New regulations introduced by the UK government in July last year make it more difficult for UK men seeking a wife in Thailand or bringing a Thai woman home to live with them in the United Kingdom permanently.
The new laws have been implemented after a review by a government committee in January made recommendations to increase the threshold for net salary of UK residents seeking visas for foreign wives from
outside the European Union. The government committee was set up to advise the UK government on immigration policy. At the time of the announcement of the findings or recommendations in January Professor
David Metcalf said that the new proposals could reduce the numbers for foreign women entering the UK by between 40 and 66%. The new regulations have sparked an outcry from UK men with Thai wives even
those already living the UK.
'I am lucky that myself and my Thai wife made the move last year otherwise we would be separated or I would have to go and live in Thailand' says Nigel Baxter from Newcastle whose Thai wife Mook is now
settled happily in the UK.
'I am a regular visitor to Thailand and I have thought of bringing a Thai women home in the future, now it looks a lot more difficult,' says Jerry, another UK man currently searching online for a Thai girlfriend or
bride. 'I will still continue going there and I still love Thai women.'
It should be noted that the new requirements are not particularly targeted at Thai women who are way down the list of foreign wives entering the UK. 'This move is a response to the growing number of foreign
wives entering the UK who are wives of foreign migrants particularly from Asia,' say James Hewitt, a visa expert. Thai women account for 4% of foreign women entering the United Kingdom last year on spousal
visas. This is the same as the number of women from Bangladesh and is conservable less that the numbers of American or Pakastani women. The figure represents approximately 1,800 women.
However the modest number of Thai women entering the UK on marriage or spousal visas belies the numbers of UK men who have Thai girlfriends in Thailand or who marry Thai women each year in
Thailand. 'The difference in these figures is interesting and it suggests that many UK men are opting to live in Thailand or may already be expats,' says Mr. Hewitt.
But some UK men contemplating marrying a Thai woman disagree: 'This is hard for a guy like me and many people I know also, most English guys want to bring a Thai woman home as a wife or partner but no
it's tough luck if you're not a high earner, whatever happened to love, I think an Englishman should be entitled to marry whoever he like,' according to Jerry Thompson from Scunthorpe. 'Most of us simply cannot
afford to up roots and move to Thailand.'
Changes spark internet debate on immigration
Many men in the UK on internet sites interested in meeting Thai women are pulled by their hopes of someday meeting and marrying Thai women in Thailand and the need to curb increased immigration into the
UK particularly in recessionary times; 'I agree that men should take care of their wives and personally I don't want to see a wide open door but the effect of these regulations is pretty painful for UK men seeking a Thai
wife, as I said I am so lucky that me and Mook got back last year. I talk online with other UK guys and they are concerned, the number of UK men who cannot find a partner in the United Kingdom and are thinking of
Thailand and countries like that is growing, it's sad really when you see many UK women particular middle aged one s in the same boat, what happened?'
Part of the new regulations which will impact Thai women coming to the United Kingdom from Thailand is the need to be able to communicate in English and assimilate into UK society. 'This is the thing, that will be
no problem for most UK men and Thai women because the Thai women are so interested in living in the UK and adopting our culture, most UK men with Thai wives teach them English if they cannot speak it already,
you hear of some stories with older fellas but I think that's a thing of the past,' says Nigel.
Some of those commenting online on the new regulations feel that UK men with Thai wives, girlfriends or partners are being victimized by the new legislation and feel that UK men should have superior legal rights
when it comes to obtaining spousal visas over immigrants seeking to bring wives into the UK from countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan. As things stand, they do not.
Thai women integrating into UK society
While many Thai women come to the UK to study and both Thai women and Thai men come to work as professionals, the growing numbers of Thai women marrying UK men do not seem to be making the same
progress in establishing Thai communities as Thai women in Sweden, Norway or Australia. In these countries there has been an increase in Thai temples or Buddhist centres as the focus of Thai communities. While
there is an existing network on Thai temples in the United Kingdom, there is evidence that many Thai women with UK partners do not integrate or network in the same way as Thai women in Norway or Australia.
This has troubled some commentators although it can be explained by the strength of immigration to the UK from all countries across the globe. The Immigration of Thai women who have married UK men is a
personal wave of immigration which tends to be lost within the high levels of immigration to the UK by men and women from all countries.
'We are aware that there are growing numbers of Thai women marrying UK men and there is also a question of myths surrounding the influx of Thai women,' says a TV researcher working on a programme
about Thai women in the UK for the BBC. In the last fifteen months there have been three TV documentaries in the growing phenomenon of UK men with Thai partners researched by UK TV companies. Most aim to
capture the real story of UK/Thai couples.
Thai sex workers distort image of Thai women in UK
Reports of Thai women working in the sex industry have made headlines. This has distorted the story of Thai women marrying UK men. However there is a small overlap between the two groups. There have
been tabloid exposes featuring Thai women taking advantage of UK men abroad as well as You Tube videos featuring older UK men with young Thai women living in Thailand. While there is truth in all such stories,
they do not properly represent the influx of Thai women marrying UK men.
The reality is that there a growing Thai population of Thai women living with UK men in relatively happy marriages. These relationships, which have a higher success rate than UK marriages in general, are
evenly spread throughout the UK. As in countries like Belgium and Germany, this community keeps a low profile and is hard working. 'I think most UK guys with Thai wives keep to themselves, I mean they keep the
head down and work hard,' says Nigel.
A recent survey of UK men with Thai partners highlighted the stereotyping of Thai women as one of the key challenges faced by most UK/Thai couples. The ThaiLovelines survey with a sample of 220
respondents/participants showed that the average age is declining (from 45 in 2009 to 43 in 2011). This is evidence of younger UK men opting for marriage with Thai women or a Thai girlfriend. The good news is
that this stereo type is being challenged. 'Personally I see the recent negative coverage as a last gasp by some people who see many UK men finding happiness like myself, the world is changing , but some folk will
resist,' says Nigel.
Thai women - a relatively small section of foreign wives in UK
The new visa regulations introduced in July will affect Thai women but Thai women represent a small proportion of foreign women entering the UK. To illustrate this, there are nearly seven times the amount of
Thai women entering the United Kingdom each year from Pakistan and India than from Thailand with Pakistan representing over one in six foreign wives entering the United Kingdom.
It is believed that the new spousal visa requirements, including income threshold and other requirements for Thai women entering the UK, were introduced following the recommendations contained in a report
published earlier in 2012. This report came from the UK governments' Migration Advisory Committee (Mac).
Professor David Metcalf, who is Chairman of the committee, recommended that the minimum salary for UK residents sponsoring a partner or dependent should be between 18,600 pounds and even up to
25,700 pounds. It is now estimated that the new regulations introduced by the Cameron government in Britain will make nearly impossible for over half the existing population to sponsor a foreign spouse of bride.
Challenges by Thai wives at European level
Already, there are reports of planned challenges to the regulations at European level. For example under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees the citizen's right to family
'I think this may be of particular interest to UK men with Thai wives or relationships as they are already UK citizens living in the country and if they have established relationships, the government cannot argue
that there residence in the UK is solely an economic decision. Of course, they will have to prove a real relationship and this course is also open to non UK citizens who have been living in the UK under a broader
interpretation,' says James Hewitt in Bangkok who works with UK citizens seeking visas for Thai wives to live in the United Kingdom. The authorities in the UK have also shown a steely determination to limit or thwart
efforts to challenges their decisions.
The case of Konokrat Booth, a Thai woman who married a man from Scotland illustrates this. Arrested by UK Border police on arrival in Scotland and apparently disowned by her Scottish husband, M/s took a
successful action to the European courts but still encountered difficulties in securing a visa to travel to the United Kingdom from Thailand to divorce her UK husband.
'In the end of the day UK men will find a way to bring their Thai wives or fiancés to the United Kingdom but these new regulations do raise the barrier and there will be many like existing ex pats or Thais working
abroad who will just opt to live in Thailand, at least I hope that love will always find a way,' says Mr. Hewitt.