Integrity Legal

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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