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Story Of My Thai Citizenship Application

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Arkady,

Quite randomly, I was asked by an old lady crossing into Laos at the Friendship bridge to fill in her Thai departure card, as she couldn't write.

She was for all intents and purposes Thai, born in Udon Thani in the 1940's, but she held a Vietnamese passport. She lived in Thailand. Her name was even Thai as far as I can recall. Her passport did not appear to have any visa for Thailand.

I was wondering the circumstances were that would lead to a situation like this?

I tried to explain to her that she was probably eligible for Thai nationality, but she didn't really 'get it'. She seemed quite comfortable with the fact that she'd be able to come back to Thailand with no problems.

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Arkady,

Quite randomly, I was asked by an old lady crossing into Laos at the Friendship bridge to fill in her Thai departure card, as she couldn't write.

She was for all intents and purposes Thai, born in Udon Thani in the 1940's, but she held a Vietnamese passport. She lived in Thailand. Her name was even Thai as far as I can recall. Her passport did not appear to have any visa for Thailand.

I was wondering the circumstances were that would lead to a situation like this?

I tried to explain to her that she was probably eligible for Thai nationality, but she didn't really 'get it'. She seemed quite comfortable with the fact that she'd be able to come back to Thailand with no problems.

Samran, The lady was certainly entitled to Thai nationality at the time of her birth but it would have been automatically revoked in Dec 1972 under Revolutionary Decree 337, if her parents did not have Alien Registration Books at the time of her birth. I would think it quite likely that this was the case because most of the Indochinese immigrants who came to Thailand before the Second World War were from rural areas and didn't have any identity documents issued by the French colonial authorities and/or didn't pass through legal immigration checkpoints. Having a passport or some kind of document proving nationality and entering legally were prerequisites for alien registration and being a PR in Thailand in the 30s and 40s. So she may have been born Thai and then lost her nationality but been entitled to PR and an alien book as a former Thai citizen. That would explain her having a Thai name and living permanently in Thailand and she could indeed have a Vietnamese passport in this scenario, as Vietnam has made efforts to grant nationality to stateless people in this situation that they accept as ethnic Vietnamese. If she got the Vietnamese passport some years after becoming stateless but with Thai PR, she may have kept it from the Thai authorities that she had obtained another nationality, fearing deportation to Vietnam and I think this may be common amongst these Vietnamese since Thai district offices are likely to squelch their applications for recovery of Thai nationality if they know they are no longer stateless. Also those without PR risk deportation to a country they know nothing about, since the 1992 Nationality Act classified them clearly as illegal immigrants. Perhaps she could pass the Thai checkpoint by showing her alien book and tabien baan for a day trip to Laos or maybe she also had a Thai alien travel document (issued to stateless PRs). The only thing I can't explain is how the Lao side would let her in with no Thai exit stamp in her Vietnamese passport but maybe this is common as there are still a lot of these Vietnamese in Udon and Nong Khai and Laos has a special relationship with Vietnam.

You are right that she should be entitled to apply for recovery of Thai nationality under the 2008 Nationality Act (and an earlier cabinet resolution in the 90s relating specifically to the Vietnamese community in Thailand), which made people who had lost Thai nationality under Decree 337 automatically Thai, unlike those born after Decree 337 but before 1992 who need the permission of the minister. But if she is illiterate, she has probably never got around to attempting what is not a straight forward process owing to the unfortunate racism displayed by Thai local officials towards these largely poor racial minorities, even though most of them are indistinguishable from Thais.

Edited by Arkady

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I had my Interior Ministry interview today, just over three years after my initial application at Special Branch.

One question surprised me. The committee secretary, a rather fierce woman, asked whether I was willing to give up my current citizenship. I replied that if it was required, then I would. She then said that if I didn't, my Thai citizenship would be revoked. This wasn't consistent with what Special Branch had told me when I applied, so I had my secretary follow up with Special Branch. They said that the committee was not supposed to ask that question, and furthermore confirmed that (in their opinion) there was nothing in Thai Law to forbid dual citizenship, and that the Interior Ministry had no legal right to force me to give up my existing citizenship.

I'm told that the time from this stage to getting citizenship is mostly dependent on how long the Interior Minister takes to sign. It can take years. Apparently, the current minister has expressed the view that he doesn't view this as a priority relative to his other duties (except in special circumstances, which I will leave you to guess), so I am expecting a long wait.

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There is some discussion on the point of giving up Thai nationality. Frankly, I'm a bit (pleasantly) surpised by the answer from Special Branch.

The THai interior minstry seems more and more going into the direction that one must give up the original nationality when one becomes Thai. (As a lot of other countries do) Now one is required to sign a statement that one intends to give up the original natioanlity as a part of the process.

While the nationality law doesn't say that one need to give up the original nationality if you opt for Thai citizenship, it does say something like that you cannot make use of it. The qustion is what "making use of" is.

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Special Branch told me that the debate about whether dual nationality is allowed or not under the Nationality Act and whether the Act should be amended to specifically prohibit it has been raging at the Interior Ministry for as long as anyone can remember. Their view, as stated by Jamesthailand, is that it is not specifically prohibited. However, as Mario says, the pro-xenophobia camp seems currently to be getting the upper hand at the ministry and is trying to impose its own interpretation on the naturalisation process. This seems an unfortunate retrogressive move when many countries are moving in the other direction, e.g. Vietnam has recently moved to allow dual nationality even for naturalised Vietnamese. I suspect it is a backlash caused by resentment at the provision in the 2008 Nationality Act that allowed foreign men married to Thai women to apply for nationality without having PR first that was clearly added to avoid conflicts with the constitutional provisions against gender discrimination.

Many people who got Thai nationality as result of being born in Thailand to alien parents have involuntarily lost their Thai nationality for "making use" of their father's nationality. However, nearly all of these people were also cited as being guilty of being not domiciled in Thailand for over 5 years (another reason for revocation), in addition to "making use" of their father's nationality. Normally no specific evidence was cited of the use of the other nationality but I presume this wasn't necessary due to the combined use of the 5 year for which evidence would have been readily available from Immigration. There has been one specific case of revocation of Thai nationality specifically on the grounds of making use of another nationality alone. In this 2004 case a British man provided the evidence himself by entering and leaving Thailand on his British passport. Clearly that constituted "use" of another nationality. There are no cases known to me of naturalised Thais involuntarily losing Thai nationality, although there are several of women who got it through marrying Thai men. What may be a concern to some, particularly with the possible advent of e-borders involving airlines automatically notifying citizenship to immigration services, is whether leaving Thailand to go on a short trip to a farang country without a visa for that country could in future be interpreted as "use" of former nationality.

Three years seems rather a long time between application and interview, given the small numbers who apply and rapid processing of them by Special Branch and the other government agencies responsible for vetting applicants before they are passed to the ministry, which only takes about two months. I am not sure why the minister needs several more years to consider and sign the applications already approved by the committee at the ministry. Males being naturalised are announced in large groups, which presumably require only one ministerial signature per group.

Edited by Arkady

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Special Branch told me that the debate about whether dual nationality is allowed or not under the Nationality Act and whether the Act should be amended to specifically prohibit it has been raging at the Interior Ministry for as long as anyone can remember. Their view, as stated by Jamesthailand, is that it is not specifically prohibited. However, as Mario says, the pro-xenophobia camp seems currently to be getting the upper hand at the ministry and is trying to impose its own interpretation on the naturalisation process. This seems an unfortunate retrogressive move when many countries are moving in the other direction, e.g. Vietnam has recently moved to allow dual nationality even for naturalised Vietnamese. I suspect it is a backlash caused by resentment at the provision in the 2008 Nationality Act that allowed foreign men married to Thai women to apply for nationality without having PR first that was clearly added to avoid conflicts with the constitutional provisions against gender discrimination.

Many people who got Thai nationality as result of being born in Thailand to alien parents have involuntarily lost their Thai nationality for "making use" of their father's nationality. However, nearly all of these people were also cited as being guilty of being not domiciled in Thailand for over 5 years (another reason for revocation), in addition to "making use" of their father's nationality. Normally no specific evidence was cited of the use of the other nationality but I presume this wasn't necessary due to the combined use of the 5 year for which evidence would have been readily available from Immigration. There has been one specific case of revocation of Thai nationality specifically on the grounds of making use of another nationality alone. In this 2004 case a British man provided the evidence himself by entering and leaving Thailand on his British passport. Clearly that constituted "use" of another nationality. There are no cases known to me of naturalised Thais involuntarily losing Thai nationality, although there are several of women who got it through marrying Thai men. What may be a concern to some, particularly with the possible advent of e-borders involving airlines automatically notifying citizenship to immigration services, is whether leaving Thailand to go on a short trip to a farang country without a visa for that country could in future be interpreted as "use" of former nationality.

Three years seems rather a long time between application and interview, given the small numbers who apply and rapid processing of them by Special Branch and the other government agencies responsible for vetting applicants before they are passed to the ministry, which only takes about two months. I am not sure why the minister needs several more years to consider and sign the applications already approved by the committee at the ministry. Males being naturalised are announced in large groups, which presumably require only one ministerial signature per group.

Hi Arkady - on this 5-year non-domicile rule, is there a process that reports those who spend more than 5 years living abroad, or is it let to the immigration officer to spot it and make a report to the Interior Ministry? Are there any cases of naturalised Thais living away for more than 5 years losing nationality? What about those who stay on a Tabien Bahn in Thailand while living abroad? Are they classed as non-domiciled even though they have a Thai reidential address?

Very confusing.

Edited by Thanet

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Hi Arkady - on this 5-year non-domicile rule, is there a process that reports those who spend more than 5 years living abroad, or is it let to the immigration officer to spot it and make a report to the Interior Ministry? Are there any cases of naturalised Thais living away for more than 5 years losing nationality? What about those who stay on a Tabien Bahn in Thailand while living abroad? Are they classed as non-domiciled even though they have a Thai reidential address?

Very confusing.

This provision was undoubtedly aimed at second generation Chinese who obtained Thai nationality through being born in Thailand to Chinese parents and most of those who have had their Thai nationality revoked fall into this category. However, an amendment to the Thai Nationality Act in December 1972 eliminated this automatic right to Thai citizenship by birth in Thailand and China also amended its own nationality law to make dual nationality illegal around the same time or earlier. These legal changes have reduced the flow of these revocations substantially, although they have continued into the 2010s, more recently involving more non-Chinese.

The 5-year rule applies both to naturalized Thais and those born in Thailand to two alien parents but, interestingly, not to women who adopt their Thai husbands' nationality. I haven't found any instances of naturalized Thais who had their Thai nationality revoked as a result of either the 5-year rule or for "making use" of their former nationality.

There is no detail in the Nationality Act about how the 5-year rule should be applied and I haven't come across any ministerial regulations on the subject, although no doubt some were issued at the time they were regularly revoking the Thai nationality of Chinese born in Thailand for staying away. I doubt whether being on a tabien baan would make any difference because anyone can stay on a tabien baan indefinitely and anyway I suspect that revocations under this provision occurred before the tabien baan system existed. I guess that Immigration records were used and that the revokees stayed continuously out of the country for over 5 years but can't be sure. Quite a few of these unfortunate Chinese were studying in China during the Cold War and not only lost their Thai citizenships but were declared persona non grata and could only return to visit their families in Thailand 30 years later. It is possible that they stayed away studying for over 5 years which was common in those days before budget airlines. I doubt that Immigration keeps a tally on Thais in these two categories these days to check compliance with the 5-year rule, although perhaps they did in the past. I suspect that those who had their Thai citizenships revoked under this provision in more recent times were people that the authorities were out to get and keep out of Thailand, due to suspicion of criminal or political activities. It has also become more common to revoke Thai nationality on the grounds of being a threat to national security or after being convicted of a serious crime like drug trafficking.

There was a letter in 1970 from the Interior Ministry to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking for cooperation in tracking down Thais with another nationality living abroad so the Interior could revoke their Thai nationality but apparently no action was taken by the MFA. No revocations of Thais born to Thai fathers (or mothers since 1992) have been reported since the 1962 Act and the MFA's website now contains helpful advice to dual national Thais on how to juggle passports while travelling.

Edited by Arkady

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I had my Interior Ministry interview today, just over three years after my initial application at Special Branch.

One question surprised me. The committee secretary, a rather fierce woman, asked whether I was willing to give up my current citizenship. I replied that if it was required, then I would. She then said that if I didn't, my Thai citizenship would be revoked. This wasn't consistent with what Special Branch had told me when I applied, so I had my secretary follow up with Special Branch. They said that the committee was not supposed to ask that question, and furthermore confirmed that (in their opinion) there was nothing in Thai Law to forbid dual citizenship, and that the Interior Ministry had no legal right to force me to give up my existing citizenship.

I'm told that the time from this stage to getting citizenship is mostly dependent on how long the Interior Minister takes to sign. It can take years. Apparently, the current minister has expressed the view that he doesn't view this as a priority relative to his other duties (except in special circumstances, which I will leave you to guess), so I am expecting a long wait.

By the way, how did the interview go, apart from the curved ball and were there a lot of other applicants there at the same time? Did they visit your home and office shortly before calling you for interview or have they given up doing this? Finally where do you have to go for the interview?

Good luck with the final stages of your application.

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From the Thai Law forum:

"Thai Cabinet to Review Thai Nationality Bill on Tuesday

29 January 2011

The Thai Cabinet is set to review the new Thai Nationality Bill this Tuesday, which will provide for tens of thousands of Thais living as “stateless” individuals along the Thai-Burmese border to apply for Thai citizenship.

The bill would replace the old bill which provides for individuals with stateless status to apply first for Burmese citizenship status, and then transfer their Burmese nationality status to Thai nationality status.

A committee would be created under the new bill, to include the permanent secretary to the interior and the provincial administration department chief, to check and verify the citizenship status of stateless persons and then approve Thai citizenship status for them.

The passage of this bill will grant legal status to thousands of the descendants of Siamese, whose families moved to modern Burma prior to the timeframe when the map of the country was redrawn 143 years ago. These stateless people now live in Chumphon, Ranong, Tak, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phangnga and all lack legal documentation.

Numerous people that back the bill, members of the Network of Stateless Thais, walked around 320 kilometers to meet with House Speaker Chai Chidchob. Around 300 members of the network traveled this distance to hand Chidchob their petition to act affirmatively on the proposed bill. In response, Mr. Chidchob stated he would make the bill a priority."

I wonder what happened at the cabinet meeting. I can't find any reports of it. The reports sounds as if this could be put to Parliament as a bill that could be a new Nationality Act amending the current 1965 Act but it is not very clear. It could in fact be a proposal not for a bill but for a cabinet resolution. There have been a lot of cabinet resolutions on nationality, particularly to do with minorities, many of which were wrapped up as statutory law in the 2008 Act. I am also not sure what is meant by the concept of applying for Burmese citizenship first and then transferring Burmese nationality to Thai nationality. I don't know of any part of the nationality law or regulations that deals with anything like that but there are a lot of ministerial regulations and cabinet resolutions I have not read.

The whole thing sounds very strange and no doubt the Thai Law forum got things muddled or something was lost in translation. However, we should keep alert for anything coming out of this that might effect nationality in general.

Edited by Arkady

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A small update on my citizenship application.

I just called the Ministry of Interior to find out the status. I had my interview in 2008.

I was told that my application has now gone back for a third time to check on criminal records, drug offences etc. I was told that every time a new minister comes in, he asks that all outstanding applications be reviewed again.

So, there is no end in sight to this never-ending wait, I'm afraid.

Edited by TheChiefJustice

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A small update on my citizenship application.

I just called the Ministry of Interior to find out the status. I had my interview in 2008.

I was told that my application has now gone back for a third time to check on criminal records, drug offences etc. I was told that every time a new minister comes in, he asks that all outstanding applications be reviewed again.

So, there is no end in sight to this never-ending wait, I'm afraid.

Sorry to hear that. So far I know of cases where the entire process from application to ID card took between 18 months and 11 years. It seems that real fast track cases are not possible without some type of poo yai intervention. However, others may take between 3 and 11 years and others still may even never hear anything more at all and there is no obvious pattern. Perhaps they have internal guidelines to fast track those who have paid a large amount of tax or have other qualities they like or maybe they just select some lucky applicants at random and throw the rest back into the bucket for a few more years. I can well believe that re-checking of criminal records is ordered by new ministers, as a way to appear thorough and cast aspersions on the work of their predecessor and I remember Purachai, as Interior Minister in the Thaksin government, publicly ordering the police to re-check all applicants for citizenship and PR twice before deciding that none of the applicants were worthy of his signature. However, the checking only takes two months when candidates first apply and the current minister has already been in office for about two years, giving time to have re-checked the backlog several times over. At any rate, professional criminals are unlikely to be so patient as to wait patiently for a decade or so and are much more likely to go through the back door and get instant Thai nationality from corrupt district office officials.

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I know a guy who has been waiting 14 years...though he's an Indian tailor shop owner (not sure if they rank lower on the list of priority than farangs, but perhaps they do).

18 months is very fast. Mine took just over three years.

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I know a guy who has been waiting 14 years...though he's an Indian tailor shop owner (not sure if they rank lower on the list of priority than farangs, but perhaps they do).

18 months is very fast. Mine took just over three years.

Well anyway, over 90% of successful applicants are Asian's, including a lot of Indians and other subcontinentals. I would think, if anything they like people who pay a lot of tax which includes corporate income tax, if you are a shareholder in your company. Tailor shop owners probably tend not to be over generous in their tax payments, as they take a lot of cash. I was originally sceptical about the 18 months but verified it with the Royal Gazette. That guy had paid a large amount of tax and had a reasonably senior poo yai (but not outrageously high up) to follow up for him a couple of times. But your 3 years is the next fastest I know of, along with our distinguished OP, Dbrenn, who was also 3 years. I also knew a farang who took 8 years, even though he had a well paid, respectable job and good connections (military I think) to help him. Sadly, he passed away 6 months after celebrating his citizenship but at least he died Thai. I suspect that outside of the applicants who have good connections to put on pressure for them, there is a lot of randomness and luck involved.

Elections are coming and even if the Dems and PJT can form another government, it will probably be some one else's turn at the Interior Ministry wheel. Hardly anyone ever gets a second term there.

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I know a guy who has been waiting 14 years...though he's an Indian tailor shop owner (not sure if they rank lower on the list of priority than farangs, but perhaps they do).

18 months is very fast. Mine took just over three years.

Well anyway, over 90% of successful applicants are Asian's, including a lot of Indians and other subcontinentals. I would think, if anything they like people who pay a lot of tax which includes corporate income tax, if you are a shareholder in your company. Tailor shop owners probably tend not to be over generous in their tax payments, as they take a lot of cash. I was originally sceptical about the 18 months but verified it with the Royal Gazette. That guy had paid a large amount of tax and had a reasonably senior poo yai (but not outrageously high up) to follow up for him a couple of times. But your 3 years is the next fastest I know of, along with our distinguished OP, Dbrenn, who was also 3 years. I also knew a farang who took 8 years, even though he had a well paid, respectable job and good connections (military I think) to help him. Sadly, he passed away 6 months after celebrating his citizenship but at least he died Thai. I suspect that outside of the applicants who have good connections to put on pressure for them, there is a lot of randomness and luck involved.

Elections are coming and even if the Dems and PJT can form another government, it will probably be some one else's turn at the Interior Ministry wheel. Hardly anyone ever gets a second term there.

There is no rhyme or reason.

One guy I know, Taiwanese born but grew up in Thailand from age three had basically waited his entire 20's with no news. Ethnically Chinese, indistinguishable from other Thai Chinese, very wealthy parents still had no luck. My last contact with him was about 2008, with no positive news then.

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I heard that the multi-gazillionaire guy who owns California Wow fitness centers applied but was rejected. So money doesn't always talk, I guess.

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