Source: Vientiane Times
Visa exemptions for citizens of Laos and Russia who hold ordinary passports will come into effect on Lao National Day in a move expected to boost people-to-people visits.
The agreement to exempt ordinary passport holders from visa requirements as of December 2 was signed in the presence of the prime ministers of the two nations on September 8, 2016, in Vientiane during Laos’ chairmanship of Asean, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The agreement was among four cooperation documents signed by the two governments during a visit by Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev in 2016 to attend the 11th East Asia Summit and Asean-Russia Summit.
The agreement enables ordinary passport holders of both nations to enter each other’s country for a period of up to 30 days without having to apply for an entry visa.
Passport holders who are not seeking employment, education or permanent settlement in the other country are eligible for visa exemption.
During any period of 180 days, ordinary passport holders from either country may stay in the other country for a maximum of 90 days with multiple entries.
Each entry must not exceed 30 days, according to the ministry.
The coming into force of the agreement with Russia means that Laos has signed bilateral visa exemption agreements for ordinary passport holders with 11 countries including Mongolia.
Also benefiting from similar agreements are citizens of the nine fellow Asean member countries Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Laos has also offered unilateral visa exemptions to ordinary passport holders from Japan, Republic of Korea, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
Citizens of these countries with ordinary passports are exempted from visa requirements when entering Laos based on the agreed conditions.
Also, Laos has reached bilateral visa exemption agreements for diplomats and official passport holders of 45 countries among those with which it has diplomatic ties.
Laos has diplomatic ties with more than 140 countries, including Russia. Laos and Russia established diplomatic relations on October 7, 1960, and have embassies in Moscow and Vientiane.
The visa exemptions for ordinary passport holders is seen as a boost to the number of tourists visiting each country.
It comes as Laos welcomes increasing numbers of Russian visitors for leisure purposes. In 2016, more than 13,000 Russian nationals visited Laos, an increase from the 12,532 recorded in the year before, according to statistics from the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
Two-way trade reached US$16.3 million in 2015, an increase of 38 percent on 2014.
Russia is presently ranked the 22nd largest source of foreign investment in Laos with a total value of US$52.8 million through 24 projects.