The trials and tribulations of registering a marriage in Thailand
It’s all fun and easy getting married in the land of smiles… if you are a foreign couple that is. Marrying a Thai national on the other hand, brings with it a whole lot of red tape. What should and could be one of the most romantic and most cherished times of you and your partner’s life can often be made into a nightmarish, never-ending story of miscommunication.
As a farang woman dating a Thai man, my relationship with my husband has always been revered for breaking the mold of the typical farang man-Thai woman scenario. But being a farang, I still face my annual battles with the Thai legal system to renew my visa. Everyone, including Thai immigration officials, recommended us registering our marriage long before our wedding and claimed how “easy” it would be. Women, supposedly, do not need to prove their income or have a large sum of money in the bank, like farang men do when wanting to marry a Thai woman. All I needed was to get a letter of impediment from my embassy, have it translated into Thai, and then have it certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
Surprisingly, every official government website and online forum we could find dealing with the issue of marriage in Thailand only covered the farang man-Thai woman dynamic. Left empty-handed, we sought out legal advice from a lawyer to help us with the translations and all proceedings.
After double checking with the lawyer that all our documents were in order, I made a trip to the Bangrak District Office to then triple check. “All you need is the certified translated letter, your passport, your partner’s Thai ID card, and their tabien baan (house registration documents)”, said the district officer. What both the district officer and our lawyer forgot to mention was that we would also need a member of his family to act as a witness, along with their tabien baan, as well as the receipt for the MOFA certification. Had it not been for a recently-married friend, we would have arrived missing several important requirements.
Finally, the day came and we couldn’t be more excited. Dressed in our best, we headed to the district office at 8:30am and were ready to join in holy matrimony before dozens of complete strangers. Upon arrival, we submitted our documents to our lawyer and waited patiently to be called. Half an hour later our lawyer came back to us saying our application had been denied. Yet another piece of vital information that they ‘forgot’ to mention was that the law had recently changed and all women were required to submit proof of income too. To our shock, not even our lawyer was aware of this change.
After another hour in a nearby bank, and with a three-month bank statement in hand, we submitted our application again only to be denied for the second time. Thankfully, the nearby Sathorn District Office was more lenient and accepted our application with a smile—a rarity in any government building.
Despite common belief, just because I married a Thai man doesn’t mean I’m in the clear. The trials and tribulations of marrying into “the land of smiles” can, on occasion, wipe the smile from anyone’s face.
By Kelly Harvey