Many people fall in love with Thailand and also desire marrying a Thai spouse. To get married in Thailand is easy. But you have to know about the culture, the procedure, the obligations and the laws involved.
You should know that there are two different and separate kinds of marriage in Thailand. One is called a “Buddhist marriage” or “traditional Thai wedding”. The other is an official procedure, where your marriage is "officially registered by the local authorities". Some people decide to only get a Buddhist marriage. Some choose to only get an official registered marriage. While others will do both! It doesn’t matter if you make a Buddhist marriage before or after the official marriage. But you must understand that these two types of marriages are extremely different.
In this section, we will only talk about the LEGAL MARRIAGE. And not the Buddhist marriage.
HOW TO GET MARRIED IN THAILAND
We won’t talk about the preparation of the marriage, the dowry (Sinsod) but just the LEGAL procedure and their effects.
Thai people get married the same way as foreigners in Thailand. They go to the local registration office (called Amphur (outside Bangkok) or Khet (in Bangkok). The benefits and effects are the same. Two foreigners can even get married in Thailand together. But a gay marriage is still illegal in Thailand.
However, there are few differences. Here are some:
Foreigners need more documents to get married in Thailand
Foreigners can be prohibited to work in certain fields
Foreigners normally can’t do business as Thai citizen and might need special licenses and permits or if some special treaties apply (See the Foreign Business Act)
Foreigners are normally not allowed to own land in Thailand (See the Land Code, sections 86 and subsequent modifications of the Law)
But the matrimonial regime applicable in Thailand, for Thais or foreigners is the same.
How does a foreigner get married in Thailand?
Quick video explaining how foreigners can get married in Thailand
There are 4 steps:
A foreigner must go to his local embassy and get an affirmation of freedom to get married (document#1, example from the USA embassy). It's a document attesting that you are single and that you can legally get married. All embassies have different requirements and you must contact them to know what documents are needed. For example, at the Canadian embassy, you just need your passport and you swear in front of an officer that you are eligible to get married. But in some others, they will require your original divorce certificate or judgment if you were previously married, or death certificate of your ex-spouse. Some embassies will require a proof of your marital status.
Once you get the document #1, you must translate it in Thai. (Document#2) That should cost you about 300 baht. There are people doing translation and waiting at the doors of the ministry of foreign affairs (See next step) so you can combine step 2) and step 3) in ONE trip. Or you can use any authorized translation service.
You must take the document #1 (affirmation of freedom to get married) and document #2 (translation in Thai) and LEGALIZED them at the Ministry of foreign affairs in Bangkok. You can go yourself, or someone or an agency can do it for you if you sign them a power of attorney. Both documents (#1 and #2) will be legalized. You normally give the document one day, and pick them up the next day. If you arrive before noon, you can pay double of the price to get the express service. That means documents will be ready on the same day, in afternoon.
Once you have document #1 and the translation in Thai #2 LEGALIZED, you can get married at any amphur or Khet. You will also need your passport. The cost should be less than 100 baht including some photocopies. And both spouse will received a certificate of marriage like this one below.
IF YOU HAVE A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT, THIS CONTRACT MUST BE REGISTERED AT THE SAME MOMENT. If you do not register your prenuptial agreement when you get married in Thailand, your contract will be void under Thai Law.
The address for step 3 is:
Legalization Division of Consular Affairs Department 123 Chaengwattana Road, Laksi, Bangkok 10210 Tel: (66-2) 575-1056-60 Fax: 575-1054
c) There is a certificate issued by a qualified doctor who is a lawful physical practitioner in medecine showing that the woman is not pregnant or;
c) There is an order of the Court allowing the woman to marry.
You really don't need a lawyer or an agency to get married in Thailand, but if you wish, many can help you out. However, you will still have to go in person to your embassy for step 1, and you also need to be physically present to get married at step 4. But you will surely need a reputation law firm in you want to protect your asset and make a prenuptial agreement. You can even make a prenuptial online for low fees.
SOME BENEFITS OF A MARRIAGE
Let's just give you some examples and each country is different:
Easier to get a visa for a foreigner in Thailand
Entitled to common property (sin somros or marital asssets) with the spouse
Might get some benefits for inheritance if the spouse doesn't have a Last Will. Marriage modifies normally the rank of heirs in most jurisdictions.
Easier for Thai spouse to get a visa to go abroad
You might get some legalized rights on your Thai child. (See custody section)
You might get a pension from your spouse at his/her death
You can get some "domestic protections"
SOME RESPONSIBILITIES OF A MARRIAGE
You must support financially your spouse and your legal children, like alimony, that might even continue after a future separation or divorce.
Some of your properties might become common property depending where you live, if you have a prenuptial agreement or not, and how you manage your money and assets.
You might have some taxes to pay, depending on the country, the situation, the children, etc. Taxes are very complex and as you can imagine, people paying the more taxes are often the middle class.
In rare cases, you will be ineligible to various survivor benefits upon remarriage.
You will be responsible for common debt of the couple and in some jurisdictions, might even be responsible (engage your liability) for personal debts of your spouse.
So, you must evaluate your personal situation, many factors and the obligations that a marriage can create for you in Thailand or elsewhere. For some, a marriage is a proof of love, a religious union, a moment of happiness to share. But it also creates legal binding effects and once the marriage is registered and these can rarely be canceled (void) by Law once they are created.
Here's the official documentation from the Bangruk Amphur in Bangkok taken in 2015, in English and Thai:
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