A foreigner is not allowed to own land in Thailand according to Thai Property law. However, there are other ways wherein a foreigner can enjoy such rights and these are, namely; through leasehold ownership, through a company under certain conditions, through the Board of Investment (BOI), through other forms of structured ownership, or if the foreigner is married to a Thai national.
We will discuss each below.
The most popular option for a foreigner to acquire land is through a lease. It is also important to remember that the maximum duration of a lease that Thai Property law allows is 30 years but this can be renewed at the Land Department after such agreed period of lease expires. Legally, any lease that is more than three (3) years must be registered with the Land Department. Under this agreement, you can also sell or transfer your leasehold interest to another person or juristic entity. Of all the options in owning a land by a foreigner has in the Kingdom, the leasehold is considered the least complicated.
In the Name of a Company
Foreigners can own land in Thailand through a company under certain limited conditions. In theory, if the majority of the shares of a Thai company is locally owned it may be deemed as a Thai company which may be able to purchase land. The more popular type of company registered in Thailand is the Thai Limited Company.
Through the Board of Investment
A foreigner, who is planning to invest at least 1 million Baht in Thailand with no definite period of time, is entitled to purchase areas up to 20 Rai (or 3.20 hectares) under certain conditions designated by the BOI committee. For example, they may limit the use of such land for the establishment of a factory or as a residence for the employees. Executives and directors of the company can also purchase up to 10 Rai (1.60 hectares) under certain conditions. Additionally, the BOI can grant permission to the company to buy up to 5 Rai provided it will be used for the activity promoted by the board. It is also important to note that permission from the Ministry of Interior must be secured first before being afforded to such grant.
Married to a Thai National
Amendments of the Thai Property Law in 1999 allowed a foreigner to own a land in Thailand provided that he/she must have a Thai spouse. On paper and legally speaking, however, it should be the Thai spouse who is the registered owner of the land and not the foreigner. The foreigner must also execute a declaration that the funds used in the actual purchase were the funds of the Thai National and not of the foreigner. This means that the foreigner has waived any rights of his with regards to the ownership of the land. More complications can also arise in cases like divorce proceedings as the non-Thai spouse will have a very difficult task of proving that the land is classified as a marital property. A detailed prenuptial agreement may help the non-Thai spouse in case of court proceedings.
The company or the Thai spouse does have an option to grant a foreigner with a Right of Superficies in their favor. The Right of superficies gives the foreigner the right to own all the construction and the buildings on the land without them owning the land where the structures are built. This right can be conceded for a period of 30 years and can be renewed, however, not automatically as this will depend with the Land Office under the discretion of the Land Officer.
Siam Legal Can Help
For further inquiries on this matter, please feel free to contact Siam Legal. The firm is a well-respected luminary in Thai Property Laws thereby a high authority to give you more detailed advice on matters like property acquisition by a foreigner.