Pattaya Legal Corner: What you wanted to know in 2021


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Here’s a mixed bag of the frequently-asked questions which my staff and I answered during the year. They are not in any particular order and cover a variety of subjects.

What’s the difference between a retirement visa and Elite?

There are several Elite visas, but the simplest is to award five years residency for 600,000 baht. Like the annual retirement extension, you still have to report for the 90 days report and to check with immigration for a new extension once a year. But with Elite, once you have paid upfront, there is no requirement to show money or deposits in the bank or proof of monthly payments from abroad. Also, the Elite is automatically multi entry, unlike retirement which requires the additional stamp if you travel abroad. Elite has no adult age qualifications, but the minimum age for the retirement visa/extension of stay is 50.

Must I go to court to get divorced?

As long as both parties agree a settlement, the divorce can be performed simply at the local authority office with both being present. But if there is a dispute, commonly about land, property, money or children, that’s a different story. If the parties can’t agree, then the judgment of the court will be required. In the case of an amicable divorce, you will likely need to find two Thai witnesses prepared to say they know both parties and to sign statements to that effect. It is not possible to obtain a divorce by proxy in Thailand: you need to attend in person. The only exception will be in some cases of desertion.

What are the pitfalls in buying property?

Too many to list here, although most transactions go smoothly enough. However, it is very important to have the title deeds of land or units checked at the land registry office. Don’t rely on a copy given to you by any other party as you can’t be absolutely sure there isn’t a problem, for example someone has taken out a loan against ownership. If buying a condominium unit, you need to check with the juristic person that the flat or room can be bought under your own name, or whether a company needs to be set up. There is a limit to foreign ownership of condo units which a qualified lawyer can explain to you. A foreigner cannot own a piece of land, although he or she may be able to be the chair of the company set up for this purpose.

How serious is overstay?

No country in the world likes overstayers and Thailand is no exception. The fine is 500 baht a day and the maximum is 20,000 baht payable at immigration bureaux or the airport or sea/land exit point. However, once three months has expired a new set of rules comes into play. Serious overstayers are subject to formal deportation and will likely face blacklisting for between one and 99 years depending on the seriousness. Foreigners convicted of a serious criminal offence normally face deportation and permanent blacklisting, although not in the case of small traffic offences or relatively minor offences paid with a fine.

How routine is an autopsy when a foreigner dies?

It’s certainly very usual. The exception is where a foreigner dies in hospital and the records show treatment for the disease over a period of time. In such cases, the police can agree to no autopsy. But if a foreigner does not die in hospital, or is taken there in a dying state, then an autopsy will be performed usually (not always) in the police hospital in Bangkok. It is worth noting that, in complex cases such as murder, a second autopsy can be performed if requested and paid for by the next of kin. In such cases, the body is usually returned to the home country for the second examination to be performed.

In the case of sickness, can a third party renew your visa?

Yes they can. You will likely need a photo of the person in bed as well as an ID picture. A letter from the hospital or doctor will also be required. You will also need the requisite documents depending on the visa, for example bank book/statements, proof of address and the necessary immigration forms filled in by the applicant or by his representative. Some hospitals make these arrangements directly with immigration, but a relative or friend can also do the business. A visa by proxy is easy to obtain as long as the case is genuine.