Before I moved to Thailand a decade ago, I worked in children’s non-profits all over the United States. Being in daily contact with children, I was required to have a criminal background check every time I changed to a new job so, when I arrived in Thailand to teach English, I was surprised to see Thai authorities didn’t require one.
Fast forward almost a decade and, in recent years, criminal background checks have been required in Thailand for some teachers and some jobs. If you’re an American and you’ll be teaching English in Thailand, here’s what you need to know about getting a criminal background check. (I specify ‘American’ as how to get a criminal background check is often completely different for the Brits, the Aussies and the Canadians) .
Is a Criminal Background Check Necessary? – Around three years ago, it was suddenly announced by the Thai Ministry of Education that a criminal background check would be required for every foreign teacher who accepted a teaching job in Thailand. For those of us who have lived here long enough, we presumed that ‘requirement’ would go the way of most requirements in Thailand – sometimes they’re required and, sometimes, they’re not. And there’s never any rhyme or reason as to why. Three years later and do you need a criminal background check in Thailand if you’ll be teaching English? You might do. Then again, you might not.
From the reports of many teachers, not only the ones I know but also those who post on the internet from Thailand, some teachers are asked to get a criminal background check and some are not. It seems to depend on three things – a) the school you accept a job at and whether they decide they want one or not, b) if the specific Immigration officer processing your application for a Non-Immigrant B visa (necessary to work in Thailand) asks for one and c) do you look clean, professional and respectable or grubby, dodgy and a possible pedophile? (And yes, in Thailand, much of what happens to you is based on how you look) .
How to Get a Criminal Background Check If You Need One – There are two ways to get a criminal background check for a teaching job in Thailand and all are dependent on are you already in Thailand or still in your home country and planning on coming.
Way One – Police Station in Your Home Town – If you’re still in your home town in the US, in many states, you can get a criminal background check at your local police station. Often while you wait.
Simply show up and ask for one. They’ll take your digital fingerprints and run them through a fingerprint scanner that’s hooked up to a Federal database. They can usually tell you within minutes if your record is clean, and print out a report to give to you. Be aware though, if you get a report at a local police station, ask them to put it in an envelope that clearly has a police department address printed on it and seal it. Do not open it. Simply present it to your employer in Thailand to go to the Thai Immigration department with your paperwork for your visa and work permit. If it’s opened, it’s often null and void in Thailand as these papers are easy to forge.
Way Two – FBI Background Check From Thailand – If you’re already in Thailand, the easiest way to get a criminal background check is to appear at the Royal Thai Police Headquarters on Rama I Road in downtown Bangkok. They’ll take your fingerprints at no charge. You can then send them to the FBI, along with a check for $18, who will run your information through their database and return your fingerprint card to you with “No Record” stamped on it, if you don’t have a criminal record. If you do have a criminal record, a copy of it will be sent to you (although you might then have a problem getting that teaching job in Thailand).
The only drawback to the second way is, as you’re sending your fingerprint card to the US, it can take up to a 6-8 weeks to be returned to you and can hold up your work permit if Immigration doesn’t want to process it without.
That’s why, if you know you’ll be applying for a new job in Thailand, it’s often better just to apply for the FBI check beforehand. So no delay with your work permit once you get one.
The Royal Thai Police Headquarters office you need to go to is at Building 24, Rama I, Pathumwan, Bangkok. Take the sky train to Siam BTS station. It’s less than a five minute walk from there.
Getting an FBI Criminal Background Check – FBI Website
Photo copyright – Palong tribe kids in Thailand by spotter_nl, Creative Commons License