Irish man raises questions about visa requirements for Thai wife
An Irishman living in Thailand as a nurse with his Thai wife has questioned the increased delays and requirements in order to obtain an annual visa so that he can visit his family in Ireland.
'It just makes my wife feel so unwelcome; it is hard to explain to her why it is so hard for her to go to my country yet so easy for me to stay in hers. I feel ashamed because I want her to have good feelings about my home. Every year I worry that the visa will be denied. One year my son may have to say goodbye to his trips to Ireland and so will my wife.'
With the growing number of Irish men who now have Thai wives, it has emerged Irish-Thai wives are finding it difficult to visit Ireland. Wives can no longer simply opt to take their husband's citizenship in Ireland, and it is becoming increasingly more difficult for Thai wives to overcome the bureaucracy to visit Ireland with their Irish husbands.
Irish men with Thai wives and 2004 change
Many Irish men think that that a family, no matter where they were married, would have the same citizenship rights of their husband and father, and that an Irish citizen, with an Irish passport, could apply for a passport for his wife and kids and bring them back to the 'old country.' But no! Not if the husband is Irish! Here is why:
Up until 2004 this was the case: if you were Irish and married a Thai woman, you could bring her back to Ireland and she would be granted Irish citizenship. In 2004, however, there was a change to the Irish constitution that denied automatic citizenship to the foreign wives of Irish passport holders. This was brought in by the Irish government in response to abuses of the system by unscrupulous individuals including one instance where an official in the Irish embassy in London was found to be selling Irish passports for cash.
In addition, during the economic boom that Ireland enjoyed in the early part of the 21st century, the country was targeted by human traffickers. The foreign wives of Irish citizens, including the Thais, were offered naturalization rights after living in the country for 12 months, but not an Irish passport or citizenship.
It is becoming increasing more difficult for Thai wives of Irish citizens to visit Ireland with their families. Many observers feel that the tougher economic environment has resulted in tightening of visa regulations throughout Europe. This is in line with other EU countries particularly the UK where heightened visa requirements led to the wife of one Irish men being refused permission to return to her husband's family in Northern Ireland after attending her mother's funeral in Thailand despite having lived lawfully in the country for an extended period. This arose due to an increase in the income requirement for the Irishman who was a farmer.
Australians, British, Dutch and Europeans and North American men in general are traveling to Thailand to seek Thai women with a view to marriage - and that includes the Irish. Irish men marry their Thai girl friends, and then decide whether to take them back to Ireland to live or to remain in Thailand and make their life there.
Problem for Irish married in Thailand
It is not always easy for 'farangs' to find permanent employment in Thailand that provides them with an income equivalent to what they would earn in Ireland, and in any case, many of them have good jobs in their own country when they marry in Thailand. So why is it a problem for them to bring their family back home to Ireland, sometimes immediately and sometimes later with their children?
This is serious issue for many families, particularly for Irish men married in Thailand who wish to visit their Irish extended family regularly. The wives who have not lived in Ireland for a year are regarded as aliens, yet the children are not! The bureaucracy is interminable, with masses of paperwork being required, some of which is difficult or even impossible to collect.
'The first year we applied for my wife's visa there were only a few documents required but the list is growing every year. I have been asked to provide financial records, copies of lots of other personal documents for myself and my son, as well as references from Ireland; I don't mind this so much but it is a chore. It can then take up to eight weeks to get a reply. I have already been warned that I may have to send some more financial documents; pieces of paper that I just don't have.'
This is just one example of many, and the difficulties faced by an Irish-Thai wife in gaining citizenship. 'To obtain Irish citizenship now, a Thai wife must live in Ireland with her husband over for more than 12 months and must pay a fee. A Thai wife of an Irish citizenship has no advantage over an alien
arriving in Ireland and applying for naturalization,' says an Irish solicitor who represents two Irish men who have married women from Thailand. 'I think if many Irish people had realized that they were giving away a valuable right, they would not have passed the referendum in 2004.'