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US citizenship for Thai wives and living in America

Monday 27th September 2021 12:09pm

Wealthy American says his Thai wife opts out of becoming a US citizen

A wealthy American man did a mental turn on a flight back to the United States and connected not only with a new relationship and marriage but a whole new life experience.

George Soames is from Sarasota in Florida. He's 63 years of age and is a consultant at a legal practice he established in the early 70s. 'I never thought that life would be this good,' says George on his visit to Hua Hin near the fishing pier. He has driven this morning from Bangkok with his Thai wife Mai in his vintage Mercedes sports car. George has been living in Thailand for the last four years. His relationship with his Thai wife (53) began with a dramatic decision or U-turn while he headed back to the USA after what he thought had been a car crash holiday in Thailand. It is actually a common occurrence,' says expert commentator Carla Boonkong 'I come across this story very often, the foreigner man is spooked by Thailand and what he finds in the country but then grasps the good fortune.'

Trip to Bangkok to meet beautiful Thai women

George tells ThaiLoveLines that he arrived in Bangkok in late July 2006 with one of his friends from Sarasota. In Bangkok, they met another American friend. 'I had been divorced in the 1980s and my friend Kit had recently been divorced so we thought it was a good idea to go and see what the story was about all these beautiful Thai women that we heard about on TV and in the movies. Well, we were only half-serious I guess and when we got to Bangkok first, I thought we'd spend as much time partying as we did meeting the right kind of Thai women but it wasn't quite like that for me.'

Dating Thai women face to face

George tells us that he had used online dating sites to arrange meetings with certain Thai women and while on one dinner date he met another American businessman who also introduced him to friends. 'I had my laptop PC with me and there were a lot of emails and we had a mobile phone, it did occur to me that this was a whole lot of work and I could be having a lot more fun playing around but that wasn't the problem.'

George and his friends had scheduled to stay in Thailand for four weeks and he was quite impressed at the low cost of living in the country even for high rolling Americans doing a lot of entertaining. However, the problem arose for George after two weeks when he found that he had met three beautiful and wonderful Thai women.

Spooked by stories of foreigners losing everything in Thailand

'With my friend Kit, this was a different story, he had heard all these goddamn stories and he was taking control of the situation, he was protecting himself and me, I joke a bit now about it, talk about the drink he had taken but he developed this fixation that we had to go home. That all these women were either gold diggers or extortionists. My friend Kit had met a whole lot of guys in the bars in Bangkok and he was warned off the whole idea. There are some bad stories out there and this stuff is still going on, it's no good kidding yourself. My friend met this one guy who had just lost a lot of money in Pattaya or somewhere. He was on his way out of Thailand. Then for a few days, we met one guy after another with a scare story. Many English guys from what I recall. I was told that other countries were far more inexpensive.'

Beautiful Thai woman of substance felt 'surreal'

One of the Thai women that George had called and who he was dating was Mai, a Thai woman who owned her own health company employing over 40 people, an extensive dental practice in Bangkok. Ten years younger than George, Mai had met him for dinner on two occasions before he visited her home, an extensive property outside Bangkok. All this took place within twelve days of arriving in Thailand! 'I kept thinking that there had to a be some sort of catch, why would these poised and beautiful women not be married already or have a string of suitors. What was really clear to me was that this Thai woman, like some of the other Thai women I had met, had her own mind, there was none of BS or tension that I had picked up dating at home in the US. Really, most especially with younger women. In fact, it all felt surreal, kinda like this couldn't be true, could it?'

George found himself enjoying Mai's company but had other dating appointments and promised himself that he would also meet with other Thai women. 'This began to feel awkward and tricky, I didn't feel like a gentleman. And after a while I just wanted to focus on Mai but even that felt unreal,' he explains.

Conflicting emotions, America man and friend skip town

But George still recalls the unease and frenzy of conflicting emotions on the day that he and his friend Kit decided to pack their bags and get out of town. 'I'm a stable guy, maybe sometimes I blow off a bit of steam but this was really a mental conflict. My friend, who is also a lawyer, had become a little paranoid and that was part of the problem. He thought I was falling into some sort of a trap, but I really could not understand how a situation could come about where I had to choose between so many beautiful women. I listened to my friend, called Mai and told her that some business had come up and I needed to return to the States.'

George and Kit decided instead to move on to Cambodia for a week and another week in Singapore. 'For two weeks we took time to talk like we had escaped a dangerous situation but I had this nagging doubt that maybe I was wrong, my friend didn't thank so at all.'

Mental U turn and call to his future Thai Bride

Two weeks later George was on the plane going back to America when he made a mental U-turn. While he waited for a connecting flight to Florida, he called Mai, the Thai woman he could not forget, from New York and told her that he would really like to meet her again. 'That was nice, I could hear on the line that she was really pleased. This was my LoveLine moment.'

George returned to Thailand five weeks later in September and after a few days, he sat down with Mai one afternoon over tea and discussed how they might make a life together. 'This is not like I would have thought these things work. Certainly not how it works stateside but by now this felt very good to me, I felt I was dealing with an equal, my wife is actually a super-intelligent woman, the only thing that still stuck in my mind was that one of the ladies I had emailed when I returned to America turned out to be a friend of Mai. I still receive some communications from her. It's just my upbringing, in America, we have to woo the ladies and I'm not saying that's a bad thing because it isn't. Luckily, things have worked out very well for us.'

Married in Bangkok in 2007

The Thai American couple were married in Bangkok in 2007 and both wound down or semi-retired from business activities. They are very well off by Thai standards and even by western levels of wealth. 'What I would say is that this relationship we got here is really nothing at all like my first marriage but I was single for a long time after that. This is genuinely happy and what is so satisfying is that both of us get to share our different lifestyles and culture with each other.'

Couple have two homes in Thailand and America

The couple have now fallen into a routine where they travel back and forth from Thailand to the US twice a year and maintain two homes. 'I have a son by first marriage and a daughter. From the get-go, we negotiated well and easily. That's what I really found so uplifting. There was no conflict or even tension between me and my wife. We have ordered our affairs for now and for the future, we won't always be so active, we're not getting any younger but I am still looking forward to perhaps enjoying 20 years and living a truly rich and satisfying life,' says George.

However even before their marriage in 2007 there was the beginning of a new struggle. This was the task George had set, getting his Thai wife a visa and residency in America.

Visa and Citizenship for Thai wife of an American

Being a lawyer, George wasn't so careful about handling his Thai wife's affairs. Initially, their relationship was confined to Thailand with George making regular visits. Mai visited George's home in Florida nine months later. 'There was a problem with a tourist visa, it was very disturbing and it made me feel very uncomfortable. I planned to marry a Thai woman and make her a US citizen but I found a different sort of Thai woman,' says George. 'My wife doesn't really want to live permanently in America, now neither do I.'

Thai wife achieved Green card before travelling to the USA

'Mai received her Green card five or six years ago. We did it all patiently, got her a K3 marriage visa and had the status adjusted. Afterwards, she came to live in Florida for a spell with me. It was very exciting for her and gave her a sense of achievement,' he says. Because Mai has business interests, a home in Bangkok and due to the American Thai couple's preferred lifestyle, it is unlikely for now that she will obtain US citizenship due to prolonged residency requirements required. This is something that George has given thought to. 'It's in the back of my mind that Mai should come and live in the US for an extended period to do this, I kinda feel I'm she's not getting the best deal but life is too good for now living between Thailand and the States.

Nightmare of US visa for Thai wife even for a lawyer

Even though he is a lawyer George employed a Thai firm to handle all documents for Mai's visa including translations after a difficult experience with his Thai wife's tourist visa. It still took nearly two years to obtain the right visa but George also managed to get Mai a Green card at the same time. 'It was frustrating even for a pro like me but this is life. I have to say the reason for the delay was my own wrongheadedness about what would be best for Mai. But after I learned my lesson., I eventually did everything simply, by the book.' George experienced difficulty initially obtaining a visa for his Mai to visit the USA with him because he was cavalier about the process. 'It was dumb, I was upset and embarrassed at the process simply so my Thai fiancee could visit my home. Big mistake on my part!'

During this time he had to also set up his affairs to obtain a retirement visa for Thailand although that was relatively straightforward. From his experience, George has the following advice for other US men being Thai wives or girlfriends to America:

  • Use the services of a professional in Bangkok who has previously dealt with the US embassy there and keep a cool head. One of the issues George encountered was with the staff at the embassy and their attitude toward his wife. 'I was wrong headed and impatient, I didn't think it was so necessary to interrogate Mai when her circumstances were so straightforward, I didn't help her cause to be sure.'
  • George advises American Thai couples to keep it simple. 'Our situation is a bit different and that does not help, it appears that getting a K1 visa, marrying and settling in the US can be straightforward.'
  • It is easier not to marry in Thailand and keep the application to that of a K1 visa for a Thai Fiancee but that's just not what George and Mai opted for when they married in Bangkok. Mai needed the flexibility of being able to travel back and forth between Thailand and the US. The K1 spouse visa is a once-off visa which is easier to obtain but it is for a situation where the Thai woman is settling with her US husband, boyfriend or partner in the US.
  • Do not overlook the option of obtaining citizenship for the Thai wife or spouse. This may have implications later in America in the event of a crisis or misfortune. However, to apply the American Thai wife must have had residency in the United States for three years and have lived in America for thirty months over an extended period of three to five years depending on the application. George and Mai cannot meet this requirement at this time due to their lifestyle arrangements. However his Thai wife can live in the US and at a later stage apply for citizenship.

US man regrets lifestyle means no citizenship for Thai wife

George regrets that he cannot 'make time' to obtain citizenship for his Thai wife. 'It would mean Mai living with me in the States full time for three years, it would really have to be permanent although we could come to Thailand for a few weeks every year but that's just not our style right now. She is still involved with her business and loves her home in Bangkok. I know it sounds a bit entitled but it should be that a US citizen can make his wife a citizen too but that's not the way it is and we are blessed in many other ways I guess.'

Thai American dual citizenship for American Thai wives

George was also concerned that legally under Thai law his Thai wife had to renounce her Thai citizenship but this is not the practice in Thailand like so many things. It would be up to her to take steps to renounce her Thai citizenship but the 2008 Thai Nationality Act does have this requirement.

George's Thai wife has sizable property interests in Thailand but the advantages of a US passport and citizenship would be very attractive. However, in practice, this is not the case as under another regulation in Thailand the Thai woman must renounce her citizenship and this is, in fact, a difficult procedure. Nevertheless, it is one of many grey areas in Thai law that could be possibly be exploited at a later date.

There is a growing number of Thai American wives with dual Thai and American citizenship. There have been reported instances of Thai women being refused land transactions at Thai government offices when producing their American passport. This is entirely consistent with Thai law including provisions under the Thai laws excluding foreigners owning land and certain property. The current advice is that Thai wives of American citizenships should use their Thai passports when entering and living in Thailand and their American passport in the other direction.

' Basically if Mai was in Thailand she could use her Thai citizenship and passport but while in America she would be able to use her American passport if she had one. But it still means that Mai has put herself in a special legal place. She is unable as of now to 'seal the deal' and obtain US citizenship. 'It feels like that marriages between Thai women and foreigners leave the Thai American couple standing outside both laws but at the same time, they must do everything by the book to comply with both laws and these laws are often hostile. All this just to be together,' says George with an air of resignation.

Prenuptial agreement on marriage with Thai wife

While not divulging the details George has told us that his Thai wife and himself have a marriage agreement covering all aspects of their property and provisions for the future. Both their marriage and agreement is registered in Thailand and America.

Conflicts in marriage between an American man and Thai woman

We press George to reveal if there are ever any conflicts in the marriage. 'Oh yes, but I tell you truthfully I find it hard to remember anything serious. My first marriage, that was so long ago, but I can still remember one thing after another. I had girlfriends in the States after this and I'm not the easiest man to live with, I am a lawyer. My marriage to Mai has been so much easier. My wife is no doormat, marriages have their moments, my wife is well educated and an intelligent woman and also quite wealthy in her own right but there is no real tension. We deal with everything as it comes along. I feel no underlying unease. The biggest problems, which occur, happen when I expect her to behave like one of my girlfriends back home. Then I kinda think I've gone and blown it, if I haven't been polite or something and she will let me off the hook. When I say I'm sorry, I might worry that she might harbour some sort of resentment. But Mai comes back to me and says something like, 'George I am a woman, not a girl' and I laugh, that's how it works right there.'

Thailand is a different culture to the West

George, like many western men, feels that society and culture in Thailand have taken a different path from that of western countries and America in particular. He refers often to the absence of a challenging or conflict orientated attitude within his marriage. So much so that sometimes George feels that it cannot be true.

Relationships between western men and Thai women

Carla Boonkong, a magazine writer based in Bangkok who has written about relationships between westerners and Thai women confirms this point. 'We know that western men are wowed by the supportive nature of Thai women which is the the role that Thai culture has taught them. This does not mean that Thai women are inferior or accept a position of inferiority. I would say this, if any western man treats a Thai woman as an inferior they will be making a very big mistake even more so then with a western woman. I have examined Western Thai relationships in Europe and Australia this year and what I have seen is that the two distinct cultures seem to work very well together. When you have a western man and a Thai woman, it is a good mix. Nearly all these relationships work very well. You see, for many Thai women, the culture of foreigners or western men is also a very attractive option. Western men seem to be more romantic, attentive and responsible and there is also an attraction to western culture in general among Thai women.'

Perks of marriage with a Thai wife for a middle-aged American

One of the things that George points out is the range of benefits that he has been able to enjoy by marrying his Thai wife. These benefits have meant that the couple are now spending more and more time in Thailand rather than in the United States 'At the beginning, we thought we would spend six months in each country but now we are more inclined to spend three to four months in America and the rest of time here. It's very simple, there are so many advantages to living in Thailand when you have the internet and these days it's a global village, right.

The following are the advantages that George has identified:

  • Insurance and health: George has health insurance in the United States and he is very particular about his health arrangements. He also has a health programme in Thailand which is far less expensive. 'Joy has a beautiful home and I have my own gym here as I do in Florida but here the costs are simply lower.
  • Always a vacation upcoming: While the weather in Thailand is often cited as a key attraction for middle-aged or retiring westerners, George's home in Sarasota Florida also has an attractive climate but George relishes the contrast between both locations. 'It's so cool I love going home to the States after 4 months in Thailand. Each trip to America or Thailand gives us something to look forward to.
  • Financial gain: Unlike many other foreigners from western countries, George does not benefit from any reduction in taxation by living in Thailand because of US tax law which still imposes the obligation to file tax returns on all US citizens, even if living abroad. But where George does gain in the agreement is simply in the fact that the cost of living in Thailand is radically lower than living in the United States. 'I estimate that I save $40,000 by spending seven to eight months in Thailand every year,' says George 'Of course the fact that my wife has her own business and property in Bangkok makes it all a great deal.'

Thai American networks in the United States

Carla Boonkong is a magazine writer. In the last three years, she has spent months at a time in Europe and Australia researching Thai women married to foreigners. She is planning on researching Thai women in America in 2017 although it presents difficulties. 'Although the largest concentration of Thais in America live in the LA area, the Thai women marrying foreigners are spread throughout the country. I have identified pockets in New York, Connecticut, Florida and Texas so far but this is the same pattern as I have seen in the United Kingdom and Australia except in America I think it is even more difficult to identify communities but I know that wherever Thai women there is usually a network,' she says. 'There are now sizeable numbers of Thai women in every US state with a 55-60% growth in the numbers of Thai women living in America in the last ten years alone, this is staggering.'

Thai wives help American husbands live the American dream

While Thai women marrying western men has led to the development of Thai communities in Europe, Australia the UK, New Zealand and every other developed country, the last ten years have seen a continued rise in American men marrying Thai women. Many such relationships involve Thai women moving to the United States in search of the American dream. There are reports of Thai women who have been successful even opening their own business or helping husbands run going concerns, but the figures available seem to suggest that many find low paid and unskilled employment. 'From what we have seen in Europe and Australia, it is normal for Thai women to assist relationship partners in western economies where it is often the case that both partners in the relationship must work to pay the bills, I think it is the same in the United States,' says Carla Boonkong. 'This is what I want to research.'

Thai community in America continues to grow

There are no accurate figures for Thai women in the United States of America although estimates of the Thai born population are between 240,000 and 310,000 depending on different ways of measuring the population. Figures for Thai community organisations show that over 55% of the Thai born population have arrived in America in the last fifteen years. Many are Thai women married to American men. The Thai population in America is relatively small when compared to other Asian communities but it has many of the characteristics of Thai communities all over the world:

  • It is skewed towards women who make up 63% of Thai population in America.
  • Many are working at less skilled employment with lower levels of income.
  • In the last fifteen years from 2000 to 2011, 82,000 permanent residency permits were issued to Thai people with a staggering 55,000 obtaining US Citizenship.

Marriage between Americans and Thai women growing

The leading Thai international dating site ThaiLoveLines reveals that for 2014/2015, 23% of foreign men seeking Thai women were American. While many older American men retire to Thailand with Thai wives or girlfriends, a higher than average number of Americans opt to marry Thai women in the United States. This is compared to figures for men from other western countries from official figures in Bangkok. There are several reasons for this including:

There are more younger Americans interested in relationships with Thai women.

  • Research has shown that a disproportionate number of foreign men seeking Thai wives or life partners are self-employed or small business people. This is emphasised with American Thai couples.
  • The American visa regime offers two main visa options to Americans with Thai relationship partners or wives. It has been found that applications for visas for existing Thai wives, while in some cases a better option, take longer to process. In In recent years it has been shown that a simple K1 Fiance visa application is a quicker option allowing Thai women to travel to the United States.

America still a beacon for Thai women

This story of George and Mai, an American and his Thai wife, who can afford to live in two countries highlights the diverse nature of American Thai relationships. The evidence from research of Thai communities living in the United States shows that it is fast growing recording an increase of nearly 60% between 2000 and 2010. It also highlights that many Thai women living in the United States are on low incomes and a significant number face challenges speaking English. It also shows that US Thai wives are the key component in a Thai population growing in nearly every US state. 'America is a place where Thai women can do well, there is still the Thai sexy woman stereotype which damages Thai women all over the world, but America is a place where immigrants feel less isolated,' says Carla Boonkong. 'The large numbers of Thai women moving to America speaks for itself.' is Thailand’s biggest internet dating site with over 355,000 members and growing rapidly …Begin your search for a Thai girlfriend, wife or partner here.

Thai women and Thai wives behind 60% increase in Thai American population from 2000 to 2010
There are now Thai women married to American men in large numbers across very state in America. The growing numbers of American men finding marriage partners in Thailand is behind a 60% increase in the Thai American population.
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