Yellow Tabien Baan for Foreigners Living in Thailand
The Tabien Baan (in English, the House Registration book, or Family Register) is a book containing details of everyone living at a particular address in Thailand. It is an important document for Thai people, used for voter registration, military draft for men of military age etc etc. It can be used as proof of address for anything 'official'.
Thai nationals are named in a blue book (Thai: 'Thor Ror Sip Sii'), foreigners yellow books (Thai: 'Thor Ror Sip Saam'). The only difference is the color, they both have exactly the same function.
Any foreigner living in Thailand (legally of course, with the correct long term visa and documentation) is entitled to request a yellow house book (You do not have to hold PR status. In fact, foreigners with PR are supposed to go in the blue book). However, many Amphur offices (where the house books are issued and administered) are reluctant or just plain unwilling to issue them to foreigners. . . but be in no doubt, the law is very clear that as long as you are legitimately living in Thailand, there is no legal grounds for them to refuse you a house book. Whatever the case, it takes months to process the application, even with the most willing Amphur staff, and there are many hoops to jump through.
So why go to all the trouble? Well, the advantages are numerous, the most important ones are listed below.
- First and foremost, you will be granted a 'Citizen's Number' (You're not a Thai citizen of course but this is how it translates into English). You are officially in the system so to speak. This is an enormously valuable step forward for your life in Thailand and it's the next best thing to your passport when dealing with government bodies and private companies alike (e.g. getting public utilities such as electricity supply, telephone landline, or satellite TV and cellular contracts etc). It is often used as definitive proof of your lawful presence in this country. The Citizen's Number will go on your Driver's License for example (ordinarily, a passport number will be used on a foreigner's license). More recently it has been used as a de facto social security number for those working legally in Thailand. The prefix on this Citizen's Number is an important indicator of your status (see below).
- You will never again have to go to all the time consuming trouble and expense of getting documents issued that prove who you are and where you live, or similar documents from your embassy/consul (this is a particularly important money saver, especially if you're British, as your embassy charges grossly disproportionate fees for even the most basic of services). It saves you HEAPS of paperwork. Your days of queuing at immigration for a 'Letter of Residency' are over. It's worth the aggravation of getting your house book on this point alone. Many foreigners simply cannot understand the advantage of getting one. These are the people that are happy to be obstructed by red tape and officialdom at every turn. Yes, it's possible to manage without one but the combination of your passport, visa and Tabien Baan will eliminate nearly all of the additional red tape that is forced upon foreign residents.
- You will be able to open an account at any Thai bank, even those that ordinarily have the strictest criteria for expatriate account holders. With a Tabien Baan, you're taken much more seriously.
- Emotional value. The sense you are receiving greater acceptance in Thai society should not be underestimated.
- It's free.
- Crucially, for those with Thai family and/or children, a Tabien Baan is prerequisite if you plan on applying for Thai citizenship. Without it, there is no possibility of applying for citizenship, so for some of us, a Tabien Baan is something one has to obtain, no matter what.
The application procedure will be applied or interpreted differently from Amphur to Amphur, so writing instructions here will be pretty pointless, and it will vary based on your circumstances. You're best contacting your local Amphur to ask them what they require of you. One thing I can tell you is that you will have to be registered at your address with the immigration department, there is no way to move forward until this has been done. If you are living here on extensions of a Non-Immigrant visa (for example, extension based on marriage to a Thai) then you will already be registered with immigration.
You apply to your Amphur, they then write to immigration asking for confirmation of your existence at your address. It took months for the response to come back in my case. As my Mother in Law is the primary resident at our address, she had to come along when I applied to sign off on some paperwork. When immigration finally responded, we got a call from the Amphur to head on down and sign some more paperwork (again, with my Mother in Law). After about 45 minutes of administrative faffing around, We walked out of the Amphur with my Tabien Baan.
When we first applied, we were told I would have to supply a translation of my passport. In the end, they never asked for it and issued the Tabien Baan anyway. I don't know if they forgot, or just decided it wasn't necessary.
I strongly recommend you take a Thai speaker with you if your Thai language skills are anything less than fluent. That Thai speaker should be coached in what needs to be done and where the law stands, so they can push the process forward if any resistance is met.
If, like many, you are shown the door and told you cannot have a Tabien Baan as a foreigner, then it's time to show them the law (politely). Hint: Section 38 of the Civil Registration Act, in combination with the 2008 revision to the act, contains the pertinent line of text you need. Google this: พระราชบัญญัติ การ ทะเบียนราษฎร
If you still don't get anywhere, and you are still resolved to getting your Tabien Baan, it's time to go higher up. You could start by calling the Department of Provincial Administration (DOPA) and asking for their advice. You should be able to get someone to contact the Amphur in question in order to enforce your rights.
Note that many foreigners have been made to pay a 'fee' for their Tabien Baan. You can interpret that however you wish, but they are always supposed to be free. I paid nothing for mine.
Your Thai ID Number
Once you have your book, it will contain a 13 digit ID number that is unique to you. It will go on things like your Driver's License, tax returns, social security etc. It will have a single digit prefix, which indicates your status. The meanings of each number follow. This is a highly truncated translation of a Thai document:
- Thai citizens born in Thailand after 31 May 2527.
- Thai citizens born in Thailand. However, they (or their parents) reported late.
- Thais or foreigners who have their name in a Tabien Baan born before 31 May 2527
- Thais or foreigners that never had ID card before
- Thais who missed a census but have otherwise been verified as Thai
- This is what most foreigners will have as their prefix until such time as they apply for naturalization. It is for people that migrated legally (or illegally) to Thailand, are now living here legally, but have not yet obtained permanent residency or citizenship.
- This is for the children of #6.
- Foreigners with Permanent Residency, or naturalized Thai citizens.