DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS PROVIDED TO THE U.S. CONSULATE GENERAL IN CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA BY A PRERESENTATIVE OF THE REGISTRAR OF BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGES. THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE ASSUMES NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ITS ACCURACY AND SPECIFIC QUESTIONS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO THE AUSTRALIAN REGISTAR.
A new decree governing marriage between foreigners and Lao citizens went into effect on December 19, 1994. Enforcement did not begin until late May 1995, and to date, the degree and consistency of enforcement have varied widely with individual cases.
The new decree applies to all foreigners who wish to marry Lao citizens, although it is the Embassy's experience that it is relatively easier for Lao-Americans to obtain the proper Lao Government approvals than it is for other Americans. The Lao marriage law has no provision for marriages between two foreigners, and the Lao Government will not issue a marriage certificate to two foreigners.
American citizens who wish to marry a Lao citizen are urged to come to the U.S. Embassy on their arrival in Laos to review the requirements imposed by the Lao Government. A marriage certificate will not be issued by the Lao Government if the correct procedures have not been followed. Any attempt to circumvent Lao law governing the marriage of Lao citizens to foreigners may result in deportation of the foreigner and denial of permission to re-enter Laos.
Although U.S. legal permanent resident aliens (green card holders) are Lao citizens and technically not subject to the Lao marriage law for foreigners, in practice, U.S. green card holders are required by the Lao Government to follow the same procedures as foreigners.
The Lao Government administrative fees to process marriage paperwork are subject to change without notice; however, prior to paying any fee higher than those stated below, Americans should check with the U.S. Embassy. The Embassy will call the appropriate Lao Government officials to confirm the amount of the fee. A number of U.S. citizens have been asked to pay amounts much larger than the official fees. The Embassy discourages payment of such fees. Payment of "unofficial" fees sets a bad precedent for others and almost guarantees requests for additional payments. The Embassy urges U.S. citizens in the process of marriage to a Lao citizen to report any requests for fees over those mentioned herein to the U.S. Embassy.
The Lao decree governing marriage of Lao citizens to foreigners requires that the parties to the marriage present the following documents to the provincial administrator, or in Vientiane, to the administrator of the Vientiane Prefecture:
When the documents have been presented to the provincial administrator, the processing time is about two or three weeks. This time can vary by province and change without notice. If the marriage is approved, the provincial administrator issues an authorization to marry ("permission to form a family,) and the marriage ceremony may be held in the presence of the chief of the village of the Lao citizen.
After the marriage ceremony, the chief of village issues a marriage certificate ("husband-wife document.") This document is to be used for filing an I-130 immigrant visa petition with the U.S. Embassy or with the Immigration and Naturalization service in the United States.
Questions about Lao Government procedures for marriage to a Lao citizen may to directed to the Consular Section at the U. S. Embassy in Vientiane, phone 856-21-212-581; fax 212-584.