As Thai women indicate an express preference for UK men in survey after survey, the increasing numbers of Thai-UK marriages and relationships are running into visa and immigration problems.
Marriages between UK men and Thai women are on the increase. Statistics indicate that Thai women prefer to marry British men
than men of any other foreign nationality. In fact, according to official Thai government figures relating to Bangkok and the surrounding
area, the most popular nationalities chosen by Thai women who married non-Thais were the UK and the USA, with over three times
as many Thai women marrying British nationals than men from the USA.
The UK, particularly England, is now the most popular foreign source of husbands for young Thai women often seeking a way
out of poverty, degrading jobs or simply a new cultural experience. The internet has opened up a whole new world to young
women in Thailand seeking dating opportunities and ultimately husbands outside their own country. In many cases the husband is
content to settle down in Thailand with his new wife, while in many others the couple chooses to live in the husband's home
There are several factors that can influence this choice, the most important being the husband's employment and the relative
commitment of the bride or groom to their home country and the need to live close to relatives. Many British men meet their future
wives while working in Thailand, particularly in the major cities and industrial areas, and moving back to the UK might not be an
option. Many Thai women have commitments to elderly parents, and might be reluctant to leave them.
Why Thai women immigrate to Britain
Britain is regarded by many foreigners as being a fair country, and welcoming to those that are either willing to work, or are
spouses of British nationals. Thanit Chomphra, the Thai wife of a Manchester building contractor, states that'the British people have
always been fair minded and willing to give a chance to those who work hard.' Many others feel the same.
There has been a boom recently in the immigration of Thai brides to the UK, often resulting in community groups being set up in
areas where Thai women tend to congregate. Thais are very social, and it is not uncommon for immigrants to be drawn to areas in
the UK known for their Thai population. Marriages between young UK men and Thai women do not always involve travel to
Thailand, because many couples meet in the UK itself.
Restriction of immigration on Thai-UK marriage
In fact, the volume of Thais moving into Britain, particularly England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, has prompted the UK
government to consider setting restrictions. The fact that over 100 Thai - foreigners couples involving UK men are married every
week is unsettling to local and central government. Although some men who take a Thai wife elect to live permanently in his wife's
country (Thailand), there is still a large enough proportion to cause concern to governments.
The experience of Eugene McElroy and his wife Saowanit indicates the extent to which the UK government is prepared to go to
restrict such immigration. Saowanit had lived with her husband in Northern Ireland for two and half years when her mother died in
Thailand. She visited her home country for her mother's funeral, but when she returned she was refused re-entry into the UK.
The reason given was that the Home Office believed that Irish farmer Eugene's income was not enough to keep both his wife and
himself, and she would presumably have to claim social security. Eugene said'I am heartbroken - I have no money problems and
have no mortgage'. He went on to complain that this'silly bureaucratic law' was separating him from his wife.
So what is the situation regarding Thai wives and UK men with respect to visas and immigration? It is not as easy as many people
might lead to you to believe. A Thai bride is not automatically granted a UK visa simply because her new husband is British.
It should be stressed that these regulations do not apply only to Thai-UK marriages, but to all marriages between British and
foreign nationals. There are two important factors that the authorities will take into consideration:
The marital relationship between Thais and UK men
To be regarded as legal in the UK, a marriage must be valid under the marriage laws in Thailand. This means that it must be
registered at a District Office (Amphur office), just as British religious marriage ceremonies must be backed up with civil registration.
The certificate provided will be in Thai, which must be transcribed into English for the English immigration authorities.
Prior to the ceremony, the couple must have what is known as an 'Affirmation of Freedom to Marry' document. This states that
neither of the couple is already married and that there is no other impediment - roughly similar to the UK 'Bans'.
It must be proved that the man and woman are actually married before a residence visa can be granted. A marriage certificate
must be provided - which is a reasonable request. It is not enough to simply state that they are married! If they have been married in
Thailand, a couple must have a marriage certificate translated into English, and it must then be legalized at the local office of the
Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Thailand. You may have to post the certificate from Thailand to the UK for this.
Photographs of the marriage ceremony will likely be requested and perhaps even photographic evidence of the engagement
ceremony if there was one. Documentation proving the marital relationship, or at least of cohabitation of the couple, may be required.
This could include photographs showing their history together (date-stamped digital photographs are best), hotel bookings and
correspondence/bills to each person at the same address.
What the authorities are trying to do here is not snoop, but to establish that a couple claiming to be married actually are married,
and not just cohabiting, or even fraudulently trying to get the woman access to the UK. Some written information about how the couple
met and were married might also be needed.
Medical and legal status of Thai women in Britain
A medical check-up will possibly be requested by the British authorities, to make sure the Thai wife is not suffering any specific
disease, such as tuberculosis. Evidence from the Royal Thai Police will likely be necessary to prove that she has no criminal record.
Although all of this may seem complex and intrusive, it is no more than many other western countries will require - the USA is even
more stringent who they permit to live in their country!
Although all of this could take 1-4 weeks in total, police records provided are valid only for a limited time, typically 6 months, so
application should be made immediately they are available. The UK citizen has little to provide in this process, but one important
factor, touched on briefly earlier, relates to the ability of the man to financially support his Thai wife.
Financial status of the UK man with a Thai wife
He must provide his last 6 months bank statements and proof of employment and income: Three months of pay-slips and a letter
from an employer. The mortgage agreement for his home must be provided, access to the deeds if it is owned outright and
photographs of every room in the house in which the couple will be residing.
This is all to prove that the British citizen can support his Thai wife, both financially and with regard to housing. All of this will result
in the wife being granted a two-year Settlement Visa (also known as a Marriage Visa or Spouse Visa). She can take employment if
she is granted a work permit, and after two years she can apply for permanent residency.
If the husband is unemployed, on social security or receiving disability benefit, then this visa will be denied. An alternative would
be to apply for a visitor (tourist) visa. Evidence of financial support must still be provided, but not so much as for a settlement visa
because the Thai wife would be less of a burden on the state during the lifetime of the visa.
Even then it is not guarantee, because if the wife has no job in Thailand, the visa would likely be refused because she has little
incentive to leave the UK. The immediate objective is to make sure that Thai wives of UK citizens will not be a burden on the state,
and that they have a reason to return to Thailand on expiry of the visa. There is a misconception in the UK, and throughout the
world, that a foreign national assumes British citizenship when he or she marries a UK citizen.
This is not the case, and any Thai woman that marries a UK national (or Thai male that marries a British woman) must have a
visa allowing them to settle in or even visit the UK. The original Thai marriage certificate will suffice as proof of marriage if presented
with a certified English translation.
Not all rosy but Thai UK marriages have a good record
Not all marriages between Thai women and UK men work out but they have a pretty good record. In fact there is evidence that
some marriages between young Thai women and farangs (foreigners) in general tend to fail for one reason or another. Thailand is
not a difficult place in which to find a young Thai woman genuinely seeking a faithful partner although alas this is not always the story.
There are horror stories out there, particularly involving men who seek Thai women or marriage partners out in the bars and night
clubs of the cities such as Bangkok and Phuket. Recent divorce applications in Thailand's north easy region (Isaan) prompted an
investigation into this issue.
However what has emerged is very impressive in fact. Over a period of 10 years marriages between Thai women and foreign partners even where the marriage
partner was substantially older, have the same divorce rate as marriages between Thai women
and Thai men of a similar age. The divorce rate is approximately 20% which is well below the western average, now approaching
Even then when divorce does occur, it is certainly is not always the fault of the Thai woman. In one famous case that went as far
as the European Court, a Thai bride was turned back at a UK Airport after her husband informed immigration authorities that he no
longer wanted her. 41 year-old Konokrat Nimsamoot Booth was deported from Glasgow Airport after her 67 year-old husband,
Dennis, decided he did not want her to enter the county. M/s Booth was successful but UK authorities still found means to deny
On the other hand, there are horror stories of British men been taken advantage of, robbed and even murdered by their Thai wives or their families. Most of such cases have involved young British men becoming involved with Thai bar girls in Bangkok, Pattaya and
Phuket, and were subsequently fleeced by boyfriends or family - including the woman's legitimate husband in some cases.
One UK 'husband' who married his Thai wife in Thailand was left waiting at Heathrow airport for 7 hours - waiting for her to arrive
from Bangkok. He eventually found she had not even booked the flight he had paid for, let alone boarded it, and had disappeared
with the 380,000 baht (£7,500 UK) he had given her for travel, help for her family and various documents relating to the settlement
visa. The lesson is never to pay anything in advance and always hand it over to the authorities yourself.
That said, it is usually the negative stories that reach the press and media, and by far the vast majority of marriages between UK
men and Thai women have been loving and successful relationships. The numbers of Thai-UK marriages is now so substantial and
growing that it is in itself testimony to the comparative success of such relationships.
55 Year-old Ian Fletcher lives in Thailand with his Thai wife of six years, and says,'Don't get sucked in by a dream - in Thailand
there are all sorts just the same as home. Use your common sense. . . '
Why these visa regulations for Thai women?
There is reason for these apparently stringent and draconian rules and regulations. In the UK, as in many other western
countries, there is a serious problem regarding young women being brought into the country for the sex industry. Others are bought
into Britain to work for families as virtual slaves: something perhaps common in their own countries, but illegal in the UK.
By applying these regulations, and ensuring that a Thai wife is legitimately entering the UK to live with her husband, the British
and Scottish governments believe that they are acting in the best interests of the women involved. The problem with protective
legislation such as this is that those innocently entering the country with their spouses feel that they are being victimized for not being
However, there are few doubts that many young women have been protected from a terrible fate and that what appears
excessive to some, is effective for others. Like all protective legislation, its positive effects are never noticed if it works well, only the
negative effects on the inconvenienced.
Although marriages between UK men and Thai women are generally increasing, the respective governments are doing their
best to protect the interests of Thai wives, and ensuring that they are entering the UK for the right reasons.
Mr Fletcher has some good advice for UK men seeking marriage in Thailand: 'From day one set out to conduct yourself properly
and keep everything above board, you will very likely have to document everything to the authorities later and it is the best thing you
can do for the one you love. If you cannot do the thing properly, don't do it all.'