PHUKET: I think there is a common misconception in Phuket, and in Thailand generally, that is often reinforced by many long term expats, who are always very eager to give their opinions to new-comers.
It goes like this: As long as you remain a foreigner in this country, you will always have to use one of the available loopholes to secure your right to use a piece of land and will never have full proper legal protection as it is illegal for you to own land outright.
If you become a Thai citizen however, you can legally own land and will have the full protection of Thai law.
Hold on, you say. “I can’t get Thai citizenship. I don’t want Thai citizenship even if I could get it.” I have heard both of these more times than I can remember, yet the truth is that you can in fact get Thai citizenship, and if you intend to live out the rest of your life here, you surely do want it.
I am not saying it is easy, it is in fact quite difficult and there are lots of hoops to jump through. But don’t think for a minute that Western countries such as the USA or the UK don’t make immigrants jump through hoops to get naturalized.
Compared with the intensive tests the USA requires, learning to read and write Thai at a basic level and sing the national anthem is a walk in the park.
The main reason given for not wanting Thai citizenship is that if you give up your Western passport you have to apply for a visa to go on holiday to most developed countries.
Compare this to the hassles associated with renewing your visa every year, checking in every 90 days, skirting the law to own property, not being able to obtain a mortgage, being restricted from certain professions that may match your skill set and passion in life, and missing out on all of the other privileges citizenship brings, and it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.
In fact, I already have to apply for a visa for my wife any time we go somewhere together anyway, and it is usually pretty simple. I can actually count on my fingers the number of times in the last decade we have had to do it.
I have spoken with several people who have obtained citizenship to verify that the Thai lawyers I have spoken with weren’t misleading me, and they all agreed that it was very straightforward process if you tick all of the boxes.
Most people get overwhelmed trying to learn the Thai alphabet and quit. From there, they assume citizenship is out of the question. Thai actually has a very straightforward writing system (purely phonetic unlike English) and it can be mastered relatively quickly if you try.
I realize many retirees here are in their later stages of life and to avoid ticking all of you off, I completely understand the difficulties of attempting a new writing system so late in life. I also understand many of you intend to stay for a while and then move on to greener pastures – so this article will not be useful for everyone.
For those of you in your fifties, forties, or even younger, I am sorry but there is no excuse other than laziness for not learning Thai; especially if you have been here for any substantial amount of time with plans to stay indefinitely.
Anyway, I will hopefully be applying for citizenship next year, when I will have finally ticked all of the boxes that will allow me to lodge my application. It will be a long process but I intend to share it with my readers, and hopefully it will eventually end in success.
I may have mentioned before that I am an “Ironman” competitor, which if nothing else, is a test of stubbornness; so I think I will have the gumption to stay the course no matter how many curve balls get at thrown at me along the way.
I believe that Thailand does in fact want us here, contrary to what I so often hear from fellow expats, but it only wants to naturalize citizens who respect the Kingdom and the culture. I hope I will inspire some of you to attempt to do the same, and if not, stay tuned for the second best way to secure the rights to a property in Thailand.
David Mayes MBA resides in Phuket and provides wealth management services to expats around the globe, focusing on UK pension transfers. Email email@example.com or call 085-335-8573.
This article appears in the current issue (June 29-July 5) of the hard-copy Phuket Gazette newspaper, now on sale at newsstands throughout the island. Digital subscribers may download the full issue, this week and every week, by clicking here.
— David Mayes