One of the biggest questions that lingers among foreign residents in Thailand–wannabe and legit alike–is in regards to the possibility of legally and eternally residing in the proclaimed Land of Smiles. For these farang (ฝรัง = Caucasian-white ethnic people in Thai language), as well as other non-Thai ethnic groups in Thailand, obtaining Thai citizenship would relieve them of heavy burdens and aches such as land and property ownership obstructions, and it would also free them from having to deal with visa and immigration officers on a regular basis; An emancipation from the dehumanizing regulations and policies in place regarding foreign nationals who wish to live and work in the kingdom.
Depending who and where you ask, you’re likely to get various answers to whether farangs, and all non-Thai, foreign and locally born individuals are able to obtain Thai citizenship.
The biggest misleading answer you might get is that it is impossible, and that Thailand’s foreign and domestic policy makers are too threatened by foreigners to ever allow one to become Thai, etc. etc.
Others will tell you the opposite–that it is not only possible, that many have done so already. Yet when you inquire about those ‘far and few’ lucky ones, it’s not so common that you’ll actually get many specific references naming who and how–either its some relative of a friend of a friend who read it on a forum thread, or just some unnamed rich guy.
For those wondering and dying to know the true answer, behold: It is confirmed, non-Thai ethnics, particularly farang have obtained Thai citizenship in the past, and as of now, no Thai law exists barring foreign nationals to obtain Thai citizenship. There is an actual procedure and process in place which you can review here:
As anyone might guess, the prospects for a foreigner to obtain Thai citizenship is probably a lot more slim in comparison to a Thai national’s prospects of becoming a citizen in many foreign countries i.e. immigrant marriage visas, but then again we all must remember that though Thailand is a country comparable to France (in size, population, and growth rate) , at the same, it lacks the resources and capital of such first worlds to handle and sustain large migratory populations to the same level and standard of its western counterparts–for what little that means.
As we digress…
One of the most famous foreign born nationals who has obtained Thai citizenship (apparently not the only one) is William Ellwood Heinecke, an American born, 59 year old (as of 2008) elite businessman in Asia. The guy’s story is quite interesting considering he came to Bangkok in 1963 at the age of 14, and apparently, only 4 years later, started his own office cleaning business at the mere age of 18.
Well, his fortune only gets better from there, but check out the link above for more details of his climb up to the top of the Asia business world with Thailand as his medium. Lets just say that the first person to open a Pizza Hut in Asia– followed by ventures that came to have franchises such as Swensons, Dairy Queen, Burger King, and its very own creation, Pizza Company under its massive revenue generating umbrella–is not just an ordinary guy who had luck working on his side during his citizenship application process decades ago, of which was finalized in 1991, when Mr. Heinecke officially became a Thai citizen.
And there are others, but as of now, we’ll have to wait until more confirmed reports uncover themselves from hiding. Feel free to post references or information about others that either one personally knows about, or has seen elsewhere who has successfully and unsuccessfully been through it.
Be sure to check out the Thaivisa Forum thread on the subject as well. And, if you haven’t already, read about the Siamerican’s citizenship validation process. Though the Siamerican’s route was via inheritance through his Thai parent, the Thai-American legalization process is completely relevant for all those who consider entering the Thai system.
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