Expats kids having to join army at 21

Hi everybody, I'm a New Zealander and have two teenage boys with my Thai wife of 20 + years.
We all plan on heading there next month but have hit a hiccup, the Thai embassy has told us that if we take our boys over there and get ID cards and passports for them so they can stay indefinitely they will have to join the army when they reach the age of 21.
Is there any way around this? Could they stay under my non-o visa or will it get too expensive as they get older?
Any helpful advice appreciated.

I thought they had a lottery system as to who had to serve in the army.

Yes I now understand that this may actually be the case, however a 50% chance of having to go into the army for our kids would be a dealbreaker for my wife.

So keep the Kiwi passports for the kids, for the time being, play the visa game, or do what the rest of the Thais do, follow the rules.

They can stay as dependents on your Non-O visa until they reach their majority.  Then, if still on Kiwi passports you have to either find a way for them to get a work permit - as a foreigner, an educational visa (if they are going to school) or give in to the inevitable.

Thanks MisterStretch, this was in fact our original plan. (Thai embassy says different.)

There appears to be a recurring problem here that I've seen in many posts.

It depends on the Thai person  you get when trying to make sense of all the red tape.... be it opening a bank account,  trying to arrange visas, etc.

We have been told by the Thai embassy here in NZ that it is no longer an option to have our children as independents on my Non-O visa, they must travel under my wife or have their own visas.
Our kids are 12 and 13.
Another crazy thing is my wife is a NZ citizen her Thai passport went out of date many years ago. to renew it here we've been told it will take 8 weeks and a 2 day trip as it cannot be done online, only in person in Wellington NZ.
They have also told us it's now illegal in Thailand to use more than one passport so she must choose to either travel on her NZ one (and only stay 30 days) or get the Thai one renewed, use that and leave her NZ passport in NZ.

So as of Thursday I've been contacted 3 different Thai Visa Lawyers and they also all have different ideas. Basically, pay them a deposit, just fly to Bangkok and they will sort it all out when I get there using contradicting methods.

Sounds risky.

Something to think about.  If you are planning on your kids being in an international school, you might think about ED visas.

As for the illegality of having one passport, they mean that you can't enter on one, then leave on another.  You have to do the same on one passport.  As far as anyone can find out there is no law preventing dual citizenship.  What you found out is very true, whomever you talk to in whatever office will tell you "the law" without having any idea if it's true or not.

You can hold as many passports as you are legally entitled to.

If your wife enters on her NZ passport, she can renew her Thai passport here.  But in order to use it and stay in Thailand, she would have to leave the country and return on her Thai passport.  Better she should renew her Thai passport there, that way you won't have any issues...and she should not surrender her NZ passport.

I have Thai friends in Sweden who say they must stay outside Thailand to they are 26 yo, because after 26 they don't need do the military service. But I have also friends inside Thailand who like to do the military service, because they get benefit after when they look for job. So it is not only bad with the military service. And if they are 12-13 yo now so it is long time to 18, so if I was you I should let them get the Thai Passport, but even keep the NZ passport. And when they are around 18 they have to take that the decision whether they want to stay in NZ until they are over 26 or if they want to do military service in Thailand, they may have to do it in NZ anyway? But it is their decision when they are adults the way they want to do.

Thanks, I actually think one of my boys could do with the discipline, it's just my wife is VERY anti army.
Happy wife - Happy life.


Jackfish, I checked into something, because I wasn't sure.  If your kids are enrolled in a Thai secondary school and opt to take the "junior military program" (kind of like ROTC in America) they are exempt from the military draft.

All the activities take place during their school years (typically begin at Matyom 5, I think) but upon completion they are exempt from actual military service, if they wish.

My stepson did this and is now exempt.

Ref: Junior Military Program
I can confirm that this is correct and very good advice!. This is what I intend for my son to do, that way if he doesn't want to join the military then he doesn't have to, because he would be exempt from the draft.

My son is 23 living in Canada since the age of 12. We returned to Thailand when he was 19 and he applied for his ID card. We have checked with the local Amphur and they said he does not have to join the army by virtue of his dual citizenship. He also is prohibited from applying for Government jobs such as a policeman, political positions etc. He plans on returning to Thailand later this year. We don't expect any problems and he has job offers in hand already. Odd that the OP has received differing information.

To be sure of the advice about children with a foreign parent not being drafted, I advise that the poster gets it in writing from the local Amphur's office that stated it, because a verbal assertion won't help his/her son if he gets summoned for draft selection.

A Thai male from the age of 21 (unless exempt) can be drafted. The issue here is nationality!

Nationality Act:
A person of Thai nationality, who was born of an alien father or mother and has acquired the nationality of the father or mother according to the law on nationality of the father or mother, or a person who acquired Thai nationality under Section 12 paragraph two or Section 12/1 (2) and (3) is required, if he desires to retain his other nationality, to make a declaration of his intention to renounce his Thai nationality within one year after his attaining the age of 20 years, according to such forms and in the manner as prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations.

A Thai male can be drafted, a foreign male cannot...

If the male with a foreign parent chose to renounce his Thai nationality within one year of his twentieth birthday, so before he's twenty one, which is the age at which he could get drafted. Then as a foreign national, he couldn't be drafted.

If he chose to keep his Thai nationality, then according to the Nationality Act he should renounce his other (foreign) nationality. Meaning he would be a Thai national and have to take the same chance as everybody else when he's twenty one, when it comes to draft selection.

My son will be doing the Junior Military Program when he's at secondary school, which will mean he's exempt from the draft.

Interesting but what about if the Thai/foreign person in question has passed the age of 21 and is 23 when re-entering Thailand with his Thai passport in hand. How would and how long would it take the Thai authorities to know that he holds dual citizenship and to contact him with a notice to report for the draft? Then there is the 26 years of age clause when he would not be required any longer to sign up for the draft.

Unless the age criteria for has changed, then a Thai male is eligible for the military service draft until 30 years old, so would have to be 31 years old to be exempt based on age.

The names for potential draftees are garnered from the Tebien Baan (house-book).

If a 23 year old male with dual nationality entered Thailand on a Thai passport, had a Thai ID card and set up residence, then he would be legally required to register his name in a house-book at the local Amphur's Office.

One registered in a house book, there is a strong possibility that he would be located, and sent the letter for draft selection. If he was located and didn't want the possibility of being drafted then he could choose to renounce his Thai nationality. I am not sure what penalty (if any) there would be to do this after already setting up home in Thailand as a Thai national.

If the same male entered Thailand on a foreign passport and wished to stay long term using that nationality, then he would need a Non Immigrant Visa, if he wished to work then he would need a work permit, and the types of employment/work would be limited.

Then all one would have to do to avoid the draft is not to register his name in a residence.

strbl2 wrote:

Then all one would have to do to avoid the draft is not to register his name in a residence.

That would help them to avoid draft selection (unless they were informed on) but it would also stop the person from doing a multitude of everyday things that need a house-book to accomplish, such as own a motor vehicle in their name, apply for a Thai driving licence (as a Thai), renew their Thai passport whilst in Thailand, get a proper job whereby they are registered to pay tax. Also getting a mobile phone on contract, obtaining finance, getting a water meter and/or electric meter (bills) put into their name.

It is also worth mentioning that if the person was to ever got into any trouble with the authorities (even if through no fault of their own), then there could be some serious consequences, as it is a legal requirement for a Thai national to be registered in a house book.

Can renew passport before coming to Thailand. Already has a Thai drivers license renewed on last visit and vehicle in his name, registered in Tabian Baan from before. can stay in parents house so no need further registration. Have a job offer from Thai business so all they require is a Thai ID card which he has. Is he missing anything?

Hello strbl2,

As I mentioned previously it is a legal requirement to be registered in a house-book, therefore there are lots of negatives from not being registered. Your son seems to have the basics covered (Passport, Driving Licence & Vehicle registration) but there are many more aspects of everyday life that will require him to provide a copy of a Tebian Baan with his name in it. Most can be avoided but not without some inconvenience being caused, for example he can't have a mobile phone on a contract.

You mentioned that your son is registered in a house-book, which means that his name is in the system. Which is obviously different from never being registered in a house-book.

As your son is now 23, maybe it would be wise to ask whoever is residing at the address your son is registered at, if they've received any correspondence regarding the draft. If a letter was sent to that address summoning your son to the draft selection, then as he didn't attend because you were in Canada,  there could potentially already be a problem. I hope that is not the case and wish your son well!

A letter was sent and since he was not living in Thailand the issuing office was informed and there has not been any further correspondence or requirement for him to report. The issue of having to give up his Thai citizenship was never mentioned.

Hello strbl2,

The reply that was sent informing the draft office that your son wasn't living in Thailand most likely satisfied them at that time. However he's still eligible for military service and is definitely on their list because as you've confirmed, the draft office sent a letter asking him to report.

I have no idea if the immigration database and the draft database are linked, if they are then on returning to Thailand your son would most likely receive a letter to the address where he was previously (or is still) registered as living.

As for your son renouncing his Thai Nationality, that wouldn't be something that the draft office deal with, so they wouldn't have any reason to mention it in their letter.

My son has gone through the same program in Surin.
When he finishes university. he will be provided with  documents that exclude him from 2 years military service. Having completed his "Ranger training"

I wonder if "Ranger Training can only be completed while still in Grade School?

My son started ranger training in Surin, from fourth year of high school. When he was 16.  he has to complete 3 years of training to avoid conscription.
plus has to attend 5 camps over 3 years

Jackfish wrote:

Thanks, I actually think one of my boys could do with the discipline, it's just my wife is VERY anti army.
Happy wife - Happy life.


When your kids are in high school, they can join the student military service which isn't serious and they only wear a uniform from time to time, so little training and bypass so the army.

I can assure you that the training is serious. i have spoken to my son about this.
They undertake the same courses as a army recruit. Including, weapons instruction and use, as well as map reading and tactics There instructors are all Thai army. there is a strong emphasis on physical exercise and drills.

It seems to be quite different from province to province. The "student soldiers' at our school do not seem to have a very serious training, even girls "join in' from time to time.

Student army usually starts at M 5, grade 11 until M 6 and the activities aren't that bad. At the end of M 6 are so many tests that the military training is reduced to some minimal exercises.