Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Thailand Marriage’

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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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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10th November 2009

A common question asked by many foreign men in Thailand: does the law require that I pay a sinsot (also known as a sinsod, sin sot, sin sod, or in Thai: สินสอด) prior to marriage? The short answer to this question: No. However, an explanation of the cultural importance of the Sinsot may be beneficial in understanding both Thai marriage custom and the cultural underpinnings of marriage in the Kingdom of Thailand.

A Sinsot can best be described as a dowry given by a Thai (or foreign) man to a Thai lady prior to marriage. Generally, the groom-to-be will negotiate with his future father-in-law, or some surrogate if the Thai fiancee’s father is unavailable, regarding the amount of the dowry. In many Thai weddings, the Sinsot is put on display at the wedding ceremony, often the Sinsot will include jewelery or other items of value. In some cases, the parents keep the Sinsot. While in other families it is given to the daughter as a kind of insurance in the event a marital dissolution should occur. In still other situations, the Sinsot is returned to the groom after the wedding ceremony is at an end. Finally, it should be noted that some Thai families do not uphold the Sinsot tradition.

Some have argued that the Sinsot tradition is not deeply embedded in Thai culture, but is simply an effort by Thai in-laws to get money out of a foreign husband. This author cannot speak to that assertion, but the fact remains that in some cases Thai fiances will transfer a Sinot to a Thai fiancee’s family.

Under Thai law, there is no legal requirement that a Sinsot be transferred before a marriage can be registered. A couple can register a marriage at a local Amphur office (Civil Registry) by simply showing up and providing the proper documentation.

However, the practice of remitting a Sinsot seems to be a major aspect of the Thai customary wedding ceremony. Thai people will often have a marriage ceremony without getting the marriage registered. As Thailand does not specifically recognize anything akin to a common law marriage, it is possible that a foreign fiance could pay a Sinsot without legally marrying the Thai fiancee. In many cases involving American fiances marrying Thais, a customary wedding ceremony is often performed without registering the marriage. This allows the couple to remain legally single and therefore eligible to apply for a K1 visa, which is a fiance visa used to travel to the USA for the purpose of executing a legally binding marriage.

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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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30th September 2009

Divorce in Thailand

Posted by : admin

Few people wish to discuss what will happen should a marriage breakdown, but unfortunately divorce is an issue that many people confront at least once in their lifetime. With this in mind, those living in Thailand researching the issue may be surprised to learn that divorce in Thailand can be quite different when compared against divorce procedures in common law countries.

One of the major differences between divorce procedure in Thailand and divorce procedure in the United States of America is the presence of an Amphur office. The Amphur office is the civil registrar for vital information pertaining to the citizens and permanent residents of Thailand as well as foreign visitors in the Kingdom. Amphur officers are empowered with the authority to execute legally binding marriages, change names, record, births, record divorces, as well as other functions. In Thailand marriage registration usually involves a trip to the Amphur’s office to have the marriage legalized. In many divorce cases in Thailand, the converse is true for the dissolution of a marriage. Provided that there are no major disagreements between the parties, a sort of “no contest” divorce can be easily granted at the local Amphur office. However,  should the parties have any type of disagreement, then a protracted divorce proceeding must occur in the Thai court system.

An immediate issue surrounding the issuance of an Amphur divorce is: will the United States recognize the divorce as binding? Quite simply: Yes. A divorce registered at an Amphur office is considered legally binding for US purposes. This is particularly important in K1 visa cases, as a common question from prospective US Citizen petitioners is: “what do they mean my Thai fiancee must be legally free to marry?” This means that they need to be single, divorced,  or their prior spouse must be deceased. The United States government considers a Thai Divorce, granted in Thailand, valid.

Another issue ancillary to Thai divorce is that of a prenuptial agreement. Under Thai law, a prenuptial agreement must be recorded contemporaneously along with the recording of the Thai marriage. Once properly recorded, the prenuptial agreement will be the touchstone for dividing marital assets in Thailand.

In cases where a Thai divorce cannot be executed directly through the Amphur office it may be necessary to file the divorce action in the Thai courts and upon final judgment of dissolution, the couple must present the judgment to the Amphur for registration.

Another issue to think of when contemplating a Thai divorce is the issue of how one’s property will be divided post -divorce pursuant to a Thai will. For the sake of avoiding prolonged probate, it may be wise to change ones Thai will in tandem with the divorce registration.

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