In the past, these wives have been able to “join” their husband’s visa by simply showing a marriage certificate and a current non-immigrant visa in their passport. It was not necessary for both partners to show their own income or cash.
Under the revised guidelines, both foreign partners in a marriage will separately need to demonstrate yearly income in the first country of at least 800,000 baht equivalent or maintain separate bank accounts of the same minimum amount, or provide a combination of both.
Letters from an embassy are still required as proof of the income whilst the 800,000 baht in a Thai bank must have been there for three months prior to the application (2 months 1st application) and be supported by a letter from that financial institution.
The toughening up of the rules on retirement visas is believed to have been caused by concerns that some farang-farang marriages are not genuine or may have broken up.
The requirement for each partner to show evidence of 800,000 baht in cash or income, or a combination of both, is seen as the best guarantee from an Immigration Bureau viewpoint. Nor is it possible for a married couple to present a joint bank account. Each partner is now treated as a separate entity.
Some visa specialists say that the move is aimed at strengthening immigration regulations ahead of the onset of the ASEAN Economic Community in two years’ time which is likely, in the medium term, to lead to more migration across the regional 10-member block.
There has been concern in the Immigration Bureau for some time that mere possession of a marriage certificate is not proof of the ongoing relationship and could be used simply to gain a long-term visa. The new ruling also applies to same-sex marriages or civil partnerships now performed in some countries, though not yet in Thailand.
Separately, the British Embassy has confirmed that none of its provincial staff is empowered any longer to provide notarial services. Those Brits requiring income letters for the Immigration Bureau must now deal with the main embassy in Bangkok or find another local consulate willing to provide the service.
The German honorary consul in Phuket stated recently he believes that his office could provide some such services for Brits but that he was seeking formal permission from Berlin. It may take some time before European Union consulates in places such as Pattaya, Koh Samui and Phuket feel confident enough to fill the gap left by the retreat of the British Embassy from provincial Thailand.