple because the couple must simply go to their local Amphur office (also known as an Amphoe office or Civil Registrar’s office). Once the couple arrives at the Amphur they must present their Thai Identification cards and a marriage can be registered relatively quickly.

In cases where a Thai Citizen wishes to marry a foreigner (also known as a Farang in the Thai language), the requirements are somewhat more stringent. This is due to the fact that the foreign national must prove up his or her single status. This is usually done by traveling to the foreign national’s Embassy or Consulate. Generally, an Embassy or Consulate can provide documentation that proves the applicant is legally free to marry. For American Citizens, such documentation can be obtained at the American Citizen Services section of the United States Embassy in Bangkok or the US Consulate in Chiang Mai. Once this documentation is obtained it must be translated and legalized before the Amphur will accept it for marriage registration purposes.

Occasionally, two foreign nationals seek to register a Thai marriage. In cases such as this the couple must obtain the previously mentioned documentation proving single status. In a case where both parties are of different nationality, then different procedures may be required as two separate Embassies must be contacted. The requirements for obtaining documentation for a marriage in Thailand are not uniform. Each Embassy has its own protocols regarding what type of documentation it will issue and what supporting documentation must be submitted before the Embassy will certify an applicant as legally free to marry. With that in mind, those interested in registering a Thai marriage should learn what their Embassy requires to issue a single status affidavit.

To sum up, although Thai officials do not require a marriage license before a marriage will be registered, they do require that the parties prove that they are both free to marry. Proving this can be difficult for some foreign nationals as each Embassy has their own rules for issuing affidavits of single status.

On a related note, those wishing to execute a Thai prenup should register it and the marriage simultaneously. Otherwise, the Thai courts may later refuse to recognize the agreement in the event of divorce.

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22nd November 2009

In many ways, the laws of the Kingdom of Thailand and those of the United States of America are very similar, but in some ways these two systems are extremely different. For example, the Kingdom of Thailand has a Civil Registrar’s office also known as an Amphur office, or Amphoe Office, in Thai. These offices act as repositories of vital statistics of those living  in the Kingdom. They are important because one must register many official documents with this office in order to be provided certain legal protections. A common example of the duties associated with the Amphur office are those associated with a Thai marriage registration. An Amphur can register a Thai marriage in a very short period of time compared to jurisdictions in the United States of America. In some cases, this could also be said about Thai divorces. If a couple has decided to simply divorce by consent, then it is relatively simple to register the divorce in Thailand. However, if the divorce is contested, then there may be problems executing a marital dissolution quickly. In a slightly different situation, if one of the parties to the marriage cannot be found, then it may be difficult to register a divorce because the Amphur office requires that both parties be present when the divorce is registered.

Assuming one must use the courts to dissolve the marriage, the Thai legal system treats divorce similar to the “fault” based system employed by some jurisdictions in the United States. A “fault” divorce system compels the parties to show cause as to why the marriage should be dissolved. The unfortunate consequence of this system is the fact that “fault” divorces take a substantially longer period of time to complete compared to the “no fault” system. The reason for the delay is due, in part, to the large case load of most Thai courts. However, once the Thai court has entered a judgment of marital dissolution, the case is not over. Instead, the divorce judgment must still be registered at the Amphur office.

Registration of Thai divorces at a local Amphur office is somewhat akin to having the Clerk of a “common law” Court record the divorce judgment. This puts the jurisdiction on notice that the dissolution has occurred. The major difference is the fact that a clerk is generally in the same courthouse as the Judge who executed the marital dissolution. In Thailand, one must proceed to a wholly different office, the Amphur, in order to finalize the divorce by having the Amphur officer record the dissolution.

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28th October 2009

In Thailand, the method of executing a valid marriage is very different from the United States or other common law jurisdictions. A marriage registration is usually conducted at a local Amphur office (Amphoe office). In cases involving a Thai national marrying another Thai national, the process is very straightforward as the couple need only produce their identity documentation and house registration. However, in cases involving a foreigner and a Thai national, the foreigner must produce a great deal of documentation to prove that he or she is unmarried as well as legally free to marry. Depending upon the person’s home country, some or all of this documentation can be obtained either at the Embassy in Thailand or at offices in the person’s home country.

Two foreigners can also execute a lawful marriage in Thailand, but the registration of the marriage could take more time and require the filing of more documentation as neither of the prospective registrants are Thai citizens. Often, this situation has an easy solution as both parties deal with their home government which provides documentation proving that the prospective registrant is unwed and free to marry. In the case of Myanmar (Burma) this is not necessarily true.

Under the laws of the Union of Myanmar heavy restrictions are placed upon Burmese women who opt to marry non-Burmese people. One aspect of these restrictions that manifests itself often in US Immigration matters is the reluctance or refusal of the Burmese government to issue passports to female Burmese nationals seeking to marry a US Citizen either after issuance of a K1 visa or before issuance of a K3 visa or CR1 visa. The Burmese government’s intransience in these matters often results in difficult Immigration cases as the American government often requires a valid passport before a visa will be issued to a non-US citizen.

In Thai marriage registration cases, a similar problem arises as the Burmese (Myanmar) government, through the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, this post often refuses to issue affidavits showing the Burmese national as single and free to marry. Amphurs in Thailand require this document before they will execute a marriage between a Thai or a foreigner and a Burmese national. Therefore, failure to obtain this document results in an inability to marry in the Kingdom. Further, the execution of a marriage in Burma (Myanmar) is likely more difficult due to the statutory restrictions imposed upon Burmese women seeking to marry foreign men.

In situations such as this, it may be necessary to plan ahead and obtain passports and other documentation long before it may ever be necessary. Contacting a Bangkok lawyer or US Immigration lawyer may be beneficial as either of these professionals could advise about solutions to such problems.

One should note that Thai prenuptial agreements can be drafted for a marriage in Thailand, but the agreement must be registered simultaneously with the marriage in order for the agreement to be valid in the Kingdom.

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12th October 2009

For those researching the United States visa process a document called Notice of Action 2 is mentioned many times in relation to spouse and fiance visa applications. This post is a brief description of what Notice of Action 2 is and what it means for a pending application.

When a United States visa application is submitted the first piece of correspondence that arrives from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service  (USCIS) Center is a receipt called Notice of Action 1 (NOA 1). This puts the petitioning party on notice that the application has been received by the USCIS Service Center. There are certain situations where the adjudicating officer decides that more information or evidence needs to be provided before the application can be properly adjudicated. In cases such as this, a Request for Evidence (also known as an RFE) will be issued and sent to the petitioner. However, in most cases, further evidence is not necessary and if the application is approved then Notice of Action 2 is sent to the petitioner. If the application is denied, then a notice will be sent to the petitioner as well.

Although not extremely common in cases involving visas for the family members of United States Citizens, USCIS denials can occur. Denials are usually the result of a petition that did not go far enough in showing that a bona fide relationship between Petitioner and Beneficiary existed at the time of the filing. Another common reason for denial is that the petitioner applied for the wrong type of visa. A common misconception in Thailand involves customary marriages and their effect upon a couple’s United States Immigration options. In Thailand, if a Thai marriage is not registered at the Civil Registrar’s office (Amphur), then the marriage is not legally binding and not recognized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service as a basis for receiving US Immigration benefits. Therefore, if a couple who has only been married unofficially submits a petition for an IR1 visa, CR1 visa, or K3 visa then they will be denied because they do not meet the statutory requirements for visa issuance. However, the couple in this situation may be eligible for a K1 visa.

After USCIS issues Notice of Action 2, the petition will be sent to the National Visa Center. In cases involving Immigrant visas, the NVC holds the petition for a fairly long period of time. However, in cases where a K1 visa is being sought, the NVC does not hold the application for a long time. They will usually conduct a Security clearance and forward the file to the US Embassy, in cases involving Thai fiancees they will forward the application to the US Embassy in Bangkok. The United States Consulate General in Chiang Mai does not generally handle US Immigrant visa cases.

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12th August 2009

Many people get married in Thailand each year. As a result, one of the most common questions received from clients and potential clients involves foreign recognition of a Thai marriage.  Thailand is not a common law system and therefore, the idea of common law marriage is not a concept upheld by courts in the Kingdom of Thailand. That being said, even though Thailand is a civil law system “customary or religious” marriages are still quite commonplace. This is probably due to the fact that marriage registration can be somewhat difficult, particularly for those who have never dealt with the Thai legal system and bureaucracy in the past.

In Thailand, marriages are registered at the local Amphur office. This office is kind of a combination of continual census taker and what in the American system is called a “court clerk.” The Amphur keeps records of the vital statistics of those living within that office’s jurisdiction. Therefore, the Amphur will record name changes, marriages, births, and deaths in Thailand. It is possible for two non-Thais to marry in Thailand. That being said, each office has their own internal protocol. Therefore, it may be wise to contact an attorney in order to assist with the Thai marriage registration process.

Once a Thai marriage is registered the question is: will the United States of America recognize the union. Put simply, yes. According to the website of the US Embassy Thailand, in cases involving marriages legalized in the Kingdom, “the United States does recognize the validity of such a marriage.” This is a critical question particularly in the context of USA visas. If a couple’s marriage is not recognized by the United States, then a visa application for a CR1 visa or a K3 marriage visa would likely be rejected because the couple does not meet the marriage requirement for visa issuance. Also, a couple who wishes to apply for a k1 fiance visa may create a situation where the application gets rejected because the couple got married in Thailand thinking it would not be recognized in the USA.  In that scenario, USCIS would be compelled to reject the application because the requirement is “intent to marry,” and not actual marriage.

One interesting side note regarding Thai marriage registration deals with prenuptial agreements. In Thailand, the prenuptial agreement is actually registered with the marriage and in a way is incorporated into the marital agreement at the time of registration at the Amphur. For more on this issue please see Thai prenuptial agreement

To sum up, marriages properly executed in Thailand will be viewed as valid in the United States and for purposes of obtaining a US visa or other Immigration benefits. Therefore, marriage in Thailand is not something that should be taken lightly. When thinking of entering into a marriage in Thailand keep in mind that the marriage will be treated just the same as if it had been conducted in the United States.

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11th August 2009

Thailand is a very large and somewhat polyglot Kingdom. There are many different dialects of Thai as well as many religious and cultural traditions present throughout the Kingdom. Keeping track of the comings and goings of the Thai citizenry can be a difficult task, luckily there are Thai Immigration authorities deal with these concerns. However, a more important concern, particularly for the common Thai person, is keeping track of the vital statistics records for those resident in the Kingdom of Thailand.

A Thai Amphur office (spelled Amphoe or Ampoe) is best described as a civil registry office. The office is tasked with keeping a record of Thai marriage, Thai divorces, births in Thailand, deaths in Thailand, recordation of Thai prenuptial agreements, and in limited circumstances recordation of Thai wills. In a way, the Amphur office is something of a “Jack of all trades,” office. Another accurate name for this office is a “civil registry.”

Even though the Amphur’s legal mandate does not involve registration of Title deeds for Thai property or Real Estate, a really major part of the Amphur’s role in the Thai bureaucracy involves Thai household registration. A Thai household registration booklet, also known in the Thai language as a Tabien Baan (or Tambien Baan), records the place of a household and the head of the household. It further records how many people live in that household and their names and ages.

The Amphur office maintains the database of this information and is the office that must be used in order to change information listed on the Tabien Baan or when adding a new member to the Thai household registry. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for foreign nationals to obtain a tabien baan or be registered on an already existing tabien baan. That being said, the only type of Tabien Baan that a foreigner may be listed on is a yellow tabien baan which is different from the blue tabien baan. A blue tabien baan is reserved for Thai citizens and foreigners with Thai permanent residence. It should be noted that the ease of getting on a yellow tabien baan will likely depend upon the office with jurisdiction over the household because local office procedures can differ and this could result in relative difficulty for the prospective registrant.

Foreigners can get married at a local Amphur office regardless of citizenship. However, the procedure for getting two foreign nationals married depends upon each person’s nationality. A person’s nationality and their Embassy’s protocols can affect the marriage process. It is wise to do research or contact an attorney before beginning the marriage registration process.

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