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New rules issued for Lao-foreign marriages

New guidelines have been issued advising foreign nationals of additional rules they must comply with if they wish to marry a Lao citizen.


Minister of Home Affairs Mr Khammanh Souvileuth signed the guidelines on January 28, authorising home affairs officials to request several supporting documents from foreign nationals wanting to marry a Lao partner.


According to the guidelines, which are posted on the gazette website hosted by the Ministry of Justice, foreigners who want to marry a Lao man or woman must provide Lao officials with a document certifying their financial status.


In addition foreigners must provide a written statement giving assurance that they will send their Lao partner back home if they get divorced, especially if the Lao national wishes to return home.


The home affairs ministry has introduced these guidelines under the Law on Family Registration,  which was promulgated in March last year.


Officials who drew up the guidelines were not immediately available to justify the ministry’s decision for imposing these requirements. However, it is assumed they are designed to protect Lao nationals from being physically and mentally exploited. In recent years, there have been frequent complaints by the parents of Lao nationals who said their children were physically and mentally harassed by their foreign partners after marriage. In the worst cases, some foreigners use marriage as an excuse to traffic Lao nationals, especially vulnerable young women.


To prevent the exploitation of Lao women, foreigners marrying Lao nationals must get a signed document from their embassy or consulate, the Lao foreign ministry and provincial public security department, according to the guidelines.


According to a 2018 report from the home affairs ministry, authorities have registered the marriages of  about 270 Lao-foreign couples in recent years.


Many foreigners have complained that they face a large number of hurdles on the way to marrying a Lao national. Authorities have said they would try to make it easier for foreigners, especially those of Lao ethnicity, to marry a Lao citizen. Many people have expressed support for moves by authorities to facilitate marriages between Lao and foreign nationals as part of efforts to uphold human rights. In addition, they say authorities should enable foreigners with knowledge and skills to marry Lao nationals and live in Laos.


By Ekaphone Phouthonesy
(Latest Update February 20, 2019)

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