caring for your family in paradise city ...
Once you're here in Hua Hin, there may be certain personal matters that change after a while. Some of these are detailed below to describe how to make the transition smooth in Thailand.
Marriage to a Thai national
It might well be that you meet a partner with whom you wish to settle down. As long as you are not currently married and have no dependants, the process of doing so is fairly straightforward.
In the first instance you will need a certified letter from your Embassy confirming that you are free to marry. The exact wording of this and the cost will depend on your particular Embassy. Once you have this, get it translated into Thai by a recognised translation office - there are many of them in Bangkok - and then proceed to The Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have them certify the documents and stamp them. This can be done through an express service that takes only a matter of hours, or in two days. (The quick service is natually more expensive). The Ministry is located at Chaengwattana Building; 123, Chaengwattana Road, Tungsonghong, Laksi, Bangkok 10210. Tel: 02 9817171.
Once you have these papers (and it's not necessary for your future spouse to be with you at any stage, so far), you can get officially married at any Amphur (district) office in Thailand. Your partner naturally needs to be with you and have their original ID card and Tabien Bahn (house) papers. You will need the documents described above and your passport, plus copies of it and passport photographs. Some offices will talk to you for some time to make sure you understand the committment you are entering into, whilst others won't. The register needs to be signed by two witnesses and as often as not these will be employees from the Amphur Office. There is no set fee, but it is normal to "tip" the witnesses 100-200 Baht each for their trouble. You are then officially married and this union is recognised world-wide.
If desired, your wife/husband can change the surname on their ID card to your's and they have 60 days to do so from the marriage. This must be done at the Tessabahn (municipal office) that covers the district in which they are registered to live.
NOTE: a Buddhist blessing of marriage is not official, although it will generally be extremely important for your spouse and their family. "Marriages" of this sort are not recognised under Thai or foreign law. If you have been divorced, or have children, your Embassy will require the relevant documentation before issuing the Affirmation of Freedom to Marry.
Dowry (sin sod)
This can be an emotive subject related to marriage and it is not our intention here to moralise on the pros and cons of it, but rather advise you of what may be expected.
As opposed to the "old" Western tradition of dowry when a sum of money would be given by the bride's family to the bridegroom's, it's the other way around here. So, your future wife's family may expect some financial gift from you to compensate them for having brought their daughter up. The amount to be paid is open to negotiation and if you're not sure of the etiquette here, it can be beneficial to have an older, more respected Thai person, not related to the family, to help both parties reach agreement.
Some families now do not require the money, although they may insist on an amount to be displayed "for show" at the Buddhist blessing. This can be given back to you in whole, or part, after the ceremony. The family may require you to pay or contribute towards a party or even give the dowry back on the basis that it goes towards building a home up for you and your wife.
There are many ways to reach agreement on this delicate matter. Just remember that it forms an important part of the marriage tradition here and to keep calm, even if you feel that initial demands are unreasonable. We purposely have not mentioned figures. That will be dependant on a number of factors and so is impossible to generalise about.
There are a lot of things that your Embassy can do for you through its consular section. Hopefully, some of the services will never be necessary, however it's important to understand what is possible. If you're living here, we would advise registration. It's always better that your home mission is aware of your presence in Hua Hin.
The services offered will vary from county to country, but as general guide they may include:
Registration of births, marriages and deaths back in your home country.
Criminal record and police checks in your home country - for Thai visas.
Enable you to vote in your home country by proxy.
Provide advice on lawyers.
Issue replacement passports.
Help, to a certain extent, if you are hospitalised or are the victim of a serious crime.
Contact relatives or friends back home when necessary.
Generally, Embassies will not help with the following these days:
Getting you out of prison, helping you avoid deportation or otherwise interfere with the internal legal processes in Thailand.
Immigration matters in Thailand.
Assistance in receiving preferential hospital treatment.
Give you money (there may be some exceptions to this).
Assist you to find employment or accommodation.
On the whole, your Embassy will be able to help you more than hinder. As a final note, if you're registered with them you may well be able to attend some of the lavish garden parties that they lay on!
There are plenty of occasions when you will need some form of ID when dealing with authorities. Naturally, your passport and the visa it contains are the most important you will have. Strictly speaking, you are suposed to carry your passport with you at all times in Thailand, but in practice it's very seldom that you'll be asked for it "on the street" by either the police, tourist police or immigration in Hua Hin. Some people will carry their's, but there's always the risk of loss, so an alternative can be to have photocopies of the relevant pages - details, visa, entry stamp and departure card - but you may well be asked to produce originals later. You can be fined for not having the passport, although as mentioned, it's reasonably relaxed in Hua Hin and the worst that's likely to happen is that you'll be asked to produce it at some future time. NB - certainly make sure your visa hasn't expired. If it has, you'll be in big trouble and will probably end up being deported.
Another useful form of ID is a Thai driving license. Not only will it serve as temporary proof of who you are and that you're legal to drive, but it will also get you into National Parks and other attractions for the Thai price, not the tourist one.
If you're with a Thai partner, their ID card will be their most important document. Again, this must be carried at all times. Another vital document is their Tabien Bahn (house papers). This is effectively their family tree and will give details of where they are registered as living. If your Thai partner is living with you in your own home and wants to be registered there, you can get a new one, otherwise it's quite normal for family members to keep this document back in the province where they originated from. A trip to collect it will be necessary for all important dealings with the authorities - marriage, change of name, children, etc. It's very difficult for a Thai person to do much at all without this.
If you have children here, it's important to get the birth registered as soon as possible with the Thai authorities. You will need the childs birth certificate, the parents ID/passports and a Tabien bahn (house document) where the child is to be registered in Thailand. Registration with your own Embassy can be done later so the child benefits from dual nationality. If you do this the other way round, it's highly unlikely that your child will be eligible for Thai nationality. By the time he/she is 21, they must decide whether to continue with Thai nationality, to the exclusion of any other, or not as Thailand officially does not recognise dual nationality.
In these unfortunate situations your Embassy will be able to assist with contacting relatives back home and arranging funeral details, or repatriation. Again, registration with your Embassy will help to ensure that your wishes are carried out.
Visit our Legal forum to ask numerous experienced exapts any questions you may have.
There is a lot more information on proceedings on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: