Everything you need to know about getting a police certificate in Thailand
… by someone who did it the hard way!
Recently, I had to get a police certificate, also known as a criminal check or a penal record, from the Royal Thailand Police. Although it is not that common for foreigners in Thailand to need one, you might do if you have been out of your home country for some time, are starting a new job in Thailand or applying for a visa from another country. Given that nothing is easy when it comes to navigating the Thai bureaucratic system, especially when you might not speak the language very well, I have put together this handy guide to help you, based on my own experiences.
What you will need to get a police certificate in Thailand (as a foreigner)
- A copy of the identity (photo) page of every passport that you hold.
- A copy of your Thailand visa.
- A copy of your Thailand work permit (if you are working in the country).
- A copy of your TM30 (notification of where you live).
- A copy of your TM6 (departure card).
- A copy of your most recent ninety-day (90 day) report.
Depending on your country of origin, you may need to get these copies certified, although in many cases a normal photocopy is sufficient. Give the Police Clearance Service Centre a call before you visit in person, to check the requirements. The phone number is: 02 205 2168.
With regard to Thailand visas, I would recommend taking a copy of every visa that you have had while living in the country, just to avoid the possibility of any problems when you get to the office.
It is also a good idea to take your original passports as well, just in case. This is Thailand after all and anything could happen!
Apply for your police certificate in person if you are in the country
As far as I can tell, if you are in Thailand when you apply for a police certificate, then you must do so in person, at the Police Clearance Service Centre in Bangkok. This is because they will take a copy of your fingerprints on the day. For those applying outside of the country, there are other procedures that you must follow. Check the Police Clearance Service Centre website for details if you are applying from outside Thailand.
If you are not living in Bangkok, this can be a bit of a pain, because of the additional travel involved, but unfortunately, nowhere else in the country is allowed to issue a police certificate at this point in time, so you’ll just have to take it on the chin.
Call ahead before you travel!
The Police Clearance Service Centre is open from 08:30-16:30 on weekdays and does not close for lunch. The only times that it is closed are outside these hours and on public holidays, however, I would strongly advise that you call them on 02 205 2168 a couple of days before you travel to double check that they will be open.
I travelled down with my family on a normal weekday, only to discover that the clearance centre staff had been seconded to provide support for an ASEAN meeting that was taking place in the capital. This meant that I had to go back the following day to get my business done, which was less than ideal, seeing as how I was staying in Chiang Mai, some 700km away!
Note: While events like exceptional closures might well be notified in the press and on TV, such notifications may well not be in English and are easily missed. For example, the Police Clearance Service Centre website itself, is fairly basic and does not have any information about opening times, let alone special closures on it. The best thing to do is to call ahead to check that they are open for business. The number is: 02 205 2168.
Travel to the Royal Thailand Police Headquarters in Bangkok
Fly, drive, hitch-hike or walk, whatever suits you best, to the police headquarters in Bangkok. It is located on Rama 1 Road, in Pratum Wan, a stone’s throw from two major shopping malls, Central World and Siam Paragon. It is a huge complex and very hard to miss, with signs both in English and Thai. Plus, the exterior railings are painted in the distinctive plum red of the Thailand police force!
Foreigners can enter the complex without ID. Just walk through the metal detector at the gatehouse and smile at the police on guard. Thailand nationals must surrender a photo ID, e.g. ID card or driving licence, in exchange for a visitor’s pass before they are allowed to enter.
You will need to go to ‘Building 10’, NOT ‘Building 24’ as listed on the Police Clearance Service Centre website. Just ask the guards and they will tell you where to go (in a nice way, of course).
Start queuing for your police certificate
Building 10 is quite small and can easily get crowded with people seeking police certificates, so stay calm and prepare yourself for a bit of a wait. The good news is that once you start the process, it doesn’t take too long to complete and by Thailand standards is pretty well organised.
While you are waiting, you can take advantage of the ‘gift shop’ just inside the front entrance to buy gifts for your loved ones, including Royal Thai Police clothing patches and a range of rather serious looking knives (I am not joking about this).
Getting a Thailand police certificate – the physical process
Step 1 – Justify yourself
An officer sitting directly opposite the main doors will ask you what you want the police certificate for and if you are travelling overseas, when you plan to do so. Thailand police certificates are only valid for one month after being issued, although most governments will accept them for several months after this. Once you have satisfied the officer (you don’t need to provide any supporting evidence), they will give you an application form and a fingerprint card. Don’t bother trying to download the application form off the website, the link does not work!
Step 2 –Fill in the forms
Go to the table and complete both forms. In a rare display of forward thinking, there are samples in both English and Thai, to help you fill in the right information in the right spaces. Remember, in Thailand, the Thai script comes first, so make sure you double check before putting pen to paper, as it is easy to fill in the wrong boxes.
Step 3 –Get your documents checked
Go to the table next to the one where you completed the application and fingerprint forms. An officer there will check your forms and scribble on them. They will also check your photocopies. This is where I fell foul of the system. I needed the police certificate for New Zealand, but had my visa in my British passport, so only took copies of my British one to Bangkok (silly of me, I know). I managed to print out a copy of my NZ one from my laptop at a very helpful, if rather expensive, bookshop around the corner from the police complex, but this is why it is so important to take copies of every passport and visa that you have with you.
Step 4 – Get your fingerprints taken
The fingerprint station is on the other side of the table where you filled in your application form and a very helpful officer will cover your digits in black ink and then press them onto the completed fingerprint card with glee.
Helpful tip: Take some baby wipes or kitchen roll with you because there are no hand dryers in the toilets and you really don’t want to use the grotty old towels that are lying around in there!
Step 5 – Get your photo taken
Right next to the fingerprint station is the photography area. It only takes a minute to get your mugshot taken and then you are on to the next stage… more checking!
Step 6 –Get validated
Go back to the officer who originally checked your documents. They will tell you to go to a numbered desk in an annexe to one side of the main area (next to the photography station). Go inside, hand your forms to the officer behind the relevant desk and smile. The officer will check everything, then stamp and validate your application. It only takes a few minutes, which is good and smiling does help, believe me!
Step 7 –Pay up and get your receipt
Go back into the main area. Hand your authorised documents to the officer at the desk opposite the table where you originally completed your forms. They will do one final check, then take your money and issue you with an official receipt. The current cost for a police certificate is 100 Baht.
Step 8 –To post or not to post?
Nearly done. It normally takes around three weeks to process a police certificate and you can choose whether you want to collect it in person or have it posted to your address in Thailand. If you choose the postage option, it will cost you an additional 50 Baht. An officer sitting beside the one who issues the receipts will take your money and give you a blank envelope. Back to the big table one last time and fill in your address. Then, give the envelope to the officer, breathe a big sigh of relief and leave the building.
Congratulations, you have successfully applied for a Thailand police certificate!
Now, go and get yourself a coffee, beer or something a bit stronger… you deserve it!
All up, the whole process should take less than an hour to complete from start to finish, however, I would recommend that you allow yourself at least two hours, if not more, just in case the Police Clearance Service is particularly busy on the day you choose to apply for your police certificate.
Note: As with everything in Thailand, the rules, regulations, processes and locations frequently change, often without notice. While I hope that this information is useful to you, if you do find that any of it has become outdated, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can update this article and help others avoid mistakes. Thank you and good luck!
Also, while you are here, why not have a look at some of my other Thailand blogs, or check out my short stories? Most of them are free and are an excellent way to pass the time while you are waiting for your Thailand police certificate.