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Special Privileges Offered To Qualified Foreigners Seeking Lao Citizenship

Source: Vientiane Times

The National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday passed the draft of an amended Law on Lao Citizenship which offers special treatment of qualified and highly-educated foreigners seeking Lao citizenship.

The amendment to Article 18 of the law requires highly-educated foreigners or experts to have stayed in Laos for just five consecutive years instead of the normal 10 years required for other foreigners.

Lawmakers passed the draft, which was presented by Minister of Justice Xaysi Santivong following a one-day debate at the ongoing 4th ordinary session of the NA’s 8th Legislature.

Foreigners who have made significant contributions to Laos’ revolutionary struggles or national socio-economic development will also enjoy similar special treatment.

A foreigner wishing to apply for Lao citizenship is required to renounce his or her existing citizenship as Lao law does not permit dual citizenship.

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Foreigners who have performed outstanding deeds in the service of Laos’ revolutionary struggle or national socio-economic development, but who are not willing to renounce their original citizenship, can be granted honorary Lao citizenship.

A senior government official, who is a member of the sub-committee in charge of compiling the draft, said the draft would be revised appropriately in line with recommendations made by Assembly members.

Members appeared to support the special privileges recommended for highly-educated foreigners and those who have given outstanding service to the nation.

“NA members did not suggest any changes to the special treatment outlined in the amendment,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

But the draft does not spell out what benefits an honorary citizen of Laos would enjoy.
The official said the legitimate rights of an honorary Lao citizen should be outlined in a separate regulation. The draft defines 10 criteria that a foreigner is required to fulfill in order to be able to apply for Lao citizenship.

An applicant must be at least 18 years old; be able to speak, read and write Lao at a certain level; be healthy; have no record of imprisonment; be drug-free; contribute to national socio-economic development; and have a secure job, among others.

People of Lao origin who have renounced their citizenship but wish to regain it can do so if they fulfill the above-mentioned criteria.

Former citizens of Laos who have been granted foreign nationality are required to have lived in Laos for five consecutive years before they can apply for Lao citizenship.

People of Lao origin who have not been granted citizenship of another country are required to have lived in Laos for three consecutive years before being able to submit an application.

The draft defines the principles, regulations and measures for managing and inspecting affairs regarding the granting and renouncing of Lao citizenship.

The Law on Lao Citizenship was promulgated in 1990. It was amended and promulgated in 2004.
Mr Xaysi told the session that the 2004 version of the law no longer matched current circumstances, and required amendment.

The draft, passed this week, shifts responsibility from the NA’s Standing Committee to the government in making the final decision when granting Lao citizenship to a foreigner and withdrawing citizenship from a Lao national in line with the constitution, Mr Xaysi said.

The draft comprises 10 chapters and 52 articles.