Legalizing Thai documents for use abroad

Last edited: April 24, 2020 at 06:39:12

Legalizing Thai documents for use abroad

If you have any official Thai documents, such as a birth certificate of a child or a marriage contract, and you want to use or register it in your own country, you have to follow a few steps to legalize it. Legalization is basically a process where each organization involved takes responsibility for one step to guarantee the validity of a document:

1. first, a translation agency certifies correct translation of the document
2. then, the Thai government declares that it has seen the translation
3. finally, your Embassy declares that it has seen the signature of the civil officer of the Thai government.

Legalizing Thai documents in stepsLegalizing Thai documents in steps
Legalizing is a dance of declarations. Each organization declares in a next step that it has "seen" the document

There are two ways to get this done.

A. The traditional, more expensive and most complete way

This will cost you most and takes more steps, but it has been the official way for years.

1. Translation by a commercial translator

Take your document to a recognized translation agency in town. This is a commercial business, not a government agency, and the charges are normally about 500-1,000 baht for a page (depending on the word count).

NOTE: always check the translation again yourself, especially details such as personal names, because translation agencies often make mistakes, even though they are certified.

An example of a translation agency is Lanna Translation, but there are many more listed on this site (search for 'translation').

Original document in Thai has Thai fields
The original document is completely in Thai, with the names of fields in Thai

2. Legalization by Thai government

Bring the original document and the translation to the Legalization Division at the Government Complex of Chiang Mai province in Maerim. The charges are 200 baht per document. Mind you: legalizing a birth certificate means the Legalization Division will have to check whether the original Thai document was translated correctly into an English document, so we're talking 2 documents here, it means the charges are 2 x 200 baht.

Don't forget to bring your passport and a copy of your passport as the applicant of legalization.

UNDERSTANDING THE THAINESSS: Now here's a thing that's perhaps frustrating the first time, but it can teach you something about Thailand. Most likely, the Legalization Division won't approve the translation by your translation agency the first time and you'll have to drive back to your translation agent to ask for corrections.

The main reason for this is, that a Thai official document is usually signed, stamped or issued by a civil officer and the name of that officer will appear on the paper. Because there is no undisputable one-on-one spelling from Thai to English (like there is in Chinese pinyin), the official name of a Thai civil officer in Thai may be spelled in various ways, for example Varassan or Warassan, but the Legalization office will only accept its own way of translation. Of course nobody in Thailand has ever thought to put such a list of civil officers online to be accessed by certificied agencies, which would make the process much more efficient. Instead, you have to take the burden of driving one more time up and down to the translation agent.

When you ask the translation agency, they will answer that almost all documents that have to be legalized will not be accepted by the Legalization office the first time, so most foreigners simply have to come back.

TIP: If you're not in a hurry, ask your translation agent to take care of the legalization. Most of the time, the agent will have to visit the Legalization office anyway a few times per week, so instead of you driving up and down let them do it. Simply bring a copy of your passport, sign and write on it that you authorize the agent to pick up the legalized form.

Shifting the burden on the agent will make it easier for you, also because translation agencies often make other mistakes, even though they are officially certified.

Legalisation fees in Chiang Mai

3. Legalization by your Embassy

Now make an appointment for legalization at the Embassy of your country in Bangkok (or the Consulate in Chiang Mai) and bring all of these documents. What the Embassy does is to certify that the document was legalized by the Thai government.

And you're done!


B. The modern, simple, cheap and short way

Starting from April 29, 2019, the Thai authorities have started to facilitate the printing out of official documents in English language. This means that you could ask some government divisions to simply give you an official document such as a birth certificate completely in English.

The advantage of this is that the titles of the fields will then already be prepared in English, which reduces the chance of mistakes, but you will have to tell the officer how to spell your name and the name of your child in English. And the costs will be minimal, about 10 or 20 baht per page.

If you do it this way, you don't need a translation agency anymore and you don't need to go to the Legalization Division of the Thai government anymore, so you bundle step 1 and 2 above in one single, fast and cheap step.

With this document, you then go to your Embassy to get the last step in legalization done.

But the disadvantage of doing it this way is that this system is relatively new, and the print out may lack some fields that are originally on the Thai certificate.

So if you want to be sure that it is full accepted in your country or by your Embassy, you should choose the more expensive traditional way.

English preformatted document by Thai authorities
The benefit of the English form is that all fields are preformatted in English and that it's cheap. The disadvantage is that it's less complete.


Legalization of documents issued in a foreign country to be used in Thailand

If your documents are issued in a foreign country and you need to officially use them in Thailand, you have to go vice-versa, in general following the same steps but the detail will depend on the rules in your own country. The best thing is to check with the Thai embassy in your own country what steps to follow.

1. Issuance of the document in your own country

Most official foreign documents will either be issued by the government in your home country, or by a notary, or by an official organisation such as a bank.

2. Recognition of the foreign document in your own country

If the document was not issued by the government, you will need this step to have the government recognize it. For example, you signed a document with a notary in your home country. You then need to bring this document to the government to certify that the notary who issued it is a recognized notary listed with the government.

3. Legalization by Thai Embassy in your home country

The (lawyer in the) Thai Embassy (or Consulate) in your home country now needs to certify that this is real.

Note that Thailand has not signed the Hague Apostille Convention so this step remains necessary.

4. Legalization inside Thailand

Now bring these documents again to the Legalization Division in Chiang Mai and they will recognize it for use in Thailand.

Legalization of documents in Thailand

Any experience with legalization in Thailand? Share it below as a comment

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