Thailand’s Land Ownership: A Unique Exception for Foreigners 

May 3, 2024

Conditions and Limitations for Foreign Ownership

In Thailand, non-Thais are legally prohibited from owning land. This rule aims to ensure that Thailand maintains sovereignty over its land and natural resources while preventing excessive foreign ownership. The primary goal is to safeguard locals from potential displacement due to the significant purchasing power of foreign entities. These regulations are firmly established within the Thai legal framework. 

In the complex landscape of Thai property law, there’s a little known but interesting exception that highlights the balance between two key principles: The protection of Thai land and the importance of family ties.  

When a foreigner inherits land from a Thai citizen, he is allowed to own it, even for an indefinite period of time. However, there are important conditions attached to this allowance:  

  1. the area of such land is limited to 1 rai for residential purposes (the equivalent of 1,600 square meters
  2. for other purposes, the area of land which may be permitted is as follows: 
    a. residence, per family: not more than 1 rai 
    b. commerce: not more than 1 rai 
    c. industry: not more than 10 rais (exemptions possible) 
    d. agriculture: not more than 10 rais 
    e. religion: not more than 1 rai 
    f. public charity: not more than 5 rai 
    g. burial: per family, not more than rai  
  3. it is essential that the land is acquired by means of statutory inheritance rather than by a testamentary disposition in a last will (Section 93 of the Thai Land Code). 

Since ownership of property requires registration at the local Thai land office, being named in a will does not automatically mean owning the respective land. An administrator of the estate will have the duty to carry out the official ownership transfer registration.  

In case of the inheritance, the foreigner must present a load of documents to the respective authorities. If these documents are not in Thai language, they need to be translated and legalized. The approval of the application depends on the Land Office’s consideration of the documents and submitted evidence. Generally speaking, the following documents need to be presented as a minimum: 

  • A copy of the foreigner’s ID card or passport, certified by the embassy. 
  • A Power of Attorney (if any) 
  • The death certificate of the deceased person 
  • Court order or court judgment appointing the foreigner as the administrator of the estate 
  • Any proof of relation between the heir and the deceased, such as a marriage certificate 

The applicant needs to present the mentioned documents to the Land Office. If the targeted land is in Bangkok, the Department of Land is the responsible authority; in other provinces, it’s the Provincial Officer. These officers have received the delegated authority by the Minister of the Interior if the application gets approved. If not, the officers will forward the case to the mister of the Interior, who will decide whether the heir can register the land or need to dispose of it.  

The foreigner who has acquired the land in Thailand according to the above provisions is restricted with regards to the sale or otherwise disposition of such land. Selling the inherited land requires permission of the Thai authorities, namely the local Land Office. But if the sale is made to a Thai national, such permission will usually be granted without problems.  

If the land is passed on by inheritance to a Thai national, the process follows the usual procedures. Passing the land on to another non-Thai national by inheritance (for a second time and subsequently again) is possible, subject to the above-described rules. In other words, foreign heirs may transfer ownership of the land to their family members through statutory inheritance, even relatives from other countries who may not hold Thai citizenship. 

This exception shows Thailand’s effort to balance inheritance law with protecting its cultural and economic sovereignty.  

In conclusion, Thailand’s land ownership laws present a fascinating paradox: while foreigners are generally restricted from owning land, notable exceptions exist. 

Our Team at Frank Legal and Tax, are pleased to assist you with all inquiries concerning your inheritance and property, including land and real estate holdings. 


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