Thai law, in general, prohibits non-Thai citizens from owning land in Thailand.
A foreigner may be permitted to own or acquire land in Thailand, under five possible scenarios:
Investing/BOI: With significant investment of funds, foreigners may be allowed to own a limited amount of land under Thai property law. Some foreign companies seek and obtain the approval of the Board of Investment (BOI) to purchase land for a limited period. This option, however, is not available to the vast majority of non-Thai nationals seeking to obtain a second home, retirement home or investment in Thailand because of the legal restrictions involved. As a result, other options must be examined.
Inheritance based on Thai family members: Normally the passage of land title to a foreigner based on an inheritance is permitted but has several limitations and restrictions. In general, land inheritance is allowed for residential land of a limited size. Further, the grant must not be pursuant to a will or written grant, but rather only by operation of Thailand law of intestacy.
Leasing: Whilst not technically outright ownership, a foreigner is permitted to lease land for a maximum of 30 years, with lease renewal options of 30 years. Many foreigners choose this method to secure land or property ownership. In comparison to setting up a company, land leasing is easier and requires less maintenance.
Owning a company: A foreigner may be an investor in a Thai-registered company that owns land in Thailand. This Thai majority owned company must be at least 51% owned by Thai shareholders, while the remaining 49% or less may be held by foreigners.
Marrying a Thai spouse: A recent revision of Thai law has provided the opportunity for a Thai with a foreign spouse to buy land or property in Thailand. Prior to registering the land parcel at the Land Department, the couple may be asked to sign declarations, declaring that the funds for the property came solely from the Thai spouse. This may, in effect, result in the non-Thai spouse waiving his/her rights on the land or property. Such declarations may become problematic in a divorce case as the non-Thai spouse may have difficulties proving that the land was marital property. To prepare for such an event, a skillfully-drafted prenuptial agreement may be useful.