Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘marriage in Thailand’

18th September 2013

Reportedly, Thai human rights officials and Parliament members are poised to bring forth a bill to legalize same sex marriage in the Kingdom of Thailand. Apparently, these moves are being made in attempt to equalize the discrepancy between marital benefits enjoyed by different-sex couples when compared to their same-sex counterparts. Similar to the recent United States Supreme Court decision which compelled the United States Federal government to recognize same sex marriages which were duly legalized in the states allowing such unions, the proposed bill would provide marriage equality to same sex couples in Thailand and also equalize tax and pension benefits for those same sex couples who register their marriage in Thailand. Other parliament members were reportedly called upon to add their signatures to the bill in an effort to show broad based support for such legislation. For further information on this recent report please see the official website of The Nation.

There are a few lingering issues that remain to be answered regarding this subject as the prospect of same sex registered marriage in Thailand could be deemed a “civil union”. As civil unions in the USA are not currently accorded the same legal status as marriages the prospect of Thai same sex civil unions (although, from a legal standpoint, very advantageous for those living in Thailand) may not accord the same United States Immigration benefits as Thai same sex marriages, if the two are considered mutually exclusive under Thai law. That stated, currently Thailand has no other type of state sanctioned domestic union other than registered marriage, in a sense, all registered marriages in Thailand could be deemed “civil unions” since it is the civil registrar who registers them. The marriage ceremony is performed in Thailand with no legal effect. Therefore, many couples undertake a marriage ceremony with no legal effect and do not register their marriages, in such cases such couples are still eligible for a US fiance visa. The recent report notes that the bill would provide complete equality between same sex and different sex unions. As a result, it could be inferred that future same sex unions will be viewed in exactly the same light as different sex unions under Thai law. Should this prove to be the case, then it may be possible for future same sex couples with a registered marriage in the Kingdom of Thailand to apply for United States Immigration benefits such as the CR-1 visa and the IR-1 visa in the same manner as Thai-American different-sex married couples. In any event, the recent announcement is a significant positive signal that Thailand may become the first nation in Asia to legalize same sex unions.

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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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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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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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20th May 2009

I was reading a piece written by the American Immigration Lawyers Association that could be useful for refugees in Thailand. With the political situation in Burma remaining abysmal, refugee issues will probably continue to be a problem in Thailand. The following is an original writing based upon information included in a piece written by AILA:

Recognition of Unregistered Customary Marriages in Refugee Camps

How do the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service Centers view marriages conducted in refugee camps that are not duly registered at a government office or  properly formalized under the laws of the country in which the marriage takes place? For instance, if a customary wedding ceremony occurs in a Burmese refugee camp in the Kingdom of Thailand and the wedding ceremony is properly conducted by the authorities in charge of the refugee camp, but the marriage is not registered, recorded, or recognized by the Thai government officers at the local Amphur, or District, Office which is generally a requirement of legal marriages occurring within the jursdiction of the Kingdom of Thailand, then that marriage will not be considered legal under Thai law. Will the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service recognize the marriage as valid for reasons pertaining to the I-730 refugee/asylum petition? If USCIS will recognize this type of marriage for immigration puposes, then is there any special kinds of evidence that must be submitted to prove up the bona fide nature of the marriage?

USCIS may consider marriages in circumstances described above as valid for immigration purposes, but there are some caveats. In the past, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service has made the decision that the lack of legal perfection or registration of a marriage might not cause the marriage to become invalid for the purpose of immigration if the reason for the failure to register or perfect stems from the applicants flight from persecution.

If those seeking asylum as refugees in the United States were precluded from executing a valid marital perfection or registration of their religious, tribal, or customary wedding ceremony with the government at the time of the marriage and this preclusion was based upon a situation outside of their control; should this situation be associated with the underlying persecution of this collection of peoplet, then the marriages might be considered valid by USCIS for purposes relating to US immigration. Situations beyond the control of a refugee couple’s control that fit this category include (but may not be limited to): the inability to utilize government institutions in a host country because of one or more policies of the refugee camp, host government regulations that are discriminatory in nature, or any preclusion of marital recognition resulting from the flight from the refugee’s home country.

Much like Fiance Visas, CR1 visas, or other family based visa petitions, it is incumbent upon the couple to prove that the marriage is bona fide. Ways of proving the bona fides of the marriage include: evidence of the couple holding themselves out as married, evidence of the couple having lived together, offspring resulting from the marriage, and execution of a marriage ceremony.

For More Please See:

K1 visa Thailand

(Please not: Nothing in this article should be used in place of legal advice from a competent licensed attorney. No attorney client privilege, either express or implied, is created by reading this post.)

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