In a sign that some Thai-farang marriages are breaking down, several Brits are having trouble persuading their wives to hand over or even produce the paperwork necessary for them to obtain a one-year extension of stay based on marriage. For example, the documentation requires the production of the Thai wife’s ID card, the original marriage certificate and confirmation from Thai neighbours that the couple are living together in harmony. But what happens if the wife refuses to cooperate?
In one case, which led to a near shouting match near the immigration complex carpark in Jomtien, the Thai wife demanded her British spouse hand over 50,000 baht or she would refuse to confirm to officials that the marriage was still alive. In another case, which was sent to a lawyer for an attempted compromise, the wife said she had hidden the original marriage certificate and would only produce it if the family car was put into her sole name.
Immigration officials say that the easiest one year extension of stay to obtain is for retirement and is available to foreigners aged over 50 whether they are married or single. However, it requires a lump sum or annual income totaling at least 800,000 baht, whereas – for married men only – the floor limit drops dramatically to 400,000 baht if the marriage extension route is chosen. It is this attraction of “need less money” that has led many foreign men to renew their one year extensions via the much more complicated “marriage visa” route rather than the much simpler retirement option.
62-year old Richard, from Somerset, said, “I married a Thai nine years ago and we have always visited the immigration bureau jointly to provide all the documents required as well as my bank book showing 400,000 baht. However, our marriage has been falling apart of late and my wife is now demanding a cash payment for her cooperation. She says that, otherwise, I should apply for the retirement option but she knows I do not have the 800,000 baht. My only other recourse is to go back to England and the wife says she couldn’t care less.”
A lawyer at V2B International Law Services said, “Sadly, a growing number of long-term marriages of this sort seem to be in trouble. The British husband has often been suffering a declining income year after year, perhaps because of the deterioration of the value of the pound or due to loss of capital over the years, which has led to marital discontent. Another factor is that Thai wives are now picking up on the fact that they will not receive any state pension if their British husband dies unless they already have a national insurance number which very few do.”
V2B says the problem is not confined to Brits, but most of the cases so far have involved them. “Lots of Brits came to retire in Thailand 20 years ago and some are now sometimes finding Pattaya is no longer a cheap living option for their white-haired years. British pensions have declined in absolute terms and the rising cost of living here, plus medical insurance and hospital charges, have clearly created mayhem in some marriages.”
Although no formal figures are issued in Thailand, many sources believe that the cost of living here has at least doubled in the last 20 years.